A Brief History of the Diocese
The Diocese of Peterborough was first established July 11, 1882 by Pope Leo XIII and was found through the union of the Vicariate of Northern Canada and the western part of the Diocese of’ Kingston. As an Episcopal see, it extended from the shores of Lake Ontario north to Georgian Bay and from the shores of Lake Superior to the border of the Archdiocese of St. Boniface, Manitoba. The diocese had a Catholic population of about 30,000 and Bishop Jean Francois Jamot, the first Bishop, took residence here.
Due to the creation of the Diocese of Sault Saint Marie in 1904, the present geographical area of the Diocese of Peterborough includes the districts of Muskoka and Parry Sound, the counties of Peterborough, Northumberland and Victoria, that portion of the Regional District of Durham which formally was the County of Durham, and five south western townships of the County of Haliburton. The Muskoka Lakes Region. the Kawartha Lakes Region and that portion or the Trent-Severn Waterway- each located within our diocese — have seen the livelihoods of trapping, hunting, and lumbering be succeeded by recreation and tourism. Today various industries, small businesses, and government offices create the mainstay in most of the major towns.
Our diocese, like all dioceses is best identified not by territory or economies but by its people in pastoral endeavors. For example, Religious Orders have been part of the Gospel witness in our diocese. Priests of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), the Congregation of St. Basil (Basilian Fathers), and the congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists), respectively, have overseen the Native People missions, have assisted in parishes of the Northern Deanery, and have administered the parish of St. Alphonsus Liguori in the City of Peterborough. Priests of the Order of St. Francis (Conventual Friars Minor) presently serve the parishioners of Immaculate Conception in the City of Peterborough.
The religious communities of women remaining in our diocese include the Sisters Adorers of the Precious Blood and the Congregation of St. Joseph. The Sisters Adorers of the Precious Blood are a Canadian order of cloistered nuns which maintain prayer as their basic charism. The Congregation or St. Joseph been a major influence on education and health care in this diocese from the moment they first established themselves here in 1890. Today they participate in a variety of pastoral apostolates. The most recent religious community of women to be part of our diocese is the Sisters of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. These Sisters are best known for their assistance in the everyday function of the Bishop’s House, Diocesan Chancery and Office of Religious Education.
The present day (1994) Catholic population of the diocese is about 75,000 and is served through 41 parishes and related missions. Catechesis, sacraments, and related pastoral activities comprise the responsibility of 113 diocesan priests and 6 permanent deacons in varying capacities. A large number of our diocesan priest come from other dioceses and indeed from other continents – a real example of the universality of our church and its continued missionary mandate (Matthew 28:16-20).
Recent times have evolved Catholic laypeople toward prominent ministering roles in parishes, hospitals and schoo1s which had at one time been the stewardship of clergy and religious orders. Canadian society and family structures still need qualities, skills and values which are reflective of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Such is the baptismal call and responsibility of contemporary Catholics no matter what endeavour they participate in. Some recognized associations of Catholic laypeople include The Catholic Women’s League, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and The Knights of Columbus.
An entrenched secular society, integration of Asian and East European immigrants, needs of youth, effects of full funding for Catholic schools, ecological and economic issues, increased Catholic and senior citizen population ecumenical interaction, the need for more priest and religious vocations, the formation of laypeople and clergy for competent ministry, the role and recognition of women in the church, and the ongoing renewa1 mandated by The Second Vatican Council are but a few of today’s concerns which will continue to demand the unflagging attention of all of us, here —we, together with our bishop, who comprise the local Roman Catholic Church which is better known as – The Diocese of Peterborough.