Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

DIOCESE OF PITTSBURG/PITTSBURGH (PITTSBURGENSIS).

Suffragan of Philadelphia, in the United States of America. It comprises the counties of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Washington, and Westmoreland in the State of Pennsylvania , an area of 7238 square miles, the total population of which is 1,944,942 (U.S. Census, 1910). About 24.42 per cent of these are Catholics.

It is probable that the first religious services held by white men within the limits of what is now the Diocese of Pittsburg were conducted by a Jesuit, Father Bonnecamp, who accompanied Celeron in his exploration along the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers in 1749. The strategic character of the ground where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers meet to form the Ohio pointed this place out to George Washington as a spot of future importance. He first saw "the Forks", as the place was called by the Indians, on 24 November, 1753, when engaged in bearing a letter from Robert Dinwiddie, Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia, to the commander of the French forces, asserting the British claims to the territory of Western Pennsylvania. Both England and France regarded the Forks as a valuable military position, opening a way for exploration to the west and south, and each was determined to occupy it. At the time the adjacent country was occupied by various Indian tribes — the Shawnees, Delawares, Senecas — dwelling along the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers. The first place of public worship within this territory was a chapel erected by the French in the stockade of Fort Duquesne, after Captain Contrecoeur and his forces had driven Ensigns Ward and Frazier from the Fort they were constructing at the fork of the Ohio. This chapel was built at some time later than 16 April, 1754, and dedicated under the title of "Assumption of the Blessed Virgin of the Beautiful River". In those days and for long afterwards, the Ohio — on account of its clear water and rugged scenery — was known as the "beautiful river".

There is preserved in the archives of the city of Montreal a register of baptisms and deaths kept by the army chaplain at Fort Duquesne, from which we learn that the first interment in the cemetery of the fort was that of Toussaint Boyer, who died 20 June, 1754. The first white child born on the site of the city of Pittsburg was John Daniel Norment. His godfather was the chief officer of Fort Duquesne, John Daniel Sieur Dumas. These entries are signed by "Friar Denys Baron, Recollect Priest, Chaplain ". If written evidence alone were to be considered, Father Baron, and not Father Bonnecamp (mentioned above), must be regarded as the first priest to offer the Holy Sacrifice, and the first white man to perform any public act of religious worship in the territory of the diocese. The register of baptisms and interments which took place at Fort Duquesne begins 11 July, 1753, and ends 10 October, 1756. The records before June, 1754, are from posts occupied by the French in the north-western part of Pennsylvania, now in the Diocese of Erie, before they took possession of the spot on which Fort Duquesne stood. In the register we find entries made by Friar Gabriel Amheuser and Friar Luke Collet, but they were chaplains from other French forts. Friar Denys Baron alone signs himself "Chaplain" of Fort Duquesne. These records testify to the baptism and burial of a number of Indians, showing that the French chaplains did not neglect their missionary duties.

The French evacuated the fort, the British army under General Forbes took possession in 1758, and the place was named Pittsburg, or Fort Pitt, after William Pitt, Prime Minister of England. For thirty or forty years the Catholic religion was almost, if not entirely, without adherents in Western Pennsylvania. Gradually, as the western part of the state was settled, the Catholics gained a foothold, but met with much opposition in this strongly Calvinistic section. In 1784 their number had increased sufficiently about Pittsburg to warrant them in sending Felix Hughes to the Very Rev. John Carroll, at Baltimore, who was then superior of the clergy in the United States asking that a priest be sent to minister to them at least once or twice a year. By this time there were seventy-five or eighty families along the Chartiers Creek, up the Monongahela Valley, and about Pittsburg. Priests were few in the country then, and the request could not be complied with. Under such conditions some of the Catholics in Western Pennsylvania had become indifferent, abandoned their religion altogether, or neglected their religious duties, even when the priests came. It is probable that the first priest to pass through Western Pennsylvania and minister to the Catholics there was a Carmelite, Father Paul, who came in 1785. Another was the Rev. Charles Whalen, a Capuchin, who remained a short time in 1787. In 1792 the Rev. Benedict Joseph Flaget , afterwards Bishop of Bardstown, remained here for some weeks. In 1793 the Revs. Baden and Barrieres came to Pittsburg and remained from September until November. The Rev. Michael Fournier was here fourteen weeks in the winter of 1796-7.

