Timeline and Map

The Moments And People That Shaped Us

The first Catholic diocese west of the Allegheny Mountains was established in 1808 in Bardstown, Kentucky. Its frontier territory was enormous. Thirteen years later, in 1821, Pope Pius VII decided to divide the Bardstown Diocese to better serve the growing population of Catholic settlers, immigrants and Native Americans. The newly-created Diocese of Cincinnati, the eighth Catholic diocese established in the United States, originally encompassed Ohio, Michigan and parts of Wisconsin. Here are some of the most notable milestones in its history.


Defining Moment

The First Two Parishes In Ohio

The first two parishes in Ohio — St. Joseph in Somerset and Christ Church in Cincinnati — are founded. Both parishes were started at the initiative of pioneer Catholics, Jacob Dittoe in Somerset and Michael Scott in Cincinnati. In the early years, traveling missionary priests, most notably Father Edward Fenwick, O.P., visited these congregations.



Defining Moment

Diocese of Cincinnati Created

Pope Pius VII issues a Papal bull creating the Diocese of Cincinnati and names Father Fenwick as the first bishop. Originally, the diocese encompassed the entire state of Ohio, parts of Michigan and the Northwest Territory.


Defining Moment

Bishop Fenwick Establishes The Athenaeum of Ohio

Recognizing the need to educate future priests to serve his missionary diocese, Bishop Fenwick establishes the Athenaeum of Ohio, a seminary school of higher learning. Over the next 200 years, this will grow into St. Xavier High School, Xavier University and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and School for Theology.

Defining Moment

The Sisters of Charity Arrive

At the invitation of Bishop Fenwick and several members of the laity, the Sisters of Charity from Emmitsburg, Maryland, arrive in Cincinnati to serve at St. Peter’s School and Orphanage for girls. This is the first religious community to arrive in the diocese, serving in schools, healthcare and other ministries even today.


Defining Moment

The Catholic Telegraph Founded

Anti-Catholic sentiment and basic ignorance of the teachings of the Catholic Church prompted Bishop Fenwick to found The Catholic Telegraph, a weekly newspaper that offers a defense of the faith. It is now one of the oldest running Catholic publications in the United States.


Person Of Interest

Bishop Fenwick Dies

Bishop Fenwick dies of cholera while visiting parishes in northern Ohio. His body was initially buried in Wooster, Ohio, then brought down to Cincinnati.


Person Of Interest

Father John B. Purcell Named Bishop

Thirty-three-year-old Father John B. Purcell, a teacher at the seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, is named the second bishop of Cincinnati. During his 50-year episcopate, he would build more than 100 parishes, schools, orphanages and hospitals and earn a reputation as a leading bishop in the United States.


Defining Moment

Bishop Purcell debates Alexander Campbell

In January, Bishop Purcell publicly debates Alexander Campbell, the founder of the Disciples of Christ, at a Baptist church on Sycamore Street. This debate marks the first time an American bishop engages in a debate with a Protestant clergyman. The event brought great excitement to the city, and the Catholic and Protestant newspapers quoted the debates in full. Bishop Purcell showed that the Catholic faith was intellectually rigorous and secured himself a place as a leading defender of the faith.

Defining Moment

Father John Henni establishes Der Wahrheitsfreund

Given the large German population in Ohio, Father John Henni establishes Der Wahrheitsfreund, a German Catholic newspaper to complement The Catholic Telegraph. It ceased production in 1907.

Defining Moment

Emmanuel Church Founded

Layman Robert Conway is instrumental in bringing Father Edward Collins to Dayton to serve the needs of the local community. This led to the founding of Emmanuel Church, Dayton’s first Catholic church.

Defining Moment

Establishment of The St. Aloysius Orphan Society

Due to cholera outbreaks and a large orphan population, Father John Henni leads a group of German lay Catholics in the establishment of the St. Aloysius Orphan Society, which helped finance and manage the St. Aloysius Orphanage. After having several locations, the orphanage, which housed German boys, eventually settled in Bond Hill, Ohio. 


