Pennsylvania, Catholic Church in
PENNSYLVANIA, CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
The second of the original 13 states to ratify the U.S. constitution (Dec. 12, 1787), Pennsylvania is bordered by the Delaware River that separates it from New Jersey on the east, Delaware, and Maryland on the south, West Virginia on the southwest, Ohio on the west, by about 40 miles of Lake Erie shore at the northwest corner, and New York on the north. More than 80 percent of the population lives in metropolitan areas. Philadelphia is the largest city, followed in size by Pittsburgh, Erie, and Allentown. Harrisburg is the capital.
The eight dioceses in Pennsylvania comprise the ecclesiastical Province of Philadelphia, anchored in the eastern end of the state by the metropolitan see of philadelphia, and in the west by pittsburg. These two oldest dioceses in Pennsylvania also have the largest population of Catholics in the state, both by numbers and by percent-age—Philadelphia with approximately 1,400,000, faithful and Pittsburgh with 750,000, each about 38 percent of total residents. Though both dioceses are centered in large metropolitan areas they have very different characters; it has often been said that the Midwest begins in western Pennsylvania, while Philadelphia has an atmosphere of established catholicity that it shares with other East Coast sees such as New York and Boston. In the middle of the state the diocese of Harrisburg, centered in the rural agricultural counties of the Susquehanna valley, comprises the lowest percentage of Catholics in the state,
with 238,000 faithful out of a total population of 1,940,000 (12 percent). The other dioceses are Allentown, Altoona-Johnstown, Erie, Greensburg, and Scranton. In 2001 there were about 3.5 million Catholics throughout the state, about 30 percent of the total population of almost 2 million.
Colonial Times. William penn embarked on a unique experiment in religious liberty in his colony of Pennsylvania. As Sally Schwartz has observed: "Other colonies experienced migration of German and Scotch-Irish peoples to their frontiers, but conceded at best only the privilege of toleration to newcomers, not the right of freedom of conscience. Only in Pennsylvania was there no 'establishment' to dispense or withhold favors." ("A Mixed Multitude": The Struggle for Toleration in Colonial Pennsylvania, 292). Catholics benefitted more than most from this freedom of conscience. Though barred by the provisions of the Test Oath (1693–1775) from officeholding and the exercise of the franchise, Catholics enjoyed greater opportunities for worship and the practice of their faith in Penn's colony than in any of the 13 colonies.
That said, when, in 1708, news of Catholic activity in the province first reached the ears of Governor Logan, he complained to Penn of the "scandal of the Mass." The Proprietor responded by warning Logan to be on the watch for an anti-Catholic backlash. None ensued, and indeed Jesuit missionaries regularly traveled north into Pennsylvania from their farm at Bohemia Manor on Maryland's eastern shore. Sources indicate that the priests were routine visitors at the Wilcox farm in Ivy Mills near Chester, and were certainly celebrating the Eucharist there by 1720. In 1729 Fr. Joseph Greaton was living in Philadelphia, celebrating the Mass in private homes, and the year 1732 saw his purchase of a plot of land off Walnut St., where by 1734 he had erected a small chapel and residence, frequented by a small congregation of about 40 persons (mostly German). St. Joseph's was the first place of public Catholic worship in the colonies since the chapel at St. Mary's City in Maryland was demolished in 1704.
In 1741 two German Jesuits arrived to care for the sizable number of Catholics who were migrating to southeastern and south-central Pennsylvania. William Wappeler found about 300 Catholics in Lancaster, and soon established three mission stations at Conewago (where a chapel serving Catholics from nearby Maryland had already been founded in 1730), Codorus Creek (near York, where a chapel would be built in 1750) and Lancaster itself (Wappeler would purchase land there in 1742 for a church that would come to be known as "old St. Mary's"). Theodore Schneider, a former university professor from Heidelberg, was the other missionary who disembarked in 1741; he traveled to Berks county and set up his headquarters on a farm which Greaton had purchased at Goshenhoppen (present-day Bally, named in honor of a famous 19th century pastor). From there he and his successors were able to attend to congregations in Reading (where a "meetinghouse" existed by 1753), Lebanon, Pottsville (which boasted a wood church in 1827), Bethlehem, Easton (the mother church of the Lehigh Valley was erected there in 1836), Sunbury and Williamsport.
A census of Catholics in Pennsylvania in 1757 enumerated 1,365 communicants, of whom 948 were Germans and 416 Irish. About 40 percent of the Catholic population was centered in Philadelphia, Chester and Bucks counties. The increasing number of Catholics in the city of Philadelphia required the erection of a new church; St. Mary's was completed in 1763, its congregation made up mostly of Irish. The city was well served by priests such as Ferdinand farmer, SJ, who cared for the poor and needy of the city as well as immersing himself in its intellectual life, serving as a Trustee of the fledgling University of Pennsylvania. A zealous pastor, who found time to make missionary journeys throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, he was mourned at his death in 1786 as a "father of his people and friend of civilized humanity."
