Glimpses: The history of St. Francis Borgia – Ecclesiastical Provinces

As St. Francis Borgia Parish approaches its 175th anniversary (1844-2019), we will share some short articles about our congregation’s growth through the 1800s into the present. Thanks to Marty Moore for his diligent research for these articles.

Ecclesiastical Provinces (Archdiocese)

The first Roman Catholics to the British colonies arrived in Maryland in 1634, falling under the authority and guidance of the “Vicar Apostolic of London.” Earlier Catholics had arrived in Spanish-controlled Florida as early as 1534.

Following the American Revolution, Rev. John Carroll, the Superior of Catholic Missions, wrote to Rome in 1785 about the negative effects of the former state controlled government church, requesting a new structural approach. Rome answered and in 1791 Carroll became bishop of the new Diocese of Baltimore.

In the 1800s the Catholic Church set up an elaborate infrastructure in the United States, based on dioceses run by bishops appointed by the pope – each diocese with a network of parishes, schools, colleges, hospitals, orphanages and other charitable institutions. Priests began arriving from France and Ireland to meet the needs of the Church of the day.

In 1674, our area was French territory under the Quebec Diocese. As the United States expanded westward into the new Northwest Territory, new dioceses were created and missionary priests dispatched from Detroit to our area began to arrive.

The first was a “saddle-bag priest,” Fr. Patrick O’Kelley in 1839. Fr. O’Kelley was based at Milwaukie’s old St. Luke Church. In 1842, Fr. Martin Kundig arrived, and is credited with founding St. Francis Borgia and dozens of other Wisconsin congregations. At that time Wisconsin had 19,000 Catholics – 16,000 being Irish. Made up of an Irish Community, in 1842, our congregation was known simply as “The New Church of Newland.”

In 1843, Pope Gregory XVI established the Diocese of Milwaukie. As the area expanded, our diocese became an ecclesiastical province (aka an archdiocese), which now includes the dioceses of Green Bay, La Crosse, Madison and Superior. Jerome Listecki is our provincial “metropolitan” or archbishop.

Please note: In early historical documents, Milwaukee was spelled Milwaukie (with the “ie”). This is not a typo.