Arthur J. Teeling was born in Dublin in 1844 and came to this country when he was three years old. He lived in the Boston area and in 1864 decided to enter into the Catholic priesthood. He entered the Provincial Seminary in Troy, New York. In the time between being ordained and being assigned to the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Newburyport, Teeling sailed to Liverpool and spent the next six months travelling through Europe, Egypt, and the Holy Land. In Rome he met with Pope Leo XIII who bestowed his blessing upon the Church of the Immaculate Conception through Teeling.
In the days before an official church was established, Catholics in Newburyport would gather at one person’s home and priests from other towns would conduct Mass there. As the number of Catholics in Newburyport grew, the need for a chapel became more urgent. Property was purchased but the congregation continued to multiply, and the chapel was outgrown. Finally, in 1852, a brand new church was erected to accommodate the sizeable congregation. A rectory was purchased shortly after the dedication of the new church. But by the time the well-respected priest who was largely responsible for these expansions, Father Lennon, passed away in 1871, the Church of the Immaculate Conception was $9,000 in debt and still did not have a Catholic cemetery. The rectory had passed out of the church’s hands, as had most of the property that they had owned and on which they had worshipped.
This is what faced Father Teeling when he finally arrived in Newburyport. He was left to pick up the pieces, and he rose to the challenge. He paid off the church’s debt. In 1872 he bought back the parochial residence that had been used by Father Lennon. He had a spire built on the church in 1874. In April 1874 he bought land on Storey Avenue for a Catholic cemetery. He bought property on which he had built a parochial school for boys and girls, and a convent for the nuns who taught at the school. The school opened in 1882. He was known for his excellent counsel to his parishioners in spiritual, personal, financial, and other aspects of their lives. As a priest, Arthur J. Teeling was considered to be wildly successful and garnered much praise.