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Diocese of Rochester

Comprised counties in New York

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Rochester, Diocese of, on its establishment by separation from the See of Buffalo, January 24, 1868, comprised the counties of Monroe, Livingston, Wayne, Ontario, Seneca, Cayuga, Yates, and Tompkins in the state of New York. In 1896, after the death of Bishop Ryan of Buffalo, the boundary line of the two dioceses was somewhat changed, the counties of Steuben, Schuyler, Chemung, and Tioga being detached from the See of Buffalo and added to that of Rochester.

BISHOPS: (I) Rev. Bernard J. McQuaid, who became a pioneer and leader in Catholic education and the founder of a model seminary, was consecrated bishop of Rochester in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City, on July 12, 1868. Four days later he took possession of his small and poor diocese, containing only sixty churches administered by thirty-eight priests, seven of whom were Redemptorist Fathers. When he died, January 18, 1909, after forty years spent in a laborious episcopate, his diocese was richly furnished with churches, schools, seminaries, charitable institutions, answering the manifold needs of the Catholic population, then estimated at 121,000. (2) Rev. Thomas F. Hickey was consecrated in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Rochester, May 24, 1905, having been appointed coadjutor to Bishop McQuaid.

CHURCHES: The steady growth of the Catholic population in the Diocese of Rochester, due mainly to immigration of Irish, German, French, Polish, Italian, Lithuanian, and Ruthenian Catholics, taxed the resources at the disposal of Bishop McQuaid, who was anxious throughout his entire episcopate to supply the people with churches and priests of their own nationality and language, whenever they were willing and able to support them. The parishes were not allowed to become unwieldy, but were increased in number to meet the needs and convenience of the faithful. The problem of spiritual ministration to Catholics dwelling at watering-places in the diocese in the summer found a good solution in the erection of neat summer chapels.

CATHOLIC EDUCATION .—Elementary.—The common schools in the Diocese of Rochester at the time of its creation professed to be non-sectarian. Bishop McQuaid felt that they were very dangerous to the Catholic child which really finds its church in the school. He sought a remedy in a vigorous agitation for the rights of Catholic parents, contributing to the support of the public school system by their taxes, to receive public money for the maintenance of schools, in which their children could be educated with that “amount and description of religious instruction” which conscience tells them is good, expedient, necessary. The failure of the State to remedy the injustice was met with the firm command of the bishop which was put into execution as soon as possible throughout the diocese: “Build schoolhouses then for the religious education of your children as the best protest against a system of education from which religion has been excluded by law.” At Rochester in 1868, there were 2056 children in the parochial schools of the five German churches, and 441 children in the schools attached to the Churches of St. Patrick and St. Mary. Both of these had a select or pay school and a free, parish, or poor school, admitting invidious distinctions very distasteful to the new bishop.

Outside of Rochester schools were attached to a few churches of the diocese, but with a very small attendance. These were the humble beginnings of the admirable parochial school system, which embraces today practically all the Catholic children of the school age in the diocese. Not all the Catholic schools were brought to their present high degree of efficiency at once; it took many years and persistent effort to accomplish this work. The brothers gradually yielded their places to the sisters, who now teach all the children in the Catholic schools, both boys and girls. Bishop McQuaid spared no pains in developing good teachers in his own order of the Sisters of St. Joseph, for whom a normal training school was established. Occasional “teachers’ institutes” organized for the benefit of these sisterhoods in Rochester prepared the way for the annual conference held by the parochial teachers in the episcopal city since 1904, at which the various orders meet to discuss educational problems and to perfect in every possible way the parochial school system.

As early as 1855 the Ladies of the Sacred Heart transferred their convent in Buffalo to Rochester as a more central point for their academy. About the same time the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canandaigua opened St. Mary’s academy for young ladies, now Nazareth Academy attached to the new motherhouse of the order in Rochester. Advanced courses were also introduced in 1903 into the Cathedral school under the direction of Bishop Hickey, who, in 1906, converted the old Cathedral Hall into a high school, classical and commercial, open to both girls and boys.

Ecclesiastical.—(a) Preparatory.—Believing that it was hard for a boy to become a worthy priest without first leading the normal life of the family in the world, Bishop McQuaid planned his preparatory ecclesiastical seminary as a free day-school and not a boarding-school, the students living at home under the care of their parents, or in a boarding-house approved by the superiors. Within two years after the erection of the diocese, this plan was realized. On his return from the Vatican Council in 1870, St. Andrew’s Preparatory Seminary was opened in a small building to the rear of the episcopal residence. It has already given nearly 175 priests to the diocese of Rochester. The rule has been made to adopt no one in this diocese who has not spent at least two years in St. Andrew’s Seminary. Through the generosity of Msgr. H. De Regge and some others, Bishop McQuaid was enabled to erect a new building in 1880 and to enlarge it in 1889; and in 1904 the younger priests of the diocese furnished him with funds to erect a fire-proof structure with fitting accommodations for the work of the school.

(b) Theological.—For many years the ecclesiastical students of the Diocese of Rochester were sent mainly to the provincial seminary at Troy or to Rome and Innsbruck in Europe for their theological education. In 1879 Bishop McQuaid put aside a small legacy bequeathed him as a nucleus of a fund for the erection of suitable buildings for a diocesan seminary. Although the fund grew slowly, the bishop would not lay the first stone until nearly all the money needed for the work was in hand, nor would he open the seminary for students until the buildings were completed and paid for, and at least four professorships endowed. In April, 1887, he was able to purchase a site on the bank of the Genesee River gorge, only three miles from the cathedral. Four years later he began the erection of the buildings. In two years they were completed, and in September, 1893, the seminary was opened with 39 students. Applications for admission soon came from various parts of the United States and Canada. Four years after its establishment, it became evident that more room was necessary. A fund for an additional building was begun, and in 1900 the Hall of Philosophy and Science was erected with accommodations for classrooms, library, and living rooms. In the following year Bishop McQuaid received a recognition for these labors from Leo XIII in a Brief granting to himself and his successors the power of conferring degrees in Philosophy and Theology. The Hall of Theology was begun in 1907 and solemnly dedicated August 20, 1908. The priests of the diocese founded the ninth endowed professorship in honor of their bishop’s jubilee. An infirmary for sick students was in process of construction when Bishop McQuaid died.

CHARITIES.—Though Catholic education was the primary concern of Bishop McQuaid in his diocese, ample provision for its charities was not lacking. (I) As early as 1845 the R. C. A. Society of Rochester, already in existence some years, was incorporated, having for its object the support of the orphan girls in St. Patrick’s Female Orphan Asylum at Rochester and the support of the orphan boys sent to the Boys’ Asylum, either at Lancaster, New York, or at Lime Stone Hill near Buffalo. In 1864 St. Mary’s Boys’ Orphan Asylum was also established in Rochester under the care of the Sisters of St. Joseph, to whom also the Girls’ Orphan Asylum was confided in 1870 on the resignation of the Sisters of Charity hitherto in charge. When the Auburn Orphan Asylum, incorporated in 1853, was transferred to Rochester in 1910, all this work was then centralized in the episcopal city. Here also special provision had been made for the German Catholic orphans since 1866 when St. Joseph‘s Orphan Asylum was erected and placed under the care of the Sisters of Notre-Dame. (2) In 1873 a short-lived attempt was made to supplement the work of St. Mary’s Orphan Asylum by giving the boys of suitable age an opportunity of acquiring a practical knowledge of farming or of a useful trade. A similar institution for girls flourished under Mother Hieronymo for some twenty years under the name of The Home of Industry which then was changed into a home for the aged. The location did not prove desirable for such an institution, and $65,000 having been raised by a bazaar, Bishop McQuaid was enabled to erect St. Anne’s Home for the Aged, admitting men as well as women.

(3) The spiritual needs of another class of the destitute, the Catholic inmates of public eleemosynary and penal institutions in the diocese, appealed strongly to Bishop McQuaid, who at once became their champion in the endeavor to have their religious rights respected according to the guarantee of the Constitution of the State of New York. His agitation in this noble cause was crowned with success, and the State supports today chaplains at the State Industrial School, Industry, at the State Reformatory, Elmira, at the Craig Colony (state hospital for epileptics), Sonyea, at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home, Bath, while the county maintains a chaplain in Rochester for its public institutions of this kind. (4) The Catholic sick have one of the largest and best equipped hospitals in Rochester at their disposal in St. Mary’s Hospital, established by the Sisters of Charity under Mother Hieronymo in 1857. The Sisters of Mercy have charge of St. James Hospital in Hornell, and of late years the Sisters of St. Joseph have also opened a hospital in Elmira.

STATISTICS.—Priests, 163 (6 Redemptorists); churches with resident priests, 94; missions with churches, 36; chapels, 18; parishes with parochial schools, 54 with 20,189 pupils; academies for young ladies, 2 with 470 pupils (Nazareth, 352; Sacred Heart, 118); theological seminary for secular clergy, 1 with 234 students (73 for the Diocese of Rochester; preparatory seminary, 1 with 80 students; orphan asylums, 3 with 438 orphans (St. Patrick’s, Girls’, 119, St. Mary’s Boys’, 204; St. Joseph‘s, 115); Home for the Aged, 1 with 145 inmates (men, 25); hospitals, 3 with 3115 inmates during year (St. Mary’s, Rochester, 2216; St. Joseph‘s, Elmira, 463; St. James, Hornell, 436); Catholics, 142,263.


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