A Diocesan Celebration! Join Bishop Campbell and the clergy and people in celebrating the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the diocese of Columbus on Sunday, Apr 22, at 5:15 PM at St Joseph Cathedral. All members of the diocese are invited to this special Mass of Thanksgiving.
150 Years of the Diocese of Columbus
By Tim Puet, Catholic Times reporter
The Diocese of Columbus celebrates its 150 th anniversary this year, but Catholicism in Ohio began 60 years earlier. It all started with a letter written in Somerset by Jacob Dittoe, a Catholic who had moved to Ohio from Maryland about 10 years earlier and was eager to have his spiritual needs fulfilled.
The letter was written to Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore, the only bishop in the United States at the time. Bishop Carroll responded by sending Dominican Father Edward Fenwick, OP, to Somerset from Kentucky, where Father Fenwick had started a Dominican community in 1806.
Father Fenwick celebrated the first Mass in Ohio in the fall of 1808 on the Dittoe farm near Somerset. During the next 10 years, Father Fenwick, Bishop Benedict Flaget of Bardstown, Kentucky, and Father Stephen Badin, the first Catholic priest ordained in the United States, stopped in Somerset and elsewhere in Ohio as part of missionary journeys which covered several states.
The first Catholic church in Ohio, the original Somerset St. Joseph Church, was blessed on Dec. 6, 1818. It later was replaced by two larger churches. The third St. Joseph Church, dedicated in 1843 and rededicated in 1866 after a fire, continues to serve parishioners today and is one of two churches in Somerset. The other, Holy Trinity, also has a long history, going back to 1827. And the Dittoe family remains very involved in Catholic activities in Somerset and Columbus.
Father Fenwick brought his nephew, Father Nicholas Young, OP, with him to Somerset, where he became pastor when Father Fenwick in 1821 was appointed the first bishop of the Diocese (now Archdiocese) of Cincinnati, which was carved out of the Diocese of Bardstown and originally included all of Ohio and Michigan and other parts of the Northwest Territory. Fathers Fenwick and Young were the first of many priests of the Dominican Order who have served the Diocese of Columbus continuously for the past two centuries.
Lancaster St. Mary, Danville St. Luke, and Junction City St. Patrick churches were founded around 1820. It took more than a decade until Columbus, the state capital, had a Catholic church of its own – St. Remigius (later replaced by the current Holy Cross), founded in 1833.
As Ohio’s Catholic population grew, the Vatican reduced the size of the Cincinnati diocese, creating the Diocese of Cleveland in 1847 and the Diocese of Columbus on March 3, 1868.
The Columbus diocese included 27 counties and parts of four others in central, south central. and southeast Ohio, roughly running from the Scioto River on the west to the Ohio River on the east. At the time of its founding, the new diocese had 32 parishes and 40 missions and a Catholic population of around 41,000.
The first bishop of Columbus was Bishop Sylvester Rosecrans, a native of Homer in Licking County. He was auxiliary bishop of Cincinnati when he returned to central Ohio in 1867 to become pastor of Columbus St. Patrick Church, the city’s second parish, formed in 1852. The city added a third parish, St. Mary, Mother of God, in 1865.
Bishop Rosecrans established many of the institutions required in the new diocese, including parishes, schools, St. Vincent’s Orphanage in Columbus (now the St. Vincent Community Center) and the first newspaper of the diocese, The Catholic Columbian, which began as a fundraising publication for St. Joseph Cathedral.
It took 12 years for the cathedral to be built. Plans for its construction began in 1866, work got under way in 1868, the first Masses there were celebrated on Christmas Day of 1872, and the consecration ceremony was on Oct. 20, 1878. Getting the cathedral built took a great toll on Bishop Rosecrans, who frequently suffered hemorrhages. On the evening of the cathedral’s consecration, he had four hemorrhages, and he died the next day. He is buried in the cathedral undercroft.
One of the priests ordained by Bishop Rosecrans was Father Joseph Jessing, who became pastor of a church in Pomeroy, which then was part of the Columbus diocese, following his ordination. Father Jessing established an orphanage in Pomeroy in 1875 and moved it to Columbus two years later. In 1888, that orphanage and industrial school added a seminary which grew into today’s Pontifical College Josephinum. Pope Leo XIII gave the college the privilege of being a pontifical seminary in 1892, and it remains the only seminary outside of Italy with that distinction.
The diocese was without a bishop for more than a year from the time of Bishop Rosecrans’ death until Father John Watterson, president of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg. Maryland, was appointed as his successor. He was consecrated on Aug. 8, 1880.
