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Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois

Coordinates: 39°46′59″N 89°39′34″W / 39.78306°N 89.65944°W / 39.78306; -89.65944
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Diocese of Springfield in Illinois

Diœcesis Campifontis in Illinois
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Coat of arms
Country United States
Territory28 counties across south central Illinois
Ecclesiastical provinceChicago
Deaneries5 Deaneries - Alton, Jerseyville, Mattoon, Quincy, Springfield
Area39,195 km2 (15,133 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2010)
145,189[1] (13%)
Schools36 elementary, 7 secondary [1]
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
EstablishedJuly 29, 1853 as the Diocese of Quincy;
January 9, 1857 as the Diocese of Alton;
October 26, 1923 as the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois
CathedralCathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Patron saintMary, the Immaculate Conception
Current leadership
BishopThomas J. Paprocki
Metropolitan ArchbishopBlase J. Cupich
Vicar GeneralDavid J. Hoefler

The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois (Latin: Diœcesis Campifontis in Illinois) is a Latin Church ecclesiastical territory, or diocese, of the Catholic Church in south central Illinois in the United States. The mother church is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield.

The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois is a suffragan diocese in the ecclesiastical province of the metropolitan Archdiocese of Chicago.[2] On April 20, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI named Thomas J. Paprocki as the ninth bishop of Springfield in Illinois.[3]


The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois comprises the following counties:

Adams, Bond, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Christian, Clark, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Greene, Jasper, Jersey, Macon, Macoupin, Madison, Menard, Moultrie, Montgomery, Morgan, Pike, Sangamon, Scott, and Shelby.[4]

The counties are organized into five deaneries: Alton, Jerseyville, Mattoon, Quincy and Springfield.[4] There are currently 129 parishes in the diocese.[5] It is home to 14 religious houses.[6] The diocese operates campus ministry centers at the following institutions:[7]


1600 to 1800[edit]

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 Illinois region were tended to by these Jesuit missionaries.[8]

After the British took control of New France in 1763, the Archdiocese of Quebec retained jurisdiction over missions in the Illinois area. However, most of the French Catholics in the area migrated to Louisiana.[8] In 1776, the newly declared United States claimed sovereignty over Illinois and the rest of the Midwest region.

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, Bishop John Carroll sent his first missionary to Illinois. In 1787, the 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.[9][10]

1800 to 1857[edit]

With the creation of the Diocese of Bardstown in Kentucky in 1810, supervision of the Illinois missions shifted there. Catholic Irish and German immigrants started entering the Illinois region in the early 1800s. In 1827, the Diocese of St. Louis assumed jurisdiction over the western half of Illinois. In 1834, the Vatican erected the Diocese of Vincennes, which included both Indiana and eastern Illinois.[11] The first Catholic church in Quincy, St. Peter's was opened in 1839 and[12] the first church in Alton in 1843.[13]

A group of Springfield Catholics in 1840 petitioned the Vatican to establish a diocese in their city, but it was denied. Instead, the Vatican created the Diocese of Chicago in 1843, with all of the Illinois territory taken from the Dioceses of St. Louis and Vincennes. In 1848, the first Catholic church in Springfield, St. John the Baptist, was constructed.[8]

On July 29, 1853, Pope Pius IX erected the Diocese of Quincy, based in Alton, taking its territory from the Diocese of Chicago. He appointed Joseph Melcher of St. Louis to serve as bishop, both in Quincy and Chicago. However, Melcher refused the appointment.[14] The pope did not appoint another bishop for Quincy.

1857 to 1863[edit]

Four years later in 1857, Pius IX suppressed the Diocese of Quincy and erected the new Diocese of Alton, keeping the same boundaries. He appointed Henry Juncker as the first bishop of Alton. At the time of Juncker's arrival, the diocese contained 58 churches, 30 mission stations, 18 priests, and 50,000 Catholics.[15] Needing more priests, he traveled to Europe in 1857 to recruit them from France, Germany, Ireland and Italy for his diocese.[16][17] The first Catholic church in Decatur, St. Patrick, opened in 1857.[18]

Juncker completed the first cathedral in the diocese in 1859. He later founded six girls' academies, a seminary, two hospitals, and one orphanage.[19] During one stay in Randolph County, a delegation from Red Bud, Illinois, asked Juncker to visit them. The townspeople said they had never seen a priest there. During his visit to Red Bud, Juncker heard confession from 1,000 Catholics and received a donation of land from a Protestant businessman for a new church.[17] In 1860, the Franciscans opened St. Francis Solanus College in Quincy.

