Roman Catholic Diocese of Saginaw

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Diocese of Saginaw
Dioecesis Saginavensis
Saginaw Diocese COA.png
Country United States
Territory Counties of Arenac, Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Gratiot, Huron, Isabella, Midland, Saginaw, Sanilac and Tuscola.
Ecclesiastical province Detroit
Area 6,955 sq mi (18,010 km2)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2010)
146,200 (19.1%)
Parishes 106
Denomination Roman Catholic
Rite Roman Rite
Established February 26, 1938 (77 years ago)
Cathedral Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption
Current leadership
Pope Francis
Bishop Joseph Robert Cistone
Diocese of Saginaw map 1.jpg
Bishop of Saginaw
Joseph Robert Cistone
Province Archdiocese of Detroit
Diocese Diocese of Saginaw
Cathedral Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption (Saginaw, Michigan)
First incumbent William Francis Murphy
Formation 1938

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Saginaw (Latin: Dioecesis Saginavensis) is a Roman Catholic diocese covering eleven counties in Michigan, USA. It was founded on February 26, 1938; the first bishop was William Francis Murphy.

According to the Vatican's website (<>), on Wednesday, May 20, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Joseph Robert Cistone, auxiliary bishop and vicar general of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and titular bishop of Casae Medianae, as the sixth Bishop of the Diocese of Saginaw to replace Robert James Carlson, who was named Archbishop of Saint Louis to succeed Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke.

As of 2013 the diocese of Saginaw had 113 priests, 19 permanent deacons, 122 religious, 18 pastoral administrator, 261 commissioned lay ministers, and 24 seminarians. There are 26 Catholic schools in the diocese with a total enrollment of 4,033 students in 3 high schools, 1 middle school, and 22 elementary schools. There are 131,937 Catholics (19.3% of the total population of 724,142) in 108 parishes.

Map of the present diocesan boundaries with parishes indicated


The Saginaw Diocese is located in Eastern Central Michigan and consists of eleven counties, covering 6,955 square miles (18,006 square kilometers.) Overall, the population is roughly an even split between urban and rural. The three major urban centers are Saginaw, Bay City, and Midland.


Bishops of the Diocese of Saginaw

The bishops of the Diocese of Saginaw:

Coat of arms[edit]

The coat of arms for the Diocese of Saginaw shows a cross in red on a silver field. There are four flames which symbolize the tongues of fire of Pentecost. The name "Saginaw" means the "Place of the Sauk," who were known to the first Europeans as "Gens de Feu" (People of the Fire). Also, because the cathedral is dedicated to St. Mary and her Assumption, in the center of the cross is a six-pointed star. In addition to symbolizing that the Virgin Mary is the House of David, the six pointed star is also one of the heraldic attributes used to indicate the Assumption of Mary.

Religious institutes[edit]

There are three Motherhouses in the Diocese of Saginaw. These are the Franciscan Poor Clare Nuns (Sisters of St. Clare), the Mission Sisters of the Holy Spirit, and the Religious Sisters of Mercy. Also present in the diocese are 15 women's religious institutes working in various apostolates. These are the Bernardine Sisters of St. Francis, Consolata Mission Sisters, Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Dominican Sisters, Felician Sisters, Servants of Jesus, Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Sisters of St Joseph of Chambrey, Sisters of St. Joseph, Sisters of the Precious Blood, Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Sisters For Christian Community, and the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Four religious institutes of men are represented in the diocese. These are the Capuchin Fathers, Franciscan Friars, Society of Jesus (Jesuits), and the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.


In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville visited Saginaw. The United States was a young nation—about 50 years old—and he had come to record his impressions of America, its people, and their way of life. Saginaw was the northernmost point of his travels. At the time of his visit, Saginaw was considered a wilderness. A small community of about 30 people lived here, compared to Detroit which had 3,000 inhabitants. Pius VIII was pope, and Saginaw was part of the Diocese of Cincinnati. There were no parishes within the area that comprises the Diocese of Saginaw today. The Diocese of Saginaw was formed in 1938 out of 16 counties in the Thumb and Forefinger of Michigan, land which had been part of the Diocese of Grand Rapids and the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Early history[edit]

When the Pope signed the decree establishing the new diocese, he appointed Msgr. William F. Murphy, pastor of St. David Parish in Detroit, to be its first bishop. The 1938 P.J. Kenedy Official Catholic Directory notes that the new Saginaw Diocese had a Catholic population of 77,705, 81 parishes, 31 missions, 112 priests, 41 parishes with schools (of which 17 were high schools), two hospitals, a children's home and a residence for working girls.

To Bishop Murphy fell the task of organizing this new diocese. He purchased an episcopal residence and a chancery office, and then appointed officials needed in the administration of the diocese: Vicar-general, chancellor, deans of the four districts, secretary, marriage tribunal personnel.

Early on the agenda was the formation of a Catholic Charities department, which was initially sponsored by a new League of Catholic Women. A special seminary collection was begun for the education of future priests, as well as a Clergy Benefit society to provide for retired and disabled priests.

For the large migrant and resident Spanish-speaking population, the bishop established the Guadalupe Clinic and the Mexican Apostolate, and for the aging, the St. Francis Home. On February 7, 1950, Bishop Murphy died. Pope Pius XII appointed Bishop Stephen S. Woznicki as head of the diocese on March 28, 1950.

