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 2017, the total Catholic population of the eight-county area was 75,468.
The Church of Altoona-Johnstown is home to 86 parishes, which are served by 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, Johnstown, and Bellefonte; and the Lay Ecclesial Ministry and Permanent Diaconate Offices are located in Johnstown.
The Church 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 approximately 7,178 students not enrolled in Catholic schools. There are two Catholic colleges/universities located in the diocese and diocesan-sponsored Catholic Campus Ministy at all colleges/universities in the Diocese.
Established in 1934, The Catholic Register is the diocesan newspaper, which is published monthly and available at no cost at all parishes 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 a.m. Mass on WATM ABC 23 each Sunday morning — one of the few live, hour-long Mass broadcasts in the country.
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. Additionally, a Liturgy Committee meets regularly to address the Liturgical life of the Church.