|Diocese of Peoria|
|Territory||26 counties across central Illinois|
|Area||16,933 sq mi (43,860 km2)|
(as of 2004)|
|Established||February 12, 1875 (143 years ago)|
|Cathedral||St. Mary's Cathedral|
|Patron saint||Immaculate Conception|
|Bishop||Daniel Robert Jenky, C.S.C.|
|Vicar General||Paul Showalter, James E. Kruse|
The Diocese of Peoria was canonically erected on February 12, 1875. Its territory was taken from the former Diocese of Chicago. The first bishop of the diocese was John Lancaster Spalding. Later bishops included William E. Cousins (bishop from 1952 to 1958), John Baptist Franz, Edward William O'Rourke, and then O'Rourke's coadjutor bishop and later successor, John J. Myers (now Archbishop emeritus of Newark), who hosted Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta's December 1995 visit to the Peoria diocese.
The Diocese of Peoria comprises the Counties of Bureau, Champaign, DeWitt, Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, Knox, LaSalle, Livingston, Logan, Marshall, Mason, McDonough, McLean, Mercer, Peoria, Piatt, Putnam, Rock Island, Schuyler, Stark, Tazewell, Vermilion, Warren and Woodford. Aside from Peoria, the Illinois portions of the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa are also part of the Peoria Diocese. The St. John's Catholic Newman Center on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the St. Francis of Assisi Newman Center on the campus of Western Illinois University, John Paul II Catholic Newman Center on the campus of Illinois State University as well as the St. Joseph Newman Center on the campus of Bradley University are part of the Peoria Diocese.
Catholicism in this region dates from the days of Jacques Marquette, who rested at the Native American village of Peoria on his voyage up the Illinois River in 1673. Opposite the present site of the episcopal city, Robert de La Salle and Henri de Tonti in 1680 built Fort Crèvecoeur, in which Mass was celebrated and the Gospel preached by the Recollect Fathers, Gabriel Ribourdi, Zenobius Membre, and Louis Hennepin. With some breaks in the succession, the line of missionaries extends to within a short period of the founding of modern Peoria. In 1839 Father Reho, an Italian, visited Peoria, remaining long enough to build the old stone church in Kickapoo, a small town twelve miles distant. St. Mary's, the first Catholic church in the city proper, was erected by Father John A. Drew in 1846. Among his successors was the poet, Rev. Abram J. Ryan.
Many of the early Irish immigrants came to work on the Illinois and Michigan Canal; owing to the failure of the contracting company, they received their pay in land scrip instead of cash, and were thus forced to settle upon hitherto untilled farm-land. These Irish farmers, with the Germans, were followed by Poles, Slovaks, Slovenians, Croats, Lithuanians, and Italians who came to work in the coal mines. They were first organized in parishes looked after by priests of their own nationality. The first appointee to the see, Fr. Michael J. Hurley, requested to be spared the responsibility of organizing and governing the new diocese, and died as vicar-general in 1898.
John Lancaster Spalding was consecrated first Bishop of Peoria, on 1 May 1877. He was stricken with paralysis on 6 January 1905, and resigned the see, 11 September 1908.
The diocese has thirty-one elementary schools and seven high schools.
Epiphany Catholic School is an elementary and junior high school located in Normal, Illinois. Their mascot is the Knights and their school colors are navy blue and gold. They are sister schools with Central Catholic High School and rival schools with Corpus Christi. In 2011, Epiphany Catholic School was named one of 300 National Blue Ribbon Schools. The Epiphany Junior High School girls basketball team won back to back IESA state championships in 2005 and 2006. In 2016, they won the IESA 7th Grade 1A Boys Basketball State Championship and later in the year won the IESA 1A Baseball State Title.