Echoes. The archdiocese in eight maps — 1872 and 1904. Published on 06/24/2022


The archdiocese in eight maps — 1872 and 1904

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Father Robert M.

This is the fourth and final in a series of articles on the changing geography, or better, the boundaries of the Archdiocese of Boston. These also focus on the Diocese of Providence, which concludes its fiftieth anniversary celebration on June 26, 2022.

The creation in 1872 of the new diocese of Providence and the ordination of its first bishop were the last modification of the borders of the archdiocese of Boston. The “1872 map with RI” indicates this change and the first borders of the nascent diocese.
Bishop Thomas F. Hendricken, an Irish immigrant and priest from the Diocese of Hartford, will lead the new diocese for the next 15 years. Since his ordination and installation in 1872, he established nearly 30 new parishes in Ocean State and 13 in the Bay State section of his new diocese. During the early years of his episcopate, Rhode Island experienced an economic downturn and an equal downturn in immigration. New arrivals accelerated during the last years of Bishop Hendricken’s time, with a notable influx of Canadians into the mills and factories of Pawtucket and Providence. This required a renewed effort to meet the pastoral needs of French-speaking Canadians. Thus, he increased the number of personal parishes for newcomers, notably in Pawtucket. He also had to seek out priests who spoke French, either by attracting Canadian priests and seminarians to come to Providence or by finding French speakers among his already beefed up clergy.

A pet project of the Bishop was the construction of a new and larger Cathedral of Saints. Peter and Paul. Like many east coast bishops, Irish-born architect Patrick C. Keely was hired to design the new cathedral. Raising funds from his people who were already supporting his own parishes was a challenge, but the bishop rose to it. The cathedral still serving the diocese today was almost complete at the time of Bishop Hendricken’s death on June 11, 1886. His funeral mass was the first mass celebrated in his church.
In the meantime, the Diocese of Boston became a Metropolitan Archdiocese on February 12, 1875. The new Archdiocese of Boston would have its suffragan sees in Burlington, Hartford, Portland, Providence, and Springfield; in 1884, Manchester was separated from Portland and also became a suffragan of Boston. Boston’s fourth bishop, Bishop John J. Williams, became the first archbishop and metropolitan of the new ecclesiastical province.
The second Bishop of Providence would be Matthew Harkins, a priest from the Archdiocese of Boston. Highly respected by the priests of the archdiocese and esteemed confidant and collaborator of Bishop Williams, he was ordained bishop in the Cathedral of Providence on April 14, 1887. He served the diocese for 34 years until his death on May 25, 1921. The expansion of the diocese in his day was simply massive. He established 53 new parishes, including personal parishes for Polish, Lithuanian, and Italian arrivals, as well as additional parishes for the growing French-Canadian and Canadian-American population.
A strong supporter of Catholic education, he also promoted Catholic schools at all levels, opening 30 new elementary schools, a dozen new secondary schools, and quite a few of those in personal parishes. He also invited Dominican friars to the diocese in 1910, resulting in Rhode Island’s first Catholic college, Providence College. The first building on the new campus, named for Bishop Harkins, was dedicated on May 19, 1921. It was the bishop’s last public appearance before his death two years later.

Just 17 years after arriving in Providence, the bishop anticipated that the Bay State section of his diocese was ready to become its own diocese. There was a great growth in Catholic presence in Rhode Island and the Massachusetts section of its diocese, both in population and in the physical presence of the Church. The population has seen an increase in new arrivals from Ireland, Canada, Portugal, the Azores, Italy, Poland and Lithuania, as well as growth in existing towns and villages of second and second grade Catholics. third generations. At the same time, new churches, schools, convents, parsonages, secondary schools, orphanages, Catholic charities, nascent diocesan social services and Catholic cemeteries were created. All contributed to the need for a new diocese.
Among the first actions of the new Pope Saint Pius X was the establishment of the Diocese of Fall River in 1904, with its Cathedral Church of St. Mary of the Assumption in the town of See.
The diocese would be made up of the Massachusetts section of the Diocese of Providence, with the same boundaries today as the day it was established. One of Bishop Harkins’ most trusted priests, Father William Stang, whom he had brought to Rhode Island to minister to the needs of German Catholics, was named the first bishop of the new diocese and ordained bishop in Providence Cathedral. on May 1, 1904. Sadly, Bishop only lived as ruler of Fall River for three years before he died unexpectedly on February 2, 1907.
There were additional changes to diocesan boundaries, but not until 1950. Pope Pius XII separated Worcester County in Massachusetts from the Diocese of Springfield and created the new Diocese of Worcester. The same pope, a few years later, in 1953, created two new dioceses in Connecticut, separating Fairfield, the westernmost county of the state, from Hartford and establishing the new seat of Bridgeport; and four eastern counties creating the new Diocese of Norwich. At the same time, Hartford was named a metropolitan archdiocese with the two new sees of Connecticut and Providence as its three suffragan sees. As an interesting note, Worcester became the first single county diocese in the United States and, in 1953, Bridgeport the second. The only other in our country to date is the Diocese of Orange in California, created from the sprawling Archdiocese of Los Angeles during the nation’s bicentennial year, 1976. Norwich maintains the distinction of having Fishers Island , New York, on its territory. One of the few dioceses in the United States that crosses state lines.
A quick tour of the Roman Catholic dioceses of New England through the four articles in this series reveals in outline and sketches the growth of the Church. The waves of new Catholics who joined the small group during the colonial era swelled churches and demanded schools, social and charitable services, health facilities, colleges and universities. It is the Catholic faithful who have both demanded and supported all these efforts. Their bishops, priests and men and women religious rose to the challenge and together grew the Church in New England. Trusting in the providence of God and their tenacious attachment to their faith, they prove that “nothing is impossible with God”.
One final note: Pilot staff benefit greatly from the cooperation and collaboration between and among many people in the offices of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center. This series is a fine example of such collaboration. Special thanks to Violet Hurst of the Archdiocesan Archives, who created the cards for this series. The Archives are our closest neighbor at the Pastoral Center, and we meet regularly and happily.


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