The site on which St. Vincent's Archabbey now stands, in Unity township, Westmoreland county, was the first place where a permanent Catholic settlement was made in Western Pennsylvania. This was about 1787. The Rev. Theodore Bowers purchased the tract of land then known as "Sportsman's Hall" in 1790, and became the first priest of the little colony. When the Rev. Peter Heilbron came to take charge of the parish, in November, 1799, he found seventy-five communicants. In March, 1789, ground was purchased at Greensburg, where the Rev. John B. Causse said Mass for the first time in June, 1789. A log chapel was begun in 1790, but was never completed. The Rev. Patrick Lonergan went with a colony of Catholics from Sportsman's Hall in 1798 and, after a short stay at West Alexander, began a church at Waynesburg, Greene County, in 1799, or 1800, "which", says Archbishop Kenrick of Baltimore, writing in 1862, "was completed by me thirty years later". In the summer of 1799, the Rev. Demetrius A. Gallitzin came to reside with a colony of Catholics at Maguire's Settlement, now known as Loretto, in Cambria County, in the present Diocese of Altoona, and his mission-field included much of what is now the Diocese of Pittsburg. These, with the churches at Sugar Creek, Armstrong County, where the Rev. Lawrence F. Phelan took up his residence in 1805, and at Pittsburg, where the Rev. William F. X. O'Brien settled in 1808, were the first centres of the Faith in Western Pennsylvania. The Franciscans, who had reared the first altar at Fort Duquesne, furnished the first missionaries to attempt permanent centres of Catholic life, and establish places of worship in Western Pennsylvania. The Revs. Theodore Browers, John B. Causse, Patrick Lonergan, Peter Heilbron, Charles B. Maguire, all belonged to one or another branch of the Order of St. Francis.

The Rev. William F. X. O'Brien, the first resident pastor of Pittsburg, was ordained at Baltimore 11 June, 1808, came to Pittsburg in November of the same year, and took up the erection of the church which is known in history as "Old St. Patrick's". It stood at the corner of Liberty and Epiphany streets, at the head of Eleventh Street, in front of the present Union Station. The Right Rev. Michael Egan dedicated this church in August, 1811, and its dedication and the administration of the Sacrament of Confirmation mark the first visit of a bishop to this part of the state. After twelve years of labour and exposure on the missions of his extensive territory, in which there were perhaps not more than 1800 souls, Father O'Brien's health declined, and in March, 1820, he retired to Maryland, where he died 1 November, 1832. He was succeeded in May, 1820, by the Rev. Charles B. Maguire, who had been pastor of the church at Sportsman's Hall since 1817. "Priest Maguire", as he was called by the Protestant people of Pittsburg, was a man of great ability and extensive learning, and in his day one of the best known and most respected and influential citizens of the community. He gave to the parish of St. Patrick, and to the Church in Western Pennsylvania something of his own strong personality and splendid qualities of order, progress, industry, love, and fidelity to Jesus Christ — influences that are still felt. He began in 1827 the erection of St. Paul's church, which, when finished and dedicated 4 May, 1834, was the largest and most imposing church edifice in the United States. The Poor Clare Nuns opened a convent and academy in 1828 on Nunnery Hill in what was then Allegheny (now the North Side of Pittsburg). The community left Nunnery Hill in 1835 and, after remaining in another part of Allegheny until 1837, the sisters either returned to Europe, or entered other religious communities in the United States.

Father Maguire died of cholera 17 July, 1833, and was succeeded as pastor by his assistant, the Rev. John O'Reilly, who completed St. Paul's church, introduced the Sisters of Charity from Emmitsburg, Maryland, in 1835, and established in the same year a Catholic school, and in 1838 an orphan asylum which the Sisters of Charity conducted until they were withdrawn from the diocese by their superiors in 1845. In April, 1837, Father O'Reilly was transferred to Philadelphia, and the Rev. Thomas Heyden, of Bedford, took his place. In November of the same year, Father Heyden returned to Bedford, and the Rev. P.R. Kenrick, the late Archbishop of St. Louis, became pastor of St. Paul's, Pittsburg. In the summer of 1838, Father O'Reilly exchanged places with Father Kenrick, and returned to Pittsburg. He remained at St. Paul's until succeeded by the Rev. Michael O'Connor, 17 June, 1841. He then went to Rome, entered the Congregation of the Mission, and died at St. Louis, Missouri, 4 March, 1862. The first religious community of men was established in Pittsburg, 8 April, 1839, which date marks the advent of the Fathers of the Congregation of Our Most Holy Redeemer, in the person of the Rev. Father Prost, who came to take charge of St. Patrick's parish, and established St. Philomena's.

