The very first Catholic diocese in the United States of America was the Diocese of Baltimore, established in 1789. This diocese would encompass the entire new nation. In 1808, Baltimore was raised to the level of an archdiocese and four other dioceses were created: Boston, Bardstown, Philadelphia, and New York.
As immigrants began to flood the shores of the country, more dioceses were created. From the Diocese of New York, two other dioceses were born, namely Albany and Buffalo. On July 29, 1853, the Archdiocese of New York (established in 1850) was further split and the Diocese of Brooklyn was created, encompassing all of Long Island.
On April 6, 1957, the Holy See decided to split the territory of the Diocese of Brooklyn in half, with Nassau and Suffolk becoming the Diocese of Rockville Centre. For many years, the sister dioceses have had a close collaboration. Many of our priests in Brooklyn and Rockville Centre knew each other very well, having studied together at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington.
Yet, for the most part, many of the priests of the Diocese of Brooklyn did not know many priests in the Archdiocese of New York. Some of the priests of Brooklyn, Rockville Centre, and New York knew each other from having studied at Cathedral College in Douglaston, Queens, but the Archdiocese of New York no longer sent students to Douglaston from 1989 to 2011.
In 2011, thanks to the leadership of Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and Rockville Centre Bishop William Murphy, a closer partnership was established between the dioceses.
The decision was made to share formation programs in the seminaries, with Cathedral Seminary House of Formation in Douglaston becoming the college seminary and pre-theologate and Saint Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie becoming the major seminary.
You will also notice more and more sharing and collaboration occurring among the three dioceses, not only in seminary formation, but also in the formation of lay ecclesial ministers and permanent deacons, and in initiatives in social services. This close collaboration has continued with the appointment of Bishop John Barres to the see of Rockville Centre in 2017 and will also continue with the Nov. 30 installation of Bishop Robert Brennan, who himself was ordained both a priest and bishop for the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
The Church is Catholic in the best sense, meaning universal. It made very little sense for the three dioceses in downstate New York, while retaining their autonomy and independence, to not collaborate in the areas where they could help each other grow. Cardinal Dolan, Bishop DiMarzio, and Bishop Murphy were wise in creating this partnership, and under Cardinal Dolan, Bishop Brennan, and Bishop Barres, it will continue to grow and flourish. Each of the dioceses is unique, but they much in common — they are home to Catholic New Yorkers.
May the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the Diocese of Brooklyn; Saint Agnes, patroness of the Diocese of Rockville Centre; and Saint Patrick, patron of the Archdiocese of New York, continue to watch over our bishops, clergy, religious, and lay faithful in the dioceses.