Western Pennsylvania, unlike the east, traces its Catholic roots to France. Fr. Joseph Bonnecamps, SJ, accompanying a military expedition, offered Mass in what would become Westmoreland county in 1749, while the first site of public Catholic worship in the area was at the Chapel of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Beautiful River, located in Fort Duquesne, at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monogehela rivers (Pittsburgh). The chapel, which functioned till its destruction four years later by British forces, was served by Fr. Denis Baron, and his extant baptismal register serves as an eloquent testimony to his pastoral labors.
Just as England's victory in western Pennsylvania brought an end to Fr. Baron's work, so the French and Indian War saw heightened anti-Catholic tensions in the eastern half of the state. News of General Braddock's defeat in 1755 touched off mob violence in Philadelphia, and St. Joseph's church was only saved from destruction by the intervention of a group of Quakers. In that same year in Goshenhoppen, a Corpus Christi procession was mistaken by neighbors for a military drill, and the Berks County Justices wrote to Gov. Morris in alarm. Yet Catholics retained their liberties throughout this period, and by the time of the War for Independence many of them supported the colonials, though Clifton's Regiment, a company of 180 men from St. Mary's church, did fight on behalf of the British. St. Mary's, though, could also boast of a number of prominent patriots, including Stephen Moylan (1734–1811, a merchant and aide-de-camp to Washington), Thomas Fitzsimmons (1741–1811; a financial backer of the colonial cause and Congressional delegate), and Commodore John Barry (1745–1803, honored as the "father of the American Navy"). The church of St. Mary's itself would play a role in the birth of the new nation, serving as the setting for a number of liturgical celebrations attended by members of Congress and foreign dignitaries, including a Te Deum on July 4, 1779, and a service of Thanksgiving for the victory at Yorktown on Nov. 4, 1781.
A Diocese and Turmoil in Philadelphia. The new state Constitution granted all the rights of citizens to Catholics in Pennsylvania, and as the eighteenth century waned their numbers continued to increase. John carroll, the newly appointed Bishop of Baltimore, estimated in 1790 that there were 7,000 Catholics in Pennsylvania, 2,000 of these living Philadelphia and its environs. Finding clergy to care for such numbers was certainly a challenge (an outstanding young immigrant priest, Lorenz Grässel, died during the great Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793, soon after being named as Carroll's coadjutor). New churches were also needed, especially in Philadelphia. In 1789, the German Religious Society of Roman Catholics, under the guidance of Fathers John and Peter Heilbron, built Holy Trinity church. This premier "national" church would be but the first of many to seek autonomy in its choice of pastors and internal governance (leading to years of ecclesial strife). St. Augustine's church was begun in 1796 by newly arrived Irish Augustinians, and would soon, thanks to the generosity of its subscribers (including George Washington), rank as city's largest church.
The young nation's rapidly expanding Catholic population moved Bishop Carroll to request a division of his diocese. Among the four sees formed from Baltimore would be Philadelphia, which comprised at its establishment not only the states of Pennsylvania and Delaware, but also western and southern New Jersey. An Irish Franciscan, Michael Egan (who had labored at St. Mary's since 1803), was named the first Bishop of Philadelphia on April 8, 1808—Carroll's only choice for that office. Though a fine preacher and a conscientious pastor, Egan was not possessed of a strong constitution, and his peaceable and pious nature was not equal to the conflicts that developed with the trustees of St. Mary's (which had become the new Cathedral). The contentious nature of the two Harolds, the Dominican William, and his uncle James, priests of the Cathedral, only exacerbated conflicts Egan had with the trustees over financial matters and personnel. Upon Egan's death in July of 1814, ecclesiastical affairs in Philadelphia had reached an impasse.
Following Egan's demise the see was vacant for six years. The War of 1812 and its aftermath hampered communications, and French and Irish factions in the United States and on the Continent feuded over the appointment. Both Louis de Barth (the administrator of the see, resident in Conewago), and Ambrose Maréchal (future archbishop of Baltimore) refused the nomination; finally Henry conwell, an Irishman from Armagh, arrived in the city in November of 1820, having received the appointment the previous year (Rome had given him his choice of Madras or Philadelphia).
