Fort Wayne, Diocese of (WAYNE CASTRENSIS). The Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana, U.S.A., established in 1834, comprised the whole State of Indiana till the Holy See, on September 22, 1857, created the Diocese of Fort Wayne, assigning to it that part of Indiana north of the southern boundary of Warren, Fountain, Montgomery, Boone, Hamilton, Madison, Delaware, and Randolph Counties, a territory of 17,431 square miles, numbering 20,000 Catholics, with 14 priests, 20 churches, and two religious institutions, with educational establishments of the Fathers, Brothers, and Sisters of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. The Right Rev. John Henry Luers was nominated first Bishop of Fort Wayne and consecrated in Cincinnati, Ohio, January 10, 1858. He was born September 29, 1819, in Germany, and emigrated to America in 1831. He was ordained priest in Cincinnati, November 11, 1846. Entering upon the administration of the new diocese, he devoted himself zealously to the founding of new parishes and missions, provided a home for the orphans, and built a cathedral. In June, 1871, during a vacancy of the See of Cleveland, Ohio, he was called to that city to confer ordination on a number of seminarians. After the function, on his way to the train, he suffered an apoplectic stroke and fell dead (June 29, 1871). At the time of Bishop Luer’s death there were in the Diocese of Fort Wayne 69 priests, 75 churches, 10 chapels, 1 hospital, 1 orphan asylum, 1 college, 11 academies for girls, 40 parochial schools, and a Catholic population estimated at 50,000.
The Rev. Joseph Dwenger was then appointed to the see. He was born near Minster, Ohio, in 1837. Orphaned at an early age, he was educated by the Fathers of the Precious Blood, entered their community, and was ordained priest September 4, 1859. Appointed professor in the seminary of his community, he filled that position until 1862, and was then assigned to parochial work. From 1867 to 1872 he was occupied in preaching missions. He was consecrated April 14, 1872. In 1874 Bishop Dwenger was the head of the first American pilgrimage to Rome. In 1875 he erected an orphan asylum and manual labor school for boys at Lafayette. He was a zealous promoter of the parochial school system. In 1884 he attended the Third Plenary Council at Baltimore and in the following March was deputed, with Bishops Moore and Gilmour, to present the decrees of the council to the Holy Father. In 1886 he erected an asylum for orphan girls at Fort Wayne. In 1888 and in 1891 he again went to Rome, the last time in the interest of the North American College. Soon after his return he was attacked by a lingering illness, to which he succumbed January 22, 1893.
The Right Rev. Joseph Rademacher, Bishop of Nashville, Tennessee, was transferred to Fort Wayne, July 13, 1893. He was born December 3, 1840, in Westphalia, Michigan, and ordained priest August 2, 1863, by Bishop Luers, to whose diocese he had been affiliated. In April, 1883, he was appointed Bishop of Nashville, Tennessee, and was consecrated June 24. At Fort Wayne Bishop Rademacher applied himself assiduously to increase the number of churches, schools, anct missions. In 1896 he remodeled the cathedral at an expense of $75,000. In 1898 his health gave way. Symptoms of mental collapse appeared and he had to relinquish the government of the diocese. He expired peacefully January 12, 1900. During his illness, and until the appointment of a successor, Very Rev. J. H. Guendling, vicar-general and pastor of the cathedral, was administrator of the diocese.
The Rev. H. J. Alerding, pastor of St. Joseph‘s Church, Indianapolis, was appointed successor of Bishop Rademacher August 30, 1900. He was born April 13, 1845, in Germany. During his infancy his parents emigrated to the United States and settled in Newport, Kentucky. He was ordained priest by Bishop Maurice de St. Palais of Vincennes September 22, 1868, and appointed assistant at St. Joseph‘s church, Terre Haute, where he remained till 1871, attending, besides, a number of missions. From October, 1871, to August, 1874, he was pastor of Cambridge City, whence he was transferred to Indianapolis and entrusted with the organization of St. Joseph‘s parish, where he built the church, the school, and a parochial residence. In 1885 he published “A History of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Vincennes”, a work of deep historical research and accuracy. Bishop Alerding was consecrated in the cathedral of Fort Wayne November 30, 1900. Since then he has founded new parishes, aided struggling ones, reorganized the parochial school system, provided for the orphans, and promoted all good works. He held a diocesan synod in the cathedral November 11, 1903. The statutes enacted were promulgated March 19, 1904. Among other salutary regulations the establishment of six deaneries was decreed—Fort Wayne, South Bend, Hammond, Logansport, Lafayette, and Muncie. In 1907, for the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of the diocese, Bishop Alerding published “A History of the Diocese of Fort Wayne”, an elaborate historical work, covering the period from 1669 to 1907.
Diocesan statistics for 1908 give priests, secular, 128; religious, 71; churches with resident priest, 110; missions with churches, 43; stations, 6; chapels, 49; parochial schools, 82, with 14,252 pupils; orphan asylums, 2; orpha239; hospitals, 13; old peoopple’s homes, 2; Catholic population, 93,844. Educational Institutions: the University of Notre Dame, in charge of the Fathers of the Holy Cross; St. Joseph‘s College (Collegeville), conducted by the Fathers of the Precious Blood. For girls: academies, 11. The number of pupils in colleges and academies is 1262. Religious Communities.—Men: Fathers and Brothers of the Holy Cross; Franciscans; Fathers and Brothers of the Precious Blood. Women: Sisters of the Holy Cross; Poor Handmaids of Christ; Franciscan Sisters (variious branches); Dominican Sisters; Sisters of the Precious Blood; of Notre Dame; of St. Joseph; of Providence; of the Holy Family; of St. Agnes. The following communities have novitiates in the diocese: The Fathers and Brothers of the Holy Cross, at Notre Dame; the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, at Lafayette; the Sisters of the Holy Cross, at Notre Dame; the Poor Handmaids of Christ, at Fort Wayne; the Sisters of St. Joseph, at Tipton.