Catholicism has a rich, varied history in Utah

Published: Monday, Feb. 1 2010 2:08 a.m. MST

A turn-of-the-century look at All Hallows College in Salt Lake City. It began as a young boys' school in September 1886, then was turned into a college.

Deseret News Archives

The first Europeans to set foot in Utah were Catholics.

Catholic priests Francisco Atanazio Dominguez and Silvestre V. de Escalante entered Utah Valley on Sept. 23, 1776, while the original 13 colonies were fighting for their freedom. The French trapper Etienne Provost — for whom the city of Provo is named — is believed to be the first non-Native American to see the Great Salt Lake in 1824.

After the Mormon pioneers, members of the Catholic faith were the first to make their homes in Utah. In 1863, Catholic settlers started arriving in significant numbers, working as miners and later as rail workers during the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. Since then, the community has continued to grow.

Throughout the years, Deseret News photographers have captured many of the important events, individuals and places relating to Utah's Catholic population. Photo researcher Ron Fox has culled the newspaper archives for many of these pictures.

Catholicism captured a firm foothold in Utah in 1873, when Father Lawrence Scanlan was entrusted with the 800 Catholics among Utah's 87,000 inhabitants.

For the next 43 years, Father Scanlan would direct the affairs of the church in Utah, supervising the building of churches, schools and hospitals in railroad junctions and mining camps. He was appointed bishop of the newly created Vicariate of Utah and Eastern Nevada in 1877, which became the Diocese of Salt Lake City in 1891.

Bishop Scanlan's influence is still felt in the state. He founded missions and parishes throughout Utah. Holy Cross Hospital, All Hallows College, Kearns-St. Ann's Orphanage, and Judge Mercy Home and Hospital were all built under his direction. And on Aug. 15, 1909, thousands attended the dedication of the Cathedral of St. Mary Magdalene.

Bishop Scanlan forged good relations with Utah's dominant religion.

The July 24, 1900, Deseret News reported on a banquet in the Alta Club "in honor of Archbishop Riordan and priests assisting Bishop Scanlan at the laying of the cornerstone of a new Cathedral of St. Mary Magdalene last Sunday evening."

In his remarks, The Rev. Riordan noted: "One thing that impresses me forcibly on coming to Salt Lake is the spirit of tolerance that is manifest."

In August of 2009, the Cathedral of the Madeleine, as the building is now known, celebrated its 100th anniversary.

According to a story in the Church News on Aug. 15, "In opening remarks the Most Rev. John C. Wester, bishop of the Catholic Church's Salt Lake City Diocese, welcomed President Monson and his counselors. ... In acknowledging the presence of the LDS leaders, Bishop Wester spoke of the great working relationship shared by Latter-day Saints and Catholics in Utah."

The photographs feature many of Bishop Scanlan's successors and many Utah Catholic institutions.

One example is St. Ann's Orphanage, which operated for that purpose for more than 50 years. On the May 24, 1902, the News noted that the orphanage had been moved from a small space on 100 South into more spacious quarters thanks to a gift from Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns, "and so the institution, like the little waifs that it harbors, was lifted out of the gutter, given good clothes and a higher, prouder aspect."

The orphanage was converted into the Kearns-St. Ann School in 1954.

In similar fashion, the property where the Judge Mercy Home once stood and ministered to coal miners suffering from black lung is now home to Judge Memorial High School.

e-mail: mhaddock@desnews.com

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