Conwell was not a happy choice. He was 73 by the time he arrived in Philadelphia, and was an obstinate, vain man, lacking the oratorical skills so prized by the city's Catholics, and the talent for leadership so needed by the diocese. The bishop's lack of skill in the pulpit only added to the prestige of William Hogan, a flamboyant but troubled young priest, who soon could boast a following among St. Mary's congregants. The bishop sought to regulate Hogan's wayward lifestyle, while the priest denounced Conwell from the pulpit. The parish was soon divided—many of the trustees sided with Hogan—and both men were sued in court. A bloody riot even broke out on April 9, 1822. Rome was moved by the struggle to weigh in on the proper role of church trustees, and following the letter Non sine magno of Pius VII in August of 1822, Hogan's influence waned.
Troubles would flare up again in 1826, after the bishop agreed to a pact with the trustees of St. Mary's regulating pastoral appointments. Three of the lay leaders claimed that the deal gave them the authority to veto episcopal appointments. William Harold, now serving as Conwell's Vicar General, denounced the bishop's actions, whereupon the latter removed him from his post, only to see his cause taken up by the trustees. Rome criticized the terms of the pact, and Conwell was summoned to Rome. Suffering from the onset of senility, he fled from Rome after giving a report of his actions, and headed back to Philadelphia. In response to this bizarre turn of events, and prompted by the pleas of the American bishops, Rome appointed Francis Patrick kenrick as Conwell's coadjutor, and entrusted the administration of the diocese to his care. He was consecrated in Bardstown, KY on June 6, 1830, and arrived in Philadelphia on July7.
Kenrick, both a scholar and administrator, possessing gracious manners and steely determination, acted quickly to bring order to the diocese, which was, lamented his friend John Hughes (future bishop of New York) "in a deplorable state." He placed St. Mary's under interdict until such time as the trustees renounced the right of naming pastors (which they soon did), and brought in Hughes to supervise the construction of a new church, St. John the Evangelist, which would have no trustees. Though hampered by the hostile and deluded meddling of Bp. Conwell (who besides criticizing Kenrick to all who would listen, on one occasion even threw his coadjutor's possessions out of the residence they shared), Kenrick was able to make great strides in the diocese. A synod was held in 1832 (whose pastoral provisions were soon copied by many U.S. bishops), a seminary begun, and a newspaper, the Catholic Herald, was founded. Heroic charitable assistance was offered during the cholera epidemic of the same year, most notably by the sisters of charity. Parishes were established to meet the needs of the thousands of immigrants streaming into the diocese, which numbered 100,000 souls by 1832, yet possessed only 38 priests. So great was the pastoral burden that already in 1835 Kenrick petitioned to have a new diocese erected in Pittsburgh. Though Rome put off a decision for eight years, finally on Aug. 11, 1843 the Diocese of Pittsburgh was established, comprising 21,000 square miles of territory and 45,000 Catholics. Michael O'Connor, formerly rector of St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia, was named the first bishop.
Growth in Western Pennsylvania. During the time that the Church in Philadelphia was in turmoil, the rest of the state could boast of a growing number of Catholics. A band of the faithful from Goshenhoppen had migrated to Westmoreland county, and in 1789 Fr. Theodore Brouwers had joined them to provide for their pastoral needs. A 300-acre farm, Sportsman's Hall, near present-day Latrobe, was purchased by Brouwers and willed before his death in 1790 to whoever would succeed him in the care of the region's Catholics. The sad escapades of a rogue fortune-hunting priest would cloud much of the following decade, but finally Fr. Peter Heilbron (who had earlier served at Holy Trinity in Philadelphia) arrived to take up residence at the hall (a small cabin), and minister to the Catholics living throughout western Pennsylvania.
Demetrius gallitzin, who joined Heilbron, became known as the Apostle of the Alleghenies. The son of a Russian count and a German princess, Gallitzin completed his seminary studies in Baltimore and was sent by Bishop Carroll to care for Catholics living in the region of Magurie's Settlement (now known as Loretto), where he founded a church and school. From there he traveled for miles on horseback (and sleigh in old age) seeking out Catholics and ministering to their spiritual needs.
When Bishop O'Connor arrived in Pittsburgh, he found St. Patrick's Church, which had been built in 1811 by the city's first pastor, William O'Brien. His successor, Charles Maguire, had begun Pittsburgh's second Catholic church, St. Paul's, in 1820, which upon completion was the largest in the country. It was an obvious and impressive choice for O'Connor's cathedral church. The diocese was, however, in dire need of clergy and religious; while the bishop was in Europe for his consecration, he sought assistance in Ireland. He acquired eight seminarians from Maynooth, and the newly established Sisters of Mercy promised their support, and sent seven members to western Pennsylvania where they opened St. Xavier's Academy in 1844 and Mercy Hospital in 1846 (displacing the Sisters of Charity who had operated similar institutions in the city since 1835). The community would increase rapidly from this humble beginning, establishing foundations in Philadelphia, Erie and Scranton.