When the American Civil War started in 1861, Juncker asked his parishioners to pray for peace. When the Union Army opened a medical camp for wounded soldiers in Cairo, Illinois, he sent priests and nuns there to provide support.[20]

1863 to 1923[edit]

Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Alton

Juncker died in 1868. By the time of his death, the Diocese of Alton had 125 churches, over 100 priests, and 80,000 Catholics.[17]

Pius IX appointed Peter Baltes of the Diocese of Chicago as the second bishop of Alton in 1869. Baltes quickly instituted a constitution that outlined practices with all the parishes.[21] Baltes issued a pastoral letter in 1879 that banned Catholics in his diocese from reading newspapers or journals that criticized the Catholic Church.[22] He banned contemporary music from church services, replacing it with the Gregorian chant and Cecilian music.[21] By the end of his tenure, the diocese included 109,000 Catholics, 177 priests, 126 parishes and 77 missions, 13 hospitals, three orphanages, two homes for the elderly, two men's colleges, a boys' high school, nine girls' academies, and 102 parochial schools with 11,000 students.[23][21]

In January 1884, 27 nuns died in a fire at the Convent of the Sisters of Notre Dame in Belleville. Baltes attended the funeral mass there, but was too sick to celebrate it.[24]

After Baltes died in 1886, Pope Leo XIII appointed James Ryan from the Diocese of Peoria as the third bishop of Alton. During his 35-year tenure, Ryan established 40 new churches and six hospitals; the Catholic population of the diocese increased from 70,000 to over 87,000.[25] He held the first diocesan synod in February 1889.[19]

1923 to 1999[edit]

After James Ryan died in 1923, Pope Pius IX dissolved the Diocese of Alton and erected the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois in its place on October 26, 1923.[26] He appointed James Griffin of Chicago as the first bishop of the new diocese. Griffin dedicated the new Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield in 1928. During his tenure as bishop, Griffin erected 51 new churches, schools, convents and charitable institutions; the total cost spent in his first ten years was close to $6.5 million. He established Marquette Catholic High School in Alton and Springfield Junior College in Springfield. Griffin died in 1948.

Pope Pius XII in 1948 appointed William O'Connor from Chicago as the second bishop of Springfield. O'Connor instituted the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine in 1950, initiated the diocesan development fund in 1952 for missionary work within the diocese, and founded the diocesan Latin School in 1954 for training young men preparing to enter the priesthood.[27] He held diocesan synods in 1953 and 1963.[27] After 27 years as bishop, O'Connor died in 1975.[28]

The next bishop of Springfield was Bishop Joseph McNicholas, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, appointed by Pope Paul VI in 1975. He hosted the first Midwest Regional Meeting of the St. Vincent de Paul Society to be held in downstate Illinois, and in 1978 appointed the first nun to the position of superintendent of Catholic schools.[27] He also renamed the diocesan newspaper as Time and Eternity.

After McNicholas' death in 1983, Pope John Paul II named Bishop Daniel L. Ryan, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Joliet, as his successor.[27] Ryan resigned in 1999.

1999 to 2009[edit]

In 1999, Pope John Paul II appointed George Lucas of St. Louis as bishop of Springfield in Illinois. In 2001, Lucas established a diaconate formation program for the diocese. The five-year program prepared men to become deacons was run by the diocesan Office for the Diaconate, in cooperation with Quincy University in Quincy. On June 24, 2007, Lucas ordained the first class of eighteen men.

In January 2002, Lucas launched an endowment/capital campaign called Harvest of Thanks, Springtime of Hope. The program raised over $22.1 million, used to support Catholic education, Catholic Charities, the formation of seminarians and deacon candidates, and the care of retired priests. Lucas spearheaded the Built in Faith campaign to raise the $11 million needed to restore the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Lucas attended the cathedral dedication on December 2, 2009.[29]

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI named Lucas as archbishop of the Archdiocese of Omaha and appointed Bishop Thomas Paprocki , auxiliary bishop of Chicago, as Lucas' replacement.

