Archdiocese of Chicago


Diocese created 28 November, 1842; raised to the rank of an archdiocese, 10 September, 1880; comprises the State of Illinois, U.S.A., north of the south line of Whiteside, Lee, De Kalb, Grundy, and Kankakee Counties, a territory of 10,379 square miles.

Any historical sketch of the Archdiocese of Chicago, however brief, must commence with the name of the intrepid Jesuit missionary James Marquette, who on 25 October, 1674, set out with two attendants from the station of St. Francis Xavier on Green Bay, to found a mission on the Illinois River. This was in pursuance of a promise he and made to the Illinois whom he had met at their village of Kaskaskia when returning from his voyage down the Mississippi the year previous. On the 4th of December he reached on his journey the mouth of the Chicago River. With his two companions he pushed his way over the frozen surface of the river, following the South Branch. Having proceeded about four miles, he was obliged to halt because of sickness. Here he built a cabin, the first white habitation, it would appear, erected on the site of the city of Chicago. After Marquette, many of the French missionaries and voyageurs traversed the land now covered by that municipality. Father St. Cosme, in all probability, passed this way in 1699. Father Gravier was there in the year following. In 1795 the Pottawotomies by the treaty of Greenville ceded to the United States a track of land six miles square at the mouth of the Chicago River. Here, in 1804, Fort Dearborn was erected, and about this garrison settled the Catholic pioneers. The Rev. Gabriel Richard of Detroit preached at the fort in 1821. In 1822 Alexander Beaubien was baptized there by Father Badin, the first priest ordained within the limits of the thirteen original United States. As far as known this is the first case of the administration of baptism to a white person in the vicinity of Fort Dearborn. In 1833 a petition was addressed to the Right Rev. Joseph Rosati, Bishop of St. Louis and Vicar-General of Bardstown in which latter diocese the state of Illinois then lay, praying for the appointment of a resident pastor. The petition declared that there were about one hundred Catholics in Chicago and was signed by thirty-eight men representing one hundred and twenty-two souls. In answer to this request Bishop Rosati appointed Father John Mary Irenæus St. Cyr to take charge at Chicago, and he celebrated the first Mass in Mark Beaubien's log cabin on Lake Street, near Market, 1833. Shortly thereafter Fr. St. Cyr secured a lot near the corner of Lake and State Streets and put up a church building twenty-five by thirty-five feet, at the cost of four hundred dollars. This modest structure was dedicated in October, 1833. A little later when Bishop Bruté, the first Bishop of Vincennes, visited Chicago, he found there a congregation of four hundred souls. The growing necessities of the missions in northern Illinois soon demanded the services of more than one priest. So, at the solicitation of Bishop Rosati, Bishop Bruté sent Fathers Fischer, Shaefer. St. Palais and Dupontavice. The last named was appointed to Joliet. Father St. Cyr was recalled in 1837. He was succeeded as pastor of the English-speaking congregation by Father O'Meara, who removed the church building erected by Father St. Cyr to Wabash Avenue and Madison Street. After the departure of Father O'Meara, Father St. Palais built on this site a new brick structure. To the priests already mentioned the names of Fathers Plunkett and Gueguen should be added as having rendered good services in the first period of the Church's history in Chicago.