Bishop Flaget appears to have been the first to regard Pittsburg as the future see of a bishop, having entertained this idea in 1825. As early as 1835 Bishop Kenrick proposed to the cardinal prefect of Propaganda a division of the Diocese of Philadelphia by the erection at Pittsburg of an episcopal see, and he recommended the appointment of the Rev. John Hughes as Bishop either of Philadelphia or of Pittsburg. The suggestion of Bishop Kenrick was officially approved in Rome, and in January, 1836, the Rev. John Hughes was named Bishop of Philadelphia, and Bishop Kenrick was transferred to Pittsburg. Some obstacle intervened, and the appointments were recalled. The matter was again discussed in the Third Provincial Council of Baltimore, 16 April, 1837, but no definite action was taken. In the Fifth Provincial Council, which assembled at Baltimore, 14 May, 1843, the division of the State of Pennsylvania into two dioceses was recommended to the Holy See, and the Rev. Dr. Michael O'Connor was named as the most suitable person to govern the new see. Both actions of the council were confirmed at Rome. The new Diocese of Pittsburg, according to the Bull of erection, issued 11 August, 1843, was "Western Pennsylvania ". This designation being rather vague, Bishop Kenrick, of Philadelphia, and Bishop O'Connor agreed to consider the Diocese of Pittsburg as comprising the Counties of Bedford, Huntingdon, Clearfield, McKean, and Potter, and all west of them in the state of Pennsylvania. This agreement was afterwards confirmed by a rescript of the Holy See. The new diocese contained an area of 21,300 sq. miles, or a little less than one-half of the state, and not more than one-third either of the entire, or of the Catholic population. Dr. Michael O'Connor was in Rome at the time of the division of the Diocese of Philadelphia, and his appointment to the new see was announced to him by Gregory XVI, while the future bishop knelt at his feet to ask permission to enter the Society of Jesus. "You shall be bishop first, and a Jesuit afterwards", said the venerable pontiff. These prophetic words were literally fulfilled. The Bull of his appointment was dated 11 August, 1843, and he was consecrated four days later by Cardinal Franzoni in the church of S. Agata, at Rome, on the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, the titular feast of the first chapel at Fort Duquesne.

Michael O'Connor was born near the city of Cork, Ireland, 27 September, 1810. His early education was received at Queenstown, in his native country. At the age of fourteen he went to France, where he studied for several years. Then he was sent by the Bishop of Cloyne and Ross to the College of the Propaganda, at Rome where he won the title of Doctor of Divinity. Cardinal Wiseman, then Rector of the English College at Rome, in his "Recollections of the Last Four Popes ", speaks in terms of high commendation of the ability of the youthful O'Connor, and of the manner in which he won his doctor's cap and ring. On 1 June, 1833, he was ordained, and immediately afterwards was appointed professor of Sacred Scripture at the Propaganda. The post of vice-rector of the Irish College was next assigned to him, and, returning to his native land, he was stationed for a time in the parish of Fermoy. At the invitation of Bishop Kenrick he came to the United States in 1839, and was at once appointed to a professorship in St. Charles Borromeo's Seminary, Philadelphia, afterwards becoming its president. During his connexion with the seminary, he attended the mission at Morristown, and built the church of St. Francis Xavier at Fairmount. In June, 1841, he was appointed vicar-general of the western part of the State of Pennsylvania, and came to Pittsburg to succeed the Rev. John O'Reilly, as pastor of St. Paul's. The event is chronicled in his notebook as follows: "June 17, 1841, arrived at Pittsburg on this day (Thursday); lodging at Mrs. Timmons, at $4.00 per week". One month after his arrival, Father O'Connor undertook the erection of a parochial school, organized a literary society for young men of the city, and opened a reading-room. He was consecrated Bishop of Pittsburg 15 August, 1843, at Rome. Soon after his consecration he left Rome and passed through Ireland on his way to America, with a view of providing priests and religious for his diocese. He called at Maynooth in October, 1843, and made an appeal to the students, asking some of them to volunteer their services for the new Diocese of Pittsburg. Five students whose course of studies was almost completed and three others also far advanced resolved to accompany the bishop. Coming to Dublin, he obtained a colony of seven Sisters of the recently-founded Order of Our Lady of Mercy to take charge of the parochial schools and of the higher education of young ladies. These were the first Sisters of the Order of Mercy, founded by Mother Catherine McCauley, to establish a convent in the United States. He sailed for America 12 November, and arrived at Pittsburg in December, 1843. At that time the bishop had in his vast diocese 33 churches, a few of which were unfinished, 16 priests, and a Catholic population of less than 25,000 souls.

