Discover the Diocese of Charleston

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston is an ecclesiastical territory or diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in the southern United States and comprises the entire state of South Carolina,  with Charleston as its see city. Currently, the diocese consists of 92 parishes and 24 missions throughout the state.  It is led by the Most Rev. Robert Guglielmone, the Thirteenth Bishop of Charleston, who serves as pastor of the mother churchCathedral of Saint John the Baptist in the City of Charleston.  Its first bishop was John England. Charleston is a suffragan diocese of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
The diocese was created from territories of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.  The Diocese of Charleston was canonically erected on July 11, 1820 by Pope Pius VII making it the seventh oldest Roman Catholic diocese in the United States. At that time, the diocese comprised the states of GeorgiaNorth Carolina, & South Carolina.
Services are primarily given in English throughout the diocese, though the rapid increase in the Hispanic population has caused several congregations to include Spanish language services, particularly in the Lowcountry region.


Consecrated on April 6, 1854 the Cathedral of Saint John and Saint Finbar was the first proper cathedral of the diocese. On December 11, 1861, it was destroyed in a fire that consumed most of the city. The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist was built to replace the original and sits on the foundation of the ruins.  Before the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh was formed, the Diocese of Charleston had a pro-cathedral in Wilmington, North Carolina, that is now St. Mary Catholic Church.

List of Bishops

The complete list of Bishops is as follows:



The Catholic Miscellany, successor to the U.S. Catholic Miscellany, the first Catholic newspaper in the United States, is the official newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston.


High schools

Diocesan High schools
Private High schools

Parochial Elementary schools


The Diocese of Charleston was established by Pope Pius VII on July 11, 1820. Its first shepherd was Bishop John England, who was born in Cork, Ireland. At the time of his appointment to the Diocese of Charleston he was parish priest at Bandon, a town about 16 miles from Cork. He was consecrated bishop in St. Finbar’s Church in Cork on September 21, 1820, and arrived in Charleston December 30, 1820.

When Bishop England came to Charleston, James Monroe was President of the United States, Thomas Bennett was Governor of South Carolina and Elias Horrey was Mayor of the City of Charleston. The new diocese of 142,000 square miles was spread over three states, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. There were two churches, one in Charleston and one in Augusta, GA., only six priests were available to serve the handful of scattered Catholics.

It is believed that Masses were celebrated in the area by Spanish priests, perhaps as early as 1526, but no records exist to verify this. We are told by a genealogist that Catholics came into various sections of South Carolina before 1750, and there is an undocumented tradition that in the upstate there was a French priest who, once a year, made a trip on horseback from Canada to New Orleans in the fall and returned in the spring. He would stop along the way and say Mass in the Catholic homes.

Bishop England wrote that “sometime about the year 1786, a vessel bound to South America put into the port of Charleston. There was a priest on board; as well as can be recollected, he was an Italian. The few Catholics, who now began in the city to be acquainted with each other .... invited him to celebrate Mass, which he did in the house of an Irish Catholic for a congregation of about twelve persons.” This might be marked as the introduction of the Catholic religion to the present Diocese of Charleston.

St. Mary of the Annunciation Church on Hasell Street in Charleston was the first Catholic church in the Carolinas and Georgia, an area now comprising five dioceses. It was permanently established on August 24, 1789, by the Rev. Thomas Keating. It was incorporated by an act of the legislature of South Carolina in 1791, and was well established when the Diocese of Charleston was created by a Papal brief, and when Bishop England arrived in December of that year.

Prior to the establishment of the Diocese of Charleston and the coming of Bishop England, the Catholic Church of the Carolinas and Georgia was part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and was under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Baltimore.

Four other dioceses have since been made from the original territory included in the Diocese of Charleston. The Diocese of Savannah was carved out in 1850. In 1956 that diocese was split into two parts with the creation of the Diocese of Atlanta which, in 1962, was elevated to the status of archdiocese and became the metropolitan see of the Province of Atlanta. North Carolina was made into a Vicariate Apostolic in 1868 and some 56 years later became the Diocese of Raleigh. In 1972 the Diocese of Raleigh was divided into two by the creation of the Diocese of Charlotte. In 1858 the Diocese of Charleston assumed jurisdiction over the Bahama Islands, but this was relinquished in 1885. Today the Diocese of Charleston comprises the entire state of South Carolina with Charleston as the See city.

The Bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, Most Rev. Robert E. Guglielmone was ordained and installed as the 13th ordinary on March 25, 2009, in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

From its beginnings in 1820 until the present, the diocese has developed slowly but surely under the devoted leadership of its bishops:

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone

The Most Reverend Robert E. Guglielmone was ordained and installed as the 13th Bishop of Charleston on March 25, 2009 in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

Bishop Guglielmone was born December 30, 1945 to Frank and Caroline Guglielmone. He has two brothers, Nicholas Dana and Tito.

Growing up on Long Island, he attended both Catholic grade school and high school, graduating in 1964. He earned a Bachelor's degree in education from St John's University in Jamaica, NY. For five years he taught Business at Patchogue-Medford High School, during which time he did graduate work in education at New York University.

Feeling the call to the priesthood, Bishop Guglielmone entered the seminary for the Diocese of Rockville Centre. He earned a Master of Divinity at Immaculate Conception Seminary in 1977 and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre on April 8, 1978 and was assigned to St. Martin of Tours in Amityville for his first priestly ministry after ordination. He later served as a priest in parishes across Long Island, most recently as Rector of St Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre.

In addition to his parochial assignments, Bishop Guglielmone helped form the future priests of the Diocese of Rockville Center by serving as Director of Pastoral Formation and Dean of Seminarians at Immaculate Conception Seminary for seven years. He later assisted in the administration of the diocese as Director of Clergy Personnel.

Bishop Guglielmone is a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus. He was named a Knight of Grace of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George in 1993. He was named a Prelate of Honor (Monsignor) by Pope John Paul II in 1996.

Since his days in the seminary Bishop Guglielmone has been actively involved in Catholic Scouting, earning numerous awards, including the St. George Emblem and Brother Barnabas Founder's Award. He has served in various chaplain capacities locally, nationally and internationally and directed the chaplain's training for the prestigious Philmont Scout Ranch for nearly a decade. He has also served in several capacities on the National Catholic Committee on Scouting and is currently an Executive Board Member. In November 2000 Bishop Guglielmone was appointed World Chaplain to Catholic Scouting by the Holy See for a four year term and was re-appointed in 2004 and served in that capacity until January 2009 when the Holy Father appointed him the 13th Bishop of Charleston, South Carolina. He is the current USCCB Episcopal Liaison for the National Catholic Committee on Scouting (NCCS).


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