Defining Moment

Congregation of The Precious Blood & Sisters of The Precious Blood

Led by Father Francis Brunner, fourteen priests and brothers from the Congregation of the Precious Blood arrive in Cincinnati. Shortly after their arrival, Bishop Purcell sends them north to Maria Stein, Ohio. A group of women religious from the Sisters of the Precious Blood soon follow. The congregation grew and has been a mainstay in Auglaize, Mercer and Shelby counties, serving the parishes and schools.


Defining Moment

Ursuline Sisters arrive in Cincinnati

Ursuline Sisters arrive in Cincinnati from Le Havre, France. They chose to settle in Fayetteville in Brown County, a large Catholic settlement at the time. Led by Sister Julia Chatfield, O.S.U., they opened Ursuline academy and laid the groundwork for what is now Chatfield College.


Defining Moment

Members of The Society of Mary Arrive & Father Leo Meyer Is Sent To Dayton

Two members of the Society of Mary arrive in Cincinnati to assist at the German parishes. Father Leo Meyer is soon sent to Dayton to assist at Emmanuel Church and purchases property for a school.


Defining Moment

Diocese of Cincinnati Elevated To Archdiocese

Pope Pius IX issues a bull on July 19, elevating the Diocese of Cincinnati to the rank of an archdiocese.

Defining Moment

St. Mary’s School In Dayton Opens

St. Mary’s School in Dayton opens, the beginning of what is now the University of Dayton


Defining Moment

The Sisters Of Charity Found A Hospital

The Sisters of Charity found St. John’s Hotel for Invalids. This became the first Catholic hospital in the city with a teaching college attached to it. This private hospital has since grown and evolved in ministry and is now known as Good Samaritan Hospital.


Defining Moment

Riots Around St. Peter In Chains Cathedral

While on a tour of the United States, Archbishop Gaetano Bedini stops in Cincinnati. On Christmas night, hundreds of rioters gather around St. Peter in Chains cathedral, protesting any influence of the Vatican in America. One rioter dies in the protest. 


Defining Moment

Holy Angels Church Destroyed By Gunpowder

On the night of August 20, the newly built Holy Angels Church in Sidney, Ohio, is destroyed by gunpowder. While the people who carried out this destructive act were never discovered,  it is believed that the Know Nothings were the perpetrators.


Defining Moment

The Franciscan Fathers Arrive

The Franciscan Fathers arrive in Cincinnati to establish a community. Their parish ministry begins with St. John the Baptist Church and St. Francis Seraph, both in Over-the-Rhine. They quickly established a seminary and schools throughout the area. Cincinnati becomes home to the St. John the Baptist Province. Also that same year, the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor found St. Mary’s Hospital, the second Catholic hospital in Cincinnati.


Defining Moment

“Praying The Steps”

During the construction of Holy Cross Immaculata Church in Mount. Adams, the faithful begin the practice of “praying the steps” — one Hail Mary on each step and one Our Father on each landing — as they climb the hill to the church. This popular tradition continues to this day, particularly during the Holy Triduum.


Defining Moment

St. Charles Seminary Founded

Father Joseph Dwenger, C.PP.S., founds the St. Charles Seminary in Carthagena, Ohio, to educate priests and brothers for the Congregation of the Precious Blood. It closed in 1969 and is now a retirement home for religious and laity.


Defining Moment

A Call For The Emancipation Of Slaves

A September 3 editorial in The Catholic Telegraph, likely written by Father Edward Purcell (Archbishop Purcell’s brother), calls for the emancipation of the slaves, the most public declaration by a Catholic newspaper: “The mark of nobility, the image and likeness of God is stamped upon every soul with equal distinctness.”


Defining Moment

St. Ann’s Colored Church Founded

Father Francis Weninger, S.J., founds St. Ann’s Colored Church for Black Catholics in Cincinnati. At the time, it was one of six Black Catholic churches in the United States. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur taught at the school. 


Defining Moment

Participation In Vatican I

Archbishop Purcell participates in Vatican I and is a vocal opponent of the proposed dogma of papal infallibility. His eloquence earned him esteem from his brother bishops, and when the dogma was declared, he once again gave his obedience to the Church.


