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History of the Diocese of San José


The Diocese of San Jose is coterminous with the boundaries of Santa Clara County, which includes 15 cities/townships and some unincorporated areas under county jurisdiction. The Diocese of San Jose belongs to the Ecclesiastical Province of San Francisco, consisting of the Metropolitan See of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Dioceses of Honolulu, Las Vegas, Oakland, Reno, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Jose, Santa Rosa, and Stockton.

Beginning with the famous California missions, more than two centuries of Catholic life prepared Santa Clara County for its own diocese. Saint Junipero Serra founded the first of California’s historic Franciscan missions, San Diego de Alcala, in 1769. In 1777, the Franciscan Fathers founded Mission Santa Clara de Asís, which later became Saint Clare Parish. Before his death at San Carlos Borromeo Mission, Carmel, in 1784, Father Serra established eight more missions and laid the groundwork for the whole chain of 21 missions.

Upper California was part of the Diocese of Sonora, Mexico, during the early days and, after 1840, it was under Bishop Francisco Garcia Diego, the first bishop of Alta and Baja (Upper and Lower) California. Spanish Dominican Joseph Sadoc Alemany, OP, was bishop of Monterey when it was established in 1850, then became Archbishop of San Francisco when it was created in 1853. At that time dioceses were not divided along county lines; Gilroy and Morgan Hill remained part of the Diocese of Monterey-Los Angeles.

In 1922, Rome accepted county lines as diocesan boundaries, and Gilroy and Morgan Hill became part of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. When the dioceses of Oakland, Santa Rosa and Stockton were separated from the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 1962, Santa Clara County remained part of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Archbishop John R. Quinn implemented the final plans for the erection of the new Diocese of San Jose, and Santa Clara County was established as the Diocese of San Jose by Pope John Paul II on January 27, 1981.

Most Rev. Pierre DuMaine was named as the first Bishop of the Diocese of San Jose, and Saint Patrick Church in San Jose was named the Cathedral. On the evening of March 18, 1981, during the solemn celebration of the First Vespers of the Feast of Saint Joseph, Archbishop Pio Laghi, Apostolic Delegate to the Church in the United States, and Archbishop Quinn, the Metropolitan, formally installed the first bishop of the new church and canonically erected the Diocese. In 1987, historic Saint Joseph Church was designated the Cathedral to replace the proto-cathedral, Saint Patrick Church. After extensive renovation, Saint Joseph Church was dedicated as a Cathedral in 1990. In 1995, Pope John Paul II designated the cathedral as a Minor Basilica and it became the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph.

In 1997, Vicar for Clergy Rev. Richard Garcia was named by Pope John Paul II to become Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento, the first priest in the Diocese of San Jose to be so chosen.

On June 30, 1998, Most Rev. Patrick J. McGrath, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, was named by Pope John Paul II as Coadjutor to the Bishop of San Jose. Bishop McGrath was formally received into the Diocese at a Mass of Welcome, September 17, 1998. Upon the retirement of Bishop Pierre DuMaine on November 27, 1999, Bishop McGrath became the second Bishop of San Jose.

2006 marked the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the Diocese of San Jose. On March 18, Bishop McGrath was the principal celebrant and Bishop DuMaine was the homilist at the Jubilee Mass that was celebrated at Saint Joseph Cathedral Basilica.

Representatives of every parish were present, along with many of those who were ‘founders’ of the Diocese, a large majority of our diocesan clergy, and fifteen visiting bishops. In addition to this liturgy, Bishop McGrath made a Jubilee Visit to each of the Diocese’s parishes and missions. During the Mass that is part of the visit, a tessera, or tile, engraved with the name of the parish was transferred from the parish Jubilee Cross and become part of the diocesan Jubilee Processional Cross. This Cross memorializes the 52 parishes and missions that were in existence at the time of this Jubilee.

2006 also marked the beginning of a $100 Million endowment and capital campaign, Rooted in Faith ~ Embracing Our Future. The funds raised by this campaign are dedicated to ensure that the Church of tomorrow will be able to be responsive to the pastoral needs of the Catholics of this Valley.

The year 2011 marked the 30th anniversary of our Diocese. It was commemorated with a simple Mass of celebration on March 19, 2011. On May 25, 2011 Most Rev. Thomas A. Daly became the first Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of San Jose.

The purchase of a church and adjoining buildings in East San Jose was made possible by funds generated from the Capital Campaign and in the custody of the Catholic Foundation of Santa Clara County. This parish, the first established in the Diocese in over a decade, was dedicated as Our Lady of Refuge Parish on February 19, 2012.

On July 8, 2012, the Chinese Catholic Community was elevated to the status of Mission by Bishop Patrick J. McGrath, becoming the San Jose Chinese Catholic Mission.

On August 30, 2012, a three-alarm fire devastated Saint Patrick Proto-Cathedral, destroying its sacred worship space and rendering it unusable. Planning began in early 2013 to rebuild the church to meet the needs of its growing and ethnically diverse community. On April 28, 2013, Bishop McGrath signed a decree to rename the parish after Our Lady of La Vang to reflect the parish’s status as a personal parish for Vietnamese Catholics. The thriving parish continues its historic commitment to full ministry to all of its parishioners, in Vietnamese, Spanish, and English.

On Sunday, November 16, 2014, a four-alarm fire destroyed most of Holy Cross Church. The new church was dedicated on May 19, 2018.

In March, 2015 Auxiliary Bishop Thomas A. Daly was chosen the Bishop of Spokane, Washington.

On July 11, 2018, Bishop Oscar Cantú, Bishop of Las Cruces, New Mexico, was named Coadjutor Bishop for the Diocese of San Jose.