Discover the Diocese of Rochester

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester is a diocese of the Catholic Church in the Greater Rochester region of New York State in the United States. The region that the Diocese comprises extends from its northern border on the south shore of Lake Ontariothrough the Finger Lakes region to its southern border at the New York-Pennsylvaniaborder. The Diocese of Rochester comprises 12 counties in New York, with approximately 350,000 Catholics and over 125 faith communities (parishes and chapels), 22 diocesan elementary schools and 7 independent parochial high schools. The metropolitan for the diocese is the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, currentlyTimothy Cardinal Dolan. The cathedral parish for the diocese is Sacred Heart Cathedral.


The story of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester begins on March 3, 1868, when the people of eight counties of the territory of the Diocese of Buffalo were entrusted to the pastoral care of the first bishop of the newly established Diocese of Rochester. The original eight counties were MonroeLivingstonWayne, Ontario, SenecaCayugaYates, andTompkinsPope Pius IX selected Bernard J. McQuaid, a native of New York City, to lead the new upstate diocese. McQuaid was the founding president of Seton Hall University. He served as vicar-general of the Diocese of Newark, New Jersey.

In 1868, the new Diocese of Rochester had about 54,500 Catholics. The average Catholicwas socio-economically poor. There were 35 parish churches and 29 mission churches. There were 3 male religious orders and 5 communities of sisters. The current or arrivingethnic groups of Catholics were the Irish, the Germans, and the French (who were mostly Canadian).

Typical of Catholics in the United States in those days, the various ethnic groups sought to have their own parishes where they could preserve their own language and customs]].Eastern Europeans and Mediterranean Europeans and others were not yet present in numbers but soon would be. The position of so many Catholics and their Church was on the edges of mainstream American society. McQuaid made his mission and ministry the work of taking all the diverse immigrant groups and bringing them into a respectable union in which the main aspects of Catholic Christian teaching and practice were retained in a society where religious liberty was constitutional.

In 1896, the 4 counties of SchuylerTiogaChemung, and Steuben were added to the Diocese of Rochester from the Diocese of Buffalo. The present geography of the diocesetook shape.

Bishop McQuaid died in 1909. In that year the Catholic population of the diocese was 121,000 persons. There were 93 parishes, 36 missions, 53 parish schools with 18,000 pupils. There were 164 priests and well over 500 sisters] By this time the Polish and the Italians constituted additional strong ethnic groupings in the diocese. There were also theBelgians, the Dutch, the Portuguese, and the Lithuanians. There were also members of theUkrainianRuthenianMaroniteMelkite, and other Catholic Eastern Rites. McQuaid had faced the diversity of the Catholic population, the opposition of other Americans to the Catholic presence, the struggle to determine the identity and mission of the Church in the United States, as well as various local conflicts about authority and other concerns. McQuaid was neither reticent nor shy in the exercise of his ministry. His response to the signs of the times in his day led him to emphasize the importance of basic unity among Catholic Americans, to build parishes and schools to preserve the identity and the faith of the members of the diocese, to establish seminaries for educating the clergy of the diocese, to establish other institutions to provide for the care of the people of the diocese. In particular, his commitment to the faith formation of the Catholic people of the diocese led him to establish a model seminary system and an excellent elementary system of parochial schools. McQuaid left a diocese that had not only survived conflicts which could have torn it apart but that also had been built to a point of stability at which it operated productively.

There would be further conflicts, further struggles,institutions and facilities established in the years to follow. But McQuaid had left a good foundation and a sound establishment. For the next few decades the Diocese of Rochester developed and evolved much along the lines which McQuaid had drawn.

Thomas Francis Hickey served as the second bishop of Rochester from 1909 until 1928. Among other efforts and achievements, Bishop Hickey helped foster Catholic secondary education, established a strong catechetical program for Catholic children enrolled in public schools, and also gave firm support to the apostolate to deaf persons. He pioneered the work of Catholic charities within the diocese. He also helped the bishops of New York State to establish an office to communicate with the state legislature about Catholic concerns. Bishop Hickey also worked with the other bishops of New York State to obtain legislation permitting a diocese to form a diocesan charities aid association.

The third bishop of Rochester, John Francis O'Hern, served for only a brief four years. His motto was service. He dedicated his office to bringing people together – Catholic and non-Catholic alike. He promoted numerous associations of the laity. He encouraged the use ofcommunications media for the Church's mission. He reached out to the wider community by giving strong backing to the Community Chest and the Red Cross. He participated in various civic activities. He collaborated with leaders of other religious faiths. Before he appointed priests to serve as chaplains to the Catholics]] attending secular colleges in the diocese, O'Hern consulted with Vaticanauthorities who replied, "Take care of your people wherever they are." Bishop O'Hern did so until the day he died in May 1933.

