Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington

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Diocese of Burlington

Dioecesis Burlingtonensis
StJosephsCoCathedral 20150809.jpg
Cathedral of Saint Joseph
Coat of arms of the Diocese of Burlington
Coat of arms
Country United States
TerritoryState of Vermont
Ecclesiastical provinceBoston
Coordinates44°28′47″N 73°12′53″W / 44.47972°N 73.21472°W / 44.47972; -73.21472Coordinates: 44°28′47″N 73°12′53″W / 44.47972°N 73.21472°W / 44.47972; -73.21472
Area9,135 sq mi (23,660 km2)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2015)
125,500 (19%)
DenominationRoman Catholic
RiteRoman Rite
EstablishedJuly 29, 1853 by Pope Pius IX
CathedralCathedral of Saint Joseph
Patron saintImmaculate Conception
Saint Joseph
Secular priests135
Current leadership
BishopChristopher J. Coyne
Metropolitan ArchbishopSeán Patrick O'Malley
Vicar GeneralRev. Msgr. John McDermott
Diocese of Burlington map.png

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington (Latin: Dioecesis Burlingtonensis) is a diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in the New England region of the United States, comprising the entire state of Vermont. The Diocese of Burlington was canonically erected on July 29, 1853 by Pope Pius IX. Its territories were taken from the former Diocese of Boston. The Burlington See is a suffragan diocese of the Archdiocese of Boston.[1] Bishop Christopher J. Coyne has been the diocesan bishop since 2015. The cathedral church is Saint Joseph's in Burlington. In August 2019, the Diocese unveiled a list of priests who were accused of sex abuse.[2]


Originally Vermont was included within the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Baltimore, established in 1789. The bishops of Quebec continued, as they had in the past, to look after the spiritual interests of the Catholic settlers and Indians. When the Diocese of Boston was formed in 1810 Vermont became part of its territory.

In 1801, Bishop John Carroll of the Diocese of Baltimore accepted the offer of Bishop Denault of the Diocese of Quebec to care for French-speaking Catholics in Vermont.

In the early years of the nineteenth century, there were no priests residing in Vermont. Father Matignon, of Boston, visited Burlington in 1815 and counted about 100 Catholic Canadians. About 1818 Father Migneault from Chambly, Quebec, looked after the spiritual needs of the settlers on the shores of Lake Champlain for several years. He was appointed vicar-general of this part of the diocese by the Bishop of Boston and continued in that capacity until 1853.

Father Fitton, of Boston, came to Burlington for a short time in the summer of 1829. Bishop Fenwick, second Bishop of Boston, visited Windsor in 1826. The first resident priest in Vermont was Rev. Jeremiah O'Callaghan from 1830 until 1847. He was sent by Fenwick to Vermont, and visited successively Wallingford, Pittsford, Vergennes, and Burlington. He settled at Burlington, where he ministered for nearly a quarter of a century. His field of labor extended from Rutland to the Canadian line, a distance of about 100 miles (160 km), and from the shores of Lake Champlain to the Connecticut River.

Fenwick made his first pastoral visit, as Bishop of Boston, to Vermont in 1830, and in 1832 he dedicated the first church built in Vermont in the nineteenth century. This was erected at Burlington under the supervision of Father O'Callaghan.

In 1837 Rev. John Daley came to the southern part of the state. He is described as an "eccentric, but very learned man". During the time of his zealous labors in Vermont, he had no particular home. He usually made his headquarters at Rutland or Middlebury. He acted as a missionary, traveling from place to place wherever there were Catholics, and stopping wherever night overtook him. He remained in the state until 1854 and died in New York in 1870.

A census of the Catholic population of Vermont, taken in 1843, showed the total number to be 4940. At about this time emigration from European countries, particularly from Ireland, increased. The Catholic population increased.

During 1837 to 1854, Father John B. Daly performed missionary work in southern Vermont.

In 1852 a meeting of the bishops of the province of New York decided to ask the Holy See to erect Vermont into a diocese, with Burlington as the see city. Bishop Fitzpatrick of Boston proposed for Bishop of Burlington, Louis de Goesbriand, Vicar-General of Cleveland, Ohio. On 29 July 1853, the Diocese of Burlington was created and Father De Goesbriand named as bishop. He was consecrated at New York by the apostolic delegate,[3] Mgr Bedini, on October 30, 1853. On November 5, he arrived at Burlington. He was installed the following day by Bishop Fitzpatrick. Bishop De Goesbriand visited the entire diocese. He found about 20,000 Catholics scattered throughout Vermont. In 1855 he visited France and Ireland for the purpose of securing priests for the Diocese of Vermont. He brought to the diocese in the succeeding years, several priests who helped build the Church in Vermont.

