History of the Rockford Diocese
On September 23, 1908, Pope Pius X erected the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois, placing it under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception. The territory making up the Rockford Diocese became the fifth diocese in the State of Illinois and the Province of Chicago. It was comprised of 12 counties in the Northwestern part of the State. Those original counties were: McHenry, Kane, Kendall, DeKalb, Boone, Winnebago, Ogle, Stephenson, Lee, Jo Davies, Carroll and Whiteside. The western boundary of the new diocese was the Mississippi River, the northern boundary was the Illinois-Wisconsin state line, the eastern boundary was the remaining counties of theArchdiocese of Chicago, and the southern boundary the northernmost counties of the Diocese of Peoria. The Diocese of Rockford encompassed 6,867 square miles.
The City of Rockford was established by Rome as the See City of the new diocese and St. James Parish, the older of the two parishes in the City of Rockford, was designated by the Holy See as the Pro-Cathedral for the new Diocese.
On September 28, 1908, Pope Pius, named the Most Reverend Peter James Muldoon, D.D., the first Bishop of the Rockford Diocese. He was installed at the Pro-Cathedral of St. James, Rockford, on December 15, 1908 by the Archbishop of Chicago, James E. Quigley, D.D.
At the time of the establishment of the Diocese of Rockford, the Catholic population stood at about 50,000 souls with 64 diocesan priests serving them in 12 counties in a total of 61 parishes (having a resident priest) and another seventeen missions (church with no priest in residence) and nine stations (no church and no resident priest, but Catholics were served from a neighboring parish). Of special note and indicative of the deep roots of Catholicism in the new Diocese is the fact that 22 of the 61 parishes and three of the 17 missions were settled and active prior to the American Civil War.
A complete history of the Diocese of Rockford was written and published in 2008 in honor of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the diocese. That commemorative history book includes photographs and histories from all parishes as well as agencies, organizations and closed parishes. The Diocesan History volume can be ordered at firstname.lastname@example.org for $25 each plus shipping and handling.