Diocesan History 

A small group of Spanish Jesuits planted the seeds of Christian faith in Virginia in 1570, thirty-seven years before Jamestown (1607), the first permanent English settlement in the New World. Following the martyrdom of those first missionaries (1571), the Church grew slowly. Sowing Faith in a Catholic Frontier narrates the perseverance, achievements, and failures of Virginia Catholics through the centuries. This chronicle is the testimony of the Diocese of Richmond at its bicentennial (1820–2020).

Click here to open the full text of Sowing Faith in a Catholic Frontier: A Condensed History of the Diocese of Richmond, written by Reverend Anthony E. Marques.



Founding document

Pope Pius VII founded the Diocese of Richmond on July 11, 1820. The official document establishing the diocese took the form of an apostolic brief. (This parchment writ was presumably cheaper to produce and mail than a bull that carried the papal seal.) The original copies of the apostolic brief were sent to the first bishop of Richmond, Right Reverend Patrick Kelly, who presented them upon his arrival in Norfolk, Virginia. These copies are not extant, but there are three archival versions of the apostolic brief (with slight variations among them). The commemorative book of the diocesan bicentennial, Shine Like Stars, features a pull-out reproduction of the apostolic brief.

The following is a collated transcript of the apostolic brief, which was a written in Latin:

The following is a translation of the apostolic brief: