Discover the Diocese of Peoria

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria (LatinDioecesis Peoriensis) is an ecclesiastical territory or diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in the central Illinois region of the United States.


The Diocese of Peoria was canonically erected on February 12, 1875. Its territory was taken from the former Diocese of Chicago. The first bishop of the diocese was John Lancaster Spalding. Later bishops included William E. Cousins (bishop from 1952 to 1958), John Baptist FranzEdward William O'Rourke, and then O'Rourke's coadjutor bishop and later successor, John J. Myers (now Archbishop ofNewark), who hosted Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta's December 1995 visit to the Peoria diocese.
The Diocese of Peoria comprises the Counties of BureauChampaignDeWittFultonHancockHendersonHenryKnoxLaSalle,LivingstonLoganMarshallMasonMcDonoughMcLeanMercerPeoriaPiattPutnamRock IslandSchuylerStarkTazewell,VermilionWarren and Woodford. Aside from Peoria, the Illinois portions of the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa are also part of the Peoria Diocese. The St. John's Catholic Newman Center on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the St. Francis of Assisi Newman Center on the campus of Western Illinois University, John Paul II Catholic Newman Center on the campus of Illinois State University as well as the St. Joseph Newman Center on the campus of Bradley University are part of the Peoria Diocese.


Catholicism in this region dates from the days of Jacques Marquette, who rested at the Native American village of Peoria on his voyage up the Illinois River in 1673. Opposite the present site of the episcopal city, Robert de La Salle and Henri de Tonti in 1680 built Fort Crèvecoeur, in which Mass was celebrated and the Gospel preached by the Recollect FathersGabriel RibourdiZenobius Membre, andLouis Hennepin. With some breaks in the succession, the line of missionaries extends to within a short period of the founding of modern Peoria. In 1839 Father Reho, an Italian, visited Peoria, remaining long enough to build the old stone church in Kickapoo, a small town twelve miles distant. St. Mary's, the first Catholic church in the city proper, was erected by Father John A. Drew in 1846. Among his successors was the poet, Rev. Abram J. Ryan.
Many of the early Irish immigrants came to work on the Illinois and Michigan Canal; owing to the failure of the contracting company, they received their pay in land scrip instead of cash, and were thus forced to settle upon hitherto untilled farm-land. These Irish farmers, with the Germans, were followed by Poles, Slovaks, Slovenians, Croats, Lithuanians, and Italians who came to work in the coal mines. They were first organized in parishes looked after by priests of their own nationality. The first appointee to the see, Michael Hurley[disambiguation needed], requested to be spared the responsibility of organizing and governing the new diocese, and died as vicar-general in 1898.
John Lancaster Spalding was consecrated first Bishop of Peoria, on 1 May 1877. He was stricken with paralysis on 6 January 1905, and resigned the see, 11 September 1908.


The prelate is a bishop serving as pastor of the mother church, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception in the City of Peoria. The diocese is part of the Metropolitan Province of Chicago.
The current bishop of Peoria is Daniel R. JenkyC.S.C. Bishop Jenky was educated at the University of Notre Dame and was installed as bishop on April 10, 2002. He previously served as an auxiliary bishop to Bishop John Michael D'Arcy in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and as titular bishop of Amantia. Prior to his service as auxiliary bishop he had been the superior of his religious community's unit at the University of Notre Dame.

Timeline of Bishops

Auxiliary Bishop

† = deceased

Diocesan priests who became bishops

The following men began their service as priests in Peoria before being appointed bishops elsewhere:

