Perhaps the Diocese of Helena will never again be led by such a brilliant educator and builder as John Patrick Carroll. This man through his enormous personal drive changed the diocese from a struggling mission in the West to one of the best organized and equipped in the United States. Under his tutelage the state grew in Catholicity, and the gospel was spread to every corner of Western Montana. The Most Reverend John Patrick Carroll, D. D., the second Bishop of Helena, was born at Dubuque, Iowa, February 22, 1864. He was the son of Martin and Catherine O'Farrell Carroll. Hugh Broderick, onetime County Commissioner, Road Supervisor and County Hospital superintendant for Broadwater County, and a native of Dubuque, Iowa, made the following statement: I was born January 1, 1864, in Dubuque, Iowa, where I lived with my mother until the early spring of 1870, when my father sent for us to come to Diamond City, Montana. During the years before 1870 my mother was the housekeeper for the Reverend Father O'Reilly. We lived at the parish house. The good father taught me my Catechism and prayers and often gave me pennies with which to buy doughnuts at the Carroll Bakery across the street. Johnnie Carroll, the baker's Son, was my dearest friend. We played together, served at mass together, and ate our doughnuts together. Years later this same Johnnie Carroll became the Most Reverend John Carroll, Bishop of the Diocese of Helena, Montana. I had not seen him nor heard of him, since we parted as children, until I met him in Helena where our early friendship was resumed.(1)
Bishop Carroll's primary education was received at St. Raphael's parochial school in his native town of Dubuque. Upon completion of the parochial grades at the youthful age of thirteen, he entered the high school department of St. Joseph's College completing this phase of his education in 1883. Always a diligent scholar, he graduated from the classical department with the highest honors of his class. Already his ideal and great desire was to consecrate his life to the service of God. Those who knew the Bishop during his childhood and early school days always reported him to be studious, quiet, prayerful and pious. He was so gentle, bright, thoughtful, so gifted with every quality that makes for character, that many even in those days prophesied a splendid career for him. To prepare himself for the priesthood he entered the Grand Seminary of Montreal, Canada, and for six years pursued his courses in Philosophy and Theology, completing his work in 1889 with the Degree of Doctor of Divinity. On July 7, 1889, he was ordained to the priesthood and the dream of his life was fulfilled as he offered the perfect sacrifice once offered upon the Cross. Upon his return home, he was immediately appointed to the chair of philosophy at St. Joseph's College, Dubuque. Thus at the age of twenty-five, John Patrick Carroll was launched upon a career that was to bring him fame as an educator and a builder.