The Diocese of Syracuse, in the State of New York, comprises the counties of Broome, Chenango, Cortland, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, and Oswego, and contains an area of 5626 square miles, a little more than one-ninth of the entire state. Out of a population of 609,041, about 161,000, or a little more than one-fourth, are Catholics.
The Oneidas and the Onondagas occupied lands near the shores of the lakes which bear their names. The first chosen president of the Iroquois was the venerable Ato-tao-ho, a famous Onondaga chief. The Onondagas were the central nation of the League, and not far from the present episcopal city, on Indian Hill, between the ravines formed by the west and middle branches of Limestone Creek in the town of Pompey, about two miles south of Manlius, was the village of Onondaga, the seat of government for the League of the Five Nations. It is probable that some of the Franciscan Fathers of the Recollect reform, whom Champlain obtained from France in 1614 to minister to the French settlers and convert the natives, visited this territory and offered up the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on the shores of Lakes Onondaga or Oneida, and perhaps what is now Oswego as early as 1615. Father Le Moyne, S.J., however, must be considered the real founder of the Church in the Diocese of Syracuse. Fathers Joseph Chaumonot and Claude Dablon were selected to begin the work of evangelization. They said Mass on the chosen site Sunday, 14 November 1654. A little bark chapel was soon constructed with the assistance of the Indians. St. John the Baptist had been adopted as the patron of the mission, and it was doubtless under his patronage that this first chapel on the soil of New York was dedicated. Another chapel was built for the French settlers, St. Mary's of Ganantaa (Lake Onondaga). But these first missions among the Onondagas and the Oneidas had but an ephemeral existence. The Iroquois were constantly incited against the French missionaries by both the Dutch and English in Albany. James II ascended the throne of England in 1685 and openly professed the Catholic Faith. While Duke of York (1682) he had appointed Colonel Thomas Dongan Governor of the Colony of New York. Dongan, an Irishman and a Catholic, presided over the first representative assembly of New York which gave us the charter of liberties. Loyal to his Faith and country alike he sought to preserve and perpetuate the Catholic missions among the Iroquois without strengthening French influence in the colony. For this purpose he brought over with him three English Jesuits : Thomas Harvey, Charles Gage, and Henry Harrison. He established a Latin school in New York and placed it in charge of these Jesuits. He planned also to establish a settlement of Irish Catholics in the interior of the colony, very likely somewhere within the limits of the present diocese. But when Dongan fell all prospect of liberty for Catholic worship in the colony of New York disappeared, and the hope was expressed at the time of his downfall "that Papists would not henceforth come so freely to settle in the colony". Governor Bellemont of New York secured the passage of a law by the colonial legislature punishing with perpetual imprisonment any priest remaining in the province or coming after 1 November 1700, and any priest who escaped from his dungeon was liable to the penalty of death if he should be retaken. To harbour a Catholic was to incur a fine of £250 and to stand in the pillory for three days. Under these circumstances the Jesuit missions were necessarily closed among the Five Nations. The mission of Ogdensburg, established a little later for the Onondagas, and the Oneidas by Abbé François Picquet, a Sulpician, was finally abandoned in 1760, and the last chapter was closed in the story of the Jesuit missions among the Iroquois.
Less than a quarter of a century after the final destruction of the missions among the Iroquois the first white settler came to Oriskany. Gradually, a few Catholics followed, John Cunningham of Utica being the first Catholic of whom history makes mention. Rev. Paul McQuade who was ordained in Montreal in 1808 was the first missionary. He was pastor of St. Mary's church, Albany, from 1813 to 1815, and made frequent visitations to Utica. There is no record of where the first Mass was celebrated in Utica, but there is no doubt that it was in the home of John C. Devereux, one of the pioneer Catholics then (1813) a member of the board of trustees of St. Mary's church, Albany. Rev. Michael O'Gorman, a native of Ireland, pastor of St. Mary's church, Albany, from 1817 to 1819, was the founder of the first parish in the Diocese of Syracuse, though not the first pastor. He celebrated the first public Mass in Utica, in the Court House, 10 January 1819. He organized the Catholics, and it was decided to erect a church for Central and Western New York, at Utica. A corporation was duly formed under the name of the "Trustees of the first Catholic Church in the Western District of New York". The first trustees were: John O'Connor of Auburn; John C. Devereux and Nicholas Devereux of Utica; Morris Hogan of New Hartford ; Oliver Western of Johnstown; Thomas McCarthy of Syracuse; John McGuire of Rochester; and Charles Carroll of Genesee River. The resident congregation did not exceed thirty. Rev. John Farnan, a native of Ireland, appointed pastor, began at once the erection of St. John's church, Utica, and the little chapel was dedicated by Bishop Connoly, 19 August, 1821. While pastor of Utica, Father Farnan visited Rochester, in 1820, and celebrated the first public Mass in that city. He was the first resident priest to attend the Catholics of Brooklyn. Among the Catholic laymen of that early period, might be mentioned James Lynch and Thomas McCarthy of Lynchville, now Rome, N.Y. Dominick Lynch was one of the first trustees of St. Peter's church, New York, and in 1790 when the Catholics of the United States presented an address of congratulation to George Washington, on his election to the presidency, he was one of the four laymen who signed it.