Attracted by the plight of German immigrants in the United States, the Bavarian Benedictine Boniface wimmer and a band of companions arrived in the diocese in 1846 from the Abbey of St. Michael in Metten. Though their plans called for them to settle at Carrolltown, not far from Loretto, they found the land unsuited for farming, and Bishop O'Connor was able to entice them to Latrobe with the promise of the Sportsman's Hall property. There they founded St. Vincent's Priory (later Archabbey), the first Benedictine monastery in the country, and soon were staffing parishes and missions throughout western Pennsylvania, as well as an academy, college, and seminary.
Though he feuded with the headstrong abbot over the free education of his seminarians and the monk's brewery, O'Connor knew what a blessing the community was to his young diocese. Soon he was able to welcome another religious family, the Passionists, who sent a pioneer group of three priests and a brother to establish a foundation in Birmingham (the city's south side) in 1852.
The Rise of Nativism. All was not peaceful in Pittsburgh, though. The waves of Catholic immigrants flooding into the country in the 1840s had aroused the fear and suspicion of earlier immigrant groups. These Nativists sought to counteract the influence of the "Catholic menace" through political action and violent intimidation (see nativism). The Protestant Association of Pittsburgh, for example, planned in 1850 to set fire to Mercy Hospital, which was saved only by the bishop's vigilance in ordering the facility to be guarded day and night. That same year, though, saw O'Connor arrested by the Nativist mayor of the city, who was ironically governing the city from his prison cell.
Tribulations far more deadly had occurred in Philadelphia, where Nativists were roused to action by the resistance Catholics offered to their children's use of the King James Bible in public schools, and their exposure to anti-Catholic materials in the schools' curriculum. Exacerbated by urban unemployment and ethnic strife, riots broke out in the Kensington section of the city in May 1844, during which two Catholic churches were burned (including St. Augustine's and its extensive library). Two months later, following reports that St. Philip Neri Church was being used to stockpile arms, a pitched battle ensued between a Nativtist mob and the state militia which had been ordered to guard the church. The violence claimed 20 lives and saw over 100 people injured before order was restored.
Given the challenges that immigrants faced in this climate of hostility, a number of proposals were made to found rural "colonies," where Catholics could live and work unmolested by their effects of prejudice. One such community was established in northwestern Pennsylvania, in Elk County. A settlement was established on 35,000 acres of land by German families from Philadelphia and Baltimore, who arrived on Dec. 8, 1842, and named their village St. Mary's. Though the first harsh winters tested the determination of the colonizers, and the Redemptorists who had initially backed the project turned it over to the Benedictines from St. Vincent's; in time the community flourished, developing mills and other small industries.
Despite the hostile climate for Catholic immigrants, the number of faithful in the diocese of Philadelphia continued to increase. The pastoral care of his flock was always Bishop Kenrick's first priority, and the arrival of new communities of religious women enabled the diocese to continue its ministry. The Sisters of St. Joseph were established in the city in 1847, and soon were running St. Joseph's Hospital (the first Catholic hospital in Philadelphia, established in 1849), a boy's orphanage, an asylum for widows, and a private academy. They were joined in their service to the Church by the School Sisters of Notre Dame (1848), the Good Shepherd Sisters (1849), and the Visitation nuns (1850). The Augustinians had recovered from the loss of their church during the Nativist troubles to embark on a college, Villanova, founded in 1842, and the Jesuits, not to be outdone, opened St. Joseph's College in 1851. The bishop, concerned not only with the spiritual but also economic welfare of his people, founded a diocesan bank in 1848. Finally, before his departure in 1851 to become archbishop of Baltimore, he had the satisfaction of purchasing land at 18th and Race streets, on which would one day be built a magnificent cathedral, modeled on the church of San Carlo al Corso in Rome. The diocese he left behind numbered some 170,000 Catholics, 101 priests, and 92 churches.
Philadelphia's Saintly Bishop. Upon his arrival in Baltimore, Kenrick found himself impressed by a quiet, humble Redemptorist then in residence in the city. He made a habit of making his confession to this priest, and when the time came for him to submit the name of his successor in Philadelphia to Rome, Fr. John neumann's name was second on the list drawn up by the suffragans of the Baltimore province (only his "foreignness"—Neumann was from Bohemia—prevented him from officially occupying the first place, and Kenrick made it clear he was his personal choice). Neumann himself was horrified, but obediently submitted to the divine will, and was consecrated on March 28, 1852. He chose as his motto: "Passion of Christ, Strengthen Me."