Post-war Growth[edit]

In these years following World War II, the church of Saginaw (like most U.S. dioceses) underwent tremendous growth, with new parishes and missions. In 1956, the Capuchin Fathers agreed to erect Queen of Angels Retreat House to serve the spiritual needs of people and priests of the area.

Since the establishment of the Saginaw Diocese, the education of seminarians was a major concern of its bishops. In 1956, Bishop Woznicki's advisors voted to establish a six-year boarding school for the high school and junior college years of seminarians. The official founding of St. Paul's Seminary took place in 1957, the same year that Fr. James A. Hickey was appointed its rector. In 1961, the seminary opened. Lack of vocations forced it to close in 1970. The building is now the diocesan headquarters and home to Nouvel Catholic Central High School. Bishop Woznicki died in 1968, and was succeeded by Bishop Francis Frederick Reh from the Diocese of Charleston, S.C. As the implementer of Vatican II for the Saginaw Diocese, Bishop Reh established a Clergy Personnel Board to aid him in clergy assignments. A tenure policy limited priests' assignments to a nine-year maximum.

After Vatican II[edit]

Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption, Saginaw

The former four-deanery division of the diocese was multiplied into 12 vicariates. The time-honored tax quota system for diocesan support (employed by many dioceses) was made over into a Catholic Services Appeal directly to the people for their voluntary contributions. In 1975, Bishop Reh renovated and liturgically updated his Cathedral Church of St. Mary. He also established a Diocesan Pastoral Council of lay advisors to himself, as well as an advisory Senate of Priests. Also developed was a Liturgy office, a Finance Board, Latin American Affairs department, Black Catholic Concerns department, and a Human Services Council.

In 1971, the Diocese of Saginaw underwent another change when Pope Paul VI formed the new Diocese of Gaylord from the northern part of the Saginaw Diocese. Although Clare County and Isabella County were added to Saginaw diocesan territory, the re-alignment dropped the diocese from 16 counties to 11 counties which spread across mid-Michigan into the Thumb area.

Over the years, three men from the Saginaw Diocese have gone on to serve the Church as bishops: Cardinal James A. Hickey (retired archbishop of the Washington, D.C. Archdiocese), Kenneth Joseph Povish (retired bishop of the Lansing Diocese), and Bishop Joseph Victor Adamec of Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

Into the New Millennium[edit]

In 1980, Kenneth E. Untener, who was serving as rector of St. John's Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan, was appointed by Pope John Paul II as the fourth bishop of Saginaw. In 1982, Bishop Untener initiated a Come Home program at Christmas time to invite alienated Catholics back to the Church. He has also worked to re-establish the traditional practices of Lent. In the 1990s, he established a commission for women, a diocesan Office for Stewardship and Development, a Catholic Schools Foundation, and a new Center for Ministry which is located next to the diocesan offices. Bishop Untener died of leukemia in 2004.[1]

In late 2004, Pope John Paul II appointed Bishop Robert J. Carlson of the Diocese of Sioux Falls as the fifth bishop of Saginaw. Since his installation in early 2005, Bishop Carlson has emphasized vocations, liturgical renewal, and evangelization within the Saginaw Diocese. The number of seminarians increased from 4 in 2004, to 12 in 2005, and in 2006 to 19 men studying for the priesthood.[2] The first permanent deacon in over 25 years was ordained in August 2006,[3] and two men were ordained to the transitional deaconate in November 2006. Several events sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, the Serra Club, and the bishop's office have been held raise funds for seminarians and to increase vocations awareness. The diocese has also implemented a series of Saint Andrew dinners to invite young men to an informal meal and discussion on vocations.

In the summer of 2006 Bishop Carlson promulgated the letter "We Have Come to Worship Him" outlining liturgical directives and norms for the renewal of worship in the Saginaw Diocese. A month later, the Ablaze Youth Conference was held in Standish with several hundred young people in attendance. In 2007 the diocese began an evangelization initiative to reach out to all families in the diocese through the Faith Saginaw magazine,[4] sent a group of 230 people to the March for Life in Washington, D.C.,[5] and will hold a four day Eucharistic Congress in the summer which will include the ordination of two men to the priesthood, and five to the transitional deaconate.

On Tuesday, April 21, 2009, it was announced that Bishop Carlson would succeed Raymond Leo Burke, now the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (Catholicism's highest court), as Archbishop of Saint Louis, Missouri.

High schools[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "History of the Diocese of Saginaw", Catholic Weekly.
  2. ^ Mercer, J. (December 10, 2006) "A 'Culture of Vocations' Brings Vitality to the Saginaw Diocese" National Catholic Register.
  3. ^ Treadwell, M. (August 15, 2006) "Deacon Ordination First in 25 Years", Press Release.
  4. ^ Ford-Mitchell, D. (January 27, 2007) "'Faith' Comes as a Gift to the Flock" Saginaw News.
  5. ^ Ford-Mitchell, D. (January 18, 2007) "Catholics Fight Abortion in D.C." Saginaw News.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°25′31″N 83°56′12″W / 43.42528°N 83.93667°W / 43.42528; -83.93667