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Diocese of Columbus

In Ohio

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Columbus, Diocese of.—The Diocese of Columbus comprises that part of the State of Ohio, south of 40 degrees and 41 minutes, lying between the Ohio River on the east and the Scioto River on the west, and also the Counties of Delaware, Franklin, and Morrow, twenty-nine counties of the eighty-eight into which the State of Ohio is divided; it contains 13,685 square miles. This portion of the State belonged originally to the Diocese of Cincinnati, and was recommended to Rome for erection as a see by the Fathers of the Second Plenary Council, of Baltimore, held in 1866. It was not until March 3, 1868, that the official documents were issued erecting the diocese and naming as its first bishop Sylvester Horto Rosecrans, who had been consecrated Auxiliary Bishop of Cincinnati and Titular Bishop of Pompeiopolis, March 25, 1862. The portion of Ohio assigned to this diocese was in 1868 to a large extent but sparsely populated; no railroad had as yet penetrated some of the counties, and the bishop was forced to make many of the journeys on his visitations by stage, wagon, or steamboat. The Dominican Fathers were the earliest missionaries in Ohio, locating at St. Joseph‘s, Perry County, in the early part of the nineteenth century, and from their number was chosen the first Bishop of Cincinnati, Edward Fenwick. The first place of Catholic worship in Ohio was at St. Joseph‘s, Perry County. This chapel was built of logs and was blessed December 6, 1818, by Rev. Edward Fenwick and his nephew, Rev. N. D. Young, both natives of Maryland, and receiving their jurisdiction from Bishop Flaget, who was then the only bishop between the Alleghenies and the Mississippi. The congregation consisted of ten families. An humble convent was built near by, and its inmates were one American, N. D. Young, one Irishman, Thos. Martin, and one Belgian, Vincent De Rymacher. The second chapel erected in Ohio was also in this diocese, blessed in 1822, near what is now Danville, Knox County, then known as Sapp’s Settlement, a colony from near Cumberland, Maryland, many of its members direct descendants of the colonists of Lord Baltimore. This chapel was built of logs and was blessed by Dominican Fathers and the humble congregation ministered to by them. Within a few miles of this second Catholic settlement in Ohio is the college town of Gambier, seat of Kenyon College and the Episcopalian Seminary of the Diocese of Ohio, over which in 1868 presided, before his conversion, Dr. James Kent Stone, afterwards Father Fidelis of the Congregation of St. Paul of the Cross. From its walls have gone forth many illustrious men who in after-life turned their eyes to the Church, among them Bishop Rosecrans and his brother, General Rosecrans, Henry Richards, father of Rev. James Havens Richards, S.J., and William Richards.

In its early days the diocese was largely an agricultural district, the first settlers from Pennsylvania and Maryland being tillers of the soil. Later came the emigrants from Ireland and Germany, who were followed by priests of their native lands. At the present time mining and manufacturing have so far advanced as to predominate and control. Immigration has also added to the variety of races among the Catholic population; notably Poles, Hungarians, Greeks, Lithuanians, and Slays may be found among the mining population of the eastern and southern parts of the diocese; while Belgians are numerous among the work-men employed in the manufacture of glass, an industry that has risen of late years to prominence in Ohio, owing to the discovery of natural gas, which is an important feature in this business. The native-born descendants of the pioneer Catholics have taken a notable place in the walks of business and professional life, especially in the larger centers of population. The bishop and a large number of the clergy are natives of the State. All this has worked a decided change in the attitude of non-Catholics towards the Church and their Catholic fellow-citizens.

Sylvester Horton Rosecrans, the first bishop, died October 21, 1878. He was succeeded by John Ambrose Watterson, who was consecrated August 8, 1880, and died April 17, 1899. The next bishop was Henry Moeller, consecrated August 25, 1900, promoted to the Archiepiscopal See of Areopolis and made Coadjutor to the Archbishop of Cincinnati, April 27, 1903. The fourth bishop, James Joseph Hartley, was consecrated February 25, 1904.

There are 142 priests—105 secular and 37 regular—in the diocese, with 34 brothers and 450 sisters. The total population of the diocese is about 1,000,000; of this number 80,000 are Catholics. The parishes number 75, with 45 parochial schools and 9361 pupils, 4520 boys and 4841 girls. There are two orphan asylums, with 460 orphans; a Convent of the Good Shepherd, with 207 inmates; four hospitals, treating 4000 patients annually; a preparatory seminary, with 22 students; a theological seminary, “The Pontifical College Josephinum of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith“, with .161 students; a college, with 100 students; and three academies, with 430 pupils.

The Diocese of Columbus has given to the Church two bishops, Fitzgerald of Little Rock and Gallagher of Galveston; while the names of Henni, Archbishop of Milwaukee, Lamy, Archbishop of Santa Fe, De Goesbriand, Bishop of Burlington, Vermont, may be found on the baptismal registers of the early mission churchesof the diocese. The State and nation also have received many a notable service, both in war and peace, from sons of the diocese. General Philip H. Sheridan was in his boyhood a resident of Somerset, Perry Co., the cradle of Catholicity in Ohio. General W. S. Rosecrans, brother of the first bishop of the diocese, both converts, General Don Carlos Buell, Generals Hugh and Charles Ewing of the Ewing family of Lancaster; Frank Hurd, Constitutional lawyer, Representative in Congress, and free trade advocate, J. A. MacGahan, Bulgaria‘s liberator, whose remains were brought by the United States Government from Constantinople to Perry County, are a few of the names on the diocesan roll of honor.


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