Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh

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Diocese of Raleigh
Dioecesis Raleighiensis
Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh.svg
The coat of arms of the diocese
Country United States
Territory Eastern half of North Carolina
Ecclesiastical province Atlanta
Metropolitan Atlanta
Area 31,875 km2 (12,307 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2010)
217,125 (4.9%)
Parishes 78
Denomination Roman Catholic
Rite Roman Rite
Established March 3, 1868 (146 years ago)
Cathedral Sacred Heart Cathedral
Current leadership
Pope Francis
Bishop Michael Francis Burbidge
Metropolitan Archbishop Wilton Daniel Gregory
Archbishop of Atlanta
Diocese of Raleigh.jpg
Sacred Heart Cathedral

The Diocese of Raleigh is a Roman Catholic diocese that covers the eastern half of the U.S. state of North Carolina. The bishop is seated at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Raleigh, North Carolina.


The Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, was established on December 12, 1924, by Pope Pius XI.[1] Before this, North Carolina was an Apostolic Vicariate under the ecclesiastical authority of Bishop Leo Haid, O.S.B., who was both abbot of Belmont Abbey[2] and Vicar Apostle of North Carolina.[3] The Holy See offered in 1910 to establish in Wilmington a diocese for North Carolina with St. Mary Catholic Church as the cathedral, but Haid refused to relocate to the coast, a move necessary if the diocese was to be established there.[4] North Carolina remained an Apostolic Vicariate until 1924, when Bishop Haid died.[5] Pius XI erected the Diocese of Raleigh and assigned a secular priest as its bishop. The diocese, covering nearly 46,000 miles and holding 8,254 Catholics, comprised all of North Carolina except eight counties which had been given to Belmont Abbey in 1910 as the abbey’s own diocese, the “Abbey Nullius”.[3] Within the diocese there were twenty-four churches with permanent pastors, forty mission churches cared for by priests of the parishes, and other “stations,” where church structures did not exist but priests came to celebrate the Sacraments. The diocese had twenty-three diocesan priests, twenty-eight priests in religious orders, and 127 religious sisters.[6]


The list of bishops of the diocese and their terms of service:

  1. William J. Hafey (1925-1938)
  2. Eugene J. McGuinness (1938-1945)
  3. Vincent S. Waters (1945-1975)
  4. Francis Joseph Gossman (1975-2006)
  5. Michael F. Burbidge (2006-Present)

Bishop William Hafey[edit]

William J. Hafey, a thirty-seven-year-old priest, became Raleigh’s first bishop. Prior to his installation on July 1, 1925, Archbishop Michael Joseph Curley of Baltimore supervised the diocese.[7] As bishop, Hafey traveled often, within and outside of the diocese, seeking both servants and money for the diocese. Many men and women heard his plea for help and came to the diocese as priests and religious. The financial donations Hafey received assisted the diocese, some of which purchased land for churches. In 1937, Hafey became bishop of Scranton, Pennsylvania,[8] leaving the diocese with fifty-two parishes, fifty-three diocesan priests, twenty-six religious order priests, and 10,571 Catholics.[9]

Bishop Eugene McGuinness[edit]

Eugene J. McGuinness replaced Bishop Hafey, being installed on 6 January 1938. McGuinness, a Pennsylvanian priest, had worked for the Catholic Church Extension Society, an organization that gathered and dispersed financial aid to small, poorer dioceses. As bishop of North Carolina, McGuinness continued to seek financial aid, this time for his diocese. In 1944 he requested to be transferred to Oklahoma, and his petition was granted. He left the diocese with eighty-six parishes, eighty-three diocesan priests, fifty-nine religious priests, two hundred thirty-eight religious sisters, and 12,922 Catholics.[10]

Bishop Vincent Waters[edit]

Vincent S. Waters became the third bishop of the Raleigh Diocese. In 1945, he left the missionary territory of Virginia where he had served as a priest and came as bishop to the mission ground of the Raleigh Diocese.[11] He had many goals. Waters wanted the salvation of all people[12] and the conversion of all North Carolinians.[13] To increase conversions, he started the Missionary Apostolate.

Missionary Apostolate[edit]

The Missionary Apostolate was a four part program that used the energies of his seminarians and priests to spread Catholicism. The first aspect of the Apostolate was the Summer Census. Each summer, the seminarians went to different areas of North Carolina, noting the Catholics and distributing Catholic information. The second aspect of the Apostolate was the Apostolate year, in which the newly ordained priests spent their first priestly year at an older priest’s parish, serving at the parish’s missions. The third part of the Apostolate was the Trailer Apostolate.[14] Traveling in trailers to rural areas, the two priests remained in one place for two weeks, teaching Catholicism and celebrating the Sacraments. The diocese’s two trailers each had a chapel, living space, an area for visiting, and an outdoor altar. The fourth aspect of Missionary Apostolate was the Mission Band. Waters stationed two Raleigh priests at two separate parishes outside of the diocese where they preached and solicited donations for the Raleigh Diocese. Priests who remained within the diocese planned retreats for the North Carolina Catholics. These four aspects comprised Waters' Missionary Apostolate.[15]