Archbishop Edward Mooney was a papal diplomat to Japan when he was named the fourth bishop of Rochester in August 1933. Mooney encouraged the establishment of the St. Peter Claver Society as a vehicle for diocesan efforts among African-Americans. He was elected a director of the Rochester Community Chest. Mooney promoted the Catholic Action movement locally. He also did so as the long-term chairman of the Administrative Board of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (the predecessor to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops). Mooney took a special interest in adult religious education. He also cultivated the principles of Catholic social teaching and equitable labor relations in the diocese and around the United States. In May 1937, Archbishop Mooney was named as to serve theArchdiocese of Detroit. His time in Rochester schooled him for his stewardship of the Archdiocese of Detroit and for his eventual position as Cardinal of the Church.

By 1938, there were 223,657 Catholics in the diocese. There were 129 parishes, 36 missions, 72 parish schools serving 23,796 pupils. There were 289 active diocesan priests. The number of sisters continued to grow. By this time the diocese had made its first formal effort to reach out to the African-Americans present in the diocese.

After the Second World War a cultural shift began in American society and in the Catholic Church in America. The immigrant Catholics themselves or their children had become sufficiently prosperous to have aspirations for a better life in the suburbs and for higher education. The GI Bill of Rights provided scores of Americans who otherwise would have been unable the opportunity to pursue a college education. Many Catholics pursued a college education at state universities and secular colleges. Catholics became more assimilated into American culture.

While the fifth bishop of Rochester, James E. Kearney, presided over a growing and steadily developing diocese from 1937 until 1966, nonetheless the storm clouds of cultural changes in society and in the Church were beginning to gather during his term of office. Whereas McQuaid's role had been to forge unity out of diversity, Kearney's role was to maintain the unity and nourish its growth.

In 1966, Catholics in the 12 counties of the diocese numbered 361,790 persons. There were 155 parishes (2 of which did not have a resident pastor). There were 36 mission churches. There were 371 active diocesan priests. There were 1,549 sisters. There were 99 elementary parish schools serving 45,540 pupils. There were numerous other well-established Catholic institutions, such as high schools, colleges, hospitals, and monasteries. After World War II and again after the failed attempt to achieve freedom from communism in 1956,Hungarian Catholics arrived in the diocese. The great migration of Puerto Ricans began after World War II and continued into the 1960s. A further wave of immigrants arrived after World War II from Poland, Italy, Germany, and Ukraine. And with the migration of African-Americans from the southern United States to the north, many African-American Catholics came to the diocese, especially from Louisiana.

At the end of Kearney's time as bishop of the diocese, the storms that had been gathering arrived in full force. The storm in American culture and society combined with the storm in the Catholic Church to present a great new challenge to the local Church. In the United States racial conflict and the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, the sexual revolution, the Vietnam War, the anti-war movementcollege protests, and other factors undermined the assumed values and conventions of society. In the Catholic Church theliturgical renewal, the renewal of biblical studies, the renewal of social justice, and an organizational renewal all with roots decades old emerged in the form of the Second Vatican Council. The Council announced a new moment in the life of the Church. Many of the members of the community of disciples of Jesus Christ found a new enthusiasm for living their Catholic faith. At the same time one of the primary effects of the Council was to undermine the assumed values and conventions that had supported the ordinary life of the Church.

In October 1966, Fulton J. Sheen was chosen to become the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Rochester. Because of his national reputation as a preacher, teacher, and author, Bishop Sheen's appointment raised great expectations in the local Church. Bishop Sheen brought the thinking of the Second Vatican Council to his pastoral ministry in the diocese. He also brought a newcomer's fresh and sometimes bold perspective to the local Church and to the local community. Some of his initiatives were gladly welcomed. Others were questioned or resisted. Bishop Sheen submitted his resignation as bishop of Rochester to Pope Paul VI several months earlier than the date required byChurch law. Bishop Sheen served as Bishop of Rochester for only two years and ten months. His was a complex personality caught in the complex shift of Church and culture that was taking place in the Diocese of Rochester at that time. All in all, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen provided a new direction for the diocese in those critical times.

In October 1969, the name of the seventh bishop of Rochester was announced. Pope Paul VI selected 53-year-old Joseph L. Hogan, a native of the Diocese of Rochester, an experienced educator in Church institutions, a priest with great pastoral sensitivity despite his few years in parish ministry. Hogan launched into the implementation of the reforms for which the Second Vatican Council called. Through research and dialogue and study, the diocese sought to read the signs of the times. New activities, new ministries, new ventures were undertaken.

Under Bishop Hogan's leadership, the Diocese of Rochester became involved in efforts to achieve greater social justice in our society, more interfaith cooperation among local religious communities, an end to the Vietnam War. He established the Diocesan Office of Black Ministries, one of the first such offices created in the country. Hogan supported and visited the various Rochester diocesan missions inAlabama and South America. He revamped diocesan management and established a diocesan pastoral council. Bishop Hogan did not try to cloak the problems of the diocese with a false optimism. He sought new approaches to building a new sense of unity of understanding and purpose in the Church. He gave himself generously to the work of the renewal. Having spent himself for the Church, Bishop Hogan retired on November 28, 1978, at age 62, because of poor health.

