The Diocese of Steubenville was founded in 1944 as a mission diocese, formed from the Diocese of Columbus, in Appalachian territory in the State of Ohio. The Diocese of Steubenville is comprised of thirteen counties, 250 miles along the Ohio River.
+John King Mussio
In 1945, the new Bishop of Steubenville, John King Mussio of Cincinnati, arrived in May at the Steubenville train station where he was met by thousands of Catholics and non-Catholics. It was a big day. The grade schools and high schools and many businesses were let out in order to greet him. A large parade down through the town from Sixth Street to Market, to Fifth, to Holy Name Cathedral, which was named the mother church of the diocese. Banners lined the streets and many bands played in the parade.
When Bishop Mussio first arrived, the only institution that existed in the whole diocese, other than the usual parish and school institutions, was a small hospital in the north end of Steubenville, Gill Hospital.
The Diocese purchased the old Ohio Bell Telephone Company building at 422 Washington Street in Steubenville in 1946 and it was renovated for use as the diocesan offices, which are still there to this day.
When Bishop Mussio first came to Steubenville there were four downtown parishes: St. Stanislaus, St. Anthony, Holy Name, and St. Peter. They were flourishing parishes, each with large schools. Over a period of years 37 new parishes and missions were created, and a total of 49 new churches were constructed during his tenure.
When the new state-of-the-art Catholic Central High School was consecrated, there were many Church dignitaries present, including several cardinals, and it was quite an important event for Steubenville. In addition to the building that began construction in 1950, two large additions were subsequently added.
There was a time when there were eight Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Steubenville (currently, we have three). Bishop Mussio established 11 new elementary schools and three new high schools.
In the west end of Steubenville, the bishop had established a housing subdivision. His idea was to have moderately-priced lots available for young Catholic families. The Diocesan Community Arena, later, St. John Arena, was completed in 1960. The Bishop’s concept was to have a building that would further better community relations and provide a forum for many cultural and physical presentations. The bishop raised all the money for the arena himself, with the exception of the 50 boxes that were sold for $2,000 each.
St. John Vianney Seminary was founded by Bishop Mussio. It was begun at the property now known as the Villa Maria on North Seventh Street and later was established in Bloomingdale. St. John Vianney Seminary started as a high school seminary and for the first two years of college. Later a major seminary building was built. The seminary closed in 1976 and has since been sold to the Apostolate for Family Consecration.
The College of Steubenville was established in 1945. Father Dan Egan of the Franciscan Fathers in Loretta, Pennsylvania, was sent as the first president of the college. Their first building, the main administration office, was at 420 Washington Street, next to the chancery offices. The College of Steubenville kept growing and determined to build on the northern hills above the city of Steubenville, where it remains today. Over 2,500 students from all 50 states and 15 foreign countries now attend the University, which offers day, evening, and summer classes with over 40 undergraduate and seven graduate programs as well as a study abroad program in Austria.
Bishop Mussio also founded The Catholic Woman’s Club. Each year, in a tradition that continues to this time, they meet in solemn convention that is one of the highlights of the year. The DCCW has assisted in many major celebrations held throughout the diocese, including providing hospitality and preparing receptions for the ordination and installations of our bishops.
The diocese had its own television program which ran from 1953 to 1966 entitled, “The Greatest of These.” The Diocese also had air time on a local radio station for many years. The Steubenville Register, the diocesan newspaper, was founded in 1946 and is the main source of communication with the people of the Diocese of Steubenville.
Bishop Mussio instituted a way to honor religious and lay people who work in a very particular way for the advancement of the diocese. He patterned these functions after the different papal awards. He called the diocesan award the Caritas Medal. The bishop also petitioned the Holy Father for papal medals, such as the Knights of St. Gregory, the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Knights of St. Sylvester.
One of the bishop’s greatest concerns was in the area of ecumenism. He started the diocesan ecumenical committee, including a group for people of the Jewish faith, and for non-believers, and these groups met actively and at one time were attended by several thousands. One year the bishop honored Protestant ministers and Protestant laypeople in his Caritas Medal.
Bishop Mussio welcomed several religious communities to the Diocese in the early years. The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity arrived in the Diocese of Steubenville in 1948. They established their order in Caldwell until they moved to Carrollton at the end of 1950, where they continue to this day. The Handmaids of the Sacred Heart came to the Diocese in 1958. In 1963 they moved from downtown Steubenville to Sunshine Park in Steubenville, where they conduct a pre-school and kindergarten.
The Camaldolese Hermits of Monte Corona and the Brothers of the Immaculate Heart of Mary were also instituted in the Diocese in the early years of its founding. Both entities are still in existence today.