The following were the churches and priests of Western Pennsylvania at the time of the erection of the Diocese of Pittsburg. In Allegheny County: Pittsburg, St. Paul's Cathedral, the Very Rev. M. O'Connor and his assistant, the Rev. Joseph F. Deane; St. Patrick's, the Rev. E. F. Garland; St. Philomena's (German), the Revs. John N. Neuman, Julius P. Saenderl, F. X. Tschenheus, Peter Czackert, C.SS.R. The Rev. A. P. Gibbs resided in Pittsburg and attended a number of small congregations and missions in Allegheny and other counties: St. Philip's, Broadhead (now Crafton); St. Mary's, Pine Creek; St. Alphonsus, Wexford; St. Peter's, McKeesport. Westmoreland County: St. Vincent's; Mt. Carmel (near Derry), the Rev. Jas. A. Stillinger. Indiana County: Blairsville, Sts. Simon and Jude, and St. Patrick's, Cameron's Bottom; the Rev. Jas. A. Stillinger, from St. Vincent's. Butler County: Butler, St. Peter's, the Rev. H. P. Gallagher; Donegal, St. Joseph's (now North Oakland); Murrinsville, St. Alphonsus; St. Mary's (now Herman), the Rev. H. P. Gallagher (residing at Butler ). Armstrong County: St. Patrick's, Sugar Creek; St. Mary's, Freeport; the Rev. Joseph Cody, residing at Sugar Creek. Washington County: St. James, West Alexander. Fayette County: St. Peter's, Brownsville (in course of erection), the Rev. M. Gallagher. Greene County: Waynesburg, St. Ann's; other stations in Greene County, Washington County, and Fayette County, attended by the Rev. M. Gallagher, from Brownsville. Beaver County: Beaver, Sts. Peter and Paul. Bedford County: Bedford, St. Thomas, the Rev. Thomas Heyden. Somerset County: Harman Bottom, St. John's, the Rev. Thomas Heyden (residing at Bedford). Huntingdon County: Huntingdon, Holy Trinity, attended from Newry by the Rev. James Bradley. Blair County: Newry, St. Patrick's; St. Luke's, Sinking Valley and St. Mary's, Hollidaysburg, attended from Newry by the Rev. James Bradley. Cambria County: Loretto, St. Michael's ; Jefferson (now Wilmore), St. Bartholomew's ; Johnstown, St. John Gaulbert; Ebensburg, St. Patrick's (now Holy Name of Jesus ); Hart's Sleeping Place, St. Joseph's; Summit, St. Aloysius's (these places attended in 1843 by the Rev. Peter H. Lemke, pastor of Loretto, and his assistant, the Rev. Matthew W. Gibson). Mercer County: Mercer, St. Raphael's, attended from Butler by the Rev. H. P. Gallagher. Clearfield County: Clearfield, St. Francis; French Settlement, St. Mary's; Grampian Hills, St. Bonaventure . Crawford County: Cupewago (dedication unknown); French Settlement, St. Hippolyte's; Oil Creek, St. Stephen's. Erie County: Erie, St. Patrick's; Erie, St. Mary's. Elk County: Elk Creek (dedication unknown); Marysville (dedication unknown). Clarion County: Erismans, St. Michael's ; Red Bank, St. Nicholas's. The Rev. J. A. Berti seems to have attended the missions of Clearfield, Crawford, Erie, Elk, and Clarion Counties in 1843.