† = deceased

Elementary schools

High schools

History of the Diocese of Peoria

The history of the Diocese of Peoria can be traced back to the beginnings of European exploration and the early missionaries. In August 1673, Father Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit priest, performed the first baptism near present day Peoria. A few years later Recollet priests, including Father Louis Hennepin, for whom the present day town of Hennepin was named, brought the Word of God to the native inhabitants of central Illinois. The French continued to dominate the religious scene in Illinois until the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, when the Illinois territory fell under the jurisdiction of the British Government. Though under British jurisdiction, French priests continued to minister to the few Catholics in the Illinois territory until the end of the American Revolution. In the 1790's the Illinois territory officially became the responsibility of Bishop John Carroll, then Bishop of the entire United States.
During the 1820's the counties that currently make up the Diocese of Peoria were included in several dioceses, including Bardstown, Kentucky, St. Louis, Missouri and Vincennes, Indiana. During this period central Illinois was largely a mission territory of these dioceses. In 1843, the Diocese of Chicago was formed, encompassing the entire state of Illinois. The coming of the railroads in the 1840's occasioned a growth spurt in the Catholic population in central Illinois. Many new churches were built, most of which served a specific ethnic group. The 1850's found Catholics, in particular Catholic immigrants, the targets of bigotry. In fact, in order to build a church, Catholics in Galesburg had to challenge a town charter that prohibited the sale of land for that purpose. In spite of these setbacks the Catholic population in central Illinois continued to grow and flourish.
In 1875 the Diocese of Peoria was established. On May 1, 1877, the Right Reverend John Lancaster Spalding was consecrated as its first Bishop. Under Bishop Spalding's leadership the Diocese of Peoria grew quickly from 40 parishes to 200. The bishop was well known for his writings on education and is also recognized as the founder of the Catholic University of America. Bishop Spalding remained the Bishop of Peoria until 1908 and died in 1916.
On September 1, 1909 the Most Reverend Edmund M. Dunne, the former Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago, was installed as the second Bishop of the Diocese of Peoria. Under Bishop Dunne the diocese continued to grow and prosper. New parishes were built and school enrollment was on the rise. Also, the Newman Apostolate began serving Catholic students in public universities.
In 1919, during Bishop Dunne's administration, a promising young man was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Peoria. Fr. Fulton J. Sheen, born in El Paso, IL, served as an Associate Pastor at St. Patrick's Church in Peoria before leaving the diocese to teach at the university level both in the United States and abroad. The future radio and television personality was made a Monsignor in 1934 and eventually was named an Auxiliary Bishop of New York. The Sheen Pastoral Center, home to diocesan offices, is located on the grounds where he attended grade school and high school. After Bishop Dunne passed from this life on October 17, 1929, the Peoria See remained vacant until June 17, 1930 when Peoria's third Bishop was installed.
The Most Reverend Joseph H. Schlarman came to Peoria from the Diocese of Belleville where he had served as Chancellor. He was a prolific writer and known for his diverse interests. The Great Depression had a devastating effect on the Church in central Illinois during his episcopacy. He shared deeply in the struggles of his flock during those difficult years. As the economy improved, Bishop Schlarman was able to focus his attention on other projects including the renovation of the Cathedral, the establishment of a diocesan newspaper and education reforms. The close of World War II found hundreds of refugees being relocated throughout the diocese in a program headed by a young Father Edward O'Rourke, who would later become bishop of his home diocese. Bishop Schlarman worked until the very end of his life. On the morning of November 10, 1951 he died of a heart attack while preparing for his 7:00 a.m. Mass.
Peoria's fourth bishop, the Most Reverend William E. Cousins, was installed on July 2, 1952. The years that Bishop Cousins served the Peoria Diocese were years of expansion for the Church in America. The "baby-boom" following World War II increased the demand for more churches and schools. There was also a great increase in the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. He was known as a personable man who liked to meet people on an informal basis. His talents did not go without notice. It was Bishop Cousin's destiny to preside over further changes in the Church as the Archbishop of Milwaukee, where he was installed on January 27, 1959.
November 4, 1959, was the Installation Day of Bishop John B. Franz, Peoria's fifth Ordinary. The growth of the Church in the 1950's continued into the 1960's and as a participant in the Second Vatican Council, Bishop Franz began the work of implementing the sweeping changes of that Council. Many people responded with enthusiasm, while others felt the changes had come too rapidly. The political turmoil of the 60's added to his challenges, but throughout, Bishop Franz encouraged healthy expression of this new found vitality in society and in the Church, counseled against abuses and was generally serene in his pastoral response. In 1971 Bishop Franz retired, having prayerfully and skillfully guided the Church in Peoria through the tensions of transition that followed the Council.
The Most Reverend Edward W. O'Rourke was installed on July 15, 1971 as the sixth Bishop of Peoria and its first native son. Bishop O'Rourke's administration reflected his overriding concern for the less fortunate members of society. The early years of his service were also marked by increased participation by lay people in the day-to-day operation of the Church. As a partial response to the decreasing number of priests available to minister to the people of the diocese, Bishop O'Rourke re-instituted the Permanent Diaconate program and ordained the first Permanent Deacon class in 1976. After nearly 19 years of service to the diocese, Bishop O'Rourke retired in 1990. Until his death on September 29, 1999, he continued to campaign and intervene for poor and less fortunate.
Another native of the diocese was destined to take over pastoral responsibilities for the Church in Peoria following O'Rourke's retirement. The Most Reverend John J. Myers was installed on January 23, 1990 as the seventh Bishop of Peoria. Prior to his installation, Bishop Myers served as Coadjutor Bishop along with Bishop O'Rourke, and thus brought a wealth of experience and knowledge of the diocese to his new position. A major focus of Bishop Myers' administration was vocations. The Diocese of Peoria has a strong reputation nationwide for its success in attracting men to the priesthood. In an effort to ensure continuity in the passing on of the Faith, Bishop Myers issued a series of pastoral letters from 1990 to 1997. The varied topics include: protecting life, “The Obligations of Catholics and the Rights of Unborn Children,” issued June, 1990; the liturgy, “The Eucharist: Sacrifice of Love,” issued December, 1990; religious education, “To Reach Full Knowledge of the Truth (I Timothy 2:24),” issued January, 1993; family life “Make Yours A Holy Family,” issued December, 1993; chastity formation “A Fresh, Spiritual Way of Thinking,” issued January, 1995; and, fatherhood, “Fathers Make Known to Children Your Faithfulness,” issued on March, 1997. On July 24, 2001, His Holiness Pope John Paul II called John J. Myers to serve as Archbishop of Newark, NJ. Archbishop Myers was installed as the fifth Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, on October 9, 2001.
The Diocese of Peoria's eighth bishop was appointed by His Holiness Pope John Paul II in January, 2002. The Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, was installed at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception on April 10, 2002. Born in Chicago, Illinois, Bishop Jenky came to the Peoria diocese via the University of Notre Dame, where he attended school, entered the order of Holy Cross Priests and Brothers at Notre Dame, and was ordained a priest in 1974. Serving as teacher, rector, and Religious Superior prepared Bishop Jenky for his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of the Fort Wayne - South Bend Diocese in October, 1997. Since his installation as Bishop of Peoria, Bishop Jenky has introduced the cause for the canonization of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and run a successful capital campaign in support of Catholic education.


Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C., D.D.

Bishop of Peoria
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Bishop Jenky was born in 1947 in Chicago, Illinois.
He went to grade school at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Parish located on the south-west side of the city and attended St. Laurence High School, conducted by the Irish Christian Brothers. He was a freshman at the University of Notre Dame in 1965, and in 1966, he entered the Holy Cross Father’s novitiate in Bennington, Vermont. After making his First Profession of temporary vows in 1967, he was assigned to Moreau Seminary to continue his education at Notre Dame. In 1970, he earned a bachelors degree in History, and in 1973 he completed graduate studies in Theology and received the MTH Degree. In 1973, he also made his Perpetual Profession of Vows and was ordained to the Diaconate. In the following year, he served at Sacred Heart Parish and assisted on the residential staff of Flanner Hall.
In 1974, he was ordained to the Priesthood and was assigned to teach Social Studies and Religion at Bourgade Catholic High School in Phoenix, Arizona. The following year, he was assigned back to Notre Dame and appointed Rector of Dillon Hall and Associate Director of Campus Ministry, with responsibility for the pastoral and liturgical organization of Sacred Heart Church. In 1977, he was named Rector of Sacred Heart. In 1984, he was appointed Director of Campus Ministry, a position in which he served for only one year, when he was then appointed Religious Superior of the Holy Cross Priests and Brothers at Notre Dame. During the six years that he was Religious Superior, he resided at Corby Hall. In 1991, he was appointed as the Rector of Fischer O’Hara Grace, a residential complex for 560 graduate students, and continued to serve as Rector of Sacred Heart, which in 1992 was raised to the rank of a Minor Basilica. Sacred Heart is nationally renowned for its rich liturgical and pastoral tradition, and during the years when he was Rector of the Basilica, he and his staff organized the liturgies for all major university occasions and special events and coordinated the six choirs that are connected with Campus Ministry. He has also regularly taught course in Notre Dame’s graduate school on spirituality and theology of prayer.
In October of 1997, Pope John Paul II appointed him as Auxiliary Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend and titular Bishop of Amantia. He was ordained at theCathedral of Saint Matthew in South Bend, Indiana on December 16. John D’Arcy, Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, appointed Bishop Jenky as Rector of the Co-Cathedral and Pastor of the parish.
In January of 2002, His Holiness appointed Daniel R. Jenky as the eighth Bishop of Peoria, Illinois, and on April 10, 2002, he was installed in the Cathedral of Saint Mary. Since his installation, Bishop Jenky has traveled widely around the twenty-six counties of the Diocese, celebrating Mass, visiting parishes and schools, preaching, giving talks, and conferring the Sacrament of Confirmation.
He has introduced the cause for the canonization of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, and has worked to increase the resources that support Catholic schools.
Bishop Jenky serves as a Fellow and Trustee of the University of Notre Dame.


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