Bishop Watterson’s 19 years as its spiritual leader were the greatest period of expansion in the diocese’s history. Almost 60 new churches were built, including 25 in places where no church had existed before. In addition, construction projects were begun at nearly 50 other parishes and institutions.
A great number of these were parish schools. The bishop himself graduated from a parochial school in western Pennsylvania and was a firm believer in education, so he made it his practice to establish parish schools whenever possible.
By the time he died on April 17, 1899, there were 60,000 Catholics in the diocese. During the late 19 th century, there was a tremendous influx of European immigrants who found work in the large industrial plants and coal mines and the railroads that were being built in central and southern Ohio.
In the first years of the diocese, “German” and “Irish” Catholic churches were established in Columbus, Chillicothe, Portsmouth, and Zanesville to serve those ethnic groups. In the late 1800s, other nationality groups, such as Poles, Slovaks, Italians, Hungarians, and Lithuanians wanted parishes where their language was spoken and their culture was understood.
Today, only two parishes – Columbus Santa Cruz (Spanish) and Columbus St. John the Baptist (Italian) – are officially designated as ethnic parishes. But the late 20 th and early 21 st centuries have seen a new wave of immigrants. A few parishes, particularly in Columbus, now have either a majority or a large number of Spanish-speaking parishioners, who have come to the United States from Mexico and Central and South America, and the diocese has an office of Latino ministry to serve them.
In addition, Sunday Masses are celebrated throughout the diocese in a multitude of languages – some of them every week, others less frequently. Besides Spanish, those languages include Ghanaian, Creole French (for Haitian immigrants), Vietnamese, Korean, Nigerian, Polish, and Portuguese (for Brazilian immigrants). The diocese is a Roman Catholic diocese, but also is part of a Byzantine Catholic eparchy and has a Melkite Catholic parish, as well as occasional Masses in the Maronite, Syro-Malabar, and Ge’ez Catholic rites.
In 1886, during the early part of Bishop Watterson’s tenure, two sisters from the Congregation of the Holy Cross were invited to Columbus to serve at a hospital being built in the Franklinton neighborhood. That four-story, 18-bed building was the start of the Mount Carmel Health network, which today serves more than a million people each year at four hospitals and a fifth which is under construction, plus many smaller facilities.
The Franklinton site has served since 1903 as the home of what was the Mount Carmel School of Nursing until 1990, when it began offering a bachelor’s degree and became a college. The college will remain in Franklinton, along with emergency, outpatient, and wellness services after the hospital Mount Carmel currently is building is opened in Grove City during the next two years.
Father Henry Moeller, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, was consecrated as the third bishop of Columbus on Aug. 25, 1900. His tenure of less than three years was the shortest of any Columbus bishop, but it was said that he saved the diocese by eliminating the $200,000 debt which had resulted from building the cathedral.
Bishop Moeller assigned each parish and mission to pay part of the debt, and each priest was expected to make a personal pledge. His efforts worked; at the same time, building was reduced drastically. Only four churches were dedicated during his time as bishop. Bishop Moeller also set parish boundaries in Franklin County, which had added so many Catholic churches that it made such regulation necessary.
Bishop Moeller was appointed coadjutor archbishop of Cincinnati on April 27, 1903. He became archbishop the following year and remained in that position until his death in early 1925.
His period of two years and eight months as the diocese’s spiritual leader was the shortest tenure for any of its bishops. His successor, Bishop James J. Hartley, spent the longest time as bishop of Columbus – nearly 40 years. He had been a priest in Steubenville, which then was part of the diocese, for 22 years before being consecrated as a bishop in that city on Feb. 25, 1904.
He remained bishop of Columbus until his death on Jan. 12, 1944, at age 85. He had links to all three of his predecessors, for he served Bishop Rosecrans’ first Mass at the cathedral, was ordained a priest by Bishop Watterson, and was consecrated by Bishop Moeller.
In less than two years as bishop, he had completed the chief work of his predecessor. On Jan. 6, 1906, he announced that the cathedral’s debt had been paid. He then began building in earnest. In 1905, he established Columbus Holy Rosary and St. Aloysius churches. By 1910, he had begun or dedicated more than 25 churches, schools, and chapels. His devotion to parish schools can be shown by the fact that there were 27 parishes with schools when he became bishop, and 40 years later, that number had doubled to 74 elementary schools, plus 31 parish high schools.
