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Sioux Falls, Diocese of


The diocese of Sioux Falls (Siouxormensis ) comprises about 35,000 square miles lying east of the Missouri River in the state of south dakota. It is a suffragan of the metropolitan See of st. paul-minneapolis. In the 1880s, the Benedictine missionary bishop, Martin Marty, OSB, who had served as vicar apostolic of Dakota Territory since 1879, left Yankton for Sioux Falls, choosing the latter as his See because he rightly assumed that it would become and remain the state's largest city. The diocese was erected in 1889 when the Territory was divided into and admitted to the Union as North and South Dakota. Ill health prompted Marty's transfer to the bishopric of St. Cloud just over a year before his death in 1896 at the age of 62. He had burned out as a circuit rider throughout the Territory's vast expanse (77,000 square miles) where he traveled constantly by horseback and wagon in all kinds of inclement weather to visit the far-flung Indian reservations, and the 150 towns and villages where his parishioners needed his attention.

Marty was succeeded in Sioux Falls by Thomas O'Gorman, who died in 1921. Bernard J. Mahoney then served the diocese until his death in 1939 when William O. Brady succeeded him. Brady became Archbishop of St. Paul in 1956, dying in 1961 in Rome while preparing for Vatican Council II as one of the papal consultors. Lambert Hoch served as bishop from 1956 until his retirement in 1978 when he was succeeded by Paul Dudley. His successor, Robert J. Carlson was consecrated in 1994.

The diocese has 144 priests, and 35 permanent deacons serving 151 parishes and nine Catholic hospitals. A record 33 men are studying in out-of-state seminaries. There are two Catholic colleges, Mount Marty, in Yankton, sponsored by the Benedictine Sisters who opened the school in 1936, made it co-ed in 1969 and now boasts over 1,000 students on three campuses and in classes at Yankton's Federal Prison Camp. The Presentation Sisters first opened a junior college in Mitchell in 1922, transferring it to Aberdeen in 1951 where it became a four-year college. Courses are also offered in a branch school on a reservation.

Several motherhouses of women and one of men are located in the diocese. The Benedictines in the Yankton monastery (150 nuns) were a Swiss group who had settled first in Maryville, Missouri. They had responded to Marty's call to assist him in the Native American ministry in what became North and South Dakota. Their novitiate was moved from Zell to Yankton where it opened in 1887. Later Bishop O'Gorman asked them relocate in Vermillion so that the first Catholic hospital, Benedictine-sponsored, could be opened in their Yankton monastery. Eventually the nuns returned in 1908 to their permanent residence on Mount Martycontinuing to staff Sacred Heart Hospital and dozens of parish schools, their own high school and later also a college. In 1961 a daughter-house (Mother of God Monastery) was opened in Pierre, which later transferred to Watertown.

The Presentation Sisters originated in Ireland. They came to the Territory originally in 1880, later transferred to Fargo, North Dakota. Some Sisters returned when, in 1882, Bishop Marty and a pastor, Father Robert Haire, requested their assistance in Aberdeen. They opened a school there and later a hospital when, continuing the health care they had begun when an epidemic prompted them to minister to the sick brought to their convent. They also staffed a nursing school there, admitting the first men to enroll in 1942 during World War II. A four-year School of Nursing is now a department in their college.

Franciscan Sisters from North Dakota opened a convent at Gettysburg in 1970. They later transferred to Mitchell. The community of Oblates of the Blessed Sacrament, a branch of Mother Katharine Drexel's Pennsylvania congregation, was established in 1935 by the Benedictine missionary, Father Sylvester Eisenman, who arranged the admission of seven young Native American women to be admitted as postulants to the new religious community at Marty Mission near Wagner. It was 1949 before it was formally established as a religious congregation. The Oblates also serve the Native American population in Rapid City where home visits to those in need constitute their ministry. Other schools for Native American children are located in Chamberlainunder the supervision of the Sacred Heart Fathers from Hales Corners, Wis., and Stephan, formerly staffed by the Benedictine nuns and monks. The Benedictine nuns of Yankton and the Presentation Sisters of Aberdeen have recently united in co-sponsoring the major Catholic hospitals and care centers in the diocese, institutions which they had established and formerly community-sponsored. They operate under the umbrella of the Avera Health organization. Contemplative nuns are at Alexandriaa recent foundation.

In the mid-19th century, the Benedictine monks of St. Meinrad, Ind., built a monastery near Marvin, to enable them to be closer to the reservations and facilitate their ministry to the Native Americans. Before the close of the 20th century, however, the Sioux Falls diocese assumed the obligation of filling the vacancies left by the monks who are no longer in that apostolate. Jesuits still minister at the Rapid City Diocesan reservations traditionally filled by them when Marty, the first bishop, could no longer recruit Benedictine monks from the abbeys in Indiana and Missouri.

Although the numbers are relatively small, the areas huge, the Catholics of the diocese, overwhelmingly of German, Irish, Czech, or Polish ancestry, are committed to furthering Catholic education for their children, health care for those in need, social services of all kinds, and reconciliation with the fast-growing Native American population.

Bibliography: r. karolevetz, With Faith, Hope and Tenacity (Sioux Falls 1989); Bishop Martin Marty: Black Robe Lean Chief (Yankton 1980). a. kessler, "First Catholic Bishop of Dakota," in South Dakota Leaders, h. hoover et al., eds. (Vermillion 1989); "Mount Marty College," in From Idea to Institution, eds. h. hoo ver et al. (Vermillion 1989); Benedictine Men and Women of Courage (Yankton 1996); "Valiant Women," with s. peterson in South Dakota Leaders, h. hoover et al. eds. c. duratschek, Beginnings of Catholicism in South Dakota (Washington, D.C. 1943); Crusading along Sioux Trails (St. Meinrad, Ind. 1947); Under the Shadow of His Wings (Yankton 1971); Builders of God's Kingdom (1985).

[a. kessler]

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