The Erie Book 2013 Stacked Books  
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St. Mark Catholic Center, 429 East Grandview Blvd. • Erie, PA • 16504 • 814-824-1111 •

Italians, Poles, Irish, Germans, Hungarians, French. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants settled in northwest Pennsylvania in the 1800s, creating a vibrant mosaic of nationalities, many bound together by a defining attribute: their Catholic faith.

It is impossible to tell the story of the Flagship City without acknowledging the role of the Catholic Church. The diocese was established by a papal brief in 1853, just two years after Erie was incorporated as a city.

Catholic immigrants settled well beyond the city limits, establishing outposts throughout the rugged wilderness that comprised the northwest corner of the state. Clergy, sisters and lay people remained faithful even as they endured the hardships of winter. Whether it was on horseback, by stagecoach or simply on foot, they sought each other out and formed a strong community of faith from which they could reach out to all in need.

Building churches and schools was a top priority for the Catholic immigrants who settled in Erie. Parishes became the center of their lives, with an array of beautiful traditions unique to each ethnic background. Through the generosity of communities of sisters, schools became a point of pride for families. Students learned to love their faith as they became assimilated into the culture that was new to so many of their parents. In addition, discipline, patriotism and good citizenship were instilled as long-lasting values.

Through the leadership of clergy, the selflessness of sisters and the generous donations of parishioners, the needs of the sick, the orphaned, the elderly and others in the region were met—always motivated by the desire to share God’s love.

Today, more than 60,000 families are registered in parishes in the Diocese of Erie, approximately one-third of them in the Erie Community. While the wilderness of northwest Pennsylvania may not be as foreboding as it once was, economic, social and cultural realities of the 21st century present different challenges. But the same spirit of Christian charity remains at the heart of Catholic life, nourishing and motivating all to share the love and hope of Christ.

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