Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie

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Diocese of Erie

Diocesis Eriensis
Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie.svg
Coat of arms of the Diocese of Erie
Country United States
Ecclesiastical provinceArchdiocese of Philadelphia
Coordinates42°07′27″N 80°05′13″W / 42.12417°N 80.08694°W / 42.12417; -80.08694Coordinates: 42°07′27″N 80°05′13″W / 42.12417°N 80.08694°W / 42.12417; -80.08694
Area10,167 sq mi (26,330 km2)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2010)
221,508 (25.7%)
RiteRoman Rite
CathedralSt. Peter Cathedral
Patron saintSt. Patrick
Secular priests169
Current leadership
BishopLawrence T. Persico
Metropolitan ArchbishopCharles J. Chaput
Bishops emeritusDonald Walter Trautman
Location of the Diocese of Erie in Pennsylvania
Location of the Diocese of Erie in Pennsylvania
St. Peter Cathedral
St Patrick's is the oldest Catholic parish in Erie, Pennsylvania

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie (Latin: Dioecesis Eriensis) is a Roman Catholic diocese in western Pennsylvania. It was founded on July 29, 1853. It is one of seven suffragan sees in Pennsylvania that make up the Ecclesiastical Province of Philadelphia, which is headed by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.


Erie is geographically the largest diocese in Pennsylvania, covering 10,167 square miles (26,332.41 km2). Erie diocese covers 13 counties in Northwestern Pennsylvania. About 220,000 Catholics (74,000 families) reside in the diocese. They educate 14,000 children and youth in their religious education programs.[1]


Bishops of Erie[edit]

  1. Michael O'Connor, S.J. (1853-1854), appointed Bishop of Pittsburgh
  2. Joshua Maria Young (1854-1866)
  3. Tobias Mullen (1868-1899)
  4. John Edmund Fitzmaurice (1899-1920)
  5. John Mark Gannon (1920-1966), elevated to Archbishop (ad personam) in 1953
  6. John Francis Whealon (1966-1968), appointed Archbishop of Hartford
  7. Alfred Michael Watson (1969-1982)
  8. Michael Joseph Murphy (1982-1990)
  9. Donald Walter Trautman (1990-2012)
  10. Lawrence T. Persico (2012-present)

Auxiliary Bishops[edit]

  • John Mark Gannon (1917-1920), appointed Bishop of Erie
  • Edward Peter McManaman (1948-1964)
  • Alfred Michael Watson (1965-1969), appointed Bishop of Erie

Other priests of this diocese who became Bishops[edit]


The diocese is divided into three vicariates:

The Eastern Vicariate consists of parishes in Cameron, Clearfield, Elk, Jefferson, McKean, and Potter counties. It has deaneries at Bradford, Clearfield, Dubois, and St. Mary's.
The Northern Vicariate consists of parishes in Erie, part of Forest, and Warren counties. It has Erie East and Erie West deaneries in Erie, Pennsylvania, plus a deanery in Warren.
The Western Vicariate consists of parishes in Clarion, Crawford, part of Forest, Mercer, and Venango. It has deaneries in Meadville, Oil City, and Sharon.[2]


Historically significant parishes include:[3]

Oldest Existing Parishes by Church Dedication Dates:[4]

  • St. Francis Assisi, Clearfield (Oldest parish community in diocese; original church dedicated by Bishop Francis Patrick Kenrick of Philadelphia in 1832)
  • St. Philip, Crossingville (Original church dedicated by Bishop Kenrick, 1834)
  • St. Nicholas of Tolentino, Crates (Original church dedicated by Bishop Kenrick, 1835)
  • St. Michael, the Archangel, Fryburg (Original church dedicated by Bishop Kenrick, 1836)
  • St. Hippolyte, Frenchtown (Original church dedicated by Bishop Kenrick, 1837)

Other Historically-significant Parishes:

  • St. Mary's, Erie (German origins, pioneer parish)
  • St. Patrick's Pro-Cathedral, Erie (Pioneer parish)
  • St. Peter Cathedral, Erie (Significant edifice)
  • St. Stanislaus, Erie (Polish origins)
  • St. Mary, St. Marys (Bavarian German origins, over 150 years old)

There are 120 parishes in the Erie diocese today, encompassing 151 churches.[1]

Administrative offices[edit]

The diocesan offices are located at St. Mark Catholic Center in Erie, Pennsylvania.[5]

Reports of sex abuse[edit]

In early 2016, a grand jury investigation, led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, began an inquiry into sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in six Pennsylvania dioceses: Allentown, Scranton, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Greensburg, and Erie.[6] The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia were not included, as they had been the subjects of earlier investigations.[6]

In April 2018, the Diocese of Erie published a list of 34 priests and 17 laypeople who had been "credibly accused" of sexually abusing children.[7][8] By July, the list had grown to include 64 names.[9]