His proudest work was the establishment of a diocesan seminary known as St. Charles Borromeo College. It existed until 1969. It added a high school in 1923, and that institution continues today as St. Charles Preparatory School, located since 1925 on East Broad Street just outside of downtown.
Dominican sisters from Kentucky had come to Somerset to join the Dominican friars there in 1830 and have been part of the diocese ever since. After a fire in 1866 destroyed an academy they founded in Somerset, Columbus businessman Theodore Leonard offered them the land and bricks on his old brickyard if they would come to the city and relocate the academy to land near what became the St. Charles campus. They arrived in 1868 and gave the academy and their congregation the name of St. Mary of the Springs, as suggested by Bishop Rosecrans, because the former Leonard property included several natural springs.
St. Mary of the Springs Academy existed until 1966. On the same land, the Dominican sisters established St. Mary of the Springs College in 1911. That institution became Ohio Dominican College in 1968 and Ohio Dominican University in 2002. It has about 1,700 students and is the diocese’s only Catholic institution of higher learning for those not studying for the priesthood or the nursing profession.
The St. Mary of the Springs Dominicans united with seven other Dominican congregations on Easter Sunday 2009 to form the Dominican Sisters of Peace. An eighth congregation joined them in 2012. The Dominican Sisters of Peace have their general offices in Columbus and have nearly 550 members serving in 26 states, Nigeria, Honduras, and Peru.
In Columbus, about 75 members of the congregation live in its Motherhouse, another 30 live in other locations throughout the diocese, and 45 are residents of the Mohun Health Care Center, which provides assistance for order-affiliated and diocesan priests and sisters.
Besides Ohio Dominican, other institutions established under Bishop Hartley include St. Joseph Cemetery in 1910, and St. Therese’s Retreat Center in 1931 – both in locations on the edge of Franklin County which were remote at the time and now are passed by thousands of cars daily – as well as the original St. Stephen’s Community House, established in 1919 on Columbus’ south side.
The Catholic Columbian, which had been published by a private company since 1875, ceased publication in 1939, to be replaced the following year by The Columbus Register, published by the diocese, with the bishop listed as its publisher. The Register was one of 30 diocesan editions of The National Catholic Register, with a section of local news included.
Bishop Hartley’s tenure coincided with what is known as the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to northern industrial cities between 1910 and 1930. During this time, the African American population of Columbus increased from 12,379 to 32,774. To meet the needs of African American Catholics, Bishop Hartley, with the assistance of St. Katherine Drexel, established Columbus St. Cyprian Church and School in 1912.
St. Cyprian Church was merged with Columbus St. Dominic Church in 1957. The St. Cyprian building was closed in 1958. Today, several Columbus parishes have a majority or a large number of African American members, including St. Dominic, Holy Rosary-St. John, St. Thomas, and Ss. Augustine & Gabriel. The latter parish also has a significant Vietnamese community.
After Bishop Hartley died, the diocese was directed for most of 1944 by Auxiliary Bishop Edward Hettinger, one of two priests who have been auxiliary bishop of Columbus. His service as a bishop lasted even longer than Bishop Hartley’s – more than 54 years, from Feb, 24, 1942 to his death on Dec. 28, 1996. He retired from an active role as auxiliary bishop on Oct. 14, 1977, his 75 th birthday.
He was pastor of Columbus Sacred Heart Church from 1945-78 and served as vicar general of the diocese and a diocesan consultor from the mid-1940s until retiring as auxiliary bishop. He was an auxiliary under six bishops and served as diocesan administrator when the bishop’s position became vacant because of the death or transfer of five of them.
For most of the 18 years after leaving Sacred Heart, he lived in a cottage in Vinton County and served the county’s Catholics at Zaleski St. Sylvester Church and the St. Francis Center in McArthur. At the time of his death, he had been a priest for more than 68 years and was the senior priest of the diocese and the senior bishop in the American hierarchy.
Two banner headlines telling of major events shared the front page of the Nov. 24, 1944, issue of The Columbus Register – “Columbus Gets New Bishop” and “Diocese of Steubenville Is Established.”
The new bishop was Msgr. Michael Ready, who came to Columbus after eight years as general secretary of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, the predecessor to today’s U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In that position, he was the unofficial spokesman for the bishops of the United States. He was known worldwide because of his participation in many international Catholic conferences, and he frequently was called on by congressional committees and President Franklin D. Roosevelt to represent the Catholic viewpoint on various legislative proposals.