Bishop Mussio retired October 11, 1977. He died April 15, 1978.
+Albert H. Ottenweller
Bishop Albert H. Ottenweller was appointed the second Bishop of Steubenville. He was installed November 22, 1977. At. 6’5”, Bishop Ottenweller was a gentle giant; he was a “people person” and believed that the people should be an active part of the Church. He was a builder of a different sort than Bishop Mussio. He had a vision for the Church of Steubenville.
Prior to his coming to Steubenville a survey was sent out through the diocese to sound out the needs of the diocese. In the survey religious education appeared as a top priority. In response to that, he developed religious education centers around the diocese to train religious education teachers and to develop and monitor programs for the parishes.
The second priority was improved liturgy in the churches. The Office of Worship was formed. Efforts were made to assist parishes with their music ministry; there were formation programs for lectors, cantors, Eucharistic ministers, etc.
Bishop Ottenweller felt strongly the message of the Church and the call of the People of God. In response, he called the first diocesan synod, which began in 1982. The Synod of 1983 asked the People of God of the Diocese of Steubenville to become more involved in the Church and to establish a direction for the Diocese to take over the next ten years. He wanted to bring the message of the Second Vatican Council into the very heart of the Diocese of Steubenville. It was a long, slow process, but a way of faith was formed that brought Vatican II to reality. It brought collaboration, lay formation, a host of ministries, including Christian education and small communities to the fore.
From the Synod came the Alliance of Pastors, and the Lay Deanery Council structure. One council represented each deanery. Although the structure has changed over the years, it is still in operation today, now known as Deanery Pastoral Councils. Other works of Synod 1983 included the Diocesan/Parish Share Campaign (DPSC), the Priests’ Council, the Diocesan Finance Board, and computerization.
Bishop Ottenweller established the Diocesan Data Processing Department (aka Information and Technology) in order to have a census of the entire diocese and to bring the Diocese of Steubenville into modern times. This department also entered into the computer an 83-question survey that was answered by 21,000 people.
Bishop Ottenweller was particularly proud of the “adoption” of a mission relationship with the Archdiocese of Cusco in Peru “We must help those who need us,” Bishop Ottenweller stated. Cusco is the oldest church in the New World—475 years old in 2011 and the Diocese of Steubenville considers the Archdiocese of Cusco as its sister diocese and still provides assistance to them.
Bishop Ottenweller established the Ministry to Priests program, pastoral staff, and the core staff. He put together a department of religious education to serve the needs of the people. The Diocese now has a strong cadre of teachers who have been certified to teach classes of religion. The offices also provides adult education, programs for the mentally disabled and handicapped.
On August 15, 1988 the Franciscan Sisters, Third Order Regular of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother was established as an Association of the Christian Faithful in the Diocese of Steubenville. This was the first of several groups that are working toward status as Institutes of Consecrated Life.
Bishop Ottenweller visited Narcotics Anonymous meetings. He felt the pain at the struggles that addicts went through to kick the habit. He made weekly visits to cancer patients at the former Ohio Valley Hospital. He was always aware of the needs of the poor. He also worked for Habitat for Humanity and was active in the pro-life movement.
The Papal Award, the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, was awarded in 1990.
Bishop Ottenweller retired April 2, 1992. Bishop Gilbert I. Sheldon was named the third Bishop of Steubenville and was installed April 2, 1992.
+Gilbert I. Sheldon
Bishop Sheldon called his first three years in the Diocese of Steubenville “a time of retrenchment, the ‘ebb tide’ that seems to follow every flow in nature.” Most of the mission parishes of the diocese were closed in that time period, due to the shortage of priests.
He ordained the first permanent deacon for the diocese; when he first came to Steubenville there were no permanent deacons.
Bishop Sheldon began a series of articles in The Steubenville Register, introducing the people of the Diocese to THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. He reviewed the entire CATECHISM in the Register over a ten-year period. He conducted workshops for teachers of religion throughout the Diocese, and was active in promoting its use. Even though he is officially retired, Bishop Sheldon continues his articles in the diocesan newspaper.
Bishop Sheldon established the Office of Buildings and Property. This office is responsible for the supervision of all diocesan and parish properties with regard to general maintenance, renovation of existing buildings as well as new construction and asbestos surveillance and abatement. Inspections of all parish properties are held annually.
In preparation for the Great Jubilee of the New Millennium, Convocation 2000 was introduced. It began in Advent of 1998. Parishioners were asked to meet to discuss the three themes of the Holy Father for preparation for the Millennium: Faith, Hope, and Charity. The fourth week focused on the future of the parish. In Lent 1999 a holy hour was held in each deanery. In Advent 1999 the opening of the Jubilee Door was celebrated at Holy Name Cathedral. A pictorial directory of priests was also published.