The Diocese of Syracuse was projected by the Holy See, 12 September, 1886, and Rt. Rev. Patrick Anthony Ludden, D.D., then vicar-general of the Diocese of Albany, and rector of St. Peter's church, Troy, was nominated for the comtemplated see. Father Ludden declined the honour. Thereupon, considerable correspondence passed between Archbishop Corrigan of New York and the Cardinal Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda in Rome. Finally, the Diocese of Syracuse was erected by Leo XIII, 20 November, 1886, and Father Ludden, in spite of his emphatic refusal, was appointed bishop of the new see, 14 December, 1886. He was born 4 February, 1836, near Castlebar, County Mayo, Ireland, and was ordained priest, 21 May, 1864, in the Grand Seminary, Montreal, by Bishop Bourget. He was rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Albany, under Bishop McCloskey, and vicar general under Bishops Conroy and McNeirny, and for seven years he had been rector of St. Peter's church, Troy. He was consecrated at Syracuse, 1 May, 1887, by Archbishop Corrigan of New York, assisted by Bishop McQuade of Rochester, and Bishop McNeirny of Albany. When the diocese was established, there were but 64 secular, and 10 religious priests ; 46 parish, and 20 mission churches; 15 chapels ; 16 parochial schools ; 2 academies; 5 orphan asylums ; and 2 hospitals. Rt. Rev. Mgr. John Grimes, D.D., was appointed coadjutor Bishop of Syracuse, with the title of Bishop of Imeria, 9 February, 1909. He was born in Ireland, 18 December, 1852, made his ecclesiastical studies in the Grand Seminary, Montreal, and was ordained to the priesthood in Albany, 19 February, 1882, by Bishop McNeirny, of Albany. He was consecrated bishop 16 May, 1909, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Syracuse, by Archbishop Farley of New York. St. John the Evangelist church in Syracuse was the pro- cathedral until 1903. At that time, Bishop Ludden purchased with his own money, property adjoining St. Mary's church, which had been planned and constructed by Rev. James A. O'Hara, D.D., for many years one of the most prominent figures in Central New York. He died 26 Dec, 1889. Bishop Ludden, at his own expense, erected on the property a new cathedral and consecrated it 25 September, 1910.
Among the pioneer priests of the diocese may be mentioned: Right Rev. David W. Bacon and the Right Rev. Francis P. McFarland; Fathers William Beecham, Thomas Daly, Michael Hackett, Michael Heas, Bartholomew F. McLoghlin, Leopold Moczygemba, O.M.C., Walter J. Quarter. The prominent laymen include Francis Baumer, Ulric Burke, M.D., John Carton, John C. Devereux, Nicholas Devereux, Capt. David Dodge, Francis Kernan, James Lynch, John McCarthy, Thomas McCarthy, Peter McGuire, Michael McQuade, Francis Murphy, Owen O'Neil, Edward White.
Their are many causes for the remarkable growth of the Catholic Church in Central New York. It was chiefly the Irish immigrants who dug the Erie Canal, which was begun 4 July, 1817, almost the exact date of the organization of the first church in the diocese. The salt springs of Syracuse discovered by Father Le Moyne , in the missionary period, added much to the wealth of these parts and attracted many. When through tariff reduction this investment became no longer profitable, extensive cotton and woolen mills, foundries and factories of all kinds, were established. Another cause which contributed to the growth as well as to the cosmopolitan character of the people, was the coming of various nationalities at different periods. The Germans began to come in small numbers, soon after the erection of the first church (1820). According to the official records, Rev. John Lewis Wariath was placed in charge of these immigrants as early as 1837. The Italian immigration began with the construction of the West Shore Railroad in the early eighties. The Poles began to locate in the diocese about a quarter of a century ago. They have now large and flourishing parishes, churches, and schools in various parts of the diocese. The Lithuanians are, as yet, comparatively few in number. They have fine property, a temporary church, a resident priest in Utica, and give evidence of rapid progress. The Syrians began to come about a decade ago. They are found chiefly in Syracuse and Utica. In the latter city, they have a handsome church, and a resident priest. They worship according to the Syro-Maronite Rite. The Slovaks began coming to the diocese only within the last few years. They are of the Latin and the Greek Rite, and are found principally in Syracuse and in Binghamton. In the latter city they have a resident priest and a flourishing parish.
Another important factor in the upbuilding of the diocese, was the work of the different religious communities devoted to education and charity. The Franciscan Fathers of the Order of Minor Conventuals came in 1859. The mother-house of the Order of the Minor Conventuals in the United States is located in Syracuse. The Christian Brothers have been labouring in the diocese for more than half a century. They have a large and flourishing academy in Syracuse. Assumption Academy is the academic department for boys of the Utica Catholic Academy. The Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul (Emmitsburg) for more than three-quarters of a century have laboured in Utica, and for most of that time in Syracuse, caring for the orphans and building up their schools. The Sisters of St. Joseph, from St. Louis, Mo., have an academy for young ladies in Binghamton and have charge of many parochial schools. The Sisters of the Holy Name have an academy for young ladies at Rome. The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis have charge of hospitals in Syracuse and Utica.
Statistics for 1911 are: priests, regular 16, secular 115; parish churches, 75; mission churches, 34; chapels, 35; parochial schools, 25; parochial high schools, 4; academies, 4; orphan asylums, 5; maternity hospital, 1; infant asylums, 2; hospitals, 3. In the various religious orders there are: brothers, 33; sisters, 330; lay teachers, 8. The pupils in Catholic schools number 10,000. The Catholic population includes, English-speaking, 95,000; Italians, 25,000; Germans, 15,000; Poles, 120,000; Lithuanians, 1000; Slavs (Latin and Greek), 2000; Bohemians, 100; French, 2000; Syrians, 1000.
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