The Diocese of Steubenville was formed from 13 eastern Ohio counties which had been part of the Diocese of Columbus for its first 66 years – Jefferson, Harrison, Carroll, Belmont, Guernsey, Noble, Monroe, Morgan, Washington, Athens, Meigs, Gallla, and Lawrence. At the same time the new diocese was established, the current boundaries of the Columbus diocese were created through the addition of an area which had been part of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati – all of Hardin, Marion, Union, Madison, and Fayette counties, and the portions of Pickaway, Ross, Pike, and Scioto counties west of the Scioto River.
Bishop Ready was consecrated in Washington in late 1944 and was installed as bishop of Columbus on Jan. 4, 1945. He is the last bishop of Columbus who had not already been serving as an auxiliary or a bishop elsewhere.
His 12 years in Columbus coincided with the post-World War II baby boom and the move of large numbers of people from the city core to suburban area. The parishes founded during that time – Columbus Christ the King, Holy Spirit, Our Lady of Peace, St. Agnes, St. Andrew, St. Christopher, St. James the Less, St. Matthias, and St. Philip, Granville St. Edward, Grove City Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Hilliard St. Brendan, and Worthington St. Michael – all reflect this trend. With the exception of St. Edward, all are in Franklin County and most were formed in areas where houses were built rapidly from the mid-1940s through the 1950s to serve the needs of returning World War II veterans.
Catholic education also began undergoing a significant change during Bishop Ready’s tenure and continued for several years thereafter. Parishes retained their elementary schools, but Bishop Ready, presented in 1950 with several patterns for the future of Catholic secondary education, decided to form a system of consolidated high schools for the diocese, with Msgr. Edward Spiers serving as the architect for the change.
The shift began with the opening of Columbus Bishop Watterson High School in 1954, followed in the capital city by Bishop Hartley (1957), St. Francis DeSales (1960), Bishop Ready (1961), and Father Wehrle (1965, now closed). Elsewhere in the diocese, Zanesville Bishop Rosecrans High School opened in 1950, Portsmouth Notre Dame in 1952, Marion Catholic in 1956, Newark Catholic in 1958, Chillicothe Bishop Flaget in 1962, New Philadelphia Tuscarawas Central Catholic in 1970, and Lancaster Fisher Catholic in 1971.
`Columbus Aquinas High School, founded by Bishop Hartley, closed in 1965, followed 12 years later by Columbus St.Joseph’s Academy, founded by Bishop Rosecrans. Catholic high schools in Somerset, Delaware, and Mount Vernon closed in the 1960s, as did Bishop Flaget in 1987 (it now is an elementary school) and Marion Catholic in 2013.
Bishop Ready also organized a diocesan parent-teacher organization, the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, the Catholic Youth Council, and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. He founded two homes for the aged and the Catholic Student Center (now the Newman Center) at The Ohio State University, and worked with his fellow Ohio bishops to start the Ohio Catholic Welfare Conference (now the Catholic Conference of Ohio).
In 1945, Bishop Ready established the Catholic Welfare Bureau, now Catholic Social Services, which has performed a variety of functions in assisting the poor and the vulnerable of the diocese for the past 73 years. Today, it concentrates its efforts on helping senior citizens remain independent and families thrive.
Some of its outstanding leaders have been Msgr. Lawrence Corcoran, its assistant director from 1947-60 and director from 1960-65, who served as executive secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Charities in Washington from 1965-82; Helen McDaniel, who began working with the agency in its early days and was its director from 1971-85; Donald Wisler, president and chief executive officer from 2003-13; and Wisler’s successor, Rachel Lustig, current president and CEO.
Bishop Ready had the current diocesan Chancery, next to the cathedral, built in 1949. The Catholic Times was established in 1951 as a successor to the Register because of the difficulties involved in having that newspaper printed in Denver, nearly 1,200 miles away, as a condition of being part of the national Register system.
The Times has continued to serve the diocese for more than 66 years as a weekly publication, printed locally except for the period from 1966-72, when it was an edition of Our Sunday Visitor of Huntington, Indiana, in an arrangement similar to the one it had with the Register. Msgr. Herman Mattingly was founding editor of both the Register and the Times, serving from 1940-54 and briefly in 1958. Michael Collins joined the newspaper’s staff as a staff writer in 1962 and spent his entire 42-year career in journalism with the newspaper before retiring on Jan. 30, 2004, just 12 days before his unexpected death.
David Garick became editor of the newspaper in 2007 and served in that position for 10 years until retiring at the end of 2017. In that time, the Times changed its format to more of a magazine style, with a featured cover story and several themed issues during the year. During that 10-year period, it published profiles of every parish in the diocese. It has begun a second round of such stories under its new editor, Douglas Bean, who succeeded Garick on Jan. 1.