Defining Moment

The Archdiocesan Bank Fails

After operating for approximately 40 years and being run by Father Edward Purcell, the archdiocesan bank fails. This financial devastation affects not only the archdiocese but also the laity who deposited their life savings into the bank. Efforts are made to raise the money needed to return money to the depositors, but the archdiocese is only able to give them a fraction of their money. The seminary closes and does not reopen until 1887. Archbishop Purcell resigns, and Bishop William Elder takes over administrative duties. 


Person Of Interest

Bishop Elder Appointed Archbishop Of Cincinnati

With the death of Archbishop Purcell, Bishop Elder is appointed archbishop of Cincinnati. Archbishop Elder works to increase oversight of his priests, parishes and schools. During his tenure, Archbishop Elder established 32 new parishes and missions, and the archdiocese grew to include 200,000 Catholics, almost 300 priests, 180 churches, and over 100 Catholic schools.


Person Of Interest

Daniel Rudd Establishes The American Catholic Tribune

Daniel Rudd, a Black Catholic and former slave, establishes the American Catholic Tribune, a Catholic newspaper for African Americans. The newspaper invites the Black community to examine the Catholic Church and see Her as worthy of belief.


Defining Moment

The Second Black Catholic Congress

The Second Black Catholic Congress is held in Cincinnati on July 8, 9, and 10. The congress focuses on education and the establishment of an industrial school for Black Americans. Archbishop Elder is among the speakers. 


Defining Moment

St. Gregory Preparatory Seminary Opens

St. Gregory Preparatory Seminary opens for high school- and college-age students who are discerning the priesthood. It closes in 1907 but is reopened in 1929 in Mount Washington. Dwindling numbers led to its final closure in 1980.


Defining Moment

Knights of Columbus In The Archdiocese

The first Knights of Columbus chapters are established in the archdiocese. This fraternal organization is founded to aid the poor, widow and orphan and continues to offer assistance locally and beyond.


Person Of Interest

Henry Moeller Installed As Archbishop

Henry Moeller is installed as the fourth archbishop of Cincinnati. The first Cincinnati native to lead the Church in Cincinnati, Henry Moeller was a strong proponent of Catholic education and addressing the social needs of the poor.


Defining Moment

First Holy Name Rally

The first Holy Name Rally is held in Mount Adams with participation from four parishes. By 1911, the rally becomes an annual event, involving most parishes in the archdiocese and becoming a mainstay for lay Catholics to publicly demonstrate their faith.


Defining Moment

Hamilton Catholic High School

Hamilton Catholic High School becomes the first regional Catholic high school. Instead of individual parishes organizing a secondary school, local parishes share resources for this school. In the following decades, more centralized high schools are added.


Defining Moment

Cincinnati Hosts The Fifth National Eucharistic Congress

In September, Cincinnati hosts the fifth National Eucharistic Congress. The four-day event opens with a pontifical Mass at the cathedral and includes Eucharistic processions. Its purpose is to inspire a greater devotion to the Eucharist.


Defining Moment

Flooding Along The Miami River

Extensive flooding along the Miami River causes considerable damage and suffering in Dayton, Hamilton and Middletown. Relief funds are raised throughout the archdiocese to support those affected.


Defining Moment

St. Rita School For The Deaf

Father Henry Waldhaus is tasked with opening a school for the deaf. With the aid of benefactors, 237 acres of land are purchased for St. Rita School for the Deaf. The school opens with eleven students and three teachers from the Sisters of Charity.

Defining Moment

The Fenwick Club Established

A meeting in March establishes the Fenwick Club, a downtown Cincinnati residence for unmarried men that provides a home and activities that support a Catholic lifestyle. Similarly, the Sisters of St. Joseph operate the Fontbonne in Cincinnati for unmarried women, and the Dominican Sisters offer the Loretto Home in Dayton. 


Defining Moment

Bureau of Catholic Charities Created

Needing to consolidate and more efficiently manage the many charitable organizations in the archdiocese, the Bureau of Catholic Charities is created with Father Francis Gressle as director. The bureau’s work includes children services, immigration aid, counseling, food donations, and more — many things it still does today.


