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Bismarck, Diocese of


The diocese of Bismarck (Bismarckiensis ) is the suffragan of the metropolitan See of St. Paul, Minn., embracing 34,268 square miles in the western half of North Dakota. Established on March 21, 1910, the diocese earlier formed part of the Vicariate Apostolic of Dakota

(187989) and the Diocese of fargo (18891910). The first bishop, Vincent Wehrle, OSB (191039), as founder of the mission centers of St. Gall's monastery at Devil's Lake (1894) and St. Mary's Abbey at Richardton (1899), had done much to preserve the faith of the German-speaking immigrants from Russia and Austria-Hungary, who formed part of his flock of 25,000 Catholics. Wehrle's episcopate was characterized by missionary conditions, but prosperity and great building activity coincided with the episcopacy of his successor, Vincent J. Ryan (194051). When the third bishop, Lambert A. Hoch (195257), was transferred to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Dec. 5, 1956, he was succeeded by Hilary B. Hacker in 1957. Upon the retirement of Hacker in 1982, John F. Kinney, auxiliary bishop of Saint Paul was appointed as the fifth bishop of Bismark. In 1995, Kinney was transferred to the Diocese of Saint Cloud, Minn., and was succeeded by Paul A. Zipfel, auxiliary bishop of St. Louis.

The population of the diocese has remained fairly constant for several generations, but it has shifted from rural to urban to a large degree. This has meant the closing and consolidation of many small rural parishes and the growth of new urban parishes. By the end of 2000, Catholics comprised about one-fourth of the Bismarck region. A small but significant number of Catholics are Native Americans of the Standing Rock and Fort Berthold Reservations in western North Dakota. Their pastoral needs are provided by the diocese and the Benedictines of Assumption Abbey.

There is a Benedictine monastery, Assumption Abbey in Richardton, and two Benedictine monasteries for women, Annunciation Priory in Bismarck and Sacred Heart Monastery in Richardton.

University of Mary. The University of Mary in Bismarck is the sole Catholic university in the diocese. Founded in 1955 by the Benedictine Sisters of Anunciation Priory as Mary College, a two-year college for women, it turned coed, subsequently became a four-year degree-granting institution in 1955, and attained full university status in 1986.

Cathedral. The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck is perhaps the only art deco cathedral in country. It was built during World War II, and was dedicated in August 1945. It was renovated in 1993, and is a fine example of art deco church architecture.

Bibliography: t. g. kardong, The Prairie Church: The Diocese of Bismarck, 19101985 (Bismarck 1985).

[l. pfaller/

t. kramer/eds.]

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