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Owensboro, Diocese of


The diocese of Owensboro (Owensburgensis), comprising 32 counties in western Kentucky, was established Dec. 9, 1937, from territory taken from louisville, which became a metropolitan see at that time. Owensboro is Kentucky's third most populous city.

The first bishop, Francis R. Cotton, known for his piety, ruled the diocese strictly until his death, Sept. 25, 1960. Cotton made early preparations for a diocesan synod, which in its final session in Feb. 1943 adopted 114 statutes, later approved by Rome and promulgated. His successor was Henry J. Soenneker who, consecrated in 1961, served until 1982. Soenneker in turn was succeeded by John J. McRaith who was consecrated late in 1982.

From its earliest years, the new diocese attracted several religious communities to labor among its people, the glenmary home missioners being among the first (1941). The Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, founded in 1874 by the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville, are an autonomous community with a motherhouse at Maple Mount, a few miles southwest of Owensboro. Mount Saint Joseph Academy which had its beginning in 1874, continued until 1983. In 1925, the Ursuline Sisters began a junior college for women on the motherhouse grounds. In 1950, the school moved to Owensboro, today's Brescia University.

A diocesan Marian shrine, under the title "Mary Mother of the Church: Mary Model of All Christians" was dedicated in 1989. The Office of Hispanic Ministry was created in 1997 to better serve an Hispanic population estimated at 8,000. The Great Jubilee 2000 was celebrated in western Kentucky, at the invitation of Bishop John McRaith, as a joint effort of Christians throughout the area. A large candle, representing Christ, began its pilgrimage throughout the 32 counties on Reformation Sunday 1999, that concluded on Pentecost, 2000, at the Owensboro Sports Center. There, in a gathering of prayer and celebration, Christian leaders from many denominations signed an accord to work together for justice. The Owensboro diocese in 2000 reported 79 parishes serving a Catholic population of 50,000.

Bibliography: The First Synod (Owensboro 1943). First Review & Year Book (Owensboro 1952). j. hayden, ed. This Far by Faith: The Story of Catholicity in Western Kentucky (Owensboro 1987). j. a. boone, ed. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky (Owensboro 1995).

[m. e. nahstoll/

c. f. crews]

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