Roman Catholic Diocese of Belleville
Diocese of Belleville
|Territory||28 counties in southern Illinois|
|Area||11,678 sq mi (30,250 km2)|
|(as of 2012)|
|Sui iuris church||Latin Church|
|Established||January 7, 1887 (136 years ago)|
|Cathedral||St. Peter's Cathedral|
|Patron saint||Immaculate Heart of Mary|
|Secular priests||98 (45 active)|
|Bishop||Michael G. McGovern|
|Metropolitan Archbishop||Blase J. Cupich|
|Bishops emeritus||Edward Braxton|
The Diocese of Belleville (Latin: Diœcesis Bellevillensis) is a Latin Church ecclesiastical territory, or diocese, of the Catholic Church in the Southern Illinois region of the United States. It is a suffragan see in the ecclesiastical province of the metropolitan Archdiocese of Chicago.
The mother church for the diocese is the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Belleville. Michael G. McGovern is the current bishop of Belleville.
1600 to 1700
During the 17th century, present day Illinois was part of the French colony of New France. The Diocese of Quebec, which had jurisdiction over the colony, sent numerous French missionaries to the region. It was estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 Native American converts and French trappers and settlers throughout the region were tended to by these Jesuit missionaries.
The French missionary Claude-Jean Allouez was stationed at Kaskaskia, Illinois, for eight weeks from June to August 1673 before returning to St. Francis Xavier Mission near De Pere, Wisconsin.
Illinois has some of the oldest catholic churches in the American Midwest. The records of the church of Kaskaskia, dating back to 1695, name Jacques Gravier as the missionary priest. French missionaries opened the Cahokia mission of Holy Family in 1699. At that time, the Catholics of Cahokia and the surrounding territory, including the city of St. Louis across the river, were attended to by Father De Saintpierre.
1700 to 1800
The organization of the congregation of Prairie du Rocher, Illinois coincides with the building of the first Fort de Chartres on the Mississippi River in 1720. Jen Le Boullenger, chaplain of the militia stationed at the Fort, was placed in charge of the congregation. The mission church was dedicated to Saint Anne. In 1743, J. Gagnon took charge of the mission, serving there until his death in 1755. His remains were interred alongside the altar in the chapel in the mission cemetery. This chapel was built in 1734, and dedicated to Saint Joseph. In 1768, Pierre Gibault was appointed vicar general of the Archdiocese of Quebec for the Illinois area, now part of the British Province of Quebec.
In 1776, the Illinois area was claimed by the new United States. After the American Revolution ended in 1783, Pope Pius VI erected in 1784 the Prefecture Apostolic of the United States, encompassing the entire territory of the new nation. In 1785, the vicar apostolic, John Carroll, sent his first missionary to Illinois. In 1787, the Illinois area became part of the Northwest Territory of the United States. Pius VI created the Diocese of Baltimore, the first diocese in the United States, to replace the prefecture apostolic in 1789.
1800 to 1887
When the Vatican erected the Diocese of Bardstown in Kentucky in 1808, it gained jurisdiction over the Illinois area. The earliest parishes in the region were the Irish St. Patrick's in Ruma in 1818, the French St. Francis in St. Francisville in 1818 and the English St. Augustine of Canterbury in Hecker in 1824. In 1827, the Diocese of St. Louis assumed jurisdiction over the western half of the new state of Illinois. In 1834, the Vatican erected the Diocese of Vincennes, which included eastern Illinois.
When the Diocese of Chicago was erected in 1843, it included all the Illinois counties from the Diocese of St. Louis and Vincennes. In 1857, Pope Pius IX erected the new Diocese of Alton, transferring all of Southern Illinois from the Diocese of Chicago. The Southern Illinois area would remain part of the Diocese of Alton, for the next 30 years.
1887 to 1970
The Diocese of Belleville was created on January 7, 1887, by Pope Leo XIII. All of its in southern Illinois territory was taken from the Diocese of Alton. The first bishop of the new diocese was John Janssen of Alton, appointed by the pope in 1888. By 1902, the diocese contained 104 churches, 94 priests, 64 parochial schools and 50,000 Catholics. In 1903, at Janssen's request, the Poor Handmaids of Christ religious order set up a hospital in East St. Louis, Illinois. The hospital was open to all patients, regardless of race or religion. Janssen died in 1913.
Pope Pius X appointed Henry J. Althoff as bishop of Belleville in 1913 to replace Janssen. In July 1927. Atholl banned female parishioners from receiving communion if they were wearing makeup, sleeveless tops or low-cut tops. In 1937, Althoff forbade church-sponsored gambling in the diocese, encouraging Catholics to support their parishes by direct contribution rather than parish parties and festivals. Later that year, he banned dancing the night before a holy day. Since New Years Day was a holy day, that meant no dancing on New Year's Eve.
