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Fort Wayne

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The Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana, U.S.A. established in 1834, comprised the whole State of Indiana till the Holy See, on 22 September, 1857, created the Diocese of Fort Wayne, assigning to it that part of Indiana north of the southern boundary of Warren, Fountain, Montgomery, Boone, Hamilton, Madison, Delaware, and Randolph Counties, a territory of 17,431 square miles, numbering 20,000 Catholics with 14 priests, 20 churches, and two religious institutions, with educational establishments of the Fathers, Brothers, and Sisters of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. The Right Rev John Henry Luers was nominated first Bishop of Fort Wayne and consecrated in Cincinnati, Ohio, 10 January, 1858. He was born 29 September, 1819, in Germany, and emigrated to America in 1831. He was ordained priest in Cincinnati, 11 November, 1846. Entering upon the administration of the new diocese, he devoted himself zealously to the founding of new parishes and missions, provided a home for the orphans, and built a cathedral. In June, 1871, during a vacancy of the See of Cleveland, Ohio, he was called to that city to confer ordination on a number of seminarians. After the function, on his way to the train, he suffered an apoplectic stroke and fell dead (29 June, 1871). At the time of Bishop Luer's death there were in the Diocese of Fort Wayne 69 priests, 75 churches, 10 chapels, 1 hospital, 1 orphan asylum, 1 college, 11 academies for girls, 40 parochial schools, and a catholic population estimated at 50,000.

The Rev. Joseph Dwenger was then appointed to the see. He was born near Minster, Ohio, in 1837. Orphaned at an early age, he was educated by the Fathers of the Precious Blood, entered their community, and was ordained priest 4 September, 1859. Appointed professor in the seminary of his community, he filled that position until 1862, and was then assigned to parochial work. From 1867 to 1872 he was occupied in preaching missions. He was consecrated 14 April, 1872. In 1874 Bishop Dwenger was the head of the first American pilgrimage to Rome. In 1875 he erected an Orphan asylum and manual labour school for boys at Lafayette. He was a zealous promoter of the parochial school system. In 1884 he attended the Third Plenary Council at Baltimore, and in the following March was deputed, with Bishops Moore and Gilmour, to present the decrees of the council to the Holy Father. In 1886 he erected an asylum for orphan girls at Fort Wayne. In 1888 and in 1891 he again went to Rome, the last time in the interest of the North American College. Soon after his return he was attacked by a lingering illness, to which he succumbed 22 January, 1893.

The Right Rev. Joseph Rademacher, Bishop of Nashville, Tennessee, was transferred to Fort Wayne, 13 July, 1893. He was born 3 December, 1840, in Westphalia, Michigan, and ordained priest 2 August, 1863, by Bishop Luers, to whose diocese he had been affiliated. In April, 1883, he was appointed Bishop of Nashville, Tennessee, and was consecrated 24 June. At Fort Wayne Bishop Rademacher applied himself assiduously to increase the number of churches, schools, and missions. In 1896 he remodelled the cathedral at an expense of $75,000. In 1898 his health gave way. Symptoms of mental collapse appeared and he had to relinquish the government of the diocese. He expired peacefully 12 January, 1900. During his illness, and until the appointment of a successor, Very Rev. J. H. Guendling, vicar-general and pastor of the cathedral, was administrator of the diocese.

The Rev. H. J. Alerding, pastor of St. Joseph's Church, Indianapolis, was appointed successor of Bishop Rademacher 30 Aug., 1900. He was born 13 April, 1845, in Germany. During his infancy his parents emigrated to the United States and settled in Newport, Kentucky. He was ordained priest by Bishop Maurice de St. Palais of Vincennes 22 September, 1868, and appointed assistant at St. Joseph's church, Terre Haute, where he remained till 1871, attending, besides, a number of missions. From October,1871, to August, 1874, he was pastor of Cambridge City, whence he was transferred to Indianapolis and entrusted with the organization of St. Joseph's parish, where he built the church, the school, and a parochial residence. In 1885 he published "A History of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Vincennes", a work of deep historical research and accuracy. Bishop Alerding was consecrated in the cathedral of Fort Wayne 30 November, 1900. Since then he has founded new parishes, aided struggling ones, reorganised the parochial school system, provided for the orphans and promoted all good works. He held a diocesan synod in the cathedral 11 November 1903. The statute's enacted were promulgated 19 March, 1904. Among other salutary regulations the establishment of six deaneries was decreed — Fort Wayne, South Bend, Hammond, Logansport, Lafayette, and Muncie. In 1907, for the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of the diocese, Bishop Alerding, published "A History of the Diocese of Fort Wayne, an elaborate historical work, covering the period from 1669 to 1907.

Diocesan statistics for 1908 give priests, secular, 128; religious, 71; churches with resident priest, 110; missions with churches, 43; stations, 6; chapels, 49; parochial schools, 82, with 14,252 pupils; orphan asylums, 2; orphans, 239; hospitals, 13; old people's homes, 2; Catholic population, 93,844. Educational Institutions: the University of Notre Dame, in charge of the Fathers of the Holy Cross; St. Joseph's College (Collegeville), conducted by the Fathers of the Precious Blood. For girls: academies, 11. The number of pupils in colleges and academies is 1262. Religious Communities. — Men: Fathers and Brothers of the Holy Cross: Franciscans; Fathers and Brothers of the Precious Blood. Women: Sisters of the Holy Cross; Poor Handmaids of Christ; Franciscan Sisters (various branches); Dominican Sisters; Sisters of the Precious Blood; of Notre Dame; of St. Joseph; Of Providence; of the Holy Family; of St. Agnes. The following communities have novitiates in the diocese; The Fathers and Brothers of the Holy Cross at Notre Dame; the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, at Lafayette; the Sisters of the Holy Cross, at Notre Dame; the Poor Handmaids of Christ, at Fort Wayne; the Sisters of St. Joseph, at Tipton.


ALERDING, The diocese of Fort Wayne (Fort Wayne, 1907); The Catholic Directory (Milwaukee, Wisconsin).

About this page

APA citation. Hammer, B. (1909). Fort Wayne. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Hammer, Bonaventure. "Fort Wayne." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Vivek Gilbert John Fernandez & Maria-Magdalena Anghel. Dedicated to Edward John Fernandez, for his tireless work in everything he undertakes.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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