Bishop Ready died in May 1957 and was succeeded early the following year by Auxiliary Bishop Clarence Issenmann of Cincinnati.
The baby boomers were beginning to send their children to school during Bishop Issenmann’s seven years in Columbus, and statistics from this era reflect that. He established three high schools, brought three more to completion, and built additions at five. Also erected were seven new churches, 11 church-school buildings, four new parish schools, and eight school additions. St. Stephen’s Community House moved its facilities in 1963 from Columbus’ south side to the Linden area of the city’s north side.
The pace of homebuilding remained strong, but more houses were being built farther from downtown Columbus. That’s indicated in the locations of the parishes founded during Bishop Issenmann’s tenure – Gahanna St. Matthew, Heath St. Leonard, Lancaster St. Bernadette and St. Mark, and Reynoldsburg St. Pius X, as well as the Columbus parishes of St. Anthony, St. Stephen, and St. Timothy. To cope with the diocese’s growing needs, Bishop Issenmann established the Diocesan Development Fund, now known as the Bishop’s Annual Appeal.
His period as bishop not only was a time of continued growth within the diocese, but also was a time of the greatest change in centuries within the Catholic Church, as it coincided with most of the period from 1962-65 when the Second Vatican Council was in session.
Bishop Issenmann attended every session of the council and introduced what was known as the dialog Mass in the diocese. This was a form in which the people recited certain parts of the Latin Tridentine Mass. It served as an intermediate step that culminated in the Roman Mass authorized by the council and promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969.
Bishop Issenmann, who was a writer and editor for the Register system and was editor of the Cincinnati archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Telegraph, wrote weekly reports about the council for The Catholic Times until he was appointed apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Cleveland in 1964. The council had completed three of its four sessions at that point. In his final Times column about the council, he noted that its first session was marked by uncertainty, the second by confidence, and the third by determination that the world’s bishops, assembled at the Vatican, were taking the right course.
Bishop Issenmann became bishop of Cleveland in 1966, retiring in 1974. He died in 1982.
Bishop John Carberry had been bishop of the Diocese of Lafayette, Indiana, for eight years when he was appointed to the same position in Columbus in 1965. He also attended all four sessions of Vatican II. “I think the council was good for the church and the whole world,” he told the Catholic Times at the conclusion of the final council session. “I think Pope Paul put it well when he said … that the council put God before the whole world.’”
Bishop Carberry, as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ committee on ecumenism, was at the forefront of efforts to form closer ties between the Catholic Church, and other Christian denominations, which was one of the principal concerns of Vatican II. He spoke in Protestant churches and at Protestant gatherings, and occasionally offered the cathedral’s pulpit to Protestant clergy. He also was a founder of the Metropolitan Area Church Board, the first organization in the United States uniting Protestants and Catholics for ecumenism and social action. For this, the Ohio Council of Churches gave him its highest award.
Much of his time in Columbus was devoted to putting the liturgical changes approved by the council into effect in the diocese. For example, he was the first Columbus bishop to concelebrate a Mass. In 1966, he established a clergy advisory council and had the cathedral renovated to accommodate the changes. He also bought the current Catholic Center building at 197 E. Gay St. and began centralizing diocesan offices there. Two Columbus parishes – Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal and St. Elizabeth churches – were established during his three years as the diocese’s bishop.
In 1967, Bishop Carberry and the pastors of 10 Columbus parishes established the Joint Organization for Inner-City Needs (JOIN) to help Columbus residents struggling to obtain the basic necessities of life. In its early years, it provided help to one or two families a day, but its outreach grew dramatically under Ruth Beckman, who served as its director from 1981-2015.
Today, from its offices at 578 E. Main St., JOIN aids about 25,000 people a year. Items it frequently provides include bus passes; vouchers to pay for birth certificates; assistance with utility bills and rent payments; gasoline and grocery gift cards; prescription assistance; referrals to food pantries; work shoes or boots; diapers and formula for infants; arrangements for eye exams and glasses; and referrals to food pantries, among other things. It’s often said among those working with the needy in Columbus that JOIN is the first place to call when they’re not sure how to solve a particular problem.
Bishop Carberry became archbishop of St. Louis in early 1968 and was appointed a cardinal a year later. He is the only Columbus bishop to achieve that distinction. He retired in 1979 and died in 1998.
His successor was Auxiliary Bishop Clarence Elwell of Cleveland, who as a boy in Cleveland was an altar server for his assistant pastor, Father (later Bishop) Ready.