2010 to the Present[edit]

Paprocki invited the Norbertines from St. Michael's Abbey in California to establish a community in the diocese.[30] The Norbertines established the Corpus Christi Priory on July 1, 2023,[31] to be the home of the Evermode Institute.[32]

Sexual abuse[edit]

In 1985, after receiving complaints from a parishioners, police arrested Alvin J. Campbell, pastor of St. Maurice Church in Morrisonville on charges of sexually abusing a minor. Campbell had served in the US Army Chaplain Corps during the 1960s and early 1970s. When he applied to enter the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois in 1977, an Army official warned the diocese that Campbell had a moral problem with men and boys. Later in 1985, Campbell pleaded guilty but mentally ill to having sexually abused seven teenage boys between 1982 and 1985. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.[33] Removed from ministry in 1985, Campbell was laicized in 1992.[34]

Walter Weets pleaded guilty in 1986 to three counts of sexual abuse. Weets would fly boys in his private plane and take them to his apartment in Granite City, where he would rape them. Facing parent complaints about Weets starting in the 1960s, the diocese covered up his crimes and transfer him to different parishes. Before Weets' sentence, Bishop Ryan asked the court to grant him probation, attesting to his fine behavior. Weets was sentenced to six years in prison and was laicized by the Vatican in 1989.[35]

In 1999, Matthew McCormick sued the diocese, claiming that Alvin Campbell had abused him as an altar boy from 1982 to 1985. McCormick said that Ryan and the diocese did nothing to protect him. He also claimed that Ryan himself was guilty of numerous sexual affairs with male prostitutes and priests, creating a poisoned atmosphere. Ryan denied the charges.[36]

In a 2002 Joliet Herald-News article, an unidentified priest from the Diocese of Joliet said that Ryan made sexual advances against him when the two men were staying at a hotel at an out of town parish in 1982.[37] In August 2002, the diocese received allegations that Ryan had solicited sex from four boys in 1984. One of the alleged victims, Frank Sigretto, said that Ryan picked him up from the street and offered him $50 for a massage. During the massage, Ryan made sexual advances to the 15-year-old boy. The diocese referred its case to the Sangamon County, Illinois district attorney; however, the district attorney could not prosecute Ryan because the statute of limitations had expired.[38][39]

Having continued to confer confirmation and celebrate mass after his resignation as bishop in 1999, Ryan agreed in 2004 to suspend his public ministry.[40] In 2006, an independent investigative report was commissioned by Bishop Lucas. In its report, the Special Panel on Clergy Misconduct declared that Ryan "engaged in improper sexual conduct and used his office to conceal his activities". Ryan also fostered "a culture of secrecy...that discouraged faithful priests from coming forward with information about misconduct" by other clergy in the diocese.[41][42]

In a video interview taped in 2004, Thomas Munoz accused Bishop Lucas, when he was a priest, of having sex with several priests and seminarians in a so-called orgy. Lucas denied all the allegations. The diocese investigated the allegations and in 2006 declared them to be totally false.[43] The same allegations were raised again in 2021 in a lawsuit by Anthony J. Gorgia, a former seminarian, against the Pontifical North American College in Rome and the Archdiocese of New York.[43]

In July 2004, Lucas approved a $1.2 million settlement to eight men who had been sexually abused as minors by Walter Weerts.[44]

On May 23, 2023, the Illinois Attorney General released a report on Catholic clergy child sex abuse in Illinois. The multi-year investigation found that more than 450 Catholic clergy in Illinois abused nearly 2,000 children since 1950.[45][46]


As of 2023:[5]

As of 2007:[47]

  • 151,601 Catholics
  • 132 parishes
  • 87 active priests; 62 religious institute priests
  • 122 diocesan priests (including retired and serving outside the diocese)
  • 6 Catholic hospitals


Bishop Elect of Quincy[edit]

Joseph Melcher (Appointed 1853; did not take effect); appointed Bishop of Green Bay[48]

Bishops of Alton[edit]

  1. Henry Damian Juncker (1857-1868)[49]
  2. Peter Joseph Baltes (1870-1886)[50]
  3. James Ryan (1888-1923)[51]

Bishops of Springfield in Illinois[edit]