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (1867-1972)

The first diocesan synod was held at Burlington, October 4, 1855. Rev. Thomas Lynch was appointed vicar-general in 1858. The gothic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was built in Burlington starting in 1861 under the supervision of Bishop De Goesbriand. It was completed and dedicated on December 8, 1867. By 1881 DeGoesbriand had a dozen priests to serve 6,000 congregants scattered throughout the state.[4]

In the 1870s, the diocese bought about 25 acres (10 ha) of land on North Avenue from a former Burlington Free Press editor. It built a Victorian house there, where it maintained an orphanage for nearly a century. In 1945, it bought about 7 acres (2.8 ha) adjacent and created the Don Bosco School for delinquent boys. After the school and orphanage closed, the diocese moved its headquarters there. Decades later, former residents filed complaints of physical and sexual abuse by former clergy. Attempting to meet a settlement of $30 million, the diocese sold the property to Burlington College for $10 million in 2010.[5] The Diocese's St. Joseph Orphanage, which as numerous sex abuse allegations,[6] would be sold in as well.[6]

In 1891, the ratio of French priests to francophone parishioners was the highest in New England in the diocese of Burlington (1:1610).[7]

Bishop De Goesbriand served for thirty-eight years. In 1892, because of his advancing years and failing health, he requested the appointment of a coadjutor. Rev. J. S. Michaud, then pastor of Bennington, Vermont, was appointed. Bishop De Goesbriand retired to the orphanage, which he himself had founded.

Michaud completed the Cathedral Church, built the Fanny Allen Hospital and staffed it with the Religious Hospitalers of St. Joseph. The Sisters of Charity of Providence operated another new hospital in St. Johnsbury; the Loretto Home for the Aged in Rutland was served by the Sisters of St. Joseph. In 1904, the Bishop invited the dedicated Society of Saint Edmund to establish Saint Michael's College at Winooski Park. In 1905, the Daughters of Charity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus came to Newport where they opened a mission to serve as teachers, nurses and catechists for the Northeast Kingdom.[8]

During his tenure, Michaud expanded the number of churches in Vermont from 72 to 94. There were 75,000 Catholics, 102 priests, 286 religious sisters, and 20 parochial schools serving some 7000 students.

Bishop Michaud died on December 22, 1908. Rev. J.J. Rice, D.D., then pastor of St. Peter's Church, Northbridge, Massachusetts, was selected as his successor. Bishop Rice was consecrated on 14 April 1910.

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (1977-2018)

In March 1972, an arsonist burned the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to the ground. A modern cathedral with the same name was erected on the same site in 1977.[9][10][11]

Catholic schools experienced a 24% drop in enrollment between 1998 and 2008 - from 3,190 to 2,431.[12]

In 1999 Saint Joseph Church in Burlington was elevated as the co-cathedral of the diocese.[13] Burlington became one of only four American dioceses to have two active cathedral parishes in the same city—the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Diocese of Honolulu, and the Diocese of Brooklyn are the other three.[14]

In 2010, the diocese ordained four priests, the highest number in decades.[15]

On December 22, 2014, Pope Francis appointed the Most Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, formerly the Auxiliary Bishop of Indianapolis, as the next diocesan bishop, replacing the Most Rev. Salvatore Ronald Matano, who was appointed as the Bishop of the Diocese of Rochester. Bishop Coyne's installation took place on January 29, 2015, at the Co-Cathedral of Saint Joseph.

On October 11, 2018, the Diocese of Burlington announced that the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception would be sold following a long period of low attendance and that its members would be transferred to St. Joseph's, which became the sole cathedral.[16]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Diocese of Burlington" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.

Sex Abuse[edit]

In 2010, the diocese settled 26 lawsuits for sexual abuse by priests, for $20,278,781 in 2018 dollars. Predating 2010, sexual abuse allegations were brought against the diocese who operated the St. Joseph Orphanage on North Avenue in Burlington for decades. It shut its doors in 1974. It was formerly managed by the Sisters of Providence. In the 1990s, more than 100 former St. Joseph's Orphanage residents stated that they were physically, sexually and emotionally abused by nuns, priests or lay staff workers in the 1940s, `50s and `60s. Abuses of the former residents included being tied to trees, whipped, locked in small boxes, raped, beaten, burned with cigarettes and matches, hung upside down outside windows, tossed into water to "sink or swim' and in some alleged instances, murdered. The diocese spent more than $300,000 to settle the claims of 60 orphans who lived in the orphanage in the 1950s and 1960s. Lawyers for the diocese had asked the court to throw out the lawsuits. Statements made by four nuns and two priests who worked at the orphanage weakened claims by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington that abuse charges could not be corroborated. Additionally, five out of eight priests at St. Joseph’s were also accused of sexual abuse that accused in other litigations. The accused priests were Fathers Foster, Bresnehan, Devoy, Emile Savary, and Donald LaRouche, who ruled over St. Joseph’s 39 years of existence. The grounds at St. Joseph’s has long since been sold off by the Catholic church, and was recently purchased by a developer who converted it into several upscale condos and renamed it ‘Liberty House’. [17] In August 2019, the Diocese of Burlington released the names of 40 clergy, out of 419 priests who had served in the state since 1950, who were "credibly accused" of committing acts of sex abuse, with most being deceased and none still in active ministry.[6][18] Much of the named abuse occurred at St Josephs, and all but one of these named acts took place before the year 2000.[6]


Number of Catholics in diocese[19]
YearPop.±% p.a.

There are twelve deaneries in the diocese.

  1. Addison
  2. Bennington
  3. Burlington
  4. Caledonia
  5. Capitol
  6. Franklin
  7. Orleans
  8. Rutland
  9. South Burlington
  10. Windham
  11. Windsor
  12. Winooski



The list of bishops and their years of service:

  1. Louis de Goesbriand (1853–1899)
  2. John Stephen Michaud (1899–1908)
  3. Joseph John Rice (1910–1938)
  4. Matthew Francis Brady (1938–1944), appointed Bishop of Manchester
  5. Edward Francis Ryan (1944–1956)
  6. Robert Francis Joyce (1956–1971)
  7. John Aloysius Marshall (1971–1992), appointed Bishop of Springfield in Massachusetts
  8. Kenneth Anthony Angell (1992–2005)
  9. Salvatore Ronald Matano (2005–2014), appointed Bishop of Rochester
  10. Christopher J. Coyne (2015–present)

Priests of the diocese who became bishops:


Lisa Lorenz is the superintendent of schools.[20]

There are fifteen Catholic schools in Vermont.[21][22]

4 secondary/high schools:

11 parochial/parish elementary/middle schools:[23]

Student enrollment dropped 24% from 3,190 to 2,431 from 1999 to 2008.[25]


In 2005, the Vermont diocese had net assets of $5,679,217. This figure includes assets acquired "at cost."[26] An insurance company has estimated that it would cost $400 million to replace the physical assets of the diocese, including churches, schools, and nursing homes.[27]

The Vermont Catholic Charities had total net assets of $3,874,935.[28]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Diocese of Burlington". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  2. ^
  3. ^ A special envoy of the pope
  4. ^ "Find a Parish/Mass Time - Parishes - VT Roman Catholic Diocese".
  5. ^ Alicia Freese (November 5, 2014). "Who Will Get the Land Around Burlington College?". Seven Days. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d
  7. ^ Bélanger, Claude. "Quebec History".
  8. ^ Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine retrieved June 19, 2007
  9. ^ Priest, Scranton (November 29, 2008). "The Sacred Congregation of Rites: The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception".
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-12-01. Retrieved 2009-02-09. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ Duffy, John J.; Hand, Samuel B.; Orth, Ralph H. (September 14, 2003). "The Vermont Encyclopedia". UPNE – via Google Books.
  12. ^ Burlington Free Press, June 17, 2009, page 3B, "Diocese to merge schools," from staff, wire reports
  13. ^ "St. Joseph Parish History". Cathedral of St. Joseph. Retrieved 2019-06-16.
  14. ^ "Cathedrals in United States" (Website). Retrieved 2008-01-27.
  15. ^ "Still Fishers of Men". Vermont Catholic. 1 (12): 3. June 2010.
  16. ^ D'Ambrosio, Dan (October 11, 2018). "Burlington's Immaculate Conception, once a cathedral, to be sold". Burlington Free Press. Retrieved 2019-06-16.
  17. ^ Romano, Salvatore (June 2010). "Diocese of Burlington resolves cases". Vermont Catholic. 1 (12): 2.
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Vermont Catholic Church faces big drop in numbers". Rutland Herald. Archived from the original on 2015-05-30. Retrieved 2014-06-24. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  20. ^ "Welcome to Vermont Roman Catholic Diocese". Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-06-29. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) retrieved July 24, 2007
  22. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-09-27. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) retrieved July 24. 2007
  23. ^ retrieved July 23, 2007
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-09-27. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) retrieved July 24, 2007
  25. ^ Ryan, Matt (February 18, 2009). SCHOOL:ST. Joseph must boost enrollment. Burlington Free Press.
  26. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-09-27. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  27. ^ [1] retrieved July 18, 2009[dead link]
  28. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-09-27. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) retrieved on June 18, 2007

External links[edit]