He continued the work of implementing the reforms of Vatican II that were started by Cardinal Carberry, including giving permission for Saturday evening Mass and other liturgical changes.
Bishop Elwell took a strong interest in Catholic education and worked with his fellow bishops in Ohio to foster opportunities for families to send their children to Catholic schools.
He founded Resurrection Cemetery in Columbus, and established the current St. Peter Church in the Worthington area in areas that had been served by St. Michael and St. Andrew churches. The original St. Peter Church, near downtown, was closed at the end of 1969.
Bishop Elwell also established the Diocesan Sisters’ Council and the Diocesan Pastoral Council and moved laypersons into positions of trust, such as director of cemeteries, Catholic Times editor, and superintendent of buildings. Additionally, he firmed up diocesan finances by expanding the Diocesan Development Office, the Parish Aid Fund, and the diocesan self-insurance program. He died unexpectedly on Feb. 16, 1973, in his apartment in the Chancery.
Auxiliary Bishop Edward Herrmann of Washington became Columbus’ ninth bishop in 1973. His service in Columbus was highlighted by support for community housing and food programs and by the reorganization of the diocese into 15 geographical groups of parishes known as vicariates.
The original 15 vicariates now number 12 and are known as deaneries. The reorganization occurred because one of Bishop Herrmann’s principal goals was to promote the flow of information and association within the diocese, which is the largest in Ohio in terms of area, so that the people of its 23 counties could get to know each other better.
In 1977, the first of the Seton Square housing complexes for low-income senior citizens and people with mobility impairment opened in Columbus. There now are 14 Seton Squares throughout the diocese, housing more than 1,000 people. Four are in Franklin County, with others in Dover (which has two), London, Kenton, Marion, Washington Court House, Wellston, Zanesville, Lancaster, and Coshocton. They are sponsored by the diocese and managed by BRC Properties Inc.
Both Bishop Herrmann and Auxiliary Bishop George Fulcher, who served in Columbus from 1976-83, were known for their social activism.
In 1981, as the nation’s economy faltered, Bishop Herrmann noticed that food pantries and social service agencies could not meet people’s needs and that more people were lining up at the back door of the cathedral to receive food every day (the food distribution has continued uninterrupted for decades). He convened a meeting of community leaders to address the concern, and was able to bring together a variety of viewpoints on the subject because of the credibility he had built up.
The meeting ultimately led to creation of the annual Operation Feed campaign, which now is sponsored by the Mid-Ohio Foodbank and provides millions of meals every year to the hungry of Franklin County.
Bishop Herrmann was a strong proponent of the canonization of St. Elizabeth Seton, the first American-born saint, and attended her canonization in Rome in 1975. Three years later, he designated her as patroness of a new parish in Pickerington. This was the only new parish founded while he was bishop, but the preparatory work for two other large suburban parishes in New Albany and Sunbury also began during his tenure. Columbus Holy Rosary Church was sold in 1979 and its congregation was combined with that of Columbus St. John the Evangelist Church.
Bishop Herrmann retired in September 1982 and moved back to the Washington area for nine years, but came back to Columbus in 1991 to continue his ministry as a priest and bishop emeritus. He had a stroke in 1995 and moved to the former St. Raphael’s Home for the Aged, where he died in late 1999.
Bishop Fulcher was pastor of the cathedral when he was appointed an auxiliary bishop in 1976. He had been founding pastor of Columbus St. Anthony Church from 1963-75 and had served at several parishes in the preceding 15 years. From 1958-67, he was editor of the Catholic Times, where he was noted for his hard-hitting editorials expressing the principles of Catholic social teaching. He also taught theology at the Josephinum for 27 years, and, like Bishop Herrmann, regularly attended ecumenical gatherings.
He was on the committee that wrote the U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter titled “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response,” which urged nuclear disarmament and was written in 1983. In that same year, he was appointed bishop of Lafayette, Indiana, a position he held for less than a year. He died when his car left the road, crashed and burned in western Indiana on Jan. 25, 1984.
Auxiliary Bishop James Griffin of Cleveland was appointed as Bishop Herrmann’s successor in 1983. Within a year of his installation, he had visited every parish and school in the diocese. In 1984, he formed the secretariat system to oversee diocesan departments and programs. This enabled him to focus more of his time and efforts on his role as shepherd and pastor of the diocese.
In 1985, he initiated a process of planning and consultation to determine the direction of the diocese for the rest of the 20 th century. All the diocese’s parishes and geographic vicariates conducted consultations that led to the publication in 1988 of a diocesan plan titled “Called by Faith, Committed to the Future.”