As yet there were but two religious communities in the diocese, the Redemptorist Fathers at St. Philomena's church, and the Sisters of Charity, who had charge of St. Paul's Orphan Asylum, and two schools in Pittsburg. The first parochial school building at St. Paul's, which has already been mentioned, was opened 14 April, 1844. On 16 June of the same year the first diocesan synod was held, and statutes were enacted for the government of the Church. On the 30th of the same month a chapel was opened for the use of the coloured Catholics of the city. In the same year the publication of "The Catholic" was begun, and the paper has been regularly issued every week down to the present time. St. Michael's ecclesiastical seminary, for the education of candidates for the priesthood, was established also in 1844. Thus in the brief space of a single year Bishop O'Connor had succeeded in thoroughly organizing all the departments of his vast diocese. The Presentation Brothers came in 1845 to take charge of St. Paul's Boys' School. They withdrew from the diocese, however, in 1848. In 1846 Bishop O'Connor received the Benedictine Order into the diocese. Their abbey was founded at St. Vincent's, Beatty, Pa., by the late Archabbot Boniface Wimmer (then the Rev. Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B.) from the Benedictine monastery of Melten, in Bavaria, and in its college and seminary many young men have received their higher education and completed their studies for the priesthood. The little seed sown at Sportsman's Hall has developed into the great Archabbey of St. Vincent's, which is, at this date (1911), the largest Benedictine institution in the world. In 1847 a community of the members of the Third Order of St. Francis came from Ireland and settled at Loretto, Cambria County, Pa. In 1848 the Sisters of Notre Dame opened a convent and school at St. Philomena's, Pittsburg. The Passionists, then an Italian order, were introduced into the diocese in 1852, and from their first monastery of St. Paul's, Pittsburg, the order has since spread into many States of the Union.

By 1852 the diocese had increased to such an extent that the bishop began to consider the propriety of having it divided, and a new one formed from the northern counties. He laid the matter before the Fathers of the First Plenary Council of Baltimore, which assembled 9 May, 1852, and the division was recommended by the Holy See. The Bulls dividing the Diocese of Pittsburg and erecting the new Diocese of Erie were dated 29 July, 1853. The dividing line ran east and west along the northern boundaries of Cambria, Indiana, Armstrong, Butler, and Lawrence, taking from Pittsburg all the counties lying north thereof, and giving thirteen counties to the new and fifteen to the old diocese. The area of the Diocese of Pittsburg was reduced from 21,300 sq. miles to 11,314 sq. miles. Bishop O'Connor chose the new and poorer diocese as his portion, and the Holy See approved his choice. The Rev. Joshua M. Young, of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati , was named Bishop of Pittsburg. The reluctance of Father Young to be the successor of Bishop O'Connor in the See of Pittsburg and the urgent petition of the clergy and the people of the diocese moved the Holy See to restore Bishop O'Connor after five months (20 December, 1853) to his former bishopric, and appoint Bishop Young to the new Diocese of Erie. A comparison of the condition of the diocese at the date of its division to form the Diocese of Erie with what it was at the time of its erection ten years before will furnish the most convincing evidence of the zeal, prudence, and energy which characterized the administration of Bishop O'Connor. At the time of the division, the 43 churches had increased to 78, and 4 more were in course of erection. The 16 priests had increased to 64, and the Catholic population from less than 25,000 to at least 50,000.

On 23 May, 1860, Bishop O'Connor resigned his see to carry out his cherished purpose of entering the Society of Jesus. He made his novitiate in Germany and then returned to this country, where he laboured with characteristic energy and zeal as a professor, also preaching and lecturing all over the United States and Canada. With his other acquirements, Bishop O'Connor was a linguist of considerable note, being familiar with Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and speaking English, Irish, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. He was called to his reward 18 October, 1872, in his sixty-third year. His remains were deposited by the side of his Jesuit brethren at Woodstock, Maryland, and there still lies all that is mortal of one of the most brilliant lights that has ever shed its lustre on the Church in the United States. When Bishop O'Connor resigned, the statistics of the diocese were as follows: 77 churches, 86 priests, 30 clerical students, 4 male and 2 female religious orders, 1 seminary, 3 male and 2 female institutions of higher education, 2 orphan asylums, 1 hospital, and a Catholic population of 50,000. Any one who understands the resources of the diocese in 1843 would find it difficult to comprehend how the bishop could have accomplished so much for the good of religion. A stranger, after examining all that had been done — the charitable and educational establishments founded, churches built — would at once conclude that the person who accomplished so much must have had control of vast means, or must have been at the head of a numerous and influential, wealthy, and munificent Catholic body. Yet Bishop O'Connor in fact enjoyed none of these advantages. The Catholics of the Diocese of Pittsburg at that time, though generous to support religion, cannot be said to have been influential in the community, or possessed of great means. Indeed they were, almost without exception, the poorer people of the community. But during sixteen years they had enjoyed the advantages of an episcopal administration, all things considered, the most brilliant and most successful in the history of the American Church. The Very Revs. James A. Stillinger and Edward McMahon were Bishop O'Connor's vicars-general.