Also inaugurated in the diocese was an annual jubilee celebration for religious. This celebration is held annually, usually in October.
In 2001 the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice was presented to 26 persons who showed exemplary service to the Diocese and the Holy See. The Benemerenti Medal (for non-Catholic persons) was presented to one person for her many years of service on the Diocesan Finance Council. An Investiture of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre was held in 1993, the first since Bishop Mussio’s time 14 years earlier.
1994 saw the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Steubenville. Bishop Sheldon guided the diocese through a year-long celebration with special Masses offered in each of the individual parishes. Prayer cards were provided with a fiftieth anniversary prayer. The diocesan celebration was inaugurated on Sunday, October 2, 1994 at Holy Name Cathedral. On Sunday, October 1, 1995 a major diocesan celebration was held at St. John Arena in Steubenville.
Bishop Sheldon retired August 6, 2002, at which time the fourth Bishop of Steubenville, R. Daniel Conlon was ordained and installed at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
+R. Daniel Conlon
One of Bishop Conlon’s concerns was with the quality of catechetics within the diocese. In the summer of 2003 he convened the priests and lay catechetical leaders of the diocese for two-day workshops to study the General Catechetical Directory. This was the first such workshop ever held in the diocese. These Educational Leaders’ Conferences continue to be held in two areas of the diocese.
Early in his episcopate Bishop Conlon began conducting “regional visits” where he met with the priests of the area, celebrated the Eucharist and other sacraments, met with parish pastoral councils and other parish groups, visited catechetical classes, met with civic officials and the clergy of other Christian communions; visited homebound Catholics and toured places of employment and social service agencies. These visits were done over a two to three year period and then he would begin the process again.
The crisis of child abuse, especially the abuse of young people by priests and the way some bishops have handled it took a top priority for Bishop Conlon. The bishop put into effect the Decree on Child Protection on Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2002. A review board was established and assistance coordinators were appointed. The Diocese of Steubenville continues to work toward the goals established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in assisting those who have been sexually abused and in preventing further abuses.
In 2003 deanery pastoral councils were formed. These were previously known as the lay deanery councils. The work of the deanery pastoral councils began in January of 2004. The purpose of the deanery pastoral council is to provide a consultative structure for clergy and laity to work prayerfully and collaboratively to provide for the most effective way to build up the church in the Diocese of Steubenville, especially at the deanery level.
Bishop Conlon was active with the Boy Scouts of America and every other year joined the St. Georges’ Trek in the mountains of Arizona, a backpacking trek for scouts from all over the United States. He began an annual scout retreat in the Diocese of Steubenville in 2003.
On the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary (1995) of the founding of the Diocese of Steubenville, an archive was established in the chancery building after purchasing the building adjacent to the chancery.
May 2003 saw the first meeting of the Steubenville Task Force, a commission charged to look at the entire life and work of the Church within the City of Steubenville. In 2005 the Parish of Triumph of the Cross was erected. The decree of erection states that “a new parish be established in the city of Steubenville and be composed of the parishioners from the following parishes: Holy Name (1885), St. Anthony (1906), St. Stanislaus (1905), Holy Rosary (1947), St. Pius the Tenth (1955), and Servants of Christ the King (1991). This new Parish shall be formed gradually, as provided in the Steubenville Task Force Pastoral Plan: Renewing the Church in Steubenville. I further decree that the name of the Parish shall be Triumph of the Cross Parish.” Triumph of the Cross Parish was formed in 2005 and the parishes listed herein closed June 8, 2008.
In 2007 the first ever capital campaign was held, Lift High the Cross, in order to construct a new cathedral, to be the largest church in Steubenville. This cathedral was to be built on a site just below Catholic Central High School.
On October 5, 2004 Bishop Conlon called together ecumenical leaders in the Steubenville area in order to help the Ohio Valley area with economic development through prayer. That first meeting was the start of the initiative known as Faith in the Future. Ecumenical prayer services have been held periodically since that time in various churches in the Ohio Valley. An annual prayer breakfast is also held.
In March 2004 the first annual Men’s Conference was held.
In 2009 Bishop Conlon initiated the Permanent Diaconate Program. In his call to potential candidates he said, “Although the Diocese of Steubenville has benefited from the ministry of several deacons for a number of years, we have not had a formal program of calling and forming candidates. By God’s grace and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we are now able to initiate such a program.” The first fruit of that program was realized November 10, 2012 when our fifth bishop, Jeffrey M. Monforton, ordained six men from this first class of candidates.