Bishop Griffin also instituted a vicariate planning process, in which the people of the vicariates determined how parishes within vicariates would work together to better serve their communities, the diocese, and the church.
In 1984, he established The Catholic Foundation of the Diocese of Columbus to provide for the diocese’s long-term needs. The Foundation manages more than 1,100 endowment funds, including nearly 250 donor advised funds. Nearly 90 percent of grants from these funds benefit parishes, schools, and ministries throughout the diocese. Other funds managed by the Foundation include charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts, and scholarships.
In fiscal 2017, the Foundation distributed 1,521 grants totaling more than $13 million. Since its inception, gifts to the Foundation have totaled more than $200 million and it has granted more than $113 million, with most gifts and grants coming in the last five years. The Foundation has more than $185 million in assets, making it the nation’s third-largest organization of its type.
Bishop Griffin also initiated the Legacy of Catholic Learning campaign in 1989 and the Challenge in Changing Times campaign in 2000 to help meet the educational and future needs of the diocese and helped initiate a communitywide, faith-based task force titled “Breaking the Silence” that worked to reduce domestic violence.
For 10 years, the diocese shared Bishop Griffin with the world through his work with Catholic Relief Services. He joined the agency in 1985 and served as its president from 1991-95. During his time with CRS, he visited 50 nations. He also was a member of several committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In his 21 years as the diocese’s spiritual leader, a tenure second in length among Columbus bishops only to Bishop Hartley’s 40 years, central Ohio continued to grow in population because of its education, research, government, insurance. and banking institutions, while other areas of the state which were more dependent on manufacturing were becoming less populated.
Dramatic growth in particular occurred in northwest Franklin and southern Delaware counties, leading to the establishment of the New Albany Church of the Resurrection and Sunbury St. John Neumann Church in 1983, Dublin St. Brigid of Kildare and Powell St. Joan of Arc churches in 1987, and Canal Winchester St. John XXIII Church in 2000.
St. Brigid of Kildare and St. Joan of Arc have become two of the four parishes in the diocese with the largest number of families. The largest is Westerville St. Paul Church, once a rural parish which covered a large portion of northern Franklin and southern Delaware counties. It now has a membership of 4,500 families, who worship in a building dedicated in 2011 which has more than 22,000 square feet of worship space and seating for 1,400 people.
The same trends which led to suburban growth resulted in a population loss for Columbus St. Augustine and St, Gabriel churches, leading to the combining of those two congregations in 1984 and the closing of St. Gabriel Church. Zoar Holy Trinity Church was built in 1995, combining the congregations of Bolivar St. Stephen, Strasburg St. Aloysius, and Mineral City St. Patrick churches. Columbus St. Leo Church, an offshoot of St. Mary, Mother of God Church, was merged back into St. Mary in 1999. It remains open and available for special services because of the dedication of laypersons who have continued to maintain it for the past two decades.
The Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm, who came to Columbus in 1948 to operate the former St. Raphael’s and St. Rita’s homes for the aged, opened the Villas at St. Therese to replace those facilities. The villas include areas for assisted living, opened in 1999 and managed by the sisters, and for independent living, opened in 2001 and under the same management as the Seton Square properties. The sisters also opened Mother Angeline McCrory Manor, a skilled nursing care facility, in 2004. Like the villas, it is adjacent to St. Therese’s Retreat Center on Columbus’ far east side.
Bishop Griffin announced his retirement on Oct. 14, 2004, saying limitations caused by age and arthritis detracted from the energy necessary to serve as bishop. He has lived in Powell for the past 13 years and continues to serve the diocese as a weekend assistant at St. Joan of Arc Church. He also is a concelebrant with Bishop Campbell at Masses, such as ordinations and the funerals of priests, which bring people together from throughout the diocese.
At his retirement announcement, Bishop Griffin said Auxiliary Bishop Frederick Campbell of St. Paul-Minneapolis had been appointed as his successor, the 11 th bishop of the diocese. He had been a priest since 1980 and a bishop since 1999, after serving as an associate pastor for seven years and a pastor for 12. At the time of his appointment, he had been rector of the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity of the University of St. Thomas for two years. His arrival in Columbus was actually a return to the city, for he had been a graduate student in history at The Ohio State University and a history professor at the Josephinum several years earlier.
