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Brief History of the Diocese

1300s - The first to establish settlements in the North Country were t he Iroquois (14th century).

1600s - French, Dutch, and English fur-traders came; followed shortly after by the French missionaries, Father Issac Joques, S.J. companions who were martyred establishing the first missions among the Five Nations.

                For a long time the Church of the North Country was served by the Bishops of Quebec because of the intolerance of the English and later the American Rule. The Catholic Church was suspect because of the ties to the English enemy, France.

1752 – The mission of The Holy Trinity at La Presentation Fort (Ogdensburg) was established May 29, 1752.

1808 – Established as part of the Diocese of New York.

1847 – Established as part of the Diocese of Albany.

1872 -  The Diocese of Ogdensburg was acknowledged on February 16, 1872 by Pope Pius IX, “We, with definite knowledge, mature deliberation, and by our Apostolic Authority, in virtue of the present document, separate and sever from the Diocese of Albany, the following territory – the counties of St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton, Jefferson, Lewis and Essex, together with part of the counties of Herkimer and Hamilton which lies above the northern line of the townships of Ohio and Russia; and this same territory we erect and constitute as a true and properly called diocese.”

Ref. A History of Catholicism in the North Country  by Sister Mary Christine Taylor, S.S.J., Ph.D. (1972)

May 5, 1872 – December 5, 1891
Former Vicar General of Albany, NY
Born – Lewis, NY 1817
As the first Bishop of the Diocese of Ogdensburg Bishop Wadhams built more than 25 churches, St. Joseph’s Home for the aged, 17 Catholic schools and welcomed 18 communities of women religious women and four communities of men religious to the diocese.  Among them was the Society of the Sisters of St. Joseph, a diocesan religious community of Sisters, which remains present in the diocese today.

May 5, 1892 – April 23, 1921
Former Rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary, Troy, NY
Born – Wannegem-Lede, Belgium, 1838
During the tenure of Bishop Gabriels, several hospitals were founded by religious communities in northern New York. In 1898, St. Mary’s Cathedral in Ogdensburg became the first cathedral in New York State to be consecrated.

January 18, 1922 – March 20, 1939
Former Auxiliary of Bishop of Ogdensburg
Born – Watertown, NY 1858
Bishop Conroy, a native of Watertown, received the Atonement Friars and Religious, formerly Episcopalians, into the church. He also opened Wadhams Hall Seminary which educated diocesan priests for the next 75 years.

May 2, 1939 – November 13, 1942
Former Coadjutor of Diocese of Ogdensburg
Born – Newark, NJ 1890
Bishop Monaghan relocated and reorganized the Chancery Offices, built a new Wadhams Hall, and two parish churches in spite of illness and the constraints from World War 11.

August 9, 1943 – August 18, 1953
Former Organizer of Catholic Charities
Born – Manhattan, NY 1893
Appointed – Rector of Catholic University, Wash. DC and later Bishop of Brooklyn, NY
As fifth bishop, Bishop McEntegart came to the North Country with years of experience in the charitable work of the Church, helping to organize Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of New York. Along with this commitment to the poor, he brought a commitment to communication and established the North Country Catholic diocesan newspaper in 1946. He also appointed the first full-time Secretary of Education.

March 25, 1954 – May 26, 1957
Former Auxiliary Bishop of New York
Born – New York, NY 1901
Appointed – Bishop of Rockville Center, NY
Bishop Kellenberg had a particular concern for Catholic education with a focus on CCD, providing religious education for children in public schools and lay catechists.

June 14, 1957 – May 8, 1963
Former Auxiliary Bishop of Raleigh, NC
Born – Buffalo, NY 1901
Appointed – Bishop of Paterson, NJ
The seventh bishop, Bishop Navagh aimed to provide Catholic education for all Catholics, from kindergarten through college. He built 15 Catholic schools and a dozen catechetical centers. He directed the erection of Mater Dei College in Ogdensburg, the only Catholic co-ed college in the diocese. In 1961 he responded to the pope’s appeal for missionary aid to the Latin American Church, opening the Ogdensburg Peruvian Apostolate. He also established the Office of the Lay Apostolate, the Bishop’s Committee for Christian Families and the Diocesan Development Fund, later known as the Bishop’s Fund.

May 13, 1963 – October 9, 1963
Former Auxiliary Bishop of Buffalo
Born – Attica, NY 1905
Bishop Smith died at the Second Vatican Council in Rome after only five months of service as Bishop of Ogdensburg. During his short tenure, Edmond A. Guggenheim donated property in Saranac Lake which was later converted to a diocesan summer camp, construction for a new Wadhams Hall was begun and ground was broken for Avila Hall at Mater  Dei.

April 13, 1963 – June 14, 1968
Former Rector of the Major Seminary of New York
Born – Bronx, NY 1914
Appointed – Archbishop of Atlanta, GA
Bishop Donnellan was responsible for implementing reforms of Vatican II. He was interested in the laity and directed that parish councils be established in every parish, supported the Catholic Lawyers Guild and the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women and established the Lay Employees Retirement Plan.

October 22, 1968 – November 11, 1993
Former Auxiliary Bishop of Buffalo
Born – Buffalo, NY 1917
Retired at age 75
Bishop Brzana was the longest serving Bishop of Ogdensburg, leading the North Country Church for 25 years.  As in dioceses across the country, it was a time of change. Some Catholic schools closed while others merged into central schools serving several parishes.  Parishes closed or became oratories of began sharing pastors. The first official cycle of diocesan planning, in response to a decrease in the number of priests, began.  Bishop Brzana established the Diocesan Pastoral Council, the Permanent Diaconate, the Formation for Ministry program and the RCIA.

January 17, 1994 – January 25, 1999
Former Auxiliary Bishop of Hartford, CT
Born – Framington, MA 1940
Appointed Bishop of Arlington, VA
Bishop Loverde began a New Evangelization initiative as called for by Pope John Paul II. He created the Office of Evangelization and opened the Office of Planning. 

January 7, 2000 – July 1, 2003
Former Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn
Born – Brooklyn, NY 1950
Appointed Bishop of Palm Beach, FL
A major focus of Bishop Barbarito was family life. He also continued many of the programs and initiatives of Bishop Loverde’s time such as evangelization and planning.

 May 18, 2004 – April 21, 2009
Former Vicar General of Buffalo
Born – Buffalo, NY 1943
Appointed Bishop of Syracuse, NY
Bishop Cunningham was particularly devoted to Catholic education, Catholic Charities and strong parish life. He focused many of his efforts on ensuring that the church had the financial resources it needed and, under his leadership, the Bishop’s Fund Appeal surpassed $1 million for the first time and the Foundation of the Diocese of Ogdensburg was established.

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