Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Vicariate Apostolic of the Marshall Islands


(Vicariate Apostolic.)

These islands, a German possession since 1885, lying in the Pacific Ocean, east of the Caroline islands, between 4 and 13 N. lat., and 161 and 171 E. longitude, were discovered in 1529 by Saavedra, Villalobos and other Spanish mariners, and explored by Marshall and Gilbert in 1788. They are fifty in number, an archipelago of low-lying atolls, the highest point being only 33 feet above sea-level. Their total area, including Nauru, or Pleasant Island, 385 miles to the south, is about 150 square miles. The population in 1908 amounted to 15,000, of whom 162 were Europeans. Most of the natives are still pagan. In 1891 the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart began work there, but were soon forced to desist by the civil authorities. In 1898 they resumed their labours. The islands were then included in the Vicariate Apostolic of New Pomerania; but in September, 1905, they were erected into a separate vicariate, though it has not yet been invested with an episcopal character. The superior of the mission, Very Rev. Augustus Erdland, resides on the island of Jaluit. He was born, 11 October, 1874; joined the Missionary Fathers of the Sacred Heart, 30 September, 1895; was ordained, 25 July, 1900, and appointed to his present office, 16 September, 1905. In 1907 the mission contained 7 priests and 8 brothers; 13 Sisters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (of Hiltrup, Germany); 323 Catholics; 520 catechumens; 6 churches and stations (on Jaluit Likieb, Arno, Mejeru, and Nauru Islands); 8 schools, with 225 pupils.

Missiones Catholicæ (Rome, 1907); GUILLEMARD, Australasia, II (London, 1894), 545-6; Australian Catholic Directory (1910).

A. A. MacErlean.