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Diocesan History

The Diocese of Altoona was established in 1901, with the Most Reverend Eugene A. Garvey as the first Bishop. It was renamed the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown in 1957.

Eight counties comprise the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown: Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Centre, Clinton, Fulton, Huntingdon, and Somerset. The diocese is divided into five deaneries, or geographic administrative units. As of 2021, the total Catholic population of the eight-county area was 69,721.

The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown is home to 87 parishes, which are served by both diocesan priests and priests from various religious communities, including the Third Order Regular Franciscans, the Conventual Franciscans, the Capuchin Franciscans, and Order of Saint Benedict.

Communities of nuns and sisters have served locally since 1848, and today engage in a variety of ministries including Catholic education, healthcare, social services, and contemplative lives of prayer.

There are two Cathedrals in the diocese: the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona, and Saint John Gualbert Cathedral in Johnstown – as well as the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel in Loretto, which Pope John Paul II named a Minor Basilica in 1996.

Additionally, the diocese has three shrines: the Prince Gallitzin Chapel House/Our Lady of the Alleghenies Shrine in Loretto, Saint Joseph Mission Church at Hart’s Sleeping Place in Carrolltown, and Immaculate Conception Shrine in Bitumen.

Since its establishment in 1901, eight Bishops have led the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. The current Bishop, the Most Reverend Mark L. Bartchak, was ordained a Bishop on April 19, 2011 at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona, and installed as the eighth Bishop of the diocese on that day.

The Diocesan Pastoral Center, located in Altoona, serves as the administrative offices to the Bishop and the majority of his staff. Catholic Charities offices are located in Altoona and Johnstown. The Lay Ecclesial Ministry and Permanent Deaconate Offices are located in Johnstown.

Several diocesan councils serve as consultative bodies to the Bishop, including the Presbyteral Council, the Priests’ Personnel Board, and the Finance Council. The groups meet on a regular basis throughout the year.

The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown boasts a proud education tradition with 13 Catholic elementary schools and four independent Catholic high schools. Religious Education programs at each parish serve students not enrolled in Catholic schools. There are two Catholic colleges/universities located in the diocese, and diocesan-sponsored Catholic Campus Ministry at all colleges/universities in the diocese.

The diocese also has an active television ministry with production facilities at the Diocesan Pastoral Center and at Saint John Gualbert Cathedral. The ministry includes the Production of Proclaim!, a weekly 30-minute program featuring diocesan news and the live broadcast of the 11:00 AM Mass on WATM ABC 23 each Sunday morning – one of the few live, hour-long Mass broadcasts in the country.

Chronology of the Diocese


Fort Duquesne is founded.

The Shrine of Our Lady of the Alleghenies is built.

December 22, 1770

Demetrius Gallitzin is born at the Hague, Netherlands.


Captain Michael McGuire settles his family at McGuire’s Settlement, near what became Loretto.


Gallitzin is converted from the Russian Orthodox Church to Roman Catholicism.

Patrick Cassidy Settles in Newry.

August 18, 1792

Gallitzin sails to the United States from Rotterdam.

November 5, 1792

Demetrius enters the Sulpician Seminary in Baltimore under the name Augustine Schmet (Smith).


First Settlement is established at Johnstown.

March 18, 1795

Gallitzin is ordained by Bishop John Carroll. He is posted to the Conewago Mission in Pennsylvania.

While there, he answers a sick call to McGuire’s Settlement.

December 25, 1799

Bishop Carroll appoints Father Smith as Pastor of McGuire’s Settlement.

Father Smith celebrates Midnight Mass in the newly constructed Saint Michael’s Church.


Baptism of the first infant born in McGuire’s Settlement – Joseph Bradley, son of Charles and Mary Bradley.

Father Smith establishes the community of Loretto, in honor of the Shrine of Our Lady in Loreto, Italy.


Father Smith becomes a naturalized citizen of the United States.


Bishop John Carroll is proclaimed the first Archbishop of Baltimore by Pius VII.

The Diocese of Philadelphia is established, with Michael Egan as its first Bishop.


Father Smith receives legal permission to resume the use of his real name – Rev. Demetrius Gallitzin.


Bishop Egan visits Loretto and confirms 198 of Gallitzin’s parishioners.


Archbishop John Carroll, Archbishop of Baltimore and architect of the Catholic Church in the United States, dies.


Gallitzin publishes his Defense of Catholic Principles.

Saint Patrick Church in Newry is constructed and becomes the second parish in the area.


Gallitzin constructs a second, large-frame church at Loretto.

Gallitzin’s sister, Marianne, marries and so deprives her brother of his rightful inheritance.


Gallitzin publishes An Appeal to the Protestant Public in reply to Vindication of the Doctrines of the Reformation.


Gallitzin publishes A Letter to a Protestant Friend on the Holy Scriptures.


Gallitzin is appointed Vicar General of Western Pennsylvania.


Rev. Patrick Rafferty is appointed Assistant Pastor to Gallitzin.


Gallitzin oversees construction of a larger house and adjoining chapel, the present Prince Gallitzin Chapel House.


Gallitzin is thrown from his horse and suffers an injury to his leg, complicated by a hernia from which he never recovers.

Rev. Peter Lemcke is appointed assistant.