The Right Rev. Michael Domenec, who succeeded Bishop O'Connor, 28 September, 1860, was, at the time of his appointment, pastor of the church of St. Vincent de Paul, Germantown. He was born at Ruez, near Tarragona, Spain, in 1816. His early education was received at Madrid. The outbreak of the Carlist War interrupted his studies, and at the age of fifteen he went to France to complete his education. Having spent some years in the Lazarist seminary in Paris, he entered that order. In the company of the Very Rev. John Timon, then visitor-general of the Lazarists, he came to the United States in 1838, and was ordained at the seminary at Barrens, Missouri, 29 June, 1839. Having acted as professor in that seminary, at the same time labouring as a missionary in various parts of Missouri, he was sent in 1845 with some other Lazarist Fathers to take charge of the diocesan seminary at Philadelphia, a position formerly occupied by the first Bishop of Pittsburg. In conjunction with his work at the seminary he was pastor, first at Nicetown, and afterwards at Germantown. He was consecrated in St. Paul's Cathedral, Pittsburg, on 9 December, 1860, by Archbishop F.P. Kenrick of Baltimore, and entered upon his new duties with a zeal and activity, the effects of which were soon evident all over the diocese in new churches, schools, hospitals, and asylums for the sick and poor.

While Bishop Domenec was recognized as a man of great learning, an eloquent preacher, and a zealous and indefatigable chief pastor of the diocese, it is to be regretted that the closing chapter in the life and history of this amiable and saintly prelate was darkened by the gloom of one of the severest trials that any bishop in the United States has ever passed through. When the panic of 1873 had destroyed the prosperity of the country and disheartened the people of the Diocese of Pittsburg, the bishop, probably overcome by financial and other difficulties which beset him, set out on a visit to Rome, 5 Nov., 1875, to petition for the division of the Diocese of Pittsburg, and the formation of a new diocese with Allegheny City as its see. Priests and people were taken by surprise when the division was announced from Rome, and found difficulty in crediting the report. But further intelligence confirmed it. The Diocese of Pittsburg was divided, and Bishop Domenec was transferred to the new See of Allegheny. The Bulls for both the division and the transfer were dated 11 January, 1876. Many persons had expected that the division of the diocese with Altoona as the new see would take place in time, but felt that the panic which the people were passing through must necessarily defer it for a few years to come. By Bulls dated 16 January, 1876, the Very Rev. John Tuigg of Altoona was elevated to the vacant See of Pittsburg. The new diocese of Allegheny had 8 counties, with an area of 6530 sq. miles, leaving the parent diocese 6 counties, and an area of 4784 sq. miles. Broken in health and saddened by the trials which he had passed through, Bishop Domenec resigned the See of Allegheny 27 July, 1877, and retired to his native land, where he died at Tarragona, 7 January, 1878. Bishop Domenec had for his vicars-general the Very Revs. Tobias Mullen, afterwards Bishop of Erie, and John Hickey. The Fathers of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost entered the diocese 15 April, 1874, and, on 1 October, 1878, opened the Pittsburg College of the Holy Ghost, which is now (1911) attended by over 400 students.

