Diocese comprising the entire counties of Albany, Columbia, Delaware, Fulton, Greene, Montgomery, Otsego, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren, Washington, and that part of Herkimer and Hamilton counties south of the northern line of the townships of Ohio and Russia, Benson and Hope, in the State of New York. It covers a territory of 10,419 square miles. Of the total population (852,471), 180,030 are Catholics. The majority are of Irish, German or French-Canadian origin, but other nationalities and races are also represented— Italian, Polish, Russian, Turkish, Greek, Austro-Hungarian, Slavs, Syrians, and some American Negroes.
Any general account of the early missions within the borders of the present diocese of Albany must include, with more or less detail, the labours of the Jesuits who came into it from Quebec with credentials first from the archbishop of Rouen ( France ), and afterwards from the bishop of Quebec itself, that ancient centre of Catholic life. From this point of view, the territory embraced in its limits has a unique history of apostolic zeal, undaunted courage, grievous hardships, and privations endured, blood shed for the truth, and for many years an apparently hopeless struggle with the most astute and resourceful of all the Indian tribes who lived on the flats of the Mohawk Valley, and whose cruel nature was finally subdued by the gentleness and perseverance of these French missionaries. Its history starts with the treaty of Saint-Germaini des Prés (1632), when England at last restored Canada to France. Cardinal Richelieu first offered the Canadian missions to the Capuchins, who refused, and then to the Jesuits, who accepted them. Quebec and Montreal, founded in the first half of the seventeenth century, were the two foci of all missionary ardour and enterprise until the consecration of Bishop Carroll in 1790, not only for Canada and the Northwest, but also for all the country adjacent to Canada, including northern and central New York as far as the stockades of Fort Orange or Albany, which from the time of the English occupation in 1664 became subject to the vicar-apostolic of London. The pioneer missionary in the district now known as a part and parcel of the diocese of Albany was Father Isaac Jogues, who reached Ossernenon, or Auriesville, in Montgomery County, 14 August, 1642, as a captive of the cruel and treacherous Mohawks. Mutilated and dismembered, he escaped by the aid of the Dutch at Fort Orange, and, taking passage on a vessel bound for Holland, reached his own country on Christmas day. His successor in captivity and torture by the same tribe was Father Joseph Bressani, a Roman Jesuit (1644). The same year Father Jogues returned to Quebec, and was sent in May, 1646, into the Mohawk country, as an agent to ratify a peace with this tribe. On this journey he reached Lake George on the Feast of Corpus Christi and named it Lac St. Sacrament. Having received their promises of good will he returned to Canada, but, deceived and lured by their wily attitude of friendship, he retraced his steps at once to establish a mission among them. In October, 1646, he was tomahawked, beheaded, and his body thrown into the Mohawk river. In his footsteps and, some of them, in his sufferings followed Fathers Joseph Poncet, Le Moyne, and Jacques de Lamberville, who had the glory of baptizing, on Easter Sunday, 1675, Tegakouita, who is called Catharine in the baptismal record, and "The Lily of the Mohawk" by Catholic tradition.
Within the stockaded settlement of Fort Orange another current of history was running more tranquilly than through these blood-stained Mohawk chronicles. Without straining the verities of history, that foundation named Fort Orange, and surnamed Albany, merits the honour of being the oldest surviving European settlement in the original Thirteen States. Dutch in the beginning, it was wrested from the Dutch in 1664 by Charles II of England, who regardless of their claims, granted to his brother, the Duke of York and Albany, afterwards James II, all the land lying between the Connecticut and Delaware rivers. Before the transfer Catholics were few. Two Portuguese sailors at Fort Orange in 1626, a Portuguese woman, and a transient Irishman, met by Father Jogues in 1643, made up the quota. After the English possession there is credible evidence that several Catholics from the Netherlands settled in Albany in 1677, for whom the Franciscan Father Hennepin provided. In 1682 came Colonel Thomas Dongan as governor, the son of an Irish baronet, afterwards the Earl of Limerick. The project of detaching the Five Nations from the French, who had won them by the disinterested labours of their missionaries, suggested the scheme of colonizing them at Saratoga under English Jesuit influence, to counteract a similar colonization enterprise at La Prairie under French auspices. The Jesuits, Thomas Harvey, Henry Harrison, Charles Gage, and two lay-brothers were the pathfinders under the new regime.
