by Johnson Brigham.
|Bishop Mathias Loras|
In July1837, a year prior to the birth of Iowa Territory, Very Rev. Mathias Loras, of Mobile, was made bishop of Dubuque, his diocese including the region west of the Mississippi now covered by Iowa, Minnesota, and part of the Dakotas. At that time this entire region included but one church and one priest. He first visited Rome to ask the Pope for priests and to solicit funds for his vast missionary field. In April, 1838, he arrived in Dubuque, where a year later, he was inaugurated in the new St. Raphael's Cathedral. He brought with him from France two priests and four students. These, besides the resident priest, constituted the force with which he was expected to Christianize the natives, and, with the aid of a few pioneers, to establish churches. Bishop Loras was then in his forty-fifth year and had been twenty years in the ministry. He was robust, in vigorous health, zealous and eloquent. Son of a French patriot, he inherited the spirit which fitted him for his herculean task.
The foundation for the work of the bishop was well laid by Father Mazzuchelli, a Dominican, the "one priest" referred to, who in 1833 had founded at Dubuque the first church on Iowa soil. The corner-stone of the pioneer church edifice, St. Raphael's, was laid in 1835. Father Mazzuchelli, after obtaining a foothold in Dubuque, anticipated the coming of the bishop by founding the chapel of St. James in Lee County, the combination school, dwelling and chapel named St. Anthony at Davenport, and two chapels on the east side of the Mississippi.