Conversion Efforts[edit]

To convert the entire state, Waters encouraged each Church to convert one North Carolinian for every adult parishioner. This goal was not realized.[16] Waters was more successful in establishing a Catholic church in every county. At his death, seventy-five of the one hundred North Carolina counties contained churches, though many were missions, lacking a resident pastor because of the shortage of priests.[17] Waters also wanted to increase the number and size of parochial schools. Initially successful, schools increased from fifteen to sixty-four, but following the Second Vatican Council, the number declined, though Waters was still bishop.[18]


Waters began ending segregation in the diocese in June 1953, despite resistance from the North Carolinians.[19] Holy Redeemer Parish in Newton Grove, run by the Redemptorist priests, became the first Church of any denomination in North Carolina to be integrated. On Memorial Day Weekend of 1953, Waters himself celebrated the first integrated Mass. No riots ensued, but tension abounded and both the church and school suffered such a loss of numbers that both closed and the Redemptorists left. Later, the church reopened as Our Lady of Guadalupe and operates to this day.[20] In 1954, St. Monica, a school for black children, joined the Cathedral School for whites. These two became the first integrated schools in North Carolina.[21]


Waters strove to preserve pious Catholic traditions. Unhappy that some religious sisters stopped wearing their habits, Waters wrote a letter in 1971 requesting that the nuns wear their habits or leave the diocese. Some religious sisters kept their habits and continued serving; others left the diocese.[22] Waters also required that his priests wear their clerics in public. Though some people, religious and lay, disliked Waters' rigidity and traditionalism, others supported Waters as he preserved Church traditions.[23]

Growth in the Diocese[edit]

While Waters was bishop, the diocese grew. It increased physically, having received by 1960 the Abbey Nullius as its own property.[24] The diocese covered all of North Carolina except Belmont Abbey, which remained its own diocese under the abbot’s supervision.[25] The diocese had three auxiliary bishops during Waters' episcopate: James Johnston Navagh (1952-1957), Charles Borromeo McLaughlin (1964-1968) and George Edward Lynch (1970-1985).[24] The Raleigh Diocese also grew in numbers; by 1972, the diocese contained over 70,000 Catholics. Pope Paul VI granted Waters’ petition and split the Raleigh Diocese, establishing the Diocese of Charlotte for the west half of North Carolina. The Raleigh Diocese dropped from about 46,000 miles to its current size[1] of about 32,000 miles, stretching from Burlington, just East of Greensboro, to the Atlantic Coast.[26] After nearly thirty years of being Raleigh’s bishop, Waters passed away from a heart attack,[27] leaving North Carolina with seventy-eight diocesan priests, seventy-six religious order priests, and 77,834 Catholics.[28]

Bishop Francis Joseph Gossman[edit]

Bishop Gossman, from Baltimore, Maryland, became the Raleigh Diocese's fourth bishop on May 19, 1975.[29] Gossman relied on the advice of others when making decisions.[30] He encouraged “collegiality,” lay and female assistance in the Church’s duties. Gossman asked the faithful to help by living their faith daily and helping those in need.[31] He also welcomed their assistance in diocesan positions.[32] Religious sisters became pastoral administrators.[33] In 1992, John Riedy became the first lay chancellor of the diocese.[32] Gossman retired in 2006 after leading the Raleigh Diocese for over thirty years.[29] During Gossman’s years as bishop, the diocese expanded. The number of Catholics tripled;[34] the diocese had 192,000 registered Catholics in 2006.[35] Over fifty churches were established.[13]

Bishop Michael Burbidge[edit]

Bishop Burbidge, Philadelphia’s auxiliary bishop (2002-2006), became the fifth bishop of the Raleigh Diocese.[36] Burbidge, still bishop in 2011, is known for his faithfulness to the Church and his familiarity with the people of his diocese.[37] In the fall of 2007, he started the Diocese of Raleigh Home Mission Society.

Diocese of Raleigh Home Mission Society[edit]

The diocese had stopped receiving donations from the Catholic Church Extension Society in 2000 since they had raised a substantial amount of money, but many people, Hispanics, northern Catholics, and military families, were immigrating to North Carolina. The diocese needed more, larger churches. Burbidge started the Home Mission Society to help raise funds for the construction of churches in the mission areas of North Carolina.[13]

New Cathedral[edit]

Bishop Burbidge has announced the building of a new Cathedral for the Diocese of Raleigh to replace the existing Sacred Heart Cathedral which is too small. The new cathedral will be to be named the Cathedral of the Holy Name of Jesus. Building work commenced in 2013.[38]

Size of the Diocese in 2010[edit]

In 2010, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh contained ninety-six parishes, missions, and stations; seven Catholic centers on college campuses; seventy active diocesan priests and forty-nine active religious priests; sixty-four religious sisters; forty-seven religious men; 217,000 registered Catholics; and 240,000 unregistered Hispanics.[39]

Education in the Diocese[edit]

The Diocese of Raleigh currently has two high schools, as well as a lay-run high school, and many lower schools. Of these include;

High Schools[edit]

Pope John Paul II High School[edit]

In 2010, Pope John Paul II High School in Greenville, North Carolina, became the second diocesan high school. In the 2010-2011 school year, the high school taught only ninth grade. Each consecutive school year, the next grade will be added, until all four years of high school will be taught.[40] This high school illustrates the growth that is still happening in the diocese.

