The History of the Diocese of Jefferson City — By Fr. Rich, O.P.

FrRichWebAs I write this, we are looking forward to the ordination of the 4th bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City. I would like take this opportunity to personally thank Bishop Emeritus Gaydos for the wonderful support he has shown me since my arrival at St. Thomas More. I have found him a quiet, firm guide, available when I had questions and needed direction. On behalf of my Dominican brothers and sisters, I’ve truly appreciated his prayers and support. I offer him blessings in Dominic and Catherine as he begins a new chapter in his journey.

As you know, I’m not from around here, so I took this opportunity to delve into the history of our diocese. Everyone out there who knows our past has permission to skip this part of the column. This excerpt is from our diocesan website:

“The Diocese, or ecclesiastical territory, is composed of 22,127 square miles [57,287 square kilometers], decidedly rural and embraces 38 counties in northeastern and central Missouri. It includes the urban areas of Columbia, Hannibal and the State Capital of Jefferson City. The Diocesan patroness is the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It is located in region IX of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The well-organized system of rural parishes, particularly in Cole, Osage, Adair, Ralls, as well as Monroe Counties were the result of Jesuit missionary activity and primarily German, Italian and Irish immigrations. The oldest active parish in the Diocese is St. Stephen’s in Indian Creek (1833). The largest parish in the Diocese is Our Lady of Lourdes in Columbia (1958), 2,284 registered households. The newest parish in the Diocese is St. Andrew’s in Holts Summit (1975). The Shrine of our Lady of Sorrows and St. Martin Historic Church is located in Starkenburg (1888). The National Shrine of Mary, Mother of the Church, is located in Laurie (2003).

The Diocese of Jefferson City is a suffragan, or subordinate, of the Metropolitan See of St. Louis. Pope Pius XII established the Diocese on November 27, 1956 from the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Diocese of Kansas City and the former Diocese of St. Joseph. The First Bishop was the Most Reverend Joseph M. Marling, CPPS, who established the foundations of the young Diocese. He served until his resignation in 1969. Bishop Marling served nationally as the President of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference and was one of the founding members of the Missouri Catholic Conference in 1967. The Second Bishop was the Most Reverend Michael F. McAuliffe, S.T.D., who was ordained and installed in 1969. He served until his retirement in 1997. He further implemented the documents of the Second Vatican Council. Bishop McAuliffe served nationally as the Episcopal Moderator to the Catholic Scouts and as chairman for the Role of Women in the Church committee of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference. The current bishop, the Most Reverend John R. Gaydos, was ordained and installed as third Bishop of Jefferson City in the Cathedral in 1997.”

As you read this, the ordination has taken place. Bishop Shawn McKnight is our latest spiritual leader. I look forward to serving him as I tried to serve Bishop Emeritus Gaydos. As with any new beginning there is anticipation, speculation, a bit of nervous expectation. I would invite you to join me in prayers of thanksgiving and anticipation. As Sarah Conner says at the close of the opening episode of the “Terminator” series, “The future is as yet unwritten!”