Defining Moment

The Catholic Students Mission Crusade Founded

The Catholic Students Mission Crusade is founded to foster awareness and activity for foreign Catholic Mission


Defining Moment

The Catholic Students Mission Crusade Headquarters Moved To Cincinnati

The Catholic Students Mission Crusade headquarters is moved to Cincinnati and remains there until the organization disbanded in the 1970s. The Shield is the official publication of the organization.


Defining Moment

College of Mount St. Joseph Opened

Seeing a need to provide further education to sisters and graduates of their academy for girls – the Mount St. Joseph Academy – the Sisters of Charity open the College of Mount St. Joseph for women. The school became coeducational in 1986 and a university in 2014.


Person Of Interest

John McNicholas Named Archbishop

Following the death of Archbishop Moeller, John McNicholas is named archbishop. During his tenure, Archbishop McNicholas was among the most influential US bishops in the interwar years, taking an active role in the causes of social reform, evangelization and education.


Defining Moment

Institutum Divi Thomae Founded

Archbishop McNicholas founds the Institutum Divi Thomae and names George Sperti as the director. This graduate school for scientific research strived to promote the harmony between faith and science. Notable research topics included aspercreme, Preparation H and burn ointments. The school closed in 1988.


Defining Moment

Cardinal Pacelli (future Pope Pius XII) Visits

Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, visits the United States and stops in Cincinnati for a stay that lasts less than 24 hours. Large crowds greet him outside Mount St. Mary Seminary. After this visit, the elementary school at Our Lord Christ the King Church is named the Cardinal Pacelli School.


Defining Moment

Flooding of The Ohio River

Flooding for hundreds of miles along the Ohio River in late January causes extensive damage and suffering. In Cincinnati, the water crests 80 feet, which is 30 feet over flooding levels. Many Catholic churches suffer damage, including St. Rose of Lima and St. Michael in Lower Price Hill, prompting relief efforts throughout the archdiocese.

Defining Moment

Cathedral Moved to St. Monica Church

With the downtown population shrinking and St. Peter in Chains requiring much upkeep, Archbishop McNicholas decides to move the cathedral to St. Monica Church in Clifton, Ohio. St. Peter in Chains is now referred to as “the old cathedral.”


Defining Moment

Glenmary Home Missioners Founded

Father William Bishop, a priest in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, founds the Glenmary Home Missioners and is invited by Archbishop McNicholas to establish the headquarters in Cincinnati. The mission of the Glenmary priests and brothers is to serve in rural areas without a resident priest and address the spiritual and material needs of the poor. Father Bishop also founded the Glenmary Sisters in 1941. The sisters moved their headquarters to Owensboro, Kentucky, in the 1990s.


Person Of Interest

Archbishop Karl Alter Serves Cincinnati

Coming from the Diocese of Toledo, Archbishop Karl Alter serves the local church at a time of great growth. He oversaw the restoration of the cathedral, the building of a new St. Gregory Seminary, the founding of seven new high schools, the building of 41 elementary schools and the expansion of 50 additional schools.


Defining Moment

Cathedral Returned to St. Peter in Chains

When he became archbishop in 1950, Karl Alter made returning the cathedral to St. Peter in Chains a priority. A massive renovation and expansion project began in 1954 and is completed in 1957. A week-long dedication celebration takes place in November. 


Defining Moment

Second Vatican Council

Archbishop Alter and Bishops Paul Leibold and Edward McCarthy participate in the Second Vatican Council, with Alter being present at all four sessions. A leader among bishops in the United States, Bishop Alter was a member of committees preparing materials prior to the council. At the conclusion of the council, he directed that a parish council be established in every parish and began the process of implementing liturgical reforms.


Person Of Interest

Bishop Paul Leibold Named Archbishop

With Archbishop Alter’s retirement, Bishop Paul Leibold is named archbishop and is charged with implementing many of the conciliar reforms in the archdiocese. He died suddenly at the age of 57, having served as archbishop for less than three years.


Defining Moment

Franciscan Media Created

The Franciscan Friars of the St. John the Baptist Province in Cincinnati create Franciscan Media. St. Anthony Messenger, which was first published in 1893, expands its mission following the council to become a publisher of many popular works of inspirational and educational Catholic resources.


