What we would consider the Fort Wayne area was first placed under the care of the Bishop of Quebec from 1674-1789. Then with the establishment of the Diocese of Baltimore the Fort Wayne area was under the jurisdiction of Bishop Carroll from 1789 until 1810. In 1810 it was under the Bishop Flaget, the Bishop of Bardstown, Kentucky. From 1834 to 1857 the Fort Wayne area was part of the Vincennes Diocese. Vincennes would later be the titular see, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
According to George Mather in his book, “Frontier Faith,” the earliest account of worship in the Fort Wayne area was December 20, 1789. Father Louis Payet, a priest from Detroit conducted, “eight services of worship in as many days.” At that time Fort Wayne was known as Miamitown and was under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Quebec. Since the mid 1850′s the Diocese of Fort Wayne has had nine Bishops, the list follows:
- Bishop John Henry Luers Consecrated January 10, 1858
- Bishop Joseph Dwenger Consecrated April 14, 1872
- Bishop Joseph Rademacher
- Arrived in Fort Wayne October 3, 1893 (transferred from Nashville)
- Bishop Herman Joseph Alerding
- Consecrated November 30, 1900
- Bishop John Francis Noll
- Consecrated June 30, 1925
- Bishop Leo Pursley February 26, 1957
- Bishop McManus October 19, 1976
- Bishop John Michael D’Arcy May 1, 1985
- Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades January 13, 2010
In 1857 by the decree of Pope Pius IX, on January 8 the northern half of the state of Indiana was erected into the Diocese of Fort Wayne, the boundaries being that part of the state north of the southern lines of fountain, Montgomery, Boone, Hamilton, Madison, Delaware, Randolph and Warren Counties. The remaining southern half of the state made up the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
In 1944, the Apostolic Decree of His Holiness Pope Pius XII established the diocese of Lafayette, from the southern twenty-four Counties of the Fort Wayne Diocese, approximately dividing the size of the diocese in half.
Another division occurred in 1957, the year the diocese was celebrating its 100th anniversary. The Diocese of Gary was established which comprised the four northwestern counties of Indiana.
Diocesan Coat of Arms
The lower portion of the left side includes heraldic reference to the city and area of South Bend. The lily is a traditional symbol of St. Joseph whose name identifies the county of which South Bend is the seat and also the river which flows through it. The use of the “fleur de lis,” the French and the early missionary labors of French priest, particularly Father Edward Sorin and his companions who founded the University of Notre Dame.
The figure of the six-winged angel is one of the four familiar symbols of the four Evangelist, in the instance of St. Matthew, patron of the co-cathedral in South Bend. The curving line between the lower two sections of the shield represent the St. Joseph River, the south bend of which gave the city its name. It is interesting to note that such curved lines are known in heraldry as “bends.”
The sources for the above account were taken from the following sources:
From the Fort Wayne Downtown Branch Library “Diocese of Fort Wayne,” Alerding, Volume I , The Archer Printing Co. Fort Wayne, IN, 1907 and Volume II, “Fragments of History,” compiled by the Bishop John F. Noll, D.D., 1941 “Frontier Faith,” George Mather, pp 67-97, The Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society, Fort Wayne Indiana Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Directory, 2001