The Right Rev. John Tuigg was born in County Cork, Ireland, 19 February, 1821. He began his studies for the priesthood at All Hallows College, Dublin, and completed his theological course at St. Michael's Seminary, Pittsburg. He was ordained by Bishop O'Connor on 14 May, 1850, and was assigned to the cathedral as an assistant priest, and secretary to the bishop. He organized the parish of St. Bridget, Pittsburg, in 1853. He was then entrusted with the charge of the important mission of Altoona, where monuments of his pastoral zeal and energy exist in the shape of a church, convent, and schools. In 1869 he was appointed vicar-forane for the eastern portion of the diocese. On 11 January, 1876, he was appointed to fill the vacant See of Pittsburg, and was consecrated bishop in the Cathedral of St. Paul on 19 March, 1876, by the Most Rev. James Frederic Wood, Archbishop of Philadelphia. At that time, owing mainly to the effects of the panic of three years previous, and the discontent arising from the division of the former Diocese of Pittsburg, he found great financial and other cares to encounter. The division of the diocese was the beginning of the darkest period in the history of the Church in Western Pennsylvania. It was followed by disputes, mistrust, and litigations, which sundered many friendships, created clerical and lay factions, and did violence to the peace and charity which had hitherto blessed the diocese. In the manner in which it was brought about, in the lines which designated the limits of each diocese, in the apportionment of debt, in fact from every point of view, the division proved unsatisfactory and resulted in bitter contention and disorder which ended only with the suppression of the See of Allegheny and the reunion of the two dioceses as though no division had taken place. With foresight, energy, determination, and perseverance the new bishop faced the difficulties with which he was surrounded, and entered upon the task of restoring order and confidence, and placing the embarrassed properties of the diocese upon a safe and sound footing. He sacrificed his personal comfort, his own private means, and reduced the expense of the diocese by the strictest economy, in order that the creditors of the Church might not suffer loss, and although his once vigorous constitution was shattered by the labours and trials through which he passed, confidence was restored, and the diocese started on one of the most prosperous periods of its history. Although these heavy burdens rested on his shoulders, as Bishop of Pittsburg, yet the Holy See, on 3 August, 1877, after Bishop Domenec resigned, entrusted to him the administration of the vacant See of Allegheny.

In the year 1833 Bishop Tuigg was warned of his approaching end by a stroke of paralysis, and, although he lingered for some years longer, suffering and pain were his constant companions. By slow but sure degrees he continued to grow worse, until on 7 December, 1889, the soul of the venerable prelate passed away to its heavenly home. His last moments were singularly peaceful, and his death was a fitting close to his long and saintly career. It may be said of him that he combined the qualities of firmness and gentleness to a degree rarely found in the same individual ; strong and unyielding when confident of the justice and propriety of any position he took, he was at the same time kind and courteous to those from whom he differed. Proofs of his executive ability, his piety, and his self-sacrificing zeal abound throughout the diocese over which God called him to rule, and which he left in better condition than it had known for some years.

The Right Rev. Richard Phelan, the fourth occupant of the See of Pittsburg, was born 1 January, 1828, at Sralee, County Kilkenny, Ireland. He was one of a family of nine children, four of whom embraced the religious life. He entered St. Kieran's College, Kilkenny, in 1844, to study for the priesthood. When Bishop O'Connor visited Ireland, in 1850, in search of students to labour in the Diocese of Pittsburg, Richard Phelan volunteered his services. He came to the United States, completed his theological studies at St. Mary's, Baltimore, and was ordained at Pittsburg by Bishop O'Connor, 4 May, 1854. He served as vicar-general to Bishop Tuigg. By a Bull dated 12 May, 1885, he was appointed titular Bishop of Cybara, and by a Bull dated 15 May, 1885, he was appointed coadjutor to Bishop Tuigg with right of succession, and was consecrated by Archbishop Ryan in St. Paul's Cathedral, Pittsburg, on 2 August, 1885. He succeeded as bishop to the united Dioceses of Pittsburg and Allegheny, 7 December, 1889. By a Bull dated 1 July, 1889, the See of Allegheny was totally suppressed, and the Diocese of Pittsburg was declared to embrace the territory of what had been the two dioceses, as though no division had ever taken place. The administration of Bishop Phelan was a remarkably successful one. He was a man of prudent zeal and extraordinary business ability. The people of many nationalities who were coming in large numbers to find work in the mines and mills of Western Pennsylvania were formed into regular congregations, supplied with pastors who could speak their own languages, and the material and spiritual development of the diocese kept pace with the growth of the population. In May, 1901, the counties of Cambria, Blair, Bedford, Huntingdon, and Somerset were taken from the Diocese of Pittsburg to form, with several counties taken from the Diocese of Harrisburg, the new Diocese of Altoona, leaving the Diocese of Pittsburg its present territory (see beginning of this article).