Althoff died in 1947 after a 20-year tenure as bishop. Pope Pius XII named Albert Zuroweste as the next bishop of Belleville. In 1969, Zuroweste became embroiled in a racial dispute in Cairo, Illinois. He had sent Gerald Montroy to Cairo in 1968 to minister to the poor and to African-Americans. After meeting with the local pastor, Montroy became convinced that the pastor had no desire to welcome African-Americans to his parish. In response, Montroy reopened St. Columba, a shuttered mission in Cairo, and started holding masses there for African-American Catholics. He also provided facilities for Black Power activists looking to challenge racial discrimination in that city. Zuroweste came under pressure from Cairo to recall Montroy, but gave him qualified support after demands from progressive Catholic organizations. After several shooting incidents, Montroy accused a local white group of vigilantism and the local pastor of trying to oust him.
1970 to present
In December 1971, Zuroweste excommunicated Bernard Bodewes, a diocesan priest he had sent to Cairo to help Montroy. Bodewes had sued Zuroweste for $7,350 in damages for withholding his pay since January 1. Bodewes said that Zuroweste had withheld the pay because he was angry over Bodewes' support of Montroy's initiatives in Cairo. By 1972, Zuroweste took action to evict Montroy and the organizations working in Saint Columba.
When Zuroweste retired in 1977, Pope Paul VI named Auxiliary Bishop William Cosgrove of the Diocese of Cleveland. as the next bishop of Belleville. Cosgrove served until his retirement in 1981. Pope John Paul II replaced Zuroweste that same year with John Wurm from the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Wurm died three years later. John Paul II then appointed James Patrick Keleher of the Archdiocese of Chicago as the new bishop of Belleville. In 1993, the pope named Keleher archbishop of St. Louis. Auxiliary Bishop Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Chicago was appointed by John Paul II as bishop of the Diocese of Belleville in 1993. In 2004, the pope named him as archbishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
The current bishop of Belleville is Michael G. McGovern from the Archdiocese of Chicago, appointed by Pope Francis in 2020. In July 2022, McGovern announced the planned sale of the diocesan bishop's residence and his move to a more modest space in the Cathedral of St. Peter rectory. The money from the sale, he announced, would be used to subsidize various ministries and charities, including the establishment of a fund benefiting expectant mothers and children.
During a 2008 lawsuit against the Diocese of Belleville, information was revealed about Bishop Zuroweste's treatment of a child abuser priest. In 1973 Gina Parks, a 16-year-old parishioner in St. Francisville, Illinois, told diocesan officials that her parish priest, Raymond Kownacki, had raped and impregnated her. Kownacki also encouraged Parks to have an abortion. After hearing her story, Zuroweste did not report the allegations to the police or initiate an investigation. Instead, he transferred Kownacki several months later to St. Theresa Parish in Salem, Illinois, without any restrictions. By 1982, allegations surfaced that Kownacki was sexually abusing young boys at St. Theresa, resulting in the 2008 lawsuit.
On October 27, 2020, Bishop McGovern removed Anthony Onyango from his position as administrator for two parishes, citing an allegation of "inappropriate behavior" with a minor.
Bishops of Belleville
- John Janssen (1888–1913)
- Henry J. Althoff (1913–1947)
- Albert Rudolph Zuroweste (1947–1976)
- William Michael Cosgrove (1976–1981)
- John Nicholas Wurm (1981–1984)
- James Patrick Keleher (1984–1993), appointed Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas
- Wilton Daniel Gregory (1993–2004), appointed Archbishop of Atlanta
- Edward Kenneth Braxton (2005–2020)
- Michael McGovern (2020–Present)
Stanley Girard Schlarman (1979-1983), appointed Bishop of Dodge City
Other diocesan priest who became bishop
Joseph Henry Leo Schlarman, appointed Bishop of Peoria in 1930 and subsequently named archbishop ad personam
- Althoff Catholic High School – Belleville
- Gibault Catholic High School – Waterloo
- Mater Dei High School – Breese
- Camp Ondessonk – Ozark
- Pierre-Gabriel Marest, missionary at Kaskaskia
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- ^ "Catholics & Chance". Time. 1937-12-27. Archived from the original on January 25, 2012.
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- ^ a b Pimblott, Kerry (2017-01-20). Faith in Black Power: Religion, Race, and Resistance in Cairo, Illinois. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-6891-3.
- ^ "PRIEST IS OUSTED FOR SUING BISHOP". The New York Times. 1971-12-19. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-06-06.
- ^ Good, Paul; Rights, United States Commission on Civil (1973). Cairo, Illinois: Racism at Floodtide. U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
- ^ "Illinois Diocese to sell Bishop's manor, proceeds to help expectant mothers". July 14, 2022.
- ^ "Background: Wisniewski v. Diocese of Belleville". National Catholic Reporter. 2011-07-25. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
- ^ Maddox, Teri (October 2, 2020). "Catholic Diocese of Belleville removes priest to investigate allegation involving minor". Belleville News-Democrat. Retrieved October 18, 2021.
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