Interesting Facts

The Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama was established on December 9, 1969, when it was wholly separated from what is now the Archdiocese of Mobile. The Diocese comprises the northern thirty-nine counties of the State of Alabama. These counties cover an area of 28,091 square miles.

  Alabama was the twenty-second State to join the United States in 1819. Previous to this, the area was the home of a number of Native American (Indian) tribes. During the colonial period, the Spanish and French explored the Gulf of Mexico coast and the interior. The State left the Union during the Civil War period and the Confederate States set up their capital in Montgomery, Alabama. After the Civil in the 1860s, the State returned to the Union, but its growth, along with most other states in the Southeast, was slow. Alabama is rich in natural resources, but it ranks low in terms of per capita income, social services and quality of life indices.

  The City of Birmingham did not come into existence until after the Civil War and its rapid growth can be attributed to the fact that it became an important rail junction, and the discovery of iron ore and coal in its vicinity provided it with a labor intensive industry for a number of years. In the period between 1900 and 1920 many Italian immigrants arrived in the area to work in the mines. They provided the nucleus for the current Catholic population of the city.

  Birmingham has, in recent years, experienced a total decline of its industrial base. This has been replaced by a number of service industries, in the form of health care and medical research, banking and expanded educational institutions. Railroading has ceased to be a significant factor in the economic life of the city. Birmingham is now an important highway junction in the national grid.

  The second city of the Diocese, Huntsville, in the northeast corner of the State, has experienced remarkable growth during the past two decades. It is a center for Space Technology with many associated industries in engineering and electronics. The area now supports six parishes, with several larger-than-average churches. There are also three Catholic elementary schools and one new Catholic high school.

  The Diocese of Birmingham is located almost in the center of the area of the United States traditionally known as the Bible Belt. The Bible Belt refers to those states in the South and Southeast which are predominantly fundamentalist in religious thinking. All dioceses in this wide area are truly missionary insofar as no one of them is more than 5% Catholic. Churches of the area are largely Baptist, Church of Christ, Church of God, Pentecostal and Methodist. Using specific church membership as a criterion, Alabama is a very religious state.

  The last national census of the United States in 2010 indicates that the population of the area covered by the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama was 2.7 million, with a Catholic population of 90,135. This represents about 3% of the whole. Most of the Catholics are located in two major cities, Birmingham and Huntsville, and some larger towns. There are few Catholics living in the rural areas. However, as in most large cities, there is considerable movement of residents from the inner-city areas to new suburbs. This poses certain pastoral challenges, as older and inner-city parishes lose their population and new residential developments need new parishes.

  One interesting statistic is the large number of Hispanics in the area. It is upwards of 100,000, most of whom are Catholic. Other Catholic immigrants in distinct and identifiable groups are the Vietnamese and Koreans.