Charlotte, Diocese of
CHARLOTTE, DIOCESE OF
The Diocese of Charlotte (Dioecesis Charlottensis ), encompassing the forty-six counties of western North Carolina, was canonically erected on Nov. 12, 1971 as a suffragan see of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Georgia. The territory of the new diocese was taken from that of the Diocese of Raleigh, and its first bishop, Michael J. Begley, a priest of the new diocese, was consecrated on Jan. 12, 1972. At the time of its foundation, the diocese included only 35,585 Catholics in a total population of 2,727,500, served by 45 diocesan and 27 religious priests. By the beginning of the new millennium more than 129,000 Catholics were registered in the parishes and missions of the diocese (in a general population of nearly four million persons), and there were 57 diocesan, 11 extern, and 64 religious priests constituting the local presbyterate. In addition, 66 permanent deacons were serving within the diocese. Some of the increase in the number of religious priests is explained by the fact that prior to Begley's retirement in 1984, the abbatia nullius status of Belmont Abbey (Benedictine) had been suppressed (1977).
John F. Donoghue, former vicar general of Washington, D.C., was consecrated the second bishop of Charlotte in December of 1984. During his administration, the diocese established its own newspaper, the Catholic News and Herald, thus ending its joint venture with the Diocese of Raleigh's North Carolina Catholic, in 1991. When Donoghue was named the archbishop of Atlanta in 1993, he was succeeded in February 1994 by William J. Curlin, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., who thus became the third bishop of Charlotte.
The most significant growth in population within the diocese has been focused in the Charlotte metropolitan area, the area of the "Triad" (i.e., the region formed by Greensboro, High Point, and Winston-Salem), and the mountainous region of Asheville and its surrounding communities. Hispanic migrant workers and immigrants, responding to the labor opportunities caused by economic and population expansion, entered the diocese in large numbers, especially during the last twenty years of the century. The diocese has responded with a variety of initiatives in Hispanic ministry. There are also apostolates organized for Korean and Vietnamese Catholics. In 2000 there were 67 parishes and 24 missions, one college (Belmont Abbey), two high schools, and 15 elementary schools.
In marked contrast to the numeric and institutional growth is the decline in the number of women religious in the diocese. In 1971, there were 249 Sisters, while in 2000 there were only 123 women religious in the diocese, 37 of who were in residence at the motherhouse of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Regional Community of North Carolina. One of the only two new foundations of women religious in recent years was established by Mother M. Teresa, M. C., and Bishop Curlin in 1996, when four Missionary of Charity Sisters arrived to serve the needs of the poor in the city of Charlotte. In 1999 the Sisters of St. Vincent, another religious community of women with its roots in India, was founded at Christ the King Parish in High Point, N.C.
[j. f. garneau]