The needs as well as possibilities of the Catholic settlement about Fort Dearborn and its vicinity were recognized to be such that the Plenary Council of Baltimore recommended in May, 1843, the formation of the new See of Chicago. Rome acted favorably upon this advice, and in 1844 appointed as the first bishop of the see the Rev. William Quarter of New York. He was born in Killurine, Kings Co., Ireland, 21 January, 1806. After a classical course made in private academies, he attended Maynooth College. He emigrated to America in 1822, where, soon after his arrival, he entered Mt. St. Mary's College at Emmitsburg, Maryland. Ordained priest, 19 September, 1829, he laboured thereafter with marked success in the diocese of New York, until summoned to the new see of the West, for which he was consecrated bishop in St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York, by the Right Rev. John Hughes, 13 March, 1844. On his arrival in Chicago, the fifth of May following, he found there less than twenty priests. Of these, only two were in Chicago, and they were of the number loaned to the mission by Bishop Bruté. Hardly a month after Bishop Quarter's arrival they were recalled to Vincennes. But one church, St. Mary's was in the city limits at the time. The new building commenced by Father St, Palais was unfinished, and the parish moreover was encumbered with a debt of nearly five thousand dollars. This, owing to their poverty, the parishioners were unable to liquidate. It is eloquent of the unselfish zeal of the bishop and his brother that out of their private means they paid off all the indebtedness of the parish. The demand for the services of more priests was in large measure soon met. Only two years after his arrival Bishop Quarter was able to summon to a diocese synod thirty-two clergymen. To the credit of his administration it must be noted that he established the first theological conferences held in America.

Thirty days after his arrival in Chicago, Bishop Quarter opened a college. Two professors, Rev. Jeremiah Kinsella and Rev. B. R. McGorsk. constituted the teaching corps of this institution in the beginning, while six young men made up its student body. Not content with a college, however, the bishop projected a university. In December, 1844, a charter was granted for the University of St. Mary's of the Lake, and on the 4th of July, 1846, the new institution, the first of its kind to appear in the city of Chicago, was ready to receive students. To provide for the religious instruction of young ladies, Bishop Quarter secured the services of five Sisters of Mercy. These, with Sister Mary Francis Ward, arrived in Chicago from Pittsburgh, 23 September, 1846. The work of this religious community, begun in the first days of the Chicago diocese, has kept pace with the city's development. It was due principally to Bishop Quarter that the legislature of the State of Illinois passed in 1845 the bill according to which the bishop of Chicago was incorporated as a "corporation sole" with power to "hold real and other property in trust for religious purposes". Bishop Quarter died 10 April, 1848. The four years of his episcopacy were years of foresight, zeal, and energy, fraught with lasting blessings for the Diocese of Chicago.

Second Bishop

The successor of Bishop Quarter was a Jesuit, James Oliver Van de Velde, born 3 April, 1795, near Tearmonde in Belgium. His early education was obtained from a French priest, who had escaped to Belgium during the time of the French Revolution. Young Van de Velde had a marked talent for languages and, while a professor of languages while at the seminary at Mechlin, hearing the apostolic Father Nerinckx appeal for priests for the American missions, he decided to go to the New World, where he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus at Georgetown. In 1827 he was ordained priest in the cathedral of Baltimore. After some years of missionary work in Maryland, Father Van de Velde was made professor of rhetoric and mathematics in the Jesuit College at St. Louis. He was rector of this institution in 1820, and a year later was sent to represent the Missouri province at a general congregation of the order held in Rome. Consecrated Bishop of Chicago at St. Francis Xavier's Church, St. Louis, 11 February, 1849, he was installed in his see 1 April following. At this time there were in the diocese forty priests and fifty-six churches. In the city of Chicago itself there were four churches: the cathedral of St. Mary; St. Patrick's founded in 1846 by Rev. Walter J. Quarter; St. Peter's (German) founded by Rev. John Jung; and St. Joseph's (German), the first pastor of which was the Father Jung above mentioned. Bishop Van de Velde in 1849 erected, on Wabash Avenue between Jackson and Van Buren Streets, an orphan asylum, to shelter the little ones bereft of their parents through the cholera that visited the city that year. His name is to be associated too with the General Hospital of the Lake, founded at this time by the faculty of Rush Medical College, but in which, with the permission of the bishop, the Sisters of Mercy took care of the sick. Bishop Van de Velde found the climate of Chicago detrimental to his health, and tendered his resignation to the Holy See. This was at first refused; finally, however, he was transferred to the diocese of Natchez, where, after two years, he died a victim of yellow fever.

