by Scott Alston, Diocesan Archivist
What is now the Diocese of Fresno was a sparsely populated desert and forestland that was but one small portion of the vast Diocese of Guadalajara (established in 1770) which was then comprised of some two-thirds of the total area of Mexico plus what became California. In 1840, the large diocese was reconfigured and divided and the diocese of the “Two Californias” (Baja and California) was created and administered by the first Bishop, Francisco Garcia Diego y Moreno, O.F.M. Another division occurred in 1859 when the Diocese of Monterey-Los Angeles was created. It was comprised only of the southern half of California. Presiding Bishop Thaddeus Amat y Brusi, C.M., soon relocated the seat of the See from Monterey to Los Angeles. 1922 brought yet another change when the Diocese of Monterey-Los Angeles was divided and the Diocese of Monterey-Fresno erected. The new diocese included the counties of Mariposa, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Tulare, Kings, Kern, Inyo, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Cruz. Most Rev. John B. McGinley was the first bishop of the new diocese and he served until his resignation in 1932 due to ill health. Bishop McGinley attended the canonization of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus in Rome in 1924 and immediately petitioned the Vatican to designate the new saint as the Patroness of the Diocese of Monterey-Fresno. This request was granted and the diocese has the distinction of being the first diocese in the world so dedicated. Bishop Philip Scher followed Bishop MacGinley and Bishop Aloysius J. Willinger, C.Ss. R., followed next in 1946. Bishop Willinger retired in October 1967 shortly before the Diocese of Fresno was formed from that of Monterey-Fresno on December 15, 1967.
A chronology of a few of the important events in the Diocese of Fresno follows: