Seattle, Diocese of (SEATTLENSIS), comprises the entire State of Washington, U.S.A., and embraces an area of 66,680 sq. miles with over a million inhabitants. The diocese was originally created on July 24, 1846, by Pius IX as the See of Walla Walla, but on May 31, 1850, the name was changed to that of the Diocese of Nesqually, with Vancouver, Washington, as the episcopal city. Owing to important considerations, the title was again changed, in September, 1907, to that of the Diocese of Seattle, with the new cathedral and residence of the bishop in the city of the same name on Puget Sound.
One hundred years ago the State of Washington formed a portion of that great terra incognita called the “Oregon Country”, whose rugged and romantic wilderness is described by the Jesuit missionary, Father De Smet, in his account of the Oregon missions. The introduction of the Catholic Faith into the States of Washington and Oregon is somewhat remarkable. It was not primarily brought about, as in so many instances, by priests of religious orders, but by secular priests who came at the earnest solicitations of Catholic laymen. Simon Plamondon of Cowlitz, Washington, initiated a petition for priests in 1833, and renewed it in the year 1835. Hence, the State of Washington may lay claim to being the cradle of Catholicism in the Northwest. The Hudson Bay Company for many years carried on an extensive fur trade in the Northwest territory, which extended as far south as the Columbia River. Its employees were a heterogeneous aggregation; and hence, though an English corporation with headquarters in London, it numbered among them many French Canadians. These hardy trappers and hunters, far from all civilization and with little hope of ever returning to their homes, took Indian women as wives and established families in the Wallamette and Cowlitz valleys on land granted to them by the company. These retired hunters, advancing in years, longed for the ministrations of the religion of their youth. The fatherly chief factor, Dr. John McLoughlin, who presided at Fort Vancouver (established in 1828), tried to maintain a religious spirit among his men, as much from policy as to satisfy their desires, by gathering them on Sundays for religious services; but he clearly saw, though himself a Protestant at that time, that his ministrations did not satisfy the Catholics. Protestant missionaries arrived from the United States. McLoughlin welcomed them in the midst of his mixed class of settlers, hoping that now the religious problem was solved. He soon became aware that a denominational brand of Christianity was distasteful to the French Canadians. On their behalf, therefore, he sent, in 1834 and 1835, two earnest appeals for priests to the nearest Catholic bishop, Right Rev. J. N. Provencher of Red River, Canada, and through him to Archbishop J. Signay of Quebec. Their replies were most discouraging; they had no priests to send to so distant a field. The Hudson Bay Company, moreover, informed of the appeal, refused transportation for any Catholic missionaries to their territory. McLoughlin, however, was not so easily conquered, and his services to the company were too important to be disregarded. Finally the Home Office relented, and in 1837 Fathers F. N. Blanchet and M. Demers of the Archdiocese of Quebec were allowed to accompany the annual convoy to the Northwest.
The two missionaries arrived at Vancouver, Washington, on November 24, 1838. Their reception was an ovation for the Catholic Faith. Tears were shed when the Holy Sacrifice was offered for the first time. When the few days of mutual joy had passed the priests would willingly have proceeded to the south side of the Columbia, where twenty-six families claimed their services, but the orders of their ecclesiastical superiors disposed otherwise, and they permanently located north of the Columbia River. The Hudson Bay Company maintained no less than twenty-eight established posts in the territory north of the Columbia River, which was inhabited by about 100,000 Indians. At Cowlitz, therefore, with its four Catholic families, Father Blanchet opened his first mission, which can rightfully claim to be the parent church of the Northwest. Here he erected in 1839 a log building, twenty by thirty feet in size, which he dedicated to St. Francis Xavier, and which served as his chapel and residence. During the erection of this building an unexpected difficulty presented itself. A delegation of Nesqually Indians wished to see the “real Blackrobe” and to be instructed by him. Being ignorant of their language and at a loss to make himself understood, he thought of a novel contrivance to instruct them. He made a long flat stick or ladder with forty short parallel lines on it to represent the four thousand years before Christ; these were followed by thirty-three points and three crosses to show the years of Christ’s life and the manner of His death. A church and twelve perpendicular marks denoted the beginning of the Catholic Church at the death of Christ through the Apostles; eighteen further horizontal marks and thirty-nine points showed the time elapsed since the death of the Savior. The lesson proved successful. The Indians took home copies of the stick, which they called the 8a-Ma-lee-stick, and which is known as the “Catholic ladder”. On the completion of his architectural labors, Father Blanchet made several short visits to the Wallamette Valley settlers.
Meanwhile Father Demers followed the route of the hunters and trappers, and visited the Indian settlements in the interior. He was welcomed everywhere by both whites and natives. During the following four years the two missionaries met but rarely—twice a year in Vancouver to console and encourage each other. The only change made in their lives during this period came when Chief Factor Douglas notified them (October, 1839) that his company had no longer any reason for preventing their establishing themselves south of the Columbia. In consequence of this notification, Father Blanchet took up his residence at St. Paul, Oregon, while Father Demers was left at the Cowlitz mission. From this moment he was in charge almost exclusively of the whole present State of Washington, although Father Blanchet made a few journeys to the Nesqually Indians, and even planted the cross on Whitby Island, where he said Mass in 1840. Manuel Bernier of Newaukum Prairie accompanied Father Blanchet from Cowlitz to the Nesqually Prairie and to Whitby Island, where they built the first church on Puget Sound. The Oblate Fathers also established missions for the Indians and whites on Puget Sound. The semi-annual meeting in 1842 was of special importance for the Oregon missions. Father De Smet, who had come from the Rocky Mountains missions to Vancouver in quest of supplies, was present, and, as a result of the conference, he set out for Europe to obtain help and to expose their needs to the sovereign pontiff. Archbishop Signay was likewise interested in their work; he had not only sent an appeal to Rome, but, as soon as available, despatched to their assistance Fathers A. Langlois and J. B. Bolduc. These priests arrived at Vancouver on September 17, 1843. The former took charge of Walla Walla. Father Demers retired to the newly-founded Oregon City. Father De Smet returned in August, 1844, accompanied by four Jesuit Fathers and six Sisters of Notre-Dame de Namur; and almost simultaneously, on November 4, 1844, at St. Paul, letters arrived, containing the news that the territory had been created a vicariate, with Father F. N. Blanchet as vicar Apostolic. The briefs appointing Father Blanchet as Vicar Apostolic of Oregon were received at Vancouver on November 4, 1844. He was named bishop with the titular See of Philadelphia, which, on some representation to Rome, was changed to that of Drusa, after his consecration at Montreal, on July 25, 1845. Bishop Blanchet sailed for Europe to lay the news of his extensive vicariate before the Holy See, and Father Demers was appointed vicar-general and administrator of the vicariate during his absence. In the autumn of 1847 Bishop Blanchet returned to the Oregon coast, accompanied by five secular priests, two deacons, one novice, three Jesuit Fathers, three lay brothers, and seven Sisters of Notre-Dame de Namur. Meanwhile Rome had transformed his vicariate into an ecclesiastical province, and on his return he found himself the first Archbishop of Oregon City which comprised all the territory west of the Cascade Mountains. His suffragans were to be his own brother, Magloire, as bishop of the newly-created Diocese of Walla Walla which extended east of the Cascade Mountains, and his vicar-general Father Demers as Bishop of the new Diocese of Vancouver Island.
A unique historical feature characterized the erection of the ecclesiastical Province of Oregon. The three constituting dioceses were created rather simultaneously than successively; they were the result of a wise division of a large field of labor rather than the dismemberment of a constituted and governed see. Vicar Apostolic F. N. Blanchet, while returning from Rome, was suddenly raised to the archiepiscopal dignity, and his brother, A.M. A. Blanchet, seemingly without the archbishop’s knowledge, was nominated and consecrated his suffragan before the former had actually taken charge of his archdiocese.
Bishop A.M. A. Blanchet (consecrated September 27, 1846; d. February 25, 1887), was formerly a canon of the Montreal cathedral. Accompanied by Father A. B. Brouillet and two students from Montreal, and Father Rosseau with five Oblate Fathers from St. Louis, the new bishop arrived at Fort Walla Walla, on September 5, 1847. Aided by his experienced brother, he soon acquainted himself with the new conditions and the great task before him and during his long apostolic career he showed himself at all times a man of great self-sacrifice and wisdom under the most trying circumstances. His tact was especially tested when the deplorable massacre of Dr. M. Whitman and his, family by enraged Cayuse Indians occurred in November, 1847. The troubles following this massacre and the reprisals by the whites during the subsequent Cayuse war placed the whole vicinity of Walla for more than two years in such a state of turmoil that the bishop was obliged to remove permanently to Fort Vancouver. Here he constructed of logs his residence and a church, his cathedral, which he dedicated to St. James in memory of the St. James Cathedral of Montreal. A few years later these buildings were replaced by better, though wooden, structures. With the approval of the Holy See, the name of the diocese and the bishop’s seat were changed on May 31, 1850, the diocese becoming known as the Diocese of Nesqually. The first priest ordained for the Walla Walla diocese was Father Chirouse, O.M.I. He was stationed at St. Rose’s mission, which was established in 1847 among the Yakimas. On account of the Indian wars this mission with St. Joseph‘s was abandoned, but was revived in 1866 by Father St. Onge and Rev. J. B. Boulet. The register of the Oblate Fathers for Puget Sound contains no less than 3,811 baptisms from January, 1848, to August, 1868. The Tulalip mission among the Snohomish, Swinimish, Lummis, and St. Pierre Reserve of Seattle or Duwamish Indians was opened in 1860. Bishop Demers held the first religious service in Seattle. The present state (territory of Washington) then seceded from the old Oregon territory. This political change caused a new division of the Diocese of Nesqually, whose limits now became identified with those of the new territory. Little more remains to be said of Bishop Blanchet‘s episcopate. A source of joy for him was the arrival, on December 8, 1856, of several Sisters of Providence from Montreal, who on that day began their mission of charity in the hospitals of the Northwest. Broken in health and strength, Bishop Blanchet resigned his office in 1879.
Bishop A. Junger (consecrated October 28, 1879; d. December 26, 1895) became the second Bishop of Nesqually. He had been in the territory of Washington since his ordination in 1862. His active missionary life as a priest was short. After two years as assistant to Father Brouillet at Walla Walla, he was recalled by Bishop Blanchet to Vancouver, where he labored until he was left in charge of the diocese as its bishop. To him is due the erection at Vancouver, in 1884, of a large cathedral, Gothic in design and built of brick and stone? To replace the wooden structure erected thirty years previously. Bishop Junger’s chief aim was to relieve his clergy, who were hardly able to attend the wants of an increasing Catholic population throughout the state, and to facilitate attendance at the Divine Services. Many small churches and chapels were built during his incumbency. Another object of his solicitude was the Christian education of the younger generation. During his administration the Jesuits transformed (1886) their common school at Spokane into a college for boys, and entered (1889) the small but growing town of Seattle. At his invitation the Redemptorist and Benedictine Orders, the Sisters of St. Dominic, St. Francis, the Holy Names, and the Visitation entered the diocese and began their useful work. At his death the diocese had: 41 churches and chapels; 37 secular priests; 21 priests of religious orders.
The Right Rev. Edward J. O’Dea (b. November 23, 1856, at Roxbury, Mass.; consecrated September 8, 1896, at Vancouver) became third Bishop of Nesqually and first Bishop of Seattle. Preceding his elevation to the episcopal dignity he spent twelve years in the service of the Archdiocese of Oregon. The new bishop was confronted with financial difficulties. He came into a strange territory, and had to assume a cathedral debt of $25,000, which at this period of incipient diocesan development and general financial depression throughout the country pressed heavily upon him. The foundation for the reorganization of the diocese was laid at a diocesan synod held in 1898, when a constitution for its government was adopted and promulgated. On this occasion also the bishop’s financial embarrassment was taken from his shoulders by his clergy. The spiritual needs of the youthful commonwealth were his next care. The former territory had become a state. The Indians, decimated by disease and other causes, were relegated to small reservations, and industrious and thrifty immigrant farmers were rapidly taking their places. From a white population of 75,000 in 1880 the new state was making gigantic strides towards its goal of more than one million inhabitants in 1910. The bishop’s solicitude was not limited to the general needs of the diocese; it extended also to the wants of the children and the needy.
He encouraged the establishment of parochial schools when possible. In 1909 an industrial home for neglected and orphan boys was established under his personal supervision. To protect the Italian immigrants and their families against the dangers to their faith in large cities, he invited the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, an Italian religious order, to the city of Seattle, and encouraged them in their difficult and often ungrateful work. Washington’s center of population had shifted towards Puget Sound, and Seattle became a city of 237,000 inhabitants. Its new cathedral, the Cathedral of St. James, built on a hill overlooking the city and harbors, was begun in 1905 and was dedicated on December 22, 1907. By Decree of September 11, 1907, the name of the see was changed to that of the Diocese of Seattle.
Statistics.—There are in the diocese (1911): 141 priests, including 52 of religious orders; 76 churches with resident priests, and 166 mission churches and chapels; 43 brothers and 503 sisters of religious orders; 6 colleges for boys; 18 academies for girls, of which 2 are Normal schools; 32 parochial schools with 5126 pupils; 1 protectorate, now accommodating 78 boys; 1 home for working girls; 2 rescue homes for girls; 6 orphanages with over 500 children; 13 hospitals; 3 homes for aged poor. The estimated Catholic population of Washington is about 100,000.
W. J. METZ