Third Bishop

The third bishop of Chicago was the Right Rev. Anthony O'Regan, b. at Lavalleyroe, County Mayo, Ireland, in 1809. After completing his studies at Maynooth College he was ordained priest November, 1833, and for ten years was professor of Scripture, Hebrew, and dogmatic theology at St. Jarlath's College, Tuam, of which institution he later became president. He then accepted the invitation of Archbishop Kendrick to become the head of the theological seminary of St. Louis, U.S.A. It was from this post he was summoned to occupy the See of Chicago. Consecrated in St. Louis, 25 July, 1854, he was installed in St. Mary's Cathedral the third of September following. Bishop O'Regan invited the Jesuits to establish themselves in his diocese. One of those sent in response to this call was the Reverend Arnold Damen, who arrived in Chicago, May, 1857, and though offered the pastorate of the Church of the Holy Name, preferred instead to found a parish out upon (what then appeared) an uninhabitable prairie. Undaunted by obstacles, he persevered until a monument to his zeal appeared in the capacious edifice of the church of the Holy Family. But Father Damen's work was not circumscribed by the limits of a single parish. No quarter of the diocese but could testify to his zeal as a missionary. Gifted with a power of rugged eloquence, Father Damen was particularly effective as a preacher to the masses. Adjoining the Holy Family Church is Saint Ignatius' College, begun in 1869. For years it was the only Catholic institution of its kind in the city of Chicago, and its alumni are counted in large numbers not only the priests of the archdiocese, but among the representatives of all the higher walks of civic life. In 1857 Bishop O'Regan was relieved of a portion of his responsibility by the erection of the new See of Alton. However, he was anxious to resign the high office which in the beginning he had sough to escape. His administration had met with severe complaint on the part of some of his clergy. And so, after two years and a half in the administration of his diocese, he set forth for Rome to resign his charge. His resignation (3 May, 1858) was accepted, and he was appointed titular bishop of Dora 25 June, 1858. He died in London, 13 November, 1866, having never returned to America.

Fourth Bishop

The Right Rev. James Duggan, who has acted as administrator of the diocese, was then appointed its bishop. He was born at Maynooth, County Kildare, Ireland, 22 May, 1825, and emigrated, in 1842, to St. Louis U.S.A., where he was ordained priest 29 May, 1847. In 1857 he was appointed auxiliary to Archbishop Kendrick, and consecrated titular bishop of Antigone. Two years later he was transferred to the vacant see of Chicago. From this is dated a new era in the Catholic life of Chicago. The parochial school system was organized, and charitable institutions sprang up on all sides. In 1860 the Redemptorists, and in the following year the Benedictines, established foundations among the Germans of the North Side. The Religious of the Sacred Heart opened the institution that has since rendered high service in the cause of Catholic education. Bishop Duggan chose as his vicar-general the Rev. Dennis Dunne, pastor of St. Patrick's, a priest whose noble and generous nature endured him to all who new him. The Rev. Thaddeus Butler was made secretary and the Rev. John McMullen chancellor. It was the last named who induced the sisters of the Good Shepherd to take up their beneficent work in Chicago. St. Columbkill's, St. Bridget's, St. James, the Immaculate Conception, and St. John's parishes were also organized at this time. The refinement and gentleness of Bishop Duggan, his ease and grace of manner, made him socially very popular; while his public spirit was much appreciated by the community at large. In 1862 he went to Rome to be present at the canonization of the Japanese martyrs, and he attended, in 1866, the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore. It was about this time that he gave unmistakable signs of the mental aberration of which he was finally to fall victim. Acting upon the advice of friends, he went to Carlsbad, expecting to recuperate his shattered health, but the effort was in vain, and the condition of Bishop Duggan became such that he was removed, 14 April, 1869, to the asylum of the Sisters of Charity in St. Louis. There, without recovering his mental powers, he remained till his death, 27 March 1899. Bishop Duggan being incapacitated, the Rev. H.T. Halligan took charge of the diocese.

