The Roman Catholic Diocese of Marquette, Michigan
1004 Harbor Hills Drive
Marquette, MI 49855
As early as the 17th century, Jesuit missionaries from France began spreading the word of God to Natives of the Upper Peninsula. St. Isaac Jogues was the first to offer Mass in the U.P., in Sault Ste. Marie in 1641. In 1668 missionary Jacques Marquette became the first resident pastor to the tribes of Chippewa and Sault Indians here. For nearly 350 years the presence of the Jesuits remained constant in the region.
Father Frederic Baraga settled at L’Anse in 1843 and devoted the rest of his life to evangelization of this region. The present-day Diocese of Marquette, encompassing all of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, was named a Vicariate Apostolic within the ecclesiastic Province of Cincinnati in 1853. In 1857 it was established as the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie, and the saintly Baraga was named its first bishop.
Baraga moved from his devoted missionary efforts at L’Anse to Sault Ste. Marie to carry out this new charge. However, he found Sault Ste. Marie too remote a location and moved the seat of the diocese to Marquette in 1865. The name was then changed to the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette. In 1937 the title was changed again to the Diocese of Marquette.
Throughout the 20th century Bishop Baraga’s successors strived to continue building the church by promoting church vocations and exhorting men and women to join the religious life, increasing the number of parishes, missions and Catholic schools throughout the diocese, and encouraging involvement from the laity.
In 1953, on the 100th anniversary of the diocese being named a vicariate apostolic, 93,560 Catholics were counted in the U.P. Diocesan clergy numbered 143 and 24 religious were serving at 96 parishes, 42 chapels and 38 missions. The diocese had six high schools and 28 grade schools. A Centennial Mass was held Aug. 30 at Memorial Field in Marquette. Seven additional observances were held in various regions of the U.P. in September and October 1953.
The diocese began the celebration of the Jubilee Year 2000 at Midnight on Christmas 1999. Jubilee-year events included a U.P.-wide Confirmation at the Superior Dome in Marquette, where 656 young people were confirmed. Also, an estimated 2,500 people took part in a Eucharistic celebration Aug. 20 at the Mattson Lower Harbor Park in Marquette.
In the year 2000 the number of registered Catholics in the diocese was 65,500. Fifty-eight diocesan priests and 11 religious were serving the people at 74 parishes and 23 missions. There were 10 parish grade schools. Sixty-three women religious were also in service to the diocese.
The reduction in the number of Catholics and Catholic institutions in this diocese now compared with its peak years in the mid-20th century mirrors a trend that has occurred throughout the United States over the past several decades. There are many factors that have contributed to this decline. Indeed, entire books have been and continue to be written about the waning of organized religion in this country.
That said, the Diocese of Marquette today is a church that is optimistic. We believe that our nation, perhaps now more than ever, needs the Gospel message. We are a church that believes in evangelization, beginning with our own membership and extending to the broader community. We are optimistic as we work to return to the basic principles, focusing on the Eucharist as the source and summit of all our efforts. We minister to the poor, defend the innocent, the weak and the infirm. We recognize the integral role of parents in their children’s faith formation and we work with them in their children’s development.
One hundred fifty years since its founding by Bishop Frederic Baraga, the Diocese of Marquette remains steadfast in a world that has witnessed dramatic change.
(From "Seasons of Faith: A Walk Through the History of the Diocese of Marquette.")