Defining Moment

Sixth Archdiocesan Synod

Following the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Leibold launches the sixth archdiocesan synod (Synod ’71), involving, for the first time, a significant number of laity in planning for the Church’s future. After a year of preparation, over 3,000 delegates gathered in assembly and voted upon documents that provided new guidelines for the life of the archdiocese. The synod strengthened the role of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and the Priests’ Senate.


Person Of Interest

Joseph Bernardin Named Archbishop

Following the unexpected death of Archbishop Leibold, Joseph Bernardin is named Archbishop of Cincinnati. He worked to promote stewardship and centralized diocesan structures and took an active role in the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, serving as its general secretary and later its president.


Defining Moment

Renewal of The Vocation of Deacons

Fifty men enroll in the newly established permanent diaconate program. After the Second Vatican Council, the Church called for a renewal of the vocation of deacons in the ministry of the Church.


Defining Moment

Mother Teresa Visits

Mother Teresa, foundress of the Missionaries of Charity and now known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, makes her first of three visits to the greater Cincinnati area.  The other visits were in 1981 and 1982.


Defining Moment

Lay Pastoral Ministry Program Launched

In the fall, the archdiocese launched the Lay Pastoral Ministry program. This program was designed to educate lay Catholics to be pastoral ministers in the Church. A branch of the Athenaeum of Ohio, it is now called Lay Ecclesial Ministry Formation.


Defining Moment

Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (Future Pope John Paul II) visits Archbishop Bernardin

On September 6, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla visits Archbishop Bernardin, then the head of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Cardinal Wojtyla stays overnight at the cathedral and celebrates Mass there. (Two years later Cardinal Wojtyla is elected pope and takes the name John Paul II.)


Person Of Interest

Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Pilarczyk Named Archbishop

When Archbishop Bernardin is sent to the Archdiocese of Chicago, Dayton-born Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Pilarczyk is named the ninth archbishop of Cincinnati. Archbishop Pilarczyk worked to address challenges, including the decline in the number of priests and demographic changes that required parish consolidations and closings. Archbishop Pilarczyk wrote nearly two dozen books and booklets, addressing themes such as contemporary moral issues, Scriptures and social justice.


Defining Moment

Decree on Child Protection Published

The archdiocese publishes the Decree on Child Protection, establishing policies and procedures to prevent abuse of minors by the clergy, lay employees and volunteers. In 2003, Archbishop Pilarczyk pleaded “no contest” for failure to report cases of abuse. At that time, the archdiocese established a fund to compensate sexual abuse victims.


Defining Moment

Su Casa Hispanic Center Founded

Su Casa Hispanic Center is founded as a program of Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio. It is the primary provider of social, case management, family reunification, educational, and health promotion services to the Hispanic/Latino community in Greater Cincinnati. The Su Casa Hispanic Center is committed to serving, enlightening and empowering the poor and the vulnerable of the immigrant community who come to the US looking for a better way of life for themselves and their families.


Defining Moment

The Futures Project Established

Archbishop Pilarczyk establishes The Futures Project to discuss and make plans for the future of the local Church in light of declining priest numbers. Among the accepted recommendations is the creation of pastoral regions.


Defining Moment

Sacred Heart Radio Founded

With the endorsement of Archbishop Pilarczyk, Sacred Heart Radio is founded to bring online Catholic content to the public 24/7. Two shows, The Son Rise Morning Show and Driving Home the Faith, are produced locally. Sacred Heart Radio currently operates three local radio stations, reaching from Covington, Kentucky, to Dayton, Ohio.


Person Of Interest

Dennis Schnurr Named Archbishop

Following the retirement of Archbishop Pilarczyk, Dennis Schnurr is named the tenth archbishop of Cincinnati. During his tenure in Cincinnati, he has introduced the Prayer for Vocations. Begging God for more laborers, the archdiocese has seen an increase of priestly vocations, necessitating an expansion of the seminary. Archbishop Schnurr is supportive and welcoming of initiatives for the new evangelization.