Neumann had come to the United States in 1836 as a seminarian, and was ordained for the Diocese of New York. After a few years of pastoral work, he entered the Redemptorist community, and after professing his vows (the first in the country to do so), labored energetically in Baltimore and in St. Philomena's parish in Pittsburgh. He brought with him to Philadelphia a uniquely personal approach, spending much of his time in pastoral visitation; by September he had visited half the parishes in the diocese. The bishop referred to the promotion of Catholic parochial schools as his key project. Only a year after the establishment of a diocesan Board of Education in 1852, the number of children in diocesan parish schools had risen from 500 to 5000. To help in the evangelization of his ever-increasing flock, Neumann founded parishes, established the first diocesan-wide forty hours devotion in the United States (1853), assisted in the foundation of a religious community of women, the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis (1855), and welcomed a second community, the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the diocese in 1858.
Neumann was a man of paradox, beloved for his piety and devotion, yet criticized by some within and without his diocese for his foreignness and discomfort with Philadelphia "society." As the diocese grew (in 1855 it already numbered 145 churches, the largest in the United States), Neumann proposed its division at the Eighth Provincial Council of Baltimore, suggesting that Pottsville be named the cathedral city of the new territory, and volunteering himself as the bishop of this more rural see. Some prelates, including O'Connor of Pittsburgh, urged Rome to accept Neumann's offer, but in 1857 it was decided that the diocese would remain as it was, but that Neumann would be given a coadjutor. James Frederic Wood, a financial genius possessed of a more urbane character, was the choice, and set himself at once to the task of straightening out the diocesan books. In this he was successful, yet his role as diocesan administrator remained nebulous while Neumann lived, even as the latter continued to long for a poorer, less cosmopolitan see. His strength sapped by pastoral labors, the saintly bishop of Philadelphia collapsed on the street on Jan. 5, 1860. He was beatified in 1863, and canonized in 1977.
New Dioceses for Pennsylvania. Bishop Wood finally came into his own as Bishop of Philadelphia, yet even as he came out of the shadow of his godly predecessor, he earned the nickname "the Shadow," by remaining a quiet, reserved man. As an administrator, though, he guided the diocese with a vigorous and steady hand. The long anticipated Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, whose construction had been a long-standing burden to diocesan finances, was dedicated on Nov. 20, 1864, even as the bishop announced plans for a new seminary building in the suburbs at Overbrook ("Wood's Folly"). As the number of Catholic faithful continued to increase, Wood was forced to return to a subject dear to the heart of Bp. Neumann; namely, the division of the diocese. Acting on the recommendations of the Second Plenary Council of baltimore (1866), and Wood's own proposals made to Pius IX while on a visit to Rome in 1867, the Holy See announced a major revision of diocesan boundaries, erecting three new sees on March 3, 1868. The Diocese of Wilmington was created, removing the state of Delaware from the jurisdiction of the bishop of Philadelphia (southern New Jersey had previously been reassigned to Newark in 1853). Bishop William O'Hara was given charge of the Diocese of Scranton, which was formed from ten counties in northeastern Pennsylvania. Catholic roots here stretched back not only to the pastoral work of Fr. Jeremiah Flynn, who as recently as 1825 had cared for Catholics throughout the whole region, but also to a settlement in Bradford County aptly named "French Azilum," whose fifty dwellings and chapel awaited the arrival in 1793 of a band of royalist exiles to have been led by Queen Marie Antoinette herself. The Diocese of Harrisburg was created from 18 counties in the state's central section, where Jeremiah F. Shanahan was named bishop. Bishop Wood was relieved by this redistribution of his pastoral responsibilities, and no doubt honored when he became Archbishop of Philadelphia—the diocese having been raised to the dignity of a metropolitan see in March of 1875. Sadly, the last decade of his life would be plagued by increasing bouts of illness and paralysis, which lasted till his death on June 20, 1883.
By the time the Province of Philadelphia was created, it included not only the dioceses mentioned above, but also Erie, which had been created by Pope Pius IX on April 29, 1853 from 13 northwestern Pennsylvania counties soon after the recommendation of the Fifth Provincial of Baltimore (1852). Its first bishop was none other than Michael O'Connor, who was transferred by his request from Pittsburgh, but returned there seven months later following outspoken and vehement pleas from his former clergy and faithful. Erie's second bishop was the Maine convert Josue Moody Young, who was followed by Tobias Mullen. During the latter's tenure of three decades (1868–1899) the Catholic population of the diocese increased four-fold, and the number of parishes tripled.
