The Catholic Church in Pennsylvania
As we look back on nearly 2000 years since the Birth of Our Lord in the
manger, we should also remember the growth of the Catholic Church in our state and in our nation. The following is based
in large part on information contained in the Catholic Almanac. The below is not intended to be an exhaustive
listing but also includes dates of interest to Eastern Rite Catholics (also under the Holy Father). We thank Father
Constantine Belisarius of Seton Home Study School for clarifying the Eastern Rite explanations below.
Taken from Issue #39, July/August 1999, of "Catholic Homeschoolers of Pennsylvania Newsletter," © 1999 Ellen Kramer
- 1682 -- Pennsylvanians were granted religious tolerance regardless of faith.
- 1734 -- St. Joseph’s Church is the first Catholic Church opened in Philadelphia.
- 1782 -- St. Mary’s Parochial School opened in Philadelphia.
- 1788 -- Holy Trinity Church, the first national church in the country, was incorporated in Philadelphia.
- 1789 -- The first diocese in the United States was established in Baltimore, Maryland, by Pope Pius VI to serve all
Catholics in the territory of the United States at that time.
- 1789 -- The First Amendment to the Constitution guaranteed religious freedom throughout the United States.
- 1795 -- Russian Prince Demetrius Gallitzin was ordained a priest and later founded the settlement of Loretto, Cambria
- 1808 -- The Diocese of Baltimore is reduced in size as the Dioceses of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Bardstown,
Kentucky were established by Pope Pius VII.
- 1814 -- St. Joseph’s Orphanage, the first Catholic orphanage in the U.S., was opened in Philadelphia.
- 1842 -- The Augustinians founded the University of Villanova near Philadelphia.
- 1843 -- The Diocese of Pittsburgh was established.
- 1846 -- Father Boniface Wimmer founded the first Benedictine Abbey in the country near Latrobe, Westmoreland County.
- 1852 -- Redemptorist priest John Nepomucene Neumann was ordained the fourth Bishop of Philadelphia.
- 1853 -- The Diocese of Erie was established.
- 1868 -- The Dioceses of Scranton and Harrisburg were established.
- 1875 -- Philadelphia became an archdiocese.
- 1875 -- The Diocese of Pittsburgh temporarily was split creating the Diocese of Allegheny which was reunited to
Pittsburgh a year later after the resignation of its first and only bishop.
- 1891 -- The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People was founded by Katharine Drexel and a
motherhouse established in Bensalem, Bucks County.
- 1901 -- The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown was established.
- 1913 -- The Apostolic Exarchate (“Apostolic” meaning someone who reports directly to the Holy Father, and “Exarchate”
from the Greek “exarchos” meaning “territory ruled over by an exarch--someone who rules outside of their home territory or
country) of Philadelphia was established for both the Ukranian and Ruthenian Byzantine Catholics.
- 1921 -- Archbishop Dennis Dougherty of Philadelphia was made cardinal by Pope Benedict XV.
- 1924 -- The Apostolic Exarchate of Pittsburgh was established for the Ruthenian Catholics.
- 1951 -- The Diocese of Greensburg was established.
- 1958 -- The Byzantine Apostolic Exarchate of Philadelphia became a metropolitan see (an archdiocese in an Eastern Rite
with the bishop overseeing the bishops of other dioceses) for the Ukranians Catholics.
- 1958 -- Archbishop John O’Hara, C.S.C., of Philadelphia was created cardinal by Pope John XXIII.
- 1961 -- The Allentown Diocese was established.
- 1963 -- The Apostolic Exarchate of Pittsburgh was made an eparchy (a diocese).
- 1963 -- John Nepomucene Neumann was beatified.
- 1967 -- Archbishop John J. Krol of Philadelphia was created cardinal by Pope Paul VI.
- 1969 -- The Apostolic Exarchate of Pittsburgh (the bishop for Ruthenian Catholics) was raised to metropolitan status
(the equivalent of an archdiocese) in the Eastern Rites.
- 1969 -- Pittsburgh Bishop John J. Wright was created cardinal by Pope Paul VI. He was then transferred to a post in the
Curia in Rome.
- 1976 --The 41st International Eucharistic Congress was held in Philadelphia. This was the second such Congress to be
held in the United States.
- 1977 -- Bishop John Neumann was canonized a saint.
- 1979 -- The metropolitan (an Ukranian bishop) of Philadelphia, Major Archbishop Myroslav Lubachivsky, was chosen to be
head of the Ukranian Catholic Church worldwide and answerable directly to the Holy Father. He was created cardinal by
Pope John Paul II in 1985.
- 1988 -- Katharine Drexel was beatified and given the title of "Blessed."
- 1991 -- Archbishop Anthony J. Bevilacqua of Philadelphia was created cardinal by Pope John Paul II.
- 2000 - Blessed Katharine Drexel was canonized a saint by Pope John Paul II. The state legislature declared October 1-7,
2000, to be St. Katharine Drexel Week throughout the Commonwealth.
Click here for the latest statistics on the Catholic Church
Click here for the latest statistics on the Allentown Diocese.
Click here for the latest
statistics on the Harrisburg Diocese.
Back to Articles page.
Webmaster: Timothy Kramer -- E-mail:
© Copyright 2001 Ellen Kramer or Catholic Homeschoolers of Pennsylvania unless otherwise noted.
This page was updated on October 15, 2004.