History of the Archdiocese of Mobile
The Archdiocese of Mobile was established as the Vicariate-Apostolic of Alabama and the Floridas in 1825 and became the Diocese of Mobile on May 15, 1829, with Bishop Michael Portier, D.D., as the First Bishop of Mobile. The newly created Diocese of Mobile encompassed the entire State of Alabama and the entire State of Florida. In the 1850’s new dioceses were created in the State of Florida, nonetheless, the Diocese of Mobile still retained the panhandle of Florida until 1968 when the panhandle of Florida became part of the Diocese of St. Augustine and later the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee. On October 8, 1969, the Diocese of Mobile-Birmingham was divided into two separate dioceses with the newly created diocese in the state known as the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama. In 1980 the Diocese of Mobile was raised to the status of an archdiocese and Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb was appointed the First Archbishop of the newly created Archdiocese of Mobile. Today the archdiocese encompasses 22, 969 square miles and includes the lower 28 counties of the State of Alabama.
The arrival of Catholicism in the region traces its origins to the early Spanish and French explorations and permanent settlements at Pensacola, Florida in 1696, and in Mobile in 1702, where a parish was erected on July 20, 1703, with Henry Rolleaux de la Vente as first pastor. At the time of the creation of the new Diocese of Mobile in 1829, most Catholics were centered in the principal towns of Mobile, Pensacola and St. Augustine. By the twentieth century growth in the Catholic population would take place in northern Alabama, particularly in the Birmingham area due to the steel industry and the immigration of Catholics from the northeast and Europe moving to the Birmingham area to supply a work force for the growing industry. The Catholic population would also accelerate in Central Alabama, primarily in the Montgomery area due to the expansion of Maxwell Air Force Base following World War II. Also, the expansion of the Army base of Fort Rucker in the Wiregrass would see an increased population of Catholics in the Dothan area.
Presently the Archdiocese of Mobile is experiencing continued growth in Catholic population due to migration patterns of Catholics moving into the archdiocese from other parts of the United States and the ever increasing Hispanic population. Nonetheless, the historical pattern of most Catholics being located in Mobile and Baldwin County remains a fact, along with the ever increasing Catholic population in the Montgomery area and the Dothan area.
The archdiocese has 86 parishes and missions and a successful Catholic Social Services system found in all parts of the archdiocese, along with three Catholic high schools, the historical and ever expanding Spring Hill College administrated by the Society of Jesus (The Jesuits) and a variety of ministries addressing the changing dynamics of the Catholic population.
Since the founding of the first parish in 1703, the Catholic Church continues to face the challenges of today’s world anchored in the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and relying upon the talents of the faithful to meet these challenges. Always remembering the heritage of the past, strengthening the gifts that are at the moment and always keeping an eye towards the future, the Archdiocese of Mobile will continue to spread the teaching and life of Jesus Christ and the mission of His Church as the continual hallmark of the wonderful history and story of the faith of the Church of Mobile.