Home Our Diocese Knights of Columbus give thanks to priests who answered call: Bob Rossi

Knights of Columbus give thanks to priests who answered call: Bob Rossi

Bob Rossi, Knights of Columbus
Bob Rossi, Knights of Columbus

This year the Diocese of Wilmington marks 150 years since its founding. All over the diocese, the Knights of Columbus honor and thank our priests on Priesthood Sunday, Oct. 28. The diocese today is blessed to have a wonderful bishop and many priests who have dedicated their lives to being Jesus’ witnesses and instruments of salvation.
Currently, the Diocese of Wilmington has 115 diocesan priests and 59 religious priests, with 11 seminarians in formation serving nearly 245,000 Catholics in 57 parishes and 19 mission churches. The diocese has not always been blessed with such an abundance of clergy. In the earliest days, the diocese had fewer priests than we have seminarians today. Our diocese has come a long way.
According to various histories, bishops stayed an extra day at the end of the second plenary council of Baltimore in 1866 to discuss the needs presented by the expanding U.S. Catholic population. There was an ever increasing number of Catholics here and around the United States. Imagine their enthusiasm when it was determined that a new diocese was needed for our area.
They made the recommendation to the Holy Father, Pope Pius IX, that Delaware, the nine counties on the eastern shore of Maryland, and the two counties of Virginia on the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula (later returned to the Diocese of Richmond) form a new diocese. These recommendations were approved, and the Diocese of Wilmington was established on March 3, 1868. The Right Reverend Thomas Andrew Becker, D.D. was named bishop. Mass of Consecration was held on August 16, 1868 at the Cathedral of the Assumption in Baltimore.
A total of 5,000 Catholics were in the diocese at that time. 3,000 were in the Wilmington and New Castle areas and 2,000 along the eastern shore of Maryland. At the start, Bishop Becker had a somewhat discouraging list of resources: eight priests, 18 churches, an orphanage, an academy for girls and parochial school operated by Daughters of Charity and two parochial schools operated by Sisters of St. Joseph. This expanding flock was in need of shepherds.
During Bishop Becker’s 18-years as shepherd, the diocese witnessed an almost three-fold increase in the number of priests and doubled the number of churches. Bishop Becker established an orphanage, an academy for boys, an academy for girls and two additional parochial schools. Successive bishops continued the tradition of building, adding numerous schools, orphanages, churches, missions, a newspaper, a radio program, and Catholic organizations. Religious communities were invited to establish a presence in the diocese, greatly increasing the number of priests.
In this sesquicentennial year and on this Priesthood Sunday, we thank God for the blessing of these forward-thinking builders of our diocese, our bishops, and the priests who answered the call and were marked at ordination for a life as devoted shepherds.
Please continue to pray for Pope Francis, Bishop Malooly, our priests, our seminarians in formation and for an abundance of future vocations to the priesthood as our diocese continues to grow.
National Vocation Awareness Week is Nov. 4-10.
For more information about the Knights of Columbus, go to kofc.org/join