In 1978, there were 358,850 Catholics in the diocese. There were 161 parishes, all with resident pastors; and there were 29 mission churches. There were 311 active diocesan priests; their average age was getting older year by year. There were 1,095 women religious; the average age of the sisters were also growing older. The number of parish schools had declined to 75 schools serving 19,526 pupils. By this time Vietnamese Catholic immigrants had arrived in numbers, along with other Asian Catholic immigrants such as the Filipinos,Laotians, Chinese, and Koreans.

In May 1979, the name of the next bishop of Rochester was announced. Matthew H. Clark was ordained a bishop by Pope John Paul IIon May 27, 1979, and then installed as the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Rochester on June 26, 1979. Clark faced a local Church with diminishing resources of personnel and money. He faced a society struggling with political and social division. He faced a range of substantive issues calling for response, such as urban poverty, alleged police brutality, the role of women in society and in the Church, abortion, genetic engineeringnuclear weapons, the death penalty, international peace. From his first days as bishop, Clark demonstrated his readiness to listen. He also demonstrated a readiness to address controversial matters with gentle bravery. He sought to encourage members of the diocese to find solutions to the difficult problems that faced them. Through efforts at consultation and dialog, he pursued apastoral approach to resolving the tensions of differing points of view both within the Church and within the wider community.

By 1992, there were 361,384 Catholics in the diocese. Of the 162 parishes in the diocese, 139 had a diocesan priest as a resident pastor, 8 had a religious priest as pastor, and 15 were without a resident priest pastor. There were 208 active diocesan priests. There were 842sisters. There were 58 elementary Catholic schools serving 11,992 pupils. In 1992, the diocesan Office of Vietnamese Ministry became the Office of Asian/Pacific Ministry serving all Asian Catholics throughout the diocese. During the preceding decade significant numbers ofCubans and Dominicans had begun to arrive in the diocese. SalvadoransGuatemalansHaitians, and Hondurans also arrived in identifiable numbers.

In October 1993, Bishop Clark presided over a General Synod of the Diocese of Rochester. The process which led to the synod gave further evidence of Clark's commitment to collegiality, collaboration, and co-responsibility. The diocesan goals that eventually emerged from the Synod also represent much of Clark's own agenda during his term: lifelong faith formation for Catholics, a consistent life ethic, support for the role of women in the Church, the importance of nurturing spirituality and discipleship for daily living.

While strains of controversy and division have pulled at the fabric of the local Church, Bishop Clark continued to insist on the dignity of thehuman person, the importance of reconciliation and healing among the members of the community of the Church, and the value of hope in the Spirit who leads the Church.

Bishop Clark retired, assuming the title of Bishop Emeritus, on September 21, 2012. Bishop of Syracuse Robert Cunningham was namedApostolic Administrator of the Diocese on that date.

On November 6, 2013, Pope Francis announced that Most Rev. Salvatore R. Matano had been appointed the 9th Bishop of Rochester. He was installed on January 3, 2014 at Sacred Heart Cathedral

-This history is from the Diocese of Rochester website-


The following is a list of Bishops who served the Diocese of Rochester, along with their dates of service:


  1. Bishop Bernard J. McQuaid: March 3, 1868 – January 18, 1909 (death)
  2. Bishop Thomas Francis Hickey: January 18, 1909 – October 30, 1928
  3. Bishop John Francis O'Hern: March 19, 1929 – May 22, 1933 (death)
  4. Bishop (later CardinalEdward Mooney: August 28, 1933 – May 26, 1937 (transfer to Archdiocese of Detroit)
  5. Bishop James E. Kearney: July 31, 1937 – October 21, 1966
  6. Bishop (later Archbishop) Fulton J. Sheen: October 21, 1966 – October 6, 1969 (retired and appointed to titular see of Newport, Wales)
  7. Bishop Joseph Lloyd Hogan: November 28, 1969 – November 22, 1978 (retired due to health)
  8. Bishop Matthew H. Clark: June 26, 1979 – September 21, 2012 (retired having reached age 75)
  9. Bishop Salvatore Ronald Matano: January 3, 2014 – Present

Coadjutor Bishop:

  1. Bishop Thomas Francis Hickey: February 18, 1905 – January 18, 1909

Auxiliary Bishops:

  1. Bishop Lawrence B. Casey: February 10, 1953 – March 4, 1966
  2. Bishop John Edgar McCafferty: January 5, 1968 – April 30, 1980
  3. Bishop Dennis Walter Hickey: January 5, 1968 – January 16, 1990


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