Catholics at Harvard
John Lee - First Harvard Catholic
In 1804, John Lee (son of Governor Thomas Lee of Maryland) became the first Catholic student to walk Harvard Yard, much to the dismay of Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore, who at the time was responsible for sheperding all American Catholics. Being Catholic at Harvard during this time was a great challenge. All students were required to attend daily Protestant prayer services (or risk being fined). Lee amassed a total of $1.11 in fines for each term he spent at Harvard, equal to about a day’s wages for the common person. Students were also required to attend the college Sunday service unless they walked to their own church, as riding on Sunday was a punishable offense. The only Catholic Church in the area was Holy Cross Cathedral, 4 miles and a boat trip across the Charles. Lee was able to receive a special dispensation from Bishop Carroll to attend services at the Episcopalian Christ Church instead. Lee withdrew from Harvard after a year and eventually went on to serve in the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate. He was known throughout his life for being a dedicated Catholic.