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Diocese of Burlington

Diocese of the State of Vermont

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Burlington, DIOCESE of (BURLINOTONENSIS), established July 14, 1853, comprises the whole State of Vermont, U.S.A., an area of 9135 square miles. The territory now making up the State of Vermont was not only discovered but first settled by Catholics. Champlain bestowed on the State in 1609 the name it bears and the first Mass said within its boundaries was offered up in 1666 by a Sulpician priest from Montreal, in the chapel of the little fort of St. Anne on Isle LaMothe—now the site of a shrine of pilgrimage—where a few soldiers upheld the authority of the King of France. In 1668 Bishop Laval of Quebec went there and thus gave to Vermont the honor of the first episcopal visitation and ministration in New England and probably in the United States. During the years that followed, Jesuit and other missionaries traversed the State and left the evidences of their zeal in the converted Indians and the Catholic settlers in many villages. In 1734 there were fourteen Catholic families grouped about a chapel at Alburgh. After Canada had been ceded to the English in 1760 many New England emigrants went to Vermont, but the Bishops of Quebec still continued to look after the Catholics there. When the Diocese of Boston was created in 1810 the State of Vermont was included within its jurisdiction, and the venerable Father Matignon of Boston visited Burlington in 1815 and found about one hundred Catholic Canadians there without a priest or church. Father Migneault of Chambly, Canada, was a frequent visitor for a number of years, ministering to the scattered families along the border. Father James Fitton of Boston was another pioneer priest. The first resident priest in Vermont was the Rev. Jeremiah O’Callaghan, a native of Cork, Ireland, whose eccentric notions on the question of usury got him into difficulties with the bishop of his native diocese; he was sent to Burlington in 1830 by Bishop ‘Fenwick and remained there until 1854, his influence and pastoral zeal radiating far and wide. He built St. Peter’s church, Burlington, in 1832. He died at Holyoke, Massachusetts, February 23, 1861. In 1837 the Rev., John D. Daly, another eccentric but learned man, commenced to care for the missions in the southern part of the State and labored until 1854, when he retired to New York where he died in 1870. Notable also among the priests ministering in the State during this early period were Fathers William Ivers, George Hamilton Edward McGowan, James Walsh, M. Petithomme, P. Drolet, and M. Chevalier. In 1843 the Catholics of the State numbered 4940, but the building of railroads and the establishment of numerous public works soon brought a steady increase.

In 1853 on the petition of the bishops of the Province of New York, the pope erected Vermont into a diocese with Burlington as the titular city. The Very Rev. Louis De Goesbriand then Vicar-General of the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio, was named the first bishop and consecrated in New York by Archbishop Bedini, October 30, 1853. He was born August 4, 1816, at Saint-Urbain, Finistere, France. He studied at Saint-Sulpice, Paris, and was ordained priest at St. Louis, U.S.A., July 30, 1840. He found on his arrival in Vermont five priests, ten churches, and about 20,000 Catholics. In January 1855, he went to Europe to secure priests in Ireland and France and with the aid of those who answered his appeal for volunteers, new parishes were organized, churches built, schools opened, and the work of evangelizing went on vigorously. The first diocesan synod was held in Burlington, 4 and October 5, 1855, at which nine priests attended. On July 17, 1890, Bishop De Goesbriand celebrated the golden jubilee of his ordination and in 1892 he asked for a coadjutor. The choice fell on the Rev. John Stephen Michaud, then pastor at Bennington, the son of an Irish mother and a Canadian father and born at Burlington, November 24, 1843. He made his studies at St. Joseph‘s Seminary, Troy, New York, and was ordained priest, June 7, 1873. He was consecrated titular Bishop of Modra and coadjutor of Burlington, June 29, 1892. Bishop De Goesbriand retired to live in the Orphan Asylum at Burlington and died November 3, 1899, the dean of the American hierarchy. Bishop Michaud immediately succeeded to the see. Bishop De Goesbriand was one of the prelates who attended the Vatican Council in 1869.

The religious communities now represented in the diocese are the Fathers of Saint Edmond (C. S. E.), the Brothers of St. Gabriel, Sisters of Charity of Providence, Sisters of the Holy Cross and of the Seven Dolors, Sisters of the Holy Ghost, Ladies of St. Joseph, Sisters of St. Joseph, Hospital Sisters of St. Joseph, Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame, of the Presentation, of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and of the Assumption. There are in the diocese 99 priests, 88 secular, 11 regular; 95 churches, 70 with resident pastors, and 27 missions with churches; 20 stations; 275 women in religious communities; 15 ecclesiastical students in the diocesan seminary; 3 academies for boys, 9 for girls; 21 parish schools with 6096 pupils; 2 orphanage schools with 260 pupils, 220 orphans in the diocesan asylum; 2 colleges for boys; 2 hospitals; Catholic population estimated 75,953; children under Catholic care 6175. The hospital at Winooski Park is named after Fanny Allen, daughter of General Ethan Allen of Revolutionary fame, and the first woman of New England birth to become a nun. (See Frances Allen.)


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