Bishop Conlon also worked to establish a Hispanic ministry programs in the Diocese. A Sister of Charity, through the Office of Family and Social Concerns (Catholic Charities), oversees the program and works with the Hispanic people throughout the diocese, but especially in Meigs County which has the highest concentration of migrant workers.
The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, called for the Year of the Eucharist to be celebrated in 2004-2005 Plans were made to observe the Year of the Eucharist in the Diocese of Steubenville and every parish was asked to engage in an evaluation of its celebration of Mass, especially the Sunday Eucharist. Each parish was asked to reach out to Catholics who have lapsed from the practice of the faith, inviting them to reconcile with the Church and to once again join at the Eucharistic table. Five deanery-based celebrations were held and Bishop Conlon celebrated Mass and presided over a period of Eucharistic Exposition at each. Every parish was asked to plan a time of Solemn Exposition of the Holy Eucharist during the course of the year.
In the year 2008-2009, Pope Benedict XVI called for the Year of St. Paul. A binder was presented to the Holy Father as a token gift, which included the individual parish plans of all sixty-five parishes and missions in the Diocese of Steubenville in celebration of the Year of St. Paul. During the year our diocesan newspaper, The Steubenville Register published stories about how these plans are being implemented in various parts of the diocese. A major celebration was held at Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral and on the vigil of that feast the bishop celebrated the Eucharist at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
2009-2010 saw the designation of the Year of the Priest by Pope Benedict XVI, which began on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, June 19, 2009. Bishop Conlon called the priests to a deeper union with Christ the eternal High Priest and to a more fruitful ministry. He invited the people of the diocese to pray for our priests and prayer cards were provided them. On November 30, 2010 a diocesan celebration of the Year for Priests was held at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
On July 14, 2011 Bishop R. Daniel Conlon was installed as the Bishop of the Diocese of Joliet in Illinois. The Diocese of Steubenville for the first time in its history had a vacant see.
Msgr. Kurt H. Kemo was elected unanimously by the College of Consultors to serve as the Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese until the announcement was made on July 3, 2012 of the appointment of Msgr. Jeffrey M. Monforton, from Detroit, Michigan as the fifth Bishop of Steubenville.
+Jeffrey M. Monforton
The ordination and installation Mass of Jeffrey M. Monforton was celebrated at Franciscan University of Steubenville on September 10, 2012. The following day Bishop hosted his diocesan staff at his home for a picnic gathering. Shortly after, he headed off to (as he called it) “Baby bishop’s school” in Rome, a program for newly-ordained bishops.
Not a month after he was ordained he celebrated the funeral of our second bishop, Albert H. Ottenweller, at Holy Name Cathedral who died September 23, 2012.
One of the top priorities for Bishop Monforton was to resolve the issue of the building of a new cathedral. This decision came nearly six years after the first-ever diocesan Capital Campaign was held in order to construct a new cathedral at a site below Catholic Central High School. While the campaign was successful in raising several million dollars, it fell short on the amount of money needed to begin such a project. After careful examination of the situation and consultation with groups and individuals within the diocese to determine the best course of action, he made the decision that the diocesan cathedral would remain Holy Name Cathedral in the city of Steubenville. Bishop Monforton stated, “We will renew and restore our cathedral which bears the holy name of Jesus.” Thus, the diocese is in the midst of renovating the Romanesque architecture of our cathedral.
On Wednesday, July 17, 2013 Bishop Monforton received word from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments that the parish church of St. Mary of the Assumption in Marietta, Ohio, received the designation of Minor Basilica. The inauguration Mass will be held on November 5, 2013. This is the first and only church in the Diocese of Steubenville to receive this honor.
On November 10, 2012 Bishop Monforton ordained eight deacons, six of them permanent deacons and two transitional deacons for service in the diocese.
Bishop Monforton, in his first year as Bishop of Steubenville has doubled the number of seminarians preparing for the priesthood from five to ten.
During his first year in the diocese, Bishop Monforton visited all 13 of our Catholic schools during Catholic Schools Week. Also, prior to his first anniversary he celebrated a Sunday Mass in each one of our 58 parishes.
The Diocese of Steubenville currently has 42 active priests, 2 priests on extra-diocesan assignment, 28 retired priests, one retired bishop; 16 permanent deacons and ten diocesan seminarians. There are 54 parishes and three missions. There are three high schools, 1 junior high school and 9 grade schools. There is one Catholic Hospital, Trinity Health System, located in Steubenville.