New Hampshire, Catholic Church in

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One of the Thirteen Colonies, New Hampshire was admitted to the Union (1788) as the ninth state. It is bounded on the north by Canada, on the east by Maine and the Atlantic Ocean, on the south by Massachusetts, and on the west by the Connecticut River and Vermont. Concord is the state capital; and Manchester, the largest city, is the episcopal seat of the only diocese in the state. In 2001 there were 477,997 Catholics, about 27 percent of the state's population of l.2 million. Manchester is a suffragan see of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Early History. Originally a dissenting offshoot of the Massachusetts Bay colony, New Hampshire became a separate royal colony in 1680 and in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War established itself as a sovereign state, always retaining its Protestant bent. Under the revised constitution of 1784, the state imposed a religious test that excluded Catholics from the major offices in the state government. The constitution also authorized towns to support "public Protestant teachers of piety, religion, and morality" (art. 6).

Abenaki natives, converted by Jesuit missionaries from Quebec, were the first Catholics of New Hampshire. The first Catholic Masses in New Hampshire were celebrated in July 1694 by a pair of French Jesuit priests who had accompanied a war party that raided an European settlement at Oyster River near Durham. During the colonial wars they were forced back into Maine and eventually into Canada. Beginning with the last decade of the 18th century, missionaries, including Francis A. Matignon and Jean A. Cheverus, stopped in New Hampshire, particularly at Portsmouth, on their way to and from Maine, a far more promising mission field. When Boston became a diocese (1808), Bishop Cheverus was given jurisdiction over all New England, including about 100 Catholics in New Hampshire. In 1816 Virgil barber, an Episcopalian minister from Claremont, NH, entered the Catholic Church with his wife and five children. Later he became a Jesuit, was ordained in 1822, and founded a church and an academy at Claremont, the first Catholic institutions in the state. Financial and family problems forced his removal in 1827, causing the abandonment of about 100 converts, who for the most part lapsed from the faith.

The first parish was founded at Dover in 1828 by Rev. Charles French; two years later Michael Healy was established as resident pastor. Also serving the area were itinerant missionaries, such as John B. Daly, OFM, who spent 19 years there. By 1835 there were 387 Catholics, two churches, and two priests in New Hampshire. The number of Catholics in the state remained negligible until the influx of Irish settlers in the wake of the famines of the mid-1840s. Their presence was resented; in 1855 Gov. Ralph Metcalf, elected by the Know-Nothing (nativist) party, made a vigorous anti-Catholic speech to the legislature. But the agitation died down quickly, and the Know-Nothings quietly disappeared as the newly founded Republican party solidified its ranks for the election of 1860. In 1877 constitutional changes abolished substantially all the religious qualifications for public office.

In 1853 Maine and New Hampshire were separated from the Boston diocese to form the new Diocese of Portland. At the time the only three parishes in New Hampshire were at Dover, Claremont, and Manchester. By 1858 increased immigration led William McDonald, pastor of St. Anne's, Manchester, to invite the Sisters of Mercy to open the first Catholic grammar school. From 1863 to 1869 the municipal school board took complete financial responsibility for this institution. After the Civil War, French-Canadian immigration predominated, resulting in the creation in 1871 of the first national parishesSt. Augustin at Manchester and St. Aloysius of Gonzaga at Nashua. In 1884 New Hampshire was split off from the Diocese of Portland, ME, and Manchester became the seat of the new diocese.

Manchester Diocese. After Manchester became a separate diocese in 1884, the Most Reverend Denis M. bradley who, though Irish-born had grown up in Manchester, was named the first bishop (18841903). Bradley increased the number of churches, chapels, mission stations, and parish schools. The Catholic population swelled from 45,000 to over 100,000, the clergy from 40 to 107, and the children in Catholic schools from 3,000 to 12,000. Bradley's successor, John B. Delany, served only 21 months before succumbing to appendicitis. He was followed by George A. Guertin (190732), a native of Nashua of French-Canadian descent.

Bishop Guertin, who stressed the building of parochial schools, had to contend with the nationalistic controversies of the 1920s. A segment of the French-Canadian clergy and faithful opposed certain policies of the bishop as being contrary to their "national" rights and interests, which led to deep divisions among the clergy. Bishop Guertin, because of his heritage and his position as bishop, found himself squarely in the middle of the controversy. Elsewhere in the state, Polish congregations where experiencing similar types of conflict that led to the establishment of the Polish National Catholic Church. The stress of these controversies, plus a nine-month strike at the Amoskeag Mills, the major employer in Manchester, and the onset of the Depression led to Guertin's retirement to a sanitarium in New Jersey in 1931. He died a few months later at the age of 62, and was succeeded by John B. peterson (193244), who had been an auxiliary bishop in Boston. The fourth bishop of Manchester proved himself a skilled administrator by guiding the diocese through the Depression and maintaining harmony in the diocese by establishing a balance between English-speaking and non-English-speaking clergy and administrators.