Elementary & Middle Schools[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b “Diocese.” The Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, 2010. Web. 12 Oct. 2010.
  2. ^ “Historical Timeline.” Immaculate Conception Church, 2010. Web. 22 Oct. 2010.
  3. ^ a b “Belmont Abbey Founded In 1876 In ‘Wilds of North Carolina’” North Carolina Catholic 1 Sept. 1970: 42. Print.
  4. ^ Powers, William F. Tar Heel Catholics: A History of Catholicism in North Carolina. Lanham: University Press of America, 2003. Print. 235-236.
  5. ^ Ibid. 238
  6. ^ Powers, William F. Tar Heel Catholics: A History of Catholicism in North Carolina. Lanham: University Press of America, 2003. Print. 237-238.
  7. ^ Ibid. 239, 241, 243.
  8. ^ Ibid. 242-258.
  9. ^ Ibid. 262-263.
  10. ^ Ibid. 259-264.
  11. ^ Ibid. 12-13.
  12. ^ Ibid. 11-13.
  13. ^ a b c Reece, Richard. “Mission Possible: Eastern North Carolina—Catholic? The Raleigh Home Mission Society Could Make it Happen.” NC Catholic. NC Catholic Magazine, Jan/Feb. 2008. Web. 22 October 2010.
  14. ^ “Church On Wheels Brought Faith To All In N.C. Area.” North Carolina Catholic 1 Sept. 1970: 52. Print.
  15. ^ Powers, William F. Tar Heel Catholics: A History of Catholicism in North Carolina. Lanham: University Press of America, 2003. Print. 41-54.
  16. ^ Ibid. 62-63.
  17. ^ Ibid. 32-33.
  18. ^ Ibid. 56-58.
  19. ^ Ellis, John Tracy. American Catholicism. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1956. Print. 148.
  20. ^ Powers, William F. Tar Heel Catholics: A History of Catholicism in North Carolina. Lanham: University Press of America, 2003. Print. 15-23.
  21. ^ Reece, Richard. “100 Years of Catholic Education.” NC Catholic. NC Catholic Magazine, Jan. 2009. Web. 22 October 2010.
  22. ^ Powers, William F. Tar Heel Catholics: A History of Catholicism in North Carolina. Lanham: University Press of America, 2003. Print. 72-74.
  23. ^ Ibid. 79-81, 83.
  24. ^ a b Cheney, David M. "Diocese of Raleigh". Catholic-Hierarchy. Retrieved 2010-10-12. 
  25. ^ “Belmont Abbey Founded In 1876 In ‘Wilds of North Carolina’” North Carolina Catholic. 1 Sept. 1970: 42. Print.
  26. ^ “Where We Serve.” The Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, 2010. Web. 12 Oct. 2010.
  27. ^ Powers, William F. Tar Heel Catholics: A History of Catholicism in North Carolina. Lanham: University Press of America, 2003. Print. 85.
  28. ^ Ibid. 34.
  29. ^ a b “Bishop Emeritus.” The Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, 2010. Web. 12 Oct. 2010.
  30. ^ Powers, William F. Tar Heel Catholics: A History of Catholicism in North Carolina. Lanham: University Press of America, 2003. Print. 426.
  31. ^ Munger, Guy. “Cardinal to speak: Bishop Gossman will celebrate 25 years with silver jubilee at Civic Center September 11.” NC Catholic 5 Sept. 1993: 2. Print.
  32. ^ a b Munger, Guy. “Bishop Gossman: A shepherd for today’s Church and a product of his times.” NC Catholic 5 Sept. 1993: 4-5, 7. Print.
  33. ^ Powers, William F. Tar Heel Catholics: A History of Catholicism in North Carolina. Lanham: University Press of America, 2003. Print. 427-434.
  34. ^ Hetzler, Sue. “Work is never done: Bishop Gossman is a shepherd with a post-Vatican II manner.” NC Catholic 5 Sept. 1993: 20-21. Print.
  35. ^ “Bishops of Raleigh.” Sacred Heart Cathedral, 2010. Web. 12 Oct. 2010.
  36. ^ “Bishop.” The Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, 2010. Web. 12 Oct. 2010.
  37. ^ “‘People Person’ prepares to take the helm of Raleigh Diocese.” Catholic News Agency, n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2010.
  38. ^ "Bishop Burbidge Announces Plans for New Cathedral Campus", Diocese of Raleigh website (retrieved 14 february 2012)
  39. ^ “Diocese.” The Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, 2010. Web. 12 Oct. 2010.
  40. ^ “About.” Pope John Paul II High School, 11 March 2010. Web. 19 Oct. 2010.

External links[edit]