Administrator Appointed

The Right Reverend Thomas Foley was appointed coadjutor and administrator of the practically vacant see, and consecrated titular bishop of Pergamus, 27 February, 1870. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland, 6 March, 1822. On the completion of his preparatory studies at St. Mary's College, in his native city, and of his theological course in the seminary attached to this college, he was ordained priest by Archbishop Eccleston, in the cathedral of Baltimore, 16 August, 1846. After a short period spent of the mission of Montgomery County, Maryland, and as assistant pastor of St. Patrick's Church, Washington, he was appointed rector of the cathedral. He was made chancellor by Archbishop Kendrick, and attended, in the capacity of secretary and notary, the plenary councils held in that city in 1852 and 1866. He was installed in the pro-Cathedral of the Holy Name, Chicago, 10 March 1870. Bishop Foley had hardly more than become acquainted with the needs of his charge when he was called upon to witness the devastation of the church property by the great Chicago fire. Seven churches together with their parochial residences and schools, the Alexian Brothers' Hospital, The House of Providence, St. Xavier's Academy and Convent, an orphan asylum, and a select school conducted by the Christian Brothers were swept away. The bishop sustained the disaster with courage, and set himself to the work of reconstruction with commendable energy. St. Mary's Cathedral being thus destroyed, the new cathedral of the Holy Name soon appeared on the site of the old church of that name. The structure is one of the impressive church edifices of Chicago. With generous assistance from other diocese and the exercise of indomitable energy on the part of its priests and laity, Catholic Chicago soon arose from the prostrate state in which it had been left by the fire. At this time many of the religious orders began to assist in the development of the new life which seemed to have been infused into the diocese. The bishop welcomed to his diocese the Franciscans, the Lazarists, the Servites, the Fathers of Saint-Viateur, and the Resurrectionists. Owing to the growth attained by the diocese, Bishop Foley in 1872 recommended that a portion of it be cut off and erected into a new see, and the Diocese of Peoria was created. The period of Bishop Foley's administration was for much of the Diocese of Chicago a new birth. He saw churches, convents, asylums, and schools, the work of years, wiped out in a few hours. He saw these for the most part replaced by structures more commodious. He witnessed the erection of more than twenty-five new churches, and saw in process of construction five new convents and seven academies. He purchased the Soldier's Home at the foot of Thirty-fifth street for an orphan asylum, and St. Mary's church, at Wabash Avenue and Eldridge Court, he bought from the Congregationalists. At his death, on the 19th of February, 1879, there were about three hundred churches in the diocese, and the number of priests had increased from one hundred and forty-two to two hundred and six. On the occasion of his installation he declared that he had come to do honour to the peace of Christ. That his episcopacy had rendered this promised service was universally admitted. Upon his death, after a brief administration of the diocese by the Rev. Dr. John McMullen, who had been the late bishop's vicar-general, Bishop Feehan of Nashville, Tennessee, was promoted to the vacancy.


Patrick Augustine Feehan was born at Spring Hill, Co. Tipperary, Ireland, on 29 August, 1829. At fifteen years of age he entered Castle Knock College, going from there to Maynooth, where he was appointed to the Dunboyne establishment. In 1852, he departed for America, proceeding to St. Louis. where he was ordained priest, 1 November, 1852. Two years later he was appointed successor to Father O'Regan in the Theological Seminary of Carondelet. He was made pastor of St. Michael's church in 1858, and shortly after was transferred to the pastorate of the church of the Immaculate Conception, in both of which charges he ever showed himself the devoted and zealous priest. On the 7th of July, 1867, Father Feehan was chosen to succeed Bishop Whelen of Nashville, Tennessee. This diocese had suffered severely during the Civil War. Under the quiet but energetic administration of Bishop Feehan the demoralization of religion that followed in the wake of battle passed; churches multiplied, convents and parochial schools were reared, while the number of priests increased during his administration from twelve to twenty-seven. During the visitation of his diocese by cholera and yellow fever the labours and self-sacrifices of the bishop were unremitting. On 10 September, 1880, Chicago was raised to the dignity of an archdiocese, and Bishop Feehan was made its first archbishop. The ceremony of his installation took place in the cathedral of the Holy Name in the November following. The archdioceses at this time comprised of eighteen counties in the northern part of Illinois and there were one hundred and ninety-four churches and two hundred and four priests. In 1883 the archbishop went to Rome with the other archbishops of the country to prepare the matter to be submitted to the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore. In the next year he participated in the deliberations of this council. At this synod the first irremovable rectors of the archdioceses were appointed.

