Kansas City-St. Joseph, Diocese of
KANSAS CITY-ST. JOSEPH, DIOCESE OF
The Diocese of Kansas City was established Sept. 10, 1880; the Diocese of St. Joseph, March 3, 1868. After some territorial alterations throughout the state of Missouri, the two dioceses were redesignated as the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph (Kansanopolitana-Sancti Joseph ), Aug. 29, 1956. It is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
Early History. The first bishop of St. Joseph was John J. Hogan, who was consecrated Sept. 13, 1868; he was transferred to the new See of Kansas City in 1880, but remained administrator of St. Joseph until 1893. His successors in Kansas City were Thomas F. Lillis (1913–38) and Edwin V. O'Hara (1939–56); Bp. Maurice F. Burke of Cheyenne, Wyo., was transferred to St. Joseph (1893–1923), and was succeeded there by Francis Gilfillan (1923–33) and Charles H. LeBlond (1933–56). On Sept. 11, 1956, Bp. John P. Cody, coadjutor of St. Joseph since 1954, was appointed to succeed O'Hara in the redesignated Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Bishop Charles H. Helmsing of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo., became the ordinary of Kansas City-St. Joseph on Jan. 27, 1962, following Cody's transfer (Aug. 10, 1961) to New Orleans, La. Following Helmsing's retirement in 1977, Bishop John J. Sullivan of Grand Island, Nebr. was transferred to Kansas City-St. Joseph on June 27. Upon his retirement on Sept. 9, 1993 he was succeeded by Bishop Raymond J. Boland who was transferred from Birmingham, Alabama.
The earliest Catholics of the diocese were French traders and their Native American wives and children, then German and Irish immigrants. Among the first European families to settle in what is now the site of Kansas City was François and Berenice Chouteau who offered their time and money to build Kansas City's first church, for some time known as "Chouteau's Church." They were instrumental in preserving the faith for themselves and the other members of the small community at the big bend of the Missouri River until they secured a resident priest.
Early clergy included Frs. Charles de la Croix (1822) Anthony Lutz (1828) and various Jesuit missionaries (1827–1875) The first resident priest to serve the area that is now Kansas City was Benedict Roux from Lyons, France, who was sent to St. Louis by the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and then appointed (1833) to the frontier settlement by Bp. Joseph Rosati. The first resident pastor of Independence, Mo., was Bernard Donnelly, who served from 1845 to his death in 1880 as missionary to much of the territory now comprising the diocese. He was pastor of the pioneer parish in Kansas City and was personally responsible for the establishment of the first Catholic school, hospital, orphanage, and cemetery in Kansas City.
Twentieth Century. Following Vatican II, the diocese, under the leadership of Bishop Helmsing was involved in several ecumenical projects, the most significant of which was the signing of a Covenant with the Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri. Further implementation of the Council came under Bishop Sullivan who was interested in lay ministry development. In 1978 the Center for Pastoral Life and Ministry was established for the purpose of preparing a well trained cadre of lay pastoral ministers. (In 1995 the Center' formation program, New Wine, was published by Paulist Press for use throughout the United States.)
In the mid 1960s, mission outreach began with the sending of priests to serve in four parishes in Bolivia all of which were subsequently turned over to indigenous clergy and pastoral workers. Efforts continued with the growth of "sister parish" relationships developed during the last two decades of the 20th century. Delegations traveled to sister parishes in Mexico and Central America for mutual learning, sharing and faith development.
Typical of many dioceses in the 20th century, growth in Catholic population and the establishment of parishes and institutions to serve their needs flourished through the mid 1960s. With the great cultural shifts and racial tensions following this period, many priests, religious and lay leaders were active in promoting civil rights both locally and nationally. Nevertheless, the diocese was not immune from "white flight" from the inner city and the economic hardships developing in rural America necessitating the closure and consolidation of numerous parishes from the 1970s to the early 1990s. In the latter half of the 1990s, the trend changed and several new parishes were established to accommodate the Catholic population.
At the dawn of the 21st century the Catholic population in the diocese numbered about 13 percent of the total population, distributed across 85 parishes and 15 missions. This included a growing presence of Hispanic and Vietnamese Catholics. Among Catholic institutions of higher education are Conception Seminary College (1886), Rockhurst University (1910) and Avila College (1916). The National Catholic Reporter, originally started as a national edition of the diocesan newspaper, is headquartered in Kansas City. The Catholic Key is the diocesan newspaper.
Bibliography: w. j. dalton, The Life of Father Bernard Donnelly (Kansas City, Mo. 1921). g. j. garraghan, Catholic Beginnings in Kansas City, Missouri (Chicago 1920); ed., "Selected Letters from the Roux Correspondence, 1833–34," American Catholic Historical Review 4.1 (Washington 1918) 84–100. j. hogan, Fifty Years Ago: A Memoir Written in 1898 (Kansas City, Mo. 1907). j. p. o'hanlon, Life and Scenery in Missouri: Reminiscences of a Missionary Priest (Dublin 1890). j. e. rothensteiner, History of the Archdiocese of St. Louis (St. Louis 1928). j. j. schlafly, Light in the Early West (New York 1959); "Birth of Kansas City's Pioneer Church," Missouri Historical Review 44 (1950) 364–372. w. kuenhof, "Catholic Church Annals in Kansas City, 1800–57," American Catholic Historical Review 3.2 (1917) 326–335.
[j. j. schlafly/
g. m. noonan]