  1. James Aloysius Griffin (1923-1948)[52]
  2. William Aloysius O'Connor (1948-1975)[53]
  3. Joseph Alphonse McNicholas (1975-1983)[54]
  4. Daniel L. Ryan (1983-1999)[55]
  5. George J. Lucas (1999-2009), appointed Archbishop of Omaha[56]
  6. Thomas J. Paprocki (2010–present)[57]

Other diocesan priests who became bishops[edit]


High schools[edit]


Quincy University – Quincy.[64]


Coat of arms of Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois
Arms was designed and adopted when the diocese was erected
These arms are composed of a gold field with a blue cross. Each quarter of the cross contains a roundel of alternating blue and silver wavy bars. These roundels are known heraldically as a "fountain." The center of the cross displays a silver crescent.
The gold field with the cross denotes faith. The roundels represent Springfield, a field of springs. The crescent represents the moon, a symbol for Mary, mother of Jesus, in her title of the Immaculate Conception.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Demographic Profile of the Diocese". www.dio.org. Retrieved Apr 21, 2021.
  2. ^ "Chicago (Archdiocese) [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2023-08-05.
  3. ^ Press Office of the Holy See
  4. ^ a b "Deaneries of the Diocese". Diocese of Springfield in Illinois Website. Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  5. ^ a b "About the Diocese". Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  6. ^ "Councils, Institutes & Ministries". Diocese of Springfield in Illinois Website. Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  7. ^ "Campus Ministries Centers". Diocese of Springfield in Illinois Website. Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  8. ^ a b c "Illinois, Catholic Church in | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2023-04-13.
  9. ^ "Our History". Archdiocese of Baltimore. Archived from the original on July 24, 2008. Retrieved 2009-03-30.
  10. ^ "Freedom of Religion Comes to Boston | Archdiocese of Boston". www.bostoncatholic.org. Retrieved 2023-02-25.
  11. ^ Thompson, Joseph J. (1927). "Diocese of Springfield in Illinois; diamond jubilee history" (PDF). University of Illinois. Retrieved February 26, 2023.
  12. ^ "Parish History - St. Peter Church". www.cospq.org. 2020-09-23. Retrieved 2023-04-13.
  13. ^ RBSupport. "History". St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church | Alton, IL. Retrieved 2023-04-13.
  14. ^ Clarke, Richard Henry (1888). Lives of the Deceased Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States.
  15. ^ "History of the Diocese of Springfield: Bishop Henry Damian Juncker (1857-1868)". Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.
  16. ^ Zurbonsen, A., "The Catholic Bishops of the Diocese of Alton, Illinois", Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984) Vol. 10, No. 1 (Apr., 1917), pp. 127-137
  17. ^ a b c Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. 1917.
  18. ^ "St Patrick Church Decatur Illinois". www.dunnclan.org. Retrieved 2023-04-13.
  19. ^ a b "Alton". Catholic Encyclopedia.
  20. ^ Clarke, Richard Henry (1888). Lives of the Deceased Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States. R. H. Clarke.
  21. ^ a b c Clarke, Richard Henry (1888). Lives of the Deceased Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States. R. H. Clarke.
  22. ^ McKenna, Kevin E. (2007). The Battle for Rights in the United States Catholic Church. Paulist Press. ISBN 978-0-8091-4493-8.
  23. ^ "History of the Diocese of Springfield". Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Archived from the original on 2009-06-09.
  25. ^ "History". SS. Peter & Paul Catholic Church. Archived from the original on 2010-04-25.
  26. ^ "History of the Diocese of Springfield". Diocese of Springfield in Illinois Website. Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  27. ^ a b c d "History of the Diocese of Springfield". Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Archived from the original on 2009-06-09. Retrieved 2009-09-05.
  28. ^ "History of the Diocese of Springfield". Diocese of Springfield in Illinois Website. Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  29. ^ "Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception dedication". The State Journal-Register. Retrieved 2024-05-16.
  30. ^ Jones, Kevin (9 March 2022). "With Joy and Hope, Growing Norbertine Abbey to Launch New Community in Illinois". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  31. ^ "Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael's Abbey announce the opening of Corpus Christi Priory and public schedule of prayer, Mass, and confessions at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Springfield". Catholic Times. Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  32. ^ "Evermode Institute". Evermode Institute. Retrieved 5 July 2023.