Johnstown’s first parish – Saint John Gualbert – is established.


Gallitzin publishes The Bible: Truth and Charity.

May 6, 1840

Rev. Demetrius Gallitzin dies.

He is buried three days later on May 9.


Saint Mary Parish is founded in Hollidaysburg.


Pope Gregory XVI creates the Diocese of Pittsburgh.


Gallitzin’s remains are exhumed and moved to a vault outside the church entrance.

Franciscan friars arrive at Loretto from Ireland and establish Saint Francis School for Boys.


Sisters of Mercy arrive in Loretto.


The city of Altoona is founded.


Sisters of Mercy establish the Saint Aloysius School for Girls.

The city of Altoona receives its first resident pastor, Father John Tuigg.


The third church is built at Loretto, constructed of brick. It is dedicated by Saint John Neumann, Bishop of Philadelphia.


Immaculate Conception Church – “Old Saint Mary’s” – in Altoona is built for German Catholics.


Sisters of Saint Joseph establish a foundation at Ebensburg.


At the invitation of Father Tuigg, four Sisters of Charity arrive in Altoona from Cincinnati to establish a community in Altoona and teach in his school.


The diocese of Allegheny has its brief life.


The Johnstown Flood brings massive devastation and death.

Saint John Gualbert Church is destroyed in a fire.


Centennial of the founding of Loretto.

Archbishop John Ireland of St. Paul, Minnesota dedicates the enlarged and expanded tomb of Rev. Gallitzin.

Charles Schwab donates funds and makes possible the construction of the fourth church at Loretto – the present Saint Michael’s.


The present Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel is completed.

The Diocese of Altoona is established by Pope Leo XIII. Bishop Eugene Garvey is named its first Bishop.


Saint John’s orphanage is opened.


Mercy Hospital in Johnstown is opened by the Sisters of Mercy.


Bishop Garvey opens an ecclesiastical seminary at Loretto.


Saint Mary’s Orphanage is opened and run by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.


Bishop John J. McCort becomes the second Bishop of Altoona.


Groundbreaking is held for the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.


Bishop McCort invites Discalced Carmelite Nuns from France to establish a community in the Altoona Diocese.


The Carmelite Monastery of Loretto is completed with funds donated by Charles Schwab.

Bishop McCort launches a program to assist the many victims of the Great Depression.


The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament is dedicated.


Bishop McCort establishes The Catholic Register, the Diocesan newspaper.


Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth assume management of Mercy Hospital in Altoona.


Bishop Richard T. Guilfoyle becomes the third bishop of Altoona.

Another flood devastates Johnstown.


Mount Aloysius Junior College is founded by the Sisters of Mercy.


A pageant is held in honor of Rev. Gallitzin following a Pontifical Mass celebrated by Bishop Guilfoyle.


A fire destroys the principal building of Saint Francis College, including virtually the entire Gallitzin library of 200 irreplaceable books.


Bishop Guilfoyle has confirmed 29,000+ total young people and ordained 108 total priests.


The Shrine of Our Lady of the Alleghenies is dedicated by Bishop Guilfoyle.


The Diocese of Altoona is renamed the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

Saint John Gualbert Church becomes Co-Cathedral.

Bishop Howard J. Carroll becomes the fourth Bishop of Altoona-Johnstown.


A fire destroys the 45,000 volume library at Saint Francis College.


Bishop Carroll McCormick becomes the fifth Bishop of Altoona-Johnstown.


Bishop McCormick attends Vatican Council II.


Bishop James Hogan is appointed sixth Bishop of Altoona-Johnstown.


Bicentennial of Rev. Gallitzin’s birth is celebrated.


The Carmelite Community of the Word is founded.


Saint Francis Seminary in Loretto closes its doors.


Bishop Joseph V. Adamec becomes the seventh Bishop of Altoona-Johnstown, the first bishop ordained in the Diocese.

The Co-Cathedral of Saint John Gualbert is consecrated Saint John Gualbert Cathedral.


The 100th anniversary of the Johnstown Flood.


The 150th Anniversary of the death of Rev. Gallitzin.

The Prince Gallitzin Cross Award is established by Bishop Adamec.


Mount Aloysius Junior College becomes a four-year college.


Saint Michael the Archangel Church is designated a Minor Basilica by Pope John Paul II.


Bicentennial celebration of the founding of Saint Michael Parish by Prince Gallitzin and the birth of Loretto.

The relics of Saint Therese of Lisieux visit the Diocese.

Bishop Adamec dedicates the Prince Gallitzin House in Mandeville, Jamaica.


The Church celebrates the Jubilee Year.


The 100th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.


Bishop Adamec blesses the Papal Insignia at the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel in Loretto.


Bishop Mark L. Bartchak is ordained and installed as the eighth Bishop of Altoona-Johnstown.

Saint Joseph Catholic Academy is established in State College


The Diocese marks the conclusion of the Diocesan Phase of the Cause for Canonization of the Servant of God Demetrius Gallitzin.


Catholic elementary schools in the Altoona and Johnstown areas regionalize into one school with three campuses.


Bi-weekly publication of the Catholic Register ceases; Proclaim! Magazine is launched


Bishop Bartchak is appointed to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura – the Vatican’s highest court

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