The Catholic Church in New Hampshire experienced considerable growth in the years immediately following World War II. Bishop Matthew F. brady (194459) established 30 new parishes, built 17 churches, and added 11 elementary schools, 14 convents, five high schools, three homes for the aged, and two large summer camps for children. Early in 1959 the newly elected Pope John XXIII called for an ecumenical council. Bishop Brady, who was suffering from heart problems, did not live to participate. He died on Sept. 20, 1959 and on December 2, Bishop Ernest Primeau was named as his successor.

Bishop Primeau (196074) was known in Rome from his time as rector of the residence for Chicago priests working the curia. During the preparatory period (196062), he was a member of the Commission for the Discipline of the Clergy and Faithful. Later in Rome, Bishop Primeau played an active role in the Council itself, serving as a U.S. representative on the International Committee of Bishops and in the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. Back in New Hampshire, Bishop Primeau took steps to implement the directives of the Council. He began by convoking a diocesan synod. The first general session opened on Nov. 3, 1965 at Immaculata High School in Manchester, and three years later, the synodal acts were promulgated after a Mass at

the Cathedral on June 3, 1968. On the administrative side, the diocese consolidated all of its departments into a new administration building, which was dedicated on Aug. 9,1964.

Bishop Primeau resigned in January 1974 (died June 15, 1989) and was succeeded the following year by Bishop Odore Gendron (197590). Gendron was a native of Manchester and served as pastor of a number of prominent ethnic French parishes. It was during this period that a shift began in the state's Catholic population. As the state's ethnic population assimilated, loyalty to the ethnic churches decreased. This led to the decline of ethnic parishes in the cities. At the same time, population growth in the southern part of the state, which is less than one hour from Boston, resulted in new parishes being established in southern suburban locations.

In the world that followed the Second Vatican Council, changes in the Catholic Church and new opportunities for women in the secular world led to a significant decrease in the number of women religious in the state. In the decade that followed, the loss of these women, many of whom staffed the state's Catholic schools, led to the consolidation and closure of many schools throughout New Hampshire.

By 1990, when Bishop Gendron retired and was replaced by Bishop Leo E. O'Neil, the situation was exacerbated by the declining number of priests available to serve as pastors. Bishop O'Neil began a system of "twinning," whereby two small parishes share the same pastor. Bishop O'Neil also sought to invigorate older parishes by assigning new immigrant groups to them as a home parish. Two examples are St. Louis Gonzaga Church in Nashua, which had been predominantly French, and St. Anne Church in Manchester, which was Irish. Both churches are now home parishes for Hispanic and Vietnamese Catholics. Other recent immigrant groups include Portuguese, Sudanese, Bosnian and Croatian.

Upon his death in 1998, Bishop O'Neil was succeeded by Bishop John B. McCormack. McCormack was born and raised in Massachusetts and served both as a pastor and administrator for the Archdiocese of Boston before coming to New Hampshire. Bishop McCormack continues to oversee the consolidation of older parishes in the cities and the construction of new ones in the suburbs. For example, in 2000 four parishes in Berlin, NH, an industrial city in the northern part of the state, were combined to create one new parish. At the same time suburban communities in the southeastern part of the state have found themselves in the position of building larger churches or establishing new parishes.

Education. Catholic institutions of higher learning in New Hampshire include St. Anselm's College, founded (1887) in Manchester by the Benedictines, Notre Dame College in Manchester (sponsored by the Sisters of the Holy Cross), and Rivier College in Nashua (sponsored by the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary).

Bibliography: r. h. lord et al., History of the Archdiocese of Boston 16041943, 3 v. (New York 1944). m. st. l. kegresse, A History of Catholic Education in New Hampshire (Doctoral diss. unpub. Boston U. 1955). r. b. dishman and d. c. knapp, A New Constitution for New Hampshire (Durham, NH 1956). j. d. squires, Granite State of the United States, 4 v. (New York 1956); New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated, 1955 (Rochester, NY 1955); West's New Hampshire Digest, 1760 to Date (Boston 1951).

[f. l. broderick/

w. h. paradis/

c. s. staub]

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