In his installation homily in early 2005, he said he was praying that God grant him the grace “to teach the meaning of the Church of Christ with clarity, persuasiveness, a good humor when appropriate and a forcefulness when necessary, inviting all that I meet to consider the treasure that we possess in earthen vessels. I pray also that God make me a reflection of the charity that flowed from the heart of Christ onto the dust of our life to awaken new hope.”
One of the largest Catholic gatherings in the diocese’s history occurred in 2007, two years after Bishop Campbell’s installation, as 20,000 young people from across the nation came to Columbus in November and filled Nationwide Arena for the National Catholic Youth Conference.
In his 13 years as the spiritual shepherd of the 23 counties of the Diocese of Columbus, Bishop Campbell, like many bishops across the United States, has faced challenges related to a significant reduction in the number of priests.
At the time of its 100 th anniversary in 1968, the diocese had 334 priests. When Bishop Campbell was installed in 2005, it had 179 priests, including 122 in active service. Today, those numbers are 147 and 97 respectively, with many priests at or near retirement age. The diocese also has 36 priests who are members of religious orders serving within its boundaries, as well as 114 permanent deacons and 225 Religious sisters.
There also had been a decline in the number of seminarians for several years, but that trend seems to have been reversed. Currently, 36 men are studying for the diocesan priesthood. Five of them are to be ordained in May.
Like Bishop Griffin two decades earlier, Bishop Campbell saw the need to plan for the future of the diocese so that it could make the best use of its resources. In 2008, he created a diocesan pastoral and strategic planning committee, with representatives from groups including the diocesan presbyteral, diaconal, pastoral, and finance councils, the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, educational institutions, and health care ministries.
He also asked each parish to conduct a self-study to examine its particular needs. In the decade since those studies were completed, several parishes have been grouped into clusters, served either by one priest or a group of priests housed at a central location. This continued a trend which began in 1986 with creation of the Perry County Consortium of Parishes, with churches in New Lexington, Crooksville, Junction City, and Corning.
Altogether, the diocese has 20 such clusters of two to five parishes, including six clusters in Columbus. The largest of these groupings in terms of geographic area includes parishes in Chillicothe, Waverly, Washington Court House, and Zaleski, covering more than 50 miles from one end to the other.
Bishop Campbell dedicated new church buildings at West Jefferson Sts. Simon & Jude in 2006, the Johnstown Church of the Ascension in 2007, and Westerville St. Paul Church in 2011. The most recent church dedication in the diocese was at Cardington Sacred Hearts Church in 2015, two years after a fire destroyed the parish’s previous church building and hall.
The Utica Church of the Nativity was closed in 2016, one year after the church building was torn down because of structural issues. It was merged into Mount Vernon St. Vincent de Paul Church, with some parishioners also transferring to nearby parishes in Newark and Johnstown. Columbus St. Mary, Mother of God Church is being rebuilt after a lightning strike in August 2016 exposed significant damage to the 150-year-old building’s roof, ceiling, brick exterior, and a wall.
Columbus Cristo Rey High School opened in 2012 as the diocese’s first new high school in more than 40 years. Working in cooperation with area businesses and nonprofit agencies, its unique work-study model gives low-income students an opportunity to gain business experience they might not otherwise be able to obtain. Since 2013, the school has been located downtown in the former Ohio School for the Deaf, which underwent extensive renovation. Its first senior class of 48 students graduated in June 2016, and it now has about 400 students in four grades.
In 2017, Catholic Social Services opened its expanded Our Lady of Guadalupe Center to better serve the Hispanic community and other residents of Columbus’ west side. The 3,500-square-foot location has triple the space of the center’s previous site and includes a food pantry and office and meeting space for job mentoring, language classes, nutrition and health programs, and other activities.
The diocese has grown in 150 years from 32 parishes with 41,000 Catholics at its founding to 105 parishes with about 280,000 people today – a number that is expected to keep growing in the coming years to match the continuing population growth in the region.
Bishop Rosecrans consecrated the diocese to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1873. Bishop Campbell led a ceremony of reconsecration in June 2015. In his homily at that time, he said,
“Many of the challenges Bishop Rosecrans understood still require our attention. Making this act of consecration acknowledges our continual need for the infinite love, mercy, and forgiveness of God, known through the wounded heart of Jesus.”
As it recalls its first 150 years, the diocese looks forward to the next 150 and beyond, secure in the knowledge that, as Jesus said in Matthew’s Gospel in his last words to his disciples before ascending to heaven, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
(Material from “An Illustrated History of the Diocese of Columbus” by Donald M. Schlegel and the archives of The Columbus Register and The Catholic Times was used extensively in preparation of this story)