In 1790 John Carroll was consecrated Bishop of Baltimore, and Albany passed over to his jurisdiction from that of the archbishops of Rouen and the archbishops of Quebec. Saint Mary's, the first church in the diocese, and for many years the only Catholic church between St. Peter's, Barclay Street, New York City, and Detroit, was built in 1797 during the episcopate of John Carroll. Because of its isolation, its corner stone was laid by one of its trustees, Thomas Barry. The earlier priests during this Baltimore era were Fathers Thayer, Whelan, O'Brien, D. Mahoney, James Buyshe, and Hurley. The laymen of mark were James Roubichaux, Louis Le Coulteaux, David McEvers, Thomas Barry, William Duffy, and Daniel Cassidy. On the same day of the year 1808, Baltimore was elevated to the rank of an archdiocese, and three new sees were created : New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. The new Bishop of New York assumed jurisdiction over the entire State, and Albany heard the voice of a new shepherd. From this year to the year of its erection as a diocese (23 April, 1847) there was a steady growth of Catholics, sluggish at first, and afterwards flowing with fuller volume as we approach the years of the Irish famine and the climatictic of immigration. Within this New York era we note the foundation of the following parishes and churches:-
St. Peter's, Troy, 1826; its pioneer priests the Revs. McGilligan, John Shanahan, and James Quinn. St. John's, Schenectady, 1830, organized by the Rev. Charles Smith, of St. Mary's, Albany; its first pastor the Rev. John Kelly, succeeded by the Rev. Patrick McCloskey. St. John's, Albany, 1837; its first priest the Rev. John Kelly, and his successors, the Revs. McDonough and Patrick McCloskey. St. Patrick's, Watervliet, 1840; the earliest attending priest the Rev. John Shanahan, then pastor of St. Peter's, Troy. The Rev. James Quinn, assistant at St. Peter's, became first pastor of this parish, succeeded by the Rev. Thomas Martin. Church of the Assumption, Little Falls, 1841; its first pastor the Rev. Joseph M. Bourke. St. Joseph's, Albany, 1842: founded by the Rev. Joseph Schneller, then at St. Mary's, Albany, who was succeeded by the Revs. Newell and P. Hogan. The Rev. John J. Conroy, afterwards Bishop of Albany, was its first pastor. St. Mary's, Sandy Hill, 1833 (though first mentioned in the Directory in 1842); its first pastor the Rev. Father Guerdet. St. Mary's, Troy, was built in 1843 by the Rev. Peter Havermans. St. Augustine's, Lansingburg, 1844, had for its first pastor the Rev. F. Coyle.
The prominent laymen of this epoch were Peter Morange, Thomas Austen, James Mahar, William Hawe, Patrick McQuade, Peter Cagger, John Stuart, Thomas Geough, Thomas Mattimore, John Tracey, Dr. O'Callaghan, of Albany, John Keenan, of Glens Falls, Keating Rawson, Thomas Sausse, and Philip Quinn, of Troy.
(1) The Right Rev. John McCloskey, D.D. (afterwards Cardinal ), consecrated Coadjutor- Bishop of New York, 10 March, 1844, transferred to Albany as its first bishop, 21 May, 1847. He first selected the venerable St. Mary's church as his episcopal city for his cathedral, and, that proving unsuitable, he began the erection of the cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the corner stone of which was laid 2 July, 1848, by Archbishop Hughes. The edifice, completed with the exception of one of its twin towers, was dedicated 21 November, 1852. It is suggestive that the church was christened before the Immaculate Conception was declared an article of faith. He convened the first diocesan synod 7 October, 1855. To provide for the inrush of Irish immigrants he founded many parishes, encouraged the building of many churches, and augmented the number of his priests. The secular clergy proving insufficient, he invited the assistance of Jesuits, to whom he entrusted the large parish of St. Joseph's, in Troy. He was tireless in visiting every portion of his extensive diocese, which comprised all that territory now included in the dioceses of Albany, Syracuse, and Ogdensburg. He made provision for Catholic education by installing Religious of the Sacred Heart in Albany, and the Christian Brothers in Troy. He disarmed anti-Catholic and anti-Irish bias by the charm of his personality and the winsome graces of his consummate oratory.
(2) The Right Rev. John Joseph Conroy, D.D., consecrated 15 October, 1865. He built the beautiful St. Joseph's Church in the city of Albany, and established a home for the aged in charge of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and orphanages under the care of the Sisters of Charity and Christian Brothers in the same city. The secular clergy still proving inadequate for the growing and insistent needs of the ministry, he encouraged the Augustinian Fathers and the Minor Conventuals to cast their lot with the diocese. He secured the future of Catholic schools by establishing the celebrated convent of the Sacred Heart at Kenwood, and soliciting and welcoming foundations of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Mo., Sisters of Mercy, and Sisters of the Holy Names. The second diocesan synod was held in his episcopate.
(3) The Right Rev. Francis McNeirny, D.D., consecrated 21 April, 1872. He purchased the rectory for the cathedral clergy at 12 Madison Place, the chancery at 125 Eagle street, and the historic Schuyler mansion as an additional asylum. The Dominican Tertiaries, Sisters of the Good Shepherd, and Redemptorist Fathers established foundations at his invitation. He systematized the work of the chancery, formulated schedules for complete annual reports from each parish, and initiated the practice of convening synods of the clergy, administering confirmation, and canonically visiting every church in his diocese triennially. Clerical conferences, conducted with method and regularity, were his creation, and he closed his episcopate and his life with their crowning achievement—the enlargement and completion of the cathedral by the addition of an apse and the erection of new sacristies and a tower.