  33. ^ "Diocese Ex-Bishop Ryan Sued Morrisonville Priests Alleged Abuse of Boy in 80s at Center of Case, by Jason Piscia Staff Writer, State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL), October 29, 1999". www.bishop-accountability.org. Retrieved 2022-06-15.
  34. ^ "Alvin Campbell | Information". clergyreport.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov. Retrieved 2023-07-07.
  35. ^ "Walter Weerts | Information". clergyreport.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov. Retrieved 2023-07-07.
  36. ^ "Former Altar Boy Accuses Springfield Diocese of Allowing Child Abuse, by Christopher Wills, Associated Press State & Local Wire [Springfield Ill], October 28, 1999". www.bishop-accountability.org. Retrieved 2022-06-15.
  37. ^ "Cloak of Secrecy Men Alleging They Were Abused by Joliet Diocese Priests Step Forward with Their Stories, by Ted Slowik, Herald News, August 11, 2002". www.bishop-accountability.org. Retrieved 2022-06-15.
  38. ^ Bakke, Dave (2005-03-13). "Sins of the Fathers". The State Journal-Register.
  39. ^ "Former Bishop Investigated Church Panel Reviews Charge He Solicited Sex from Teen, by Lisa Kernek, State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL), August 15, 2002". www.bishop-accountability.org. Retrieved 2022-06-15.
  40. ^ Rice, Patricia (2002-09-04). "Illinois Bishop Is Accused of Sexually Abusing a Minor". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  41. ^ "Retired Illinois bishop led 'culture of secrecy,' says report". Catholic News Service. 2006-08-07. Archived from the original on 2006-08-08.
  42. ^ "Priestly Misconduct Found Former Bishop Among Four Cited by Name, by Dave Bakke, State Journal-Register [Springfield IL], August 3, 2006". www.bishop-accountability.org. Retrieved 2022-06-15.
  43. ^ a b Brockhaus, Hannah (August 12, 2021). "Ex-Seminarian's Lawsuit Resurrects Sexual Allegation Against Omaha Archbishop George Lucas". National Catholic Register. Omaha, Neb. Catholic News Agency. Retrieved April 20, 2022.
  44. ^ "Springfield Diocese Settles Lawsuit on Sexual Abuse: Men Said That Abuse Occured [sic] in Granite". Belleville News-Democrat. July 22, 2004. Retrieved April 20, 2022 – via bishop-accountability.org.
  45. ^ "Report On Catholic Clergy Child Sex Abuse In Illinois 2023". Office of the Attorney General - State of Illinois. May 23, 2023. Retrieved February 20, 2024.
  46. ^ Foody, Kathleen; Tarm, Michael (2023-05-23). "Catholic clergy sexually abused Illinois kids far more often than church acknowledged, state finds". AP News. Retrieved 2024-02-20.
  47. ^ The Official Catholic Directory 2007 (published in New Providence, New Jersey: P. J. Kennedy and Sons, 2007)
  48. ^ "Bishop Joseph Melcher [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2023-08-05.
  49. ^ "Bishop Henry Damian Juncker [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2023-08-05.
  50. ^ "Bishop Peter Joseph Baltes [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2023-08-05.
  51. ^ "Bishop James Ryan [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2023-08-05.
  52. ^ "Bishop James Aloysius Griffin [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2023-08-05.
  53. ^ "Bishop William Aloysius O'Connor [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2023-08-05.
  54. ^ "Bishop Joseph Alphonse McNicholas [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2023-08-05.
  55. ^ "Bishop Daniel Leo Ryan [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2023-08-05.
  56. ^ "Archbishop George Joseph Lucas [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2023-08-05.
  57. ^ "Bishop Thomas John Joseph Paprocki [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2023-08-05.
  58. ^ "Bishop John Janssen [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2023-08-05.
  59. ^ "Bishop John Baptist Franz [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2023-08-05.
  60. ^ "Bishop Victor Herman Balke [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2023-08-05.
  61. ^ "Bishop Kevin William Vann [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2023-08-05.
  62. ^ "Bishop Carl Alan Kemme [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2023-08-05.
  63. ^ "School Directory – Diocese of Springfield in Illinois". Retrieved 2023-06-08.
  64. ^ "University Directory". Diocese of Springfield in Illinois Website. Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Retrieved 5 July 2013.

External links[edit]

39°46′59″N 89°39′34″W / 39.78306°N 89.65944°W / 39.78306; -89.65944