A Brief History of the Diocese
On July 29, 1853, Pope Pius IX created a diocese in the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase, Le Post de Natchitoches. It had only five priests and five churches to serve the 20,000 Catholics who were spread throughout the entire northern half of Louisiana.
Click on each name for more information about each bishop and more history:
Bishop Auguste Marie Martin, 1853-1875 For 22 years Bishop Martin zealously recruited priests and religious from Europe for his diocese. He established a seminary to train native clergy, started “priests schools,” and established numerous missions.
Bishop Francis Xavier Leray, 1876-1883 After only two years as the second Bishop of Natchitoches, Most Rev. Leray was named coadjutor to the Archbishop of New Orleans and attempted vigorously to fill both positions. A Frenchman by birth, he realized that most of his flock were native English-speaking people, so he ordered his priests and religious to pray, teach, and communicate in English.
Bishop Antoine Durier, 1885-1903 The most notable contribution of the third Bishop, Most Rev. Antoine Durier, was in the field of Catholic education. His first pastoral letter ordered “the establishment of a Catholic school near every church” and organized a Catholic School Board in 1889.
Bishop Cornelius Van de Ven, 1904-1932 Bishop Van de Ven had the distinction of being both the last Bishop of Natchitoches and the first Bishop of Alexandria. In 1910, the See City was transferred to Alexandria and St. Francis Xavier Church was designated its Cathedral. Van de Ven established north Louisiana’s first Catholic hospital (Schumpert Medical Center in Shreveport), promoted lay organizations, and defended human rights.
Bishop Daniel Desmond, 1933-1945 The fifth Bishop and first American-born was Most Rev. Daniel Desmond whose 12 years in office were marked by rapid growth in the diocese. With the help of other groups, he established 10 new schools, 22 parishes and 25 new churches.
Bishop Charles Pascal Greco, 1946-1973 During the next 27 years, Bishop Greco led his generous and growing flock in a phenomenal building program that included the establishment of 33 new parishes and the construction of more than 125 churches and chapels, 100 convents and rectories, 50 schools, and 7 health care facilities. He also built St. Mary’s Residential Training School and Maryhill.
Bishop Lawrence P. Graves, 1973-1982 Bishop Graves was influential in establishing or improving continuing education for priests; offices for religious education and youth ministry; Maryhill; the ministries of development and permanent diaconate; communication apostolate in newspaper, radio and tv; and the Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal.
Bishop William B. Friend, 1983-1986 Most Rev. William Friend became the eighth bishop, but on July 29, 1986, he became the head of the new Diocese of Shreveport, and
Bishop John C. Favalora, 1986-1989 was consecrated the ninth Bishop of the diocese. In 1989, he was appointed Bishop of St. Petersburg, Florida and then five years later, Favalora became Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Miami.
Bishop Sam G. Jacobs, 1989-2003 became a national icon for the Charismatic Movement in the 90s. He combined his love for the youth with the movement and created Steubenville South Youth Conference, one of the largest Catholic youth conferences in the U.S. In 2003, he became the Bishop of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodeaux.
Bishop Ronald P. Herzog, 2005-2017 The 11th Bishop of the Diocese of Alexandria was Most Rev. Ronald Herzog who was ordained on Jan. 5, 2005.
Bishop David P. Talley, 2017-2019 Most Rev. David Talley was appointed coadjutor Bishop of Alexandria in October 2016 and became the ordinary upon the retirement of Bishop Herzog at the beginning of 2017. On April 2, 2019, Bishop Talley was installed as sixth Bishop of Memphis, Tennessee.
The Diocesan Coat of Arms
Gules, a cross throughout Argent between four bells of the last; overall, at the center point, a crescent checky Sable and Or.
The coat of arms of the Diocese of Alexandria was adopted in 1933 by Bishop Daniel Desmond. They were designed by heraldist Pierre de Chaignon la Rose. They consist of a red field on which are placed a silver (white) cross between four silver (white) bells. The red background is used to signify the Red River that runs through the See City. The cross, which represents the Christian Faith, divides the four bells that are taken from the arms of the Patriarchal See of Alexandria, in Egypt, for which the See City is named. Overall, at the center of the design is a black and gold (yellow) checky (checkered) crescent, which is taken from the arms of the Spanish family “Xavier,” and this symbol is used throughout ecclesiastical heraldry as the classic charge for Saint Francis Xavier, titular of the cathedral-church in Alexandria.
For a description of the Coat of Arms of Bishop Marshall, click HERE.