On July 27, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered that a redacted copy of the grand jury report be released to the public.[10] The grand jury report was published on August 14, 2018 and revealed that at least 41 clergy in Diocese of Erie were accused of sex abusing children.[11] 39 clergy accused of sexually abusing children had their names publicly shown and only two of the accused had their names redacted.[11] Bishop Persico, who received praise from Shapiro, acknowledged there was a cover-up in the church.[12] Former Bishop Donald Trautman, who was criticized in the report alongside former Bishop Michael Murphy for allowing "predator priest" Chester Gawronski to remain in the Diocese despite numerous allegations of sexual abuse,[12][13] criticized Shapiro's portrayal of him in the report and noted that he had established guidelines in 1993 concerning how to deal with sexual abuse and later established the Diocesan Office for the Protection of Children and Youth in 2003 to protect children from sex abuse.[14] Nevertheless, it was acknowledged that both Murphy and Trautman reassigned Gawronski multiple times between 1987 and 2002 and that Trautman renewed Gawronski's five-year term as a chaplain in St Mary's Home in Erie in 2001.[12]

Former Erie priest and current Bishop of Altoona-Johnstown Mark Bartchak was also criticized in the report for his handling of 2005 investigation against former Erie priest William Presley.[11] Bartchak was assigned by the Vatican during this time to investigate claims against Presley, who served in the Erie Diocese between 1963 and 1986, and continuously re-interviewed a male victim who previously disclosed his alleged abuse to the diocese in 1982, 1987 and 2002.[11] On Aug. 25, 2005, Bartchak sent a secret memo to then-Erie Bishop Donald Walter Trautman.[11] Parts of the memo read “I was not surprised to learn from other witnesses from the Elk County area, that there are likely to be other victims” and that "it is likely that there may be others who were also of the age for the offenses to be considered delicts, but to what end is it necessary to follow every lead?”[11] Bartchak also stated in another secret memo following a meeting with Trautman on August 29, 2005 "Bishop Trautman decided that in order to preclude further scandal, these additional witnesses should not be contacted, especially given the fact that it is not likely that they will lead to information concerning delicts involving minors under 16 years of age.”[11]

On October 17, 2018, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro accepted a guilty plea from former Diocese of Erie priest David Lee Poulson on charges of corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of children. Poulson had been accused of repeatedly sexually abusing one boy and attempting to sexually abuse another.[15] Both are third-degree felonies, but also require a 10 year registration period as a sex offender.[15] On January 11, 2019, Poulson, who was also one of two priests in the state of Pennsylvania charged following the grand jury report,[16] was given a 2 1/2 to 14 year prison sentence,[17] which he immediately began serving.[16] On March 15, 2019, Bishop Persico announced that Pope Francis had issued an order defrocking Poulson on March 5, 2019.[18][19][20]

Religious institutes[edit]

St. Stanislaus is a Polish Catholic parish in Erie, Pennsylvania




Erie Diocese has many charities throughout all of the parishes. There are 9 main charities within the diocese. Better Homes for Erie, Christ the King Manor, Counseling & Adoption Services, Foreign Missions, Harborcreek Youth Services, Saint John XXIII Home Donate to Mission of Friendship, Parish Care and Concern, Prince of Peace Center, Refugee Ministry, St. Martin Center [21]


The diocese has 33 elementary schools and 2 middle schools.[22]

The following high schools are operated by the diocese:

The diocese also founded Gannon University in Erie.


  • Calvary Cemetery and Mausoleum, 3325 West Lake Road, Erie
  • Gate of Heaven Cemetery and Mausoleum, 5711 West Lake Road, Erie
  • Mary, Queen of Peace Cemetery and Mausoleum, 6000 Lake Pleasant Road, Erie
  • Trinity Cemetery 2971 West Lake Road, Erie

See also Erie Diocesan Cemeteries

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Facts about the Erie Diocese." Faith Magazine CSA 2010: 3.
  2. ^ "Map of the Diocese". Erie Roman Catholic Diocese. Retrieved 2007-05-09.
  3. ^ Establishment dates for parishes will vary among sources: some use the arrival date of the first Catholic settlers; others use the date of the congregation's formation, the date of church building dedications, or the arrival date of the first resident priest.
  4. ^ St. Nicholas of Tolentino Church Sesquicentennial Jubilee Commemorative Book, 1978
  5. ^ "About the Diocese". Erie Roman Catholic Diocese. Archived from the original on 2007-05-19. Retrieved 2007-05-09.
  6. ^ a b Couloumbis, Angela (June 17, 2018). "Pa. report to document child sexual abuse, cover-ups in six Catholic dioceses". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
  7. ^ Bonner, Teresa (April 6, 2018). "Diocese publishes list of priests, lay people accused of abuse". Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  8. ^ DeJesus, Ivey (April 6, 2018). "Catholic bishop explains why he released names of predatory priests; confident none remain in ministry". Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  9. ^ "Erie Diocese Releases Names Of Accused Priests, Educators While Grand Jury Report Remains On Hold". KDKA-TV. July 19, 2018. Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  10. ^ Couloumbis, Angela; Navratil, Liz (July 27, 2018). "Pa. Supreme Court: Release redacted report that names more than 300 'predator priests'". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "aug14" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  12. ^ a b c
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^ a b
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Giving". Erie Roman Catholic Diocese. Archived from the original on 2011-04-05.
  22. ^ "Catholic Schools office". Erie Roman Catholic Diocese.

External links[edit]