On 1 November, 1890, Archbishop Feehan commemorated the twenty-fifth anniversary of his elevation to the episcopacy, and the demonstration with which the Catholics of the archdiocese celebrated this event gave touching proof of the love and esteem they felt for their venerable archbishop. In 1899, the archbishop, failing in health, and pressed with the constantly multiplying cares of his charge, asked for an episcopal assistant. In answer to this request, the Rev. Alexander McGavick was chosen auxiliary bishop of the diocese and consecrated titular bishop of Narcopolis, 1 May, 1899. Poor health, however, directly incapacitated him, and the Holy See was again petitioned for the needed aid, and the Reverend Peter James Muldoon was consecrated titular Bishop of Tamassus, 25 July, 1901. His energy and zeal were of valuable assistance to the archbishop, while upon his personal loyalty the aged prelate could ever rely. Archbishop Feehan died 12 July, 1902. His administration in Chicago saw a development of Catholic life unprecedented in any other period of the city's history. When he was installed there were in the diocese two hundred and four priests, while at his death there were five hundred and thirty-eight. At his advent there were one hundred and ninety-four churches, when he died there were two hundred and ninety-eight. The city of Chicago, when he was promoted to the see, had thirty-four churches, at his passing away there were in the city one hundred and fifty churches. Some idea of the manner in which Catholic education was promoted under this archbishop can be gathered from the list of institutions which sprang up in his time, among them: the De La Salle Institute, St. Cyril's College, St. Vincent's College, St. Viateur's College at Bourbonnais, St. Patrick's Academy, and the Loretto Academy at Joliet.

Second Archbishop

Bishop James Edward Quigley of Buffalo, New York, was promoted (8 January, 1903) to the Archbishopric of Chicago, and installed 11 March following. Born at Osshawa, Ontario, 15 October, 1855, he attended St. Joseph's College in Buffalo, from which he was graduated in 1872. In this year he won a competitive examination for entrance into the military academy at West Point, but relinquished military ambition to study for the Church. To this end he entered the seminary of Our Lady of the Angels at Niagara Falls. In the following year he went for a time to the university of Innsbruck in the Austrian Tyrol, and thence to Rome where, having completed his theological course in the College of the Propaganda, he was ordained priest 13 April, 1879. He was appointed rector of St. Vincent's Church, Attica, New York, in 1879, leaving this mission to become rector of St. Joseph's Cathedral in Buffalo in 1884. Two years later he became pastor of St. Bridget's Church in the same city and while ministering in this parish was appointed Bishop of Buffalo, his consecration taking place 24 February, 1897. The administration of Bishop Quigley in Buffalo was characterized by a clear, far-reaching discernment. His public spirit, too, made him ever a controlling power in the community, and he was particularly alert to the weal of the labouring classes. His mediation in the dock strike of Buffalo in 1899 and his forceful pronouncements on Socialism were especially noteworthy. In Chicago his talent for mastering details and his regard for due procedure brought a new order and system into the government of the archdiocese, while a synod held 14 December, 1905, marked the introduction to the see of a body of beneficent legislation. A diocesan college for ecclesiastical students was opened in 1905, and the measures of previous administrations for the spiritual care of the immense foreign-born and constantly increasing population was continued and broadened.


