About the Diocese
In the early 1830’s, missionary Father Benedict Roux reported only nine Catholic families living in western Missouri.
Decidedly discouraged by the mission’s outlook, in 1831 he wrote to Bishop Joseph Rosati, the first bishop of the Diocese of St. Louis, “that the Catholics of [western Missouri] are incapable of supporting a priest decently, being so few in number,” and returned to St. Louis in 1835.
Despite Father Roux’s misgivings on the future of the Church in western Missouri, from these humble roots developed a diocese of nearly 124,000 Catholics in 91 parishes and 10 missions.
Catholics lived in the area as early as 1723. French fur traders and merchants settled along the Missouri River near present-day Kansas City at Chouteau’s Bluff, eventually establishing a chapel for Catholic worship. The arrival of Catholic missionaries, most notably Father Bernard Donnelly in 1845, signaled the permanency and success of the Church in the area.
As European upheavals facilitated the immigration of Irish and German Catholics, Catholicism continued to expand and flourish. The Catholic population in the region was enough to warrant the establishment of first the Diocese of St. Joseph on March 3, 1868 and, twelve years later, the Diocese of Kansas City on September 10, 1880 as suffragan sees from the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
The immigration of Sicilian and Italian immigrants in the late-nineteenth-century as well as Hispanics and Vietnamese Catholics in the twentieth-century further consolidated the strength of the Church in western Missouri. Thus the growth of Catholicism in the region mirrored the wider United States and the overall success of the Church in America.
On August 29, 1956, the Holy See incorporated part of the Diocese of St. Joseph into the former Diocese of Kansas City and creating the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. The Diocese has produced two cardinals (Cardinal John J. Glennon in 1946 and William W. Baum in 1976) and eight bishops of other dioceses (Francis J. Tief as Bishop of Concordia, Kansas in 1920; Charles F. Buddy as the founding Bishop of San Diego in 1936; Joseph M. Marling as the founding Bishop of Jefferson City in 1956; Michael F. McAuliffe as Bishop of Jefferson City in 1969; Joseph V. Sullivan as Bishop of Baton Rouge in 1974; Hubert J. Hart as Bishop of Cheyenne in 1978; Lawrence McNamara as Bishop of Grand Island, Nebraska in 1978; and George K. Fitzsimmons as Bishop of Salina, Kansas in 1984).
Today, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph comprises twenty-seven counties totaling 15, 429 square miles and ministers to the souls of approximately 124,000 Catholics. Under the guidance of Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr., the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph continues its mission to serve Holy Mother Church in western Missouri providing social services, education, and comfort for the faithful of the region.