When Bishop Phelan, as a priest, began his work in the Diocese of Pittsburg, religious prejudice ran high, and misguided men said and did things against Catholics which have passed into history. Placed in the most trying positions, he always disarmed bigotry by his straightforward adherence to the principles of justice and charity towards all men, and by his considerate treatment of those who in belief and worship were separated from him. His life as a priest and bishop was coincident with a remarkable transitional period in Western Pennsylvania. No region has experienced so great changes within the last fifty years as has Western Pennsylvania. During the administration of Bishop Phelan these changes were most marked. He saw the wonderful growth and development of the iron, steel, coal, and coke industries, to which the western portion of the state owes its distinction and prosperity. The sudden advent of immense Catholic populations with strange tongues and strange customs, and all of them impoverished, gave rise to problems that would have taxed the ablest men. Here was a field in which Bishop Phelan showed his splendid administrative ability. By his wise and prudent counsel, by the exercise of judgment and foresight which in the light of events today are seen to have been of the first excellence, either the difficulties that arose were solved or the way for their solution was prepared. At his death, which occurred 20 December, 1904, at St. Paul's Orphan Asylum, Idlewood, Pennsylvania, he was the head of a diocese which in organization, in the personnel of its clergy and its adequate equipment for the needs of its people, was second to none in the United States. His vicars-general were Very Rev. Stephen Wall, Very Rev. F. L. Tobin, and Very Rev. E. A. Bush.

The Right Rev. Regis Canevin, present (1911) Bishop of Pittsburg, was born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, 5 June, 1853, educated at St. Vincent's College and the seminary at Beatty, and ordained priest in St. Paul's Cathedral, Pittsburg, 4 June, 1879. He became coadjutor to Bishop Phelan, with right of succession, being consecrated in the same cathedral by Archbishop Ryan, of Philadelphia, 24 February, 1903. His vicars-general are Rt. Rev. F. L. Tobin and Rt. Rev. Joseph Suhr. The present Catholic population is about 475,000, and is composed of so many nationalities that the Gospel is preached in at least fourteen languages: English, German, French, Italian, Slovak, Polish, Bohemian, Magyar, Slovenian, Lithuanian, Croatian, Rumanian, Ruthenian, and Syrian.

The religious communities of men in the diocese number as follows: Redemptorists, 6 members; Benedictine Fathers, 134; Passionist Fathers, 32; Brothers of Mary (Dayton, Ohio ), 11; Capuchin Fathers, 50; Holy Ghost Fathers, 42; Carmelite Fathers, 7; Italian Franciscan Fathers, 10. Total, 292 members. The religious communities of women number: Sisters of Mercy, 353 members; Sisters of Notre Dame (Motherhouse, Baltimore ), 50; Franciscan Sisters, 239; Sisters of St. Joseph, 189; Benedictine Nuns, 78; Ursuline Nuns, 26; Sisters of Charity, 331; Little Sisters of the Poor, 32; Sisters of the Good Shepherd, 61; Sisters of Divine Providence, 180; Sisters of Mercy (Motherhouse, Cresson), 13; Sisters of Nazareth (Motherhouse, Chicago ), 64; Slovak Sisters of Charity, 27; Third Order of St. Francis Nuns (Motherhouse, Allegheny, New York), 7; Sisters of St. Joseph (Motherhouse, Watertown, New York), 16; Sisters of the Incarnate Word, 3; Missionary Franciscan Sisters (Motherhouse, Rome ), 5; Sisters of St. Joseph (Motherhouse, Rutland, Vermont ), 7; Felician Sisters (Motherhouse, Detroit ), 40; Sisters of St. Agnes (Motherhouse, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin ), 5; Passionist Nuns, 8; Immaculate Heart Nuns (Motherhouse, Scranton ), 15; Bernardine Sisters (Motherhouse, Reading, Pennsylvania ), 5. Total, 1754 members.

General statistics of the diocese (1911): bishop, 1; archabbot, 1; diocesan priests, 353; regular, 145; churches with resident priests, 275; missions, 29; parochial schools, 145; pupils, 45,593; diocesan seminarians, 70; seminaries of religious orders, 3; boys' colleges, 3, with 700 students; girls' academies, 4, with 490 pupils; preparatory schools for boy, 2, with 129 pupils; deaf-mute school, 1, with 37 pupils; orphan asylums, 4, with 1586 orphans ; foundling asylum, 1; industrial school for boys, 2, for girls, 1. Total number of pupils in schools and asylums, 48,555; hospitals, 7; home for aged poor, 2; homes of the Good Shepherd, 2; homes for working girls, 2. Catholic population, about 475,000.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 3:14-21
14 This, then, is what I pray, kneeling before the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 33:1-2, 4-5, 11-12, 18-19
1 Shout for joy, you upright; praise comes well from ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:49-53
49 'I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 23rd, 2014 Image

St. John of Capistrano
October 23: St. John was born at Capistrano, Italy in 1385, the son of a ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter