Winona, Diocese of
WINONA, DIOCESE OF
The Diocese of Winona (Winonensis ) was established Nov. 26, 1889, when 20 counties extending across southern Minnesota from the Mississippi River to South Dakota were separated from the Archdiocese of St. Paul.
The early history of the Winona diocese is closely associated with that of the archdioceses of Dubuque and St. Paul. In 1683 the Jesuit missionary Joseph Marist worked among the Sioux natives near the site of Wabasha in southeastern Minnesota, where a trading post had been established. More than a century and a half later, in 1839, Bp. Mathias Loras of Dubuque passed the future site of Winona while on a pastoral visit to an early Catholic settlement at Mendota. In 1856 the Rev. Joseph Cretin, the pioneer bishop of St. Paul and founder of many parishes in the diocese, visited Winona and organized the town's first parish.
In the 1860s there was an influx of German, Irish, and Polish immigrants into the growing industries along the Mississippi River and the rich agricultural lands of Southern Minnesota. Many new missions and parishes were established. A few decades later Abp. John ireland of St. Paul carried out an extensive colonization program in southwestern Minnesota, laying the foundation there for many flourishing parishes. At the time of its incorporation, the Winona diocese had 45 parishes, 31 mission churches, 18 parish schools, 49 priests, and a Catholic population of approximately 38,000.
The Rev. Joseph Cotter was the first the bishop of the Winona diocese from the time of his appointment late in 1889 until his death June 28, 1909. His successors were Patrick Heffron (1910–27) and Francis Kelly (1928–49). From 1942 to 1949, Leo Binz was the coadjutor to Kelly and the apostolic administrator of the diocese. Following Bp. Binz were Edward Fitzgerald (1950–68), Loras Watters (1969–87), John Vlazy (1987–97), and Bernard Harrington (1999–). In 2001 there were 118 parishes and 79 active priests serving the dioceses' 148,400 Catholics.
Throughout its history, the Winona diocese has provided Catholic education at all levels of instruction. In 2001 it had 33 elementary schools, 4 high schools, and St. Mary University of Minnesota, sponsored by the Brothers of the Christian Schools of the Midwest District. St. Teresa College, a liberal arts college for women established in 1912, administered by the Sisters of Saint Francis of Rochester, MN, closed in 1989. Newman Centers serve the Catholic populations at Winona State University and Mankato State University. The diocese has a history of thriving parish religious education and youth ministry programs for young people. More recently the diocese has implemented extensive lay leadership formation programs and a deaconate preparation program. Immaculate Heart of Mary, a diocesan seminary built in 1950 by Bp. Fitzgerald on the campus of St. Mary University, serves pre-theology seminary preparation for 11 dioceses and 1 abbey in the Midwest. St. Mary's Press, an apostolate of the Brothers of the Christian School of the Midwest District, is located in Winona. The press is a prominent publisher of religious education materials for Catholic schools and parishes throughout the English-speaking world and for Catholic Hispanic youth in the United States. The Courier, a diocesan newspaper that began as a weekly in 1910, continues to be published as a monthly.
The diocese is home to two Catholic hospitals, St. Mary's in Rochester, the location of the world renowned Mayo Clinic, and St. Elizabeth's in Wabasha, a number of nursing homes, hospices and a retirement community.
Within the diocese, Mankato is the provincial center for the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and the administrative and retirement center for the Sisters of Saint Francis of the Congregation of Our Lady of Lourdes is in Rochester. There are five retreat houses in the diocese as well as a hermitage under the direction of the contemplative sisters, the Hermits of St. Mary of Carmel (Carmelites).
[g. h. speltz/
r. p. stamschror]