Bishop O'Connor's return to Pittsburgh, though, was not to be long-lived. For many years the former seminary professor had struggled with a call to the Society of Jesus. Though counseled by the pope against following this aspiration at the time of his consecration as bishop, O'Connor decided to pursue his dream in 1860, resigning as bishop of Pittsburgh. He was followed by another seminary instructor from St. Charles in Philadelphia, the Spanish Vincentian Michael domenec. His task as bishop was made perplexing, though, by financial difficulties, conflicts with numerous religious in his diocese, a restive clergy, and the financial intriguing of Fr. John Hickey, the rector of St. Paul's cathedral. Partly in aid of lessening the discord he was facing, Domenec recommended in 1875 that the diocese of Pittsburgh be divided, and proposed his own name for the newly created see. Accordingly, in January of 1876 Rome created the Diocese of Allegheny City (only a stone's throw across the Allegheny river from the city of Pittsburgh), appointed Domenec its bishop, and named John Tuigg (formerly pastor of St. John's church in Altoona) as his successor. Tuigg was shocked as he slowly discovered not only the level of indebtedness of many diocesan parishes, but also the reality that diocesan boundaries had been redrawn in such a way that the bulk of the financial (as well as other) problems were located in his, and not Domenec's, see. Following a local audit of diocesan records, the bishop requested the intervention of the Holy See. Bishop Domenec was called to Rome, and, unable to adequately respond to the evidence presented by Tuigg's representatives, was asked to submit his resignation as Bishop of Allegheny City. The dioceses were subsequently reunited by Rome, while Bishop Domenec, his health weakened by his ordeal, died in January of 1878 in his native Spain while enroute to America.
The see of Pittsburgh, thus reunited, saw its population continually increase as thousands of immigrants flocked to western Pennsylvania. Bishop Phelan first requested the division of the diocese in a meeting with Absp. Ryan of Philadelphia in 1899, and when a petition of the province's bishops met with no response from Rome, they repeated their entreaty in February of 1901. This latter petition met with a favorable response and eight counties were united to form the see of Altoona. Eugene A. Garvey (a Scranton priest) was chosen as the diocese's first bishop. Over half a century later the see city would be twinned with its neighbor to the west to become the diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
The Challenges of an "Immigrant Church." The face of the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania continued to be altered by the tens of thousands of immigrants who arrived in its dioceses throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, drawn by promises of employment in the state's burgeoning coal mines, steel mills, oil rigs, and garment factories. Many of these new arrivals hailed from central and eastern Europe, and longed for an experience of the Church similar to that in their native lands. Pennsylvania's bishops responded by creating ethnic or national parishes, some (e.g., Scranton's St. Joseph's Slovak Church or Pittsburgh's St. Nicholas Croatian) were the first of their kind in the nation. Religious communities also sprang up to care for particular ethnic communities, such as Daughters of St. Cyril and Methodius in 1909.
A unique challenge was presented by the appearance in Pennsylvania of Eastern Rite Greek Catholics, almost half a million of whom had arrived in the United States by the beginning of the First World War. As early as 1884, a group of Ukrainians had settled in the town of Shenandoah, and had requested a pastor from the archbishop of Lviv. A priest, Fr. Ivan Volansky, arrived to care for the community, celebrating the first liturgy on December 19 of that same year. Other parishes were established in Freeland (1886) and Hazelton (1887). As occurred elsewhere in America when Greek and Latin rite Catholics came into contact, however, Volansky encountered opposition because of his marital status (he had a wife) and unfamiliar ways. Within five years, at the urging of the American hierarchy, he was recalled to the Ukraine.
In 1890, at the request of many U.S. bishops, Rome restricted Eastern rite clergy in the United States to celibates or widowers, and placed them under the jurisdiction of Latin rite bishops. A bishop for the Greek Catholics, Soter Ortynsky, was not appointed until 1907, and it would not be until 1914, in the decree Cum episcopo, that Rome would grant him full ordinary jurisdiction and independence from local bishops. Ortynsky based his exarchy (diocese) in Philadelphia. Following his death in 1916, and responding to tensions between Greek Catholics from Galicia (Ukrainians) and Greek Catholics from Hungary/Trans-Carpathia (Rusyns), Rome appointed two administrators, one for each nationality. On May 20, 1924, a bishop for each group would be named by the Holy See, Constantine Bohachevsky for the Ukrainians, and Basil Takach for the Rusyns. Both were consecrated in Rome in June, Bohachevsky becoming the bishop of Philadelphia (with pastoral charge of all Ukrainians in America), and Takach bishop of Pittsburgh (with pastoral charge of all Byzantine rite Catholics from Transcarpathia, Slovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia). In 1958 Philadelphia was raised to an archeparchy (with Stamford, CT as a suffragan), while Pittsburgh became a metropolitan see in 1963 (with the addition of Passaic, NJ).
