Rick Roder
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History - Diocese of Sioux City



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    I wrote the following for the New Catholic Encyclopedia (2002). The entry shows my ability to condense extensive and diverse subject matter into a concise, readable piece. I believe that it is also a fine example of my ability to relate local history to the larger context of state, nation, and world.

    SIOUX CITY, DIOCESE OF (SIOUPOLITANA), suffragan of the Metropolitan See of Dubuque embracing the twenty-four northwest counties of Iowa, an area of 14,518 square miles, established January 15, 1902. The first Catholics settled in the area around the middle of the nineteenth century. The first Catholic ministrations were performed in November of 1850 by a Jesuit Indian missionary, Father Christian Hoecken. Dubuque's first bishop, Mathias Loras, assigned the first resident pastor to northwest Iowa in 1857 at Corpus Christi Parish of Fort Dodge.

    From 1850 to 1920, as the agricultural frontier moved across the Midwest, northwest Iowa received many thousands of European immigrants. The earliest were Irish, and about seventy-five Irish-born priests served during the era. The numbers of Irish were rivaled only by the Germans, and several towns contained both English-speaking and Germanic parishes. Other nationalities of immigrants, several of which formed ethnic parishes, were French, Bohemian, Polish, Italian, Syrian, and Luxembourger. The diocese received significant numbers of Vietnamese, Laotian, and Hispanic immigrants in the modern era.

    The first bishop of the Diocese of Sioux City, Philip Joseph Garrigan (1840-1919) immigrated to the Boston area from Ireland as a child. He became a renowned educator and administrator and was serving as the first vice-rector of the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., at the time of his ascendancy to the bishopric. He was consecrated in Springfield, Massachusetts, on May 25, 1902. His new diocese had a Catholic population of about 50,000 served by 116 churches (84 with resident priests); one-third operated their own schools. During Bishop Garrigan's administration the number of schools doubled, and three of every four children were enrolled in Catholic schools.

    Bishop Edmond Heelan (1868-1948) was also a child of Ireland. He spent nearly his entire priestly life in the Diocese of Sioux City, and was appointed auxiliary to Bishop Garrigan in 1918. He succeeded to the See on March 8, 1920, after the bishop's death. Bishop Heelan witnessed the slowing of the flow of immigrants and the hardships brought by world and national events, but carried on the expansion of parishes, missions, and schools begun by Garrigan. He also helped establish Briar Cliff College (now co-educational) in Sioux City in 1929.

    Joseph Maximillian Mueller (1894-1981), a native of St. Louis, was named coadjutor in 1947 and became the Ordinary of the diocese on September 20, 1948. On the morning of the death of Bishop Heelan, bids were opened for the first and largest inter-parochial high school in the diocese, Heelan High School of Sioux City. Bishop Mueller and his diocese became widely recognized for the bold and highly successful consolidation of high schools. Bishop Mueller founded the diocesan newspaper, The Globe. Bishop Mueller's administration was also marked by a tremendous building campaign of parish plants.

    Frank Greteman (1907-1987) was consecrated as auxiliary bishop of Sioux City on May 26, 1965, at the Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City, and became the Ordinary in 1970. Born in Willey, Iowa, he was the first priest native to northwest Iowa to become a bishop, and the first Iowa priest to serve his home diocese as bishop. Bishop Greteman completed the consolidation of the high schools and carried out re-organization of many grade school systems, as well.

    The Episcopal ordination of Bishop Lawrence Soens (born 1926), a native of the Diocese of Davenport, took place on August 17, 1983, at the Cathedral of the Epiphany. He established and expanded many religious programs in the diocese. Bishop Daniel DiNardo (born 1949), a native of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, was ordained for the diocese on October 7, 1997, and became the sixth Ordinary in 1998.

    The Diocese of Sioux City is the home of a great masterpiece of art and spirituality created by Father Paul Dobberstein, the Grotto of the Redemption, located in SS. Peter and Paul Parish of West Bend.

    On the eve of its Centennial in 2001, the diocese included approximately 97,000 Catholics, 168 priests, 37 deacons, 96 sisters representing 14 religious communities, 5 hospitals, 3 homes for the aged, a secular institute, and a Carmelite monastery. It contained 8 high schools and 27 grade schools serving a total of about 7,800 students.

    Richard J. Roder


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