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Diocese of Boise

American diocese in Idaho

Boise, Diocese of (Xylopolitana), created by Leo XIII, August 25, 1893, embraces the whole State of Idaho, U.S.A., an area of 84,290 square miles. In 1842 a mission was started among the Coeur d’Alene Indians (whom Father De Smet, S.J., had recently visited) by Father Nicholas Point, S.J., and Brother Charles Huet, S.J. Father Joset followed next. The first Catholic church in Idaho was built sixteen miles from Coeur d’Alene Lake by the Jesuit Fathers Gazzoli and Ravalli, aided by the red men. In its construction wooden pegs were used instead of nails. In 1863, the pioneer secular priests, the Rev. Toussaint Mesplie, a Frenchman, and the Rev. A. Z. Poulin, a Canadian, were successively sent to the placer miners of Boise Basin by Archbishop F. N. Blanchet, first administrator of Idaho Territory. Within six months they built the first churches erected for white people in Idaho City, Placerville, Centerville, and Pioneer; and later, a school at Idaho City, of which Sisters of the Holy Names, from Portland, Oregon, took charge. Father J. M. Cataldo, S.J., made unsuccessful advances to the Nez Perces in 1867. Recalled by them in 1872, he soon baptized three hundred of these fierce warriors. In 1876, Father Gazzoli drew many to the Faith by his remarkable medical skill. Interrupted by the Nez Perces war (1877), the work has since been successfully carried on, Archbishop Seghers’ visits in 1879-83 having given it a new impetus. The Holy See, March 3, 1868, established Idaho as a vicariate Apostolic and placed it in charge of the Right Rev. Louis Lootens who was consecrated Titular Bishop of Castabala, at San Francisco, August 9, 1868. Born in Bruges, Belgium, March 17, 1827, he emigrated to Victoria in 1852, and spent nine years as a missionary in Vancouver Island and six in California. The new vicar Apostolic reached Idaho in January, 1869, and took up his abode at Granite Creek. In 1870 the first Catholic church was erected in the capital by Fathers Mesplie and Poulin, on a site donated by John A. O’Farrell, Col. A. St. Clair, commander of Fort Boise, being the priests’ main helper in this laborious work. It was scarcely dedicated, however, when it was burned down. Bishop Lootens resigned July 16, 1875, and died January 13, 1898. He was succeeded by the second vicar Apostolic, the Right Rev. Alphonsus Joseph Glorieux, consecrated at Baltimore, Maryland, titular Bishop of Apollonia, April 19, 1885. He found in his territory about 2,500 Catholics with ten churches attended by two secular and several Jesuit priests. When Boise was made an episcopal see he was transferred thither as its first bishop, August 26, 1893.

The diocese has fifty-four churches and chapels, 34 priests, 7 academies, and 5 parochial schools, with 950 pupils; 2 industrial and reform schools with 150 inmates; 3 hospitals and a Catholic population of about 15,000, mostly of Irish and German racial affiliations, a sprinkling of Canadians, and 4,000 Indians. On November 11, 1906, the cornerstone of a fine cathedral was laid near the new episcopal residence. Among the pioneer priests who did splendid missionary work here were Fathers L. Verhaag, E. Nattini, F. Hartleib, W. Hendrickx, and C. Van der Donckt, the last being the first priest ordained for Idaho in 1887, and stationed at Pocatello since June, 1888. The academies and parochial schools are conducted respectively by the Sisters of the Holy Cross, of St. Joseph, of the Visitation, of Charity, of Providence, of St. Benedict, and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

C. VAN DER DONCKT


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