Many Greek Catholics joined the Orthodox church during the decades of their contentious relationship with the Latin rite hierarchy. Similar struggles occurred between the bishops and other ethnic groups, who aggressively, and at times stubbornly, advanced their demands. These cases often resulted in misunderstanding, enmity or worse, as in the case of Polish National Church. In 1897 a group of Polish Catholics in Scranton had completed construction of Sacred Heart Church, and asked Bp. O'Hara for control of the property. When he refused, as required by church law, the congregation of 250 families, led by their priest Fr. Francis Hodur, built a new church and refused to hand over the title to the property. O'Hara threatened sanctions, and the assembly was ultimately excommunicated, their appeals to Rome having been rejected. Hodur and many of his flock remained adamant, though, ultimately joining with similarly disaffected Polish Catholics from other dioceses to form a synod and electing Hodur as bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church, which would distinguish itself from the Roman church by its use of Polish in the liturgy, a married clergy, and lay control church property.
The growth of secret societies, often formed to protect the rights of unskilled laborers working in Pennsylvania's heavy industries, presented another challenge to the Church. Terence Powderly, a Catholic from Scranton, was the charismatic leader (1879–93) of the Knights of Labor, America's first national union. Unlike the Molly Maguires, miners who used violence in their struggle against the mine owners and operators, Powderly sought arbitration through peaceful means, and worked to conform the rituals and practices of the Knights to Catholic teaching. Working tirelessly in close consultation with Bp. O'Hara, Abp. Ryan, and others in the hierarchy, Powderly managed to receive the approval of the Catholic church for his organization in 1887, though sadly by then its decline had already begun.
Prominent Pennsylvania Catholics. Catholics in Pennsylvania were known not only as laborers in heavy industry, however. Priests such as the historian Peter Guilday (1884-1947) and Herman Heuser (1851-1932), editor of the American Ecclesiastical Review, were acclaimed in academic circles, while Maurice Francis Egan (1852–1924) and Agnes Repplier (1855–1950) were popular literary figures. In the field of medicine, Catholics could point with pride to such physicians as John M. Keating (1852–1893), a respected pediatrician, the surgeon Ernest Leplace (1861–1924), and Lawrence F. Flick (1856–1938) a leader in the fight against tuberculosis. Nicola A. Montani (1880–1948), the choirmaster of St. John the Evangelist Church in Philadelphia, was known to Catholics across the country for his work in restoring Gregorian chant to the liturgy, and his authoritative St. Gregory Hymnal (1920). Charles G. Fenwick (1880–1973), an expert in International Law, was a dedicated activist in the Peace Movement of the 1920s and 1930s.
The Church in Pennsylvania benefitted as well from the material success that had rewarded the labors of a number of her members. Nicholas and Genevieve Garvan Brady gave large sums of money to Catholic causes, and built an impressive novitiate for the Maryland province of the Society of Jesus at Wernersville. Charles Michael Schawb, who rose from being an engineer at Andrew Carnegie's Braddock works to become the president of US Steel, donated lavishly to Church-related institutions, including the Franciscan College of Loretto. Other Pennsylvania Catholic millionaires included Martin Maloney and John J. Sullivan, all of whom used their wealth to support the Church, and who were honored in turn with various awards and papal knighthoods.
One outstanding heiress who desired no earthly honors was Katherine drexel (1858–1955). Born into a wealthy banking family, which moved in the upper echelons of Philadelphia society, Katherine nonetheless was taught from her youth the importance of sharing the family's wealth with those in need (every week she joined her mother and sisters in distributing food and clothes to the poor who came to their house). As a young woman, Katherine sought to respond to the call of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore to aid missions to America's African-Americans and Native Americans, but was taken aback somewhat when Pope Leo XIII suggested she found her own congregation of missionary religious. That, however, is precisely what she did, and after a novitiate with the Sisters of Mercy in Pittsburgh, she established the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People in 1891. Traveling across the country with her sisters, she used her substantial fortune (12 million dollars by the time of her death) to build churches and schools, and even a college (Xavier University in New Orleans). St. Katherine Drexel was beatified in 1988, and canonized in 2000.
The generosity of the Catholic laity made possible the founding of numerous colleges across the state, most notably those for women, run by ever-expanding orders of religious sisters, including: Marywood (1915) and College Misericordia (1924) in Scranton diocese; Villa Maria (1925) and Mercyhurst (1926) in Erie; Seton Hill (1918) and Mount Mercy [Carlow] (1929) in Pittsburgh; and Immaculata (1920), Rosemont (1921) and Chestnut Hill (1924) in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
The Twentieth Century. Philadelphia was fortunate to have a steady hand guiding it for much of the first half of the twentieth century. Dennis doughtery, "God's Bricklayer," would serve as archbishop from 1918 to 1951, working with zeal and determination to found 112 parishes, 145 schools, four colleges and 12 hospitals, while personally ordaining over 2,000 priests to serve the needs of his ever-growing archdiocese. A formal and demanding administrator, Doughtery was named the state's first member of the college of cardinals in 1921.
