Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley, D.D., nephew of Saint Elizabeth Bayley Seton, was the First Ordinary of the Diocese of Newark. Bayley had been an Episcopal minister prior to his conversion in 1842. He attended St. John's College, Fordham, for his seminary studies and was ordained on March 2, 1844 in New York.
On October 30, 1853 Bayley was consecrated the First Bishop of the Diocese of Newark. Bayley's mission for the fledgling Diocese was to establish Catholic education as he said, "In our present position, the schoolhouse has become second in importance to the House of God itself..[our ambition is to have]...every Catholic child in the state in a Catholic school." The Diocese would continue this work to the present time.
Bayley realized that in order to be effective in his mission he needed the help of a Diocesan community; as he put it, "no one can fill that most important office so effectually as religious women." In 1857 a group of Benedictine Sisters arrived from Pennsylvania and in the following year Bayley sent five women to train with the Sisters of Charity. Many other communities of religious men and women joined the Diocese in the next decades.
Bishop Bayley saw need for a Catholic college, and on August 31, 1856 the need was filled by the opening of Chegary Academy (Old Seton Hall) in Madison. In 1860 the school moved to its present location in South Orange and was incorporated into a college by the state of New Jersey in 1861. The College also had a seminary which was necessary for educating new priests. Despite the original need, the number of new recruits exceeded the abilities of the seminary. Bayley was instrumental in the founding of the North American College in Rome at the request of Pope Pius IX, where he sent a young seminarian by the name of Michael Corrigan.
Bishop Bayley served the developing Diocese for 19 years until he was appointed Archbishop of Baltimore on July 30, 1872. Shortly before Bayley died in 1877, he spoke of himself by saying, "I am Archbishop; I have been Bishop; but I like Father Bayley best of all."