Ten nationalities other than English-speaking were represented in the Archdiocese in 1908. Of the total of 314 churches they had ninety-six divided as follows: German 33, Polish 21, Bohemian 9, Italian 8, Lithuanian 7, Slovak 6, Croatian 5, French 3, Syrian 2, Rutheian 2. Religious orders and congregations having foundations in the archdiocese are: Men: Augustinians; Benedictines (St. Procopius Abbey); Carmelites; Franciscans; Fathers and Brothers of the Holy Cross; Jesuits; Lazarists; Fathers of the Precious Blood; Servites; Clerics of St. Viateur; Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle; Alexian Brothers; Brothers of the Christian Schools; Congregation of St. Charles Borromeo; Brothers of Mary; Society of the Divine Word. Communities of Women: Sisters of St. Agnes; Benedictine Sisters; Bohemian Benedictine Sisters; Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul (Emmitsburg, Maryland); Sisters of Christian Charity (Wilkesbarre, Pennsylvania); Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Dubuque, Iowa); Poor Clares; Sisters of the Third Order of St. Dominic (Sinsinawa, Wisconsin); Sisters of St. Dominic (Blauvelt, New York); Sisters of St. Dominic (Adrian, Michigan); Sisters of the Third Order of St. Dominic (St. Catherine, Kentucky); Franciscan Sisters (St. Louis. Missouri); Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart (Joliet, Illinois); Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis (Peoria, Illinois); School Sisters of St. Francis (Milwaukee, Wisconsin); Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis (Joliet, Illinois); Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis of Assisi, M. C. (St. Francis, Wisconsin); Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis (under the protection of St. Cunegunde); Sisters of St. Francis (Lafayette, Indiana); Sisters of St. Francis (Clinton, Iowa); Felician Sisters, O.S.F. (Detroit, Mich.); Sisters of the Good Shepherd; Sisters of the Holy Cross (Notre Dame, Indiana); Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth; Sister-Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary (Paris); Hospital Sisters of St. Joseph; Sisters of St. Joseph (St. Louis, Missouri); Sisters of St. Joseph (Concordia, Kansas); Sisters of St. Joseph (La Grange, Illinois); Little Sisters of the Poor; Little Company of Mary (Rome); Ladies of Loreto (Toronto, Canada); Sisters of Mercy (Chicago, Illinois); Sisters of Mercy (Oakley Avenue, Chicago, Illinois); School Sisters of Notre Dame (Milwaukee, Wisconsin); Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame (Montreal); Sisters of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ (Ft. Wayne, Indiana); Sisters of the Precious Blood (O'Fallen, Missouri); Sisters of Providence (St, Mary of the Woods, Indiana); Ladies of the Scared Heart (Chicago Province); Sisters of Jesus and Mary (Montreal); Daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Buffalo, New York); Polish Sisters of St. Joseph (Stevens Point, Wisconsin); Sisters of the Holy Ghost (Holland); Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart (New York); Sisters of Misericorde; Visitation Nuns; Sisters of the Resurrection; Sisters of St. Mary (St. Louis, Missouri);

Archbishop, 1, bishops, 2, mitred abbot 1; priests 631: secular, 400, of religious orders, 191; churches, 314: with resident priests city of Chicago, 176, country 138; missions with churches, 35, stations 5, chapels 61; ecclesiastical students 115, seminaries of religious orders 3, students 330; colleges and academies for boys 11, students 2575, training schools 2, pupils, 452; academies for girls 27, students 7585; parishes and missions with parochial schools city, 125, pupils 80,520, outside the city, 64, pupils 10,650; orphan asylums 9, orphans 1499; infant asylums 1, inmates 676; industrial and reform schools for boys 2, for girls 2, inmates 710; working boys' homes 1, inmates 350; working girls' homes 1, inmates 195; total persons under Catholic care 93,657; hospitals 19, homes for the aged poor 9, inmates 1150, communities nursing sick in their homes, 3 Catholic population about 1,200,000.

Andrews in The History of Chicago; O'Gorman, A Hist. of the R. C. Church in the U.S. (New York, 1895); Shea, Hist. of the Cath. Ch. in the U.S. (New York, 1904); McGovern, The Life of Bishop McMullen (Chicago); Idem, Souvenir of the Silver Jubilee of the Most rev. P. H. Feehan; Catholic Directory (Milwaukee, 1908).


Copyright ©1999-2023 Wildfire Fellowship, Inc all rights reserved