(4) The Right Rev. Thomas M. A. Burke, D.D., consecrated 1 July, 1894. He erected the school and rectory of St. Joseph's parish, Albany, whilst its rector, and evidenced administrative capacity of a high order in the management of its affairs. As bishop he has enlarged the Boys' Asylum in Albany, cancelled the indebtedness of the cathedral, refurnished and renewed it, and consecrated it with solemn ceremonial, 16 November, 1902. With characteristic exactitude for all canonical processes and requirements in the matter of synods, visitations, erection of parishes, schools, homes of industry and charity, and the holding of church properties, he is indefatigable and continues the best traditions and labours of his predecessors.
The growth of this see is explained entirely by immigration. The incentives to it were predominantly industrial. Agriculture played only a moderate part, and, as a rule, the land was second choice. In the early years of the last century New York State entered upon a vast scheme of internal improvements - the linking of the great lakes with the ocean by a system of canals. As Albany was the chief beneficiary of the enterprise, it became the principal distributing centre of the army of labourers who flocked into it in quest of employment. Work on the Erie Canal was begun in 1817 and completed in 1825. Development of the entire system of artificial waterways went on simultaneously. These opened up a vast uninhabited territory to tillage, colonization, and manufacture. From 1831 to 1852 railroad construction was under way, and as Ireland was then pouring into this country a flood-tide of fugitives from the famine, they found remunerative work at once. The earnings of these labourers were the chief contribution to the erection of contemporaneous churches. On the completion of the canals and railways, some of these strangers purchased land and began a farming life; most of them either threw in their lot with the new settlements sprouting promiscuously along the new lines of travel, or sought residence and employment in special localities because of their prosperous industries. Albany drew numbers because of its lumber, iron, stoves, shoes, cattle, and breweries; Glens Falls attracted by its flourishing lumber activities; Ballston by its tanneries; Cohoes by its axe industry, and cotton and woolen mills; Troy by the manufacture of stoves, nails, railway iron, and collars; Schagticoke and Amsterdam by their textile manufactures. During these years facilities of communication made access to most of the diocese comparatively easy, and the people were attended by a growing ministry. Its northern and lower western sections remained isolated and accessible only with great difficulty for many years, and here were some leakages from the Faith. Bigotry was rife in out-of-the-way corners, and met Catholic profession and practice with slander and slight—without violence, however. All this is superseded in our day by juster standards of measurement.
The Right Rev. John J. Conroy, the Right Rev. Monsignor McDermott, and the Rev. P. McCloskey left bequests for education. The Rev. Maurice Sheehan, the Rev. William Cullinan, and Mrs. Peter Cagger were generous patrons of St. Peter's Hospital, Albany. For various and large benefactions the diocese is indebted to John A. McCall, of New York; Anthony N. Brady, and Eugene D. Wood, of Albany; Thomas Breslin, of Waterford; Edward Murphy, Jr.; James O'Neil, Francis J. Molloy, Edmund Fitzgerald, Peter McCarthy, and Daniel E. Conway, of Troy. In the field of charity and Catholic usefulness, where fidelity to Catholic interests was and is a dominating principle of conduct, the names of Nicholas Hussey, John H. Farrell, Charles Tracey, Peter Cassidy, John W. McNamara, James F. Tracey, John P. McDonough, Edward F. Hussey, of Albany, and Edward Kelly, P.P. Connolly, Cornelius F. Burns, and Stephen Duffy, of Troy, deserve special mention.
Among the notable events of the diocesan history are the erection of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (1848-52) and its consecration, 16 November, 1902; the phenomenally fruitful career of St. Joseph's Provincial Seminary, Troy, from 1865 to 1896, at which latter date it was transferred to Dunwoodie, Yonkers, N.Y.; the purchase and consecration of St. Agnes's Cemetery, Albany, 1867; the formation of the Diocese of Ogdensburg in 1872, and of Syracuse in 1886, both of them previously included in the Diocese of Albany; the incoming of the Sisters of Charity (1840), Jesuits (1849-1900), Christian Brothers (1851), Ladies of the Sacred Heart (1853), Augustinian Fathers (1858), Sisters of St. Joseph (1860), Sisters of the Holy Names (1865), Sisters of Mercy (1865), Minor Conventuals (1867), Little Sisters of the Poor (1871), Dominican Tertiaries of St. Catharine de Ricci (1880), Sisters of the Good Shepherd (1884), Redemptorists (1886).
The clergy now (1906) number 214, of whom 168 are diocesan priests, and 49 regulars (Franciscans, Augustinians, Redemptorists, and Salesians ). The teaching Brothers are 55, among them 44 Christian Brothers. The Sisters, or religious women, number 698; parishes with resident priests, 105; missions with churches, 49. The parochial schools number 42, with 15,133 pupils (7,107 boys and 8,026 girls). A preparatory seminary (Troy) has 59 pupils. There are 2 colleges with 79 pupils, and 19 academies with 894 pupils. There are 11 asylums with 1,455 children; 3 hospitals with a daily list of 197 patients; 2 Houses of the Good Shepherd with 245 inmates; 2 Houses of Little Sisters of the Poor , with 328 inmates; 2 Houses of Retreat, kept by Dominican Sisters, with 35 inmates; 2 Homes for Women, with 15 inmates; and the Seton Home for Working Girls, with 20 inmates.
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