Erie also was blessed with an ordinary of considerable longevity in John Mark Gannon, who served the diocese as bishop from 1920 to 1966. Known for his vigorous work in founding parishes, schools and even a college, Gannon was honored with the personal title of archbishop in 1953.
Pittsburgh also had a long-lived bishop in Hugh Boyle, whose tenure lasted from 1921 to 1950. As the city continued to grow, so did the diocese, which soon ranked as the eighth largest in the country. Most of this growth was the result of Pittsburgh's booming steel industry, which did not always receive praise from the Church for its labor practices. In fact, Pittsburgh priests and members of the Catholic Radical Alliance such as George Barry O'Toole, Carl Hensler and Charles Owen Rice were vocal critics of management and enthusiastic supporters of organized labor. The message of the Alliance helped to form Catholics such as Philip Murray, Patrick Fagan and John Kane, who all would become prominent union organizers in the steel and mining industry.
The diocese's postwar population growth soon provided an argument for a further division, and in May of 1951 four of Pittsburgh's eastern counties were united to form the Diocese of Greensburg. The first bishop was Hugh L. Lamb of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which itself was facing a rapidly expanding population. In 1961 Bp. Joseph McShea, who was serving as the administrator in the wake of the death of Cardinal O'Hara (1952–60), recommended to Rome that a new diocese be erected in either Bethlehem or Allentown. He was pleased by Rome's announcement on February 15 that a new Diocese of Allentown was to be created, but surprised by the news that he would be going there as the first bishop. The same momentous day saw the appointment of John krol as the new archbishop of Philadelphia. Krol would serve as an undersecretary at the Second Vatican Council, as well as a member of the Central Coordinating Committee. The newly appointed bishop of Pittsburgh, John J. wright, would also distinguish himself as a member of the council's preparatory commission and worked to draft the celebrated chapter on the laity in the Constitution on the Church (Lumen gentium ). Wright would subsequently be named a cardinal and Prefect of the Congregation of the Clergy in Rome. Krol too was named a cardinal in 1967, and remained in Philadelphia to guide the post-Vatican II church with a firmness and authority till his retirement in 1988, when he was succeeded by Anthony Bevilacqua, the bishop of Pittsburgh.
A number of Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania faced the challenge of shrinking numbers of clergy as the century drew to a close, and many looked to the reorganization of their parishes as a means not only of ensuring a more effective distribution of priests, but also of revitalizing the faith. Pittsburgh, under the guidance of Bp. Donald Wuerl, took the lead in this initiative.
Serving as a helpful resource to the Church in Pennsylvania in the years following the Second Vatican Council was the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. Formed in 1960 (as the Pennsylvania Catholic Welfare Committee) with constitutional lawyer William Bentley Ball as general counsel and executive director, the Conference was established to, in its own words "give witness to spiritual values in public affairs and … provide an agency for corporate Catholic service to the statewide community." It formulates policy positions, speaks on behalf of the Church before state government, and works to educate the public about Catholic teaching on morality, education, and human and civil rights. Most notable, perhaps, was the conference's advocacy on behalf of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act of 1989, which led to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Planned Parenthoodv. Casey. After the Act went into effect in 1994, the number of abortions statewide fell 14 percent. The conference was also an outspoken champion of civil rights and seasonal farm workers rights, educational services for non-public school students, and the right of nonprofit charitable organizations to tax-exempt status. Figures provided by the conference placed the Catholic population at the beginning of the 21st century at approximately3.5 million, or 29.7 percent of all Pennsylvanians. The dioceses of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh had the highest concentration of Catholics, at 38 percent, Harrisburg the lowest, at 12 percent.
Bibliography: Penn. Hist. and Museum Com., Bibliography of Pennsylvania, comp. n. b. wilkinson, ed. s. k. stevens and d. h. kant (2d ed. Harrisburg 1957). w. f. dunaway, A History of Pennsylvania (2d ed. Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 1948). j. f. connelly, The History of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (Philadelphia 1976). l. g. fink, Old Jesuit Trails in Penn's Forest (New York 1936). f. a. glenn, Shepherds of the Faith, 1843–1993: A Brief History of the Bishops of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh 1993). j. p. gallagher, A Century of History: The Diocese of Scranton, 1868–1968 (Scranton 1968).
[j. c. linck]
"Pennsylvania, Catholic Church in." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pennsylvania-catholic-church
"Pennsylvania, Catholic Church in." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved March 18, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pennsylvania-catholic-church
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