Diocesan History

The Catholic Church in Southern Missouri
Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau

Table of Contents

1.) Beginnings

2.) A New Diocese 1956-1962

3.) Vatican II Perspectives 1962-1969

4.) Shaping the Future 1970-1973

5.) Challenges Met 1973-1984

6.) The Diocese Today 1984 –

7.) Parish and Mission Church Histories Index

Advance, St. JosephAurora, Holy TrinityAva, St. Leo the Great Mission ChurchBenton, St. DenisBillings, St. JosephBolivar, Sacred HeartBranson, Our Lady of the LakeBuffalo, St. WilliamBunker, Christ the King Mission ChurchCabool, St. Michael Mission ChurchCape Girardeau, St. Mary of the AnnunciationCape Girardeau, St. Vincent de PaulCape Girardeau, Old St. Vincent ChapelCarthage, St. AnnCaruthersville, Sacred HeartCassville, St. EdwardChaffee, St. AmbroseCharleston, St. HenryConway, Sacred HeartDexter, Sacred HeartDoniphan, St. BenedictEl Dorado Springs, St. ElizabethEminence, St. Sylvester Mission ChurchForsyth, Our Lady of the OzarksFredericktown, St. MichaelGainesville, St. William Mission ChurchGlennon, St. Anthony Mission ChurchGlennonville, St. TeresaGrandin, St. Anne Mission ChurchGreenfield, St. Patrick Mission ChurchHouston, St. MarkHumansville, St. Catherine Mission ChurchIronton, St. Marie du LacJackson, Immaculate ConceptionJoplin, St. Peter the ApostleJoplin, St. MaryKelso, St. AugustineKennett, St. CeciliaKimberling City, Our Lady of the CoveLamar, St. MaryLebanon, St. Francis de SalesLeopold, St. JohnLesterville, Our Lady of Sorrows Mission ChurchLicking, St. John the Baptist Mission ChurchMalden, St. AnnMansfield, Immaculate Heart of MaryMarshfield, Holy TrinityMonett, St. LawrenceMontauk, St. Jude ChapelMountain Grove, Sacred HeartMountain View, St. John VianneyMt. Vernon, St. SusanneNeosho, St. CaneraNew Hamburg, St. LawrenceNew Madrid, Immaculate ConceptionNixa, St. Francis AssisiNoel, Nativity of Our Lord Mission ChurchOran, Guardian AngelOzark, St. Joseph the WorkerPiedmont, St. Catherine of SienaPierce City, St. MaryPoplar Bluff, Sacred HeartPortageville, St. EustachiusPulaskifield, SS. Peter and PaulRoby, St. Vincent de Paul Mission ChurchSalem, Sacred HeartSarcoxie, St. AgnesScott City, St. JosephSeneca, St. MaryShell Knob, Holy FamilySikeston, St. Francis XavierSpringfield, Immaculate ConceptionSpringfield, Sacred HeartSpringfield, St. JosephSpringfield, St. Agnes CathedralSpringfield, Holy TrinitySpringfield, St. Elizabeth Ann SetonStockton, St. Peter Mission ChurchThayer, Sacred Heart Mission ChurchVan Buren, St. George Mission ChurchVerona, Sacred HeartViburnum, St. Philip Benizi Mission ChurchWebb City, Sacred HeartWest Plains, St. MaryWhite Church, St. Joseph Mission ChurchWilliamsville, Our Lady of Sorrows Mission ChurchWillow Springs, Sacred Heart

Appendix: Religious Communities


Author/Editor: Loretta Pastva, SND

History Advisory Committee: Mrs. Marilyn Vydra, Coordinator, Mrs. Jacqueline Gahm, Rev. Robert A. Landewe, Mrs. Florence Maltby, Msgr. Raymond V. Orf, Ms. Rosina San Paolo, Rev. James J. Unterreiner, Msgr. John H. Westhues

Creative and Technical Assistance: Mrs. Leslie Eidson, Editor, The Mirror, Mrs. Recy Moore, Director, Communications Services, The Catholic Center Staff Editing Team, Sr. Rosalie Digenan, DC, Dr. Donald Emge, Sr. Inez Denise Hallinan, CSJ, Mr. Matthew Henderson, Mrs. Maureen Jersak, Msgr. Thomas E. Reidy, Mrs. Janet Smith, Mr. Thomas Walmsley, Ms. Joan Ward

Photography: John Glover

Cover Photo: Big Spring, Van Buren, MO, Whites Creek and Current River (page 11) Scott Merritt

Published by: Editions du Signe, BP 94 – 67038 Strasbourg – Cedex 2 – France, Tel (++33) 3 88 78 91 91, Fax (++33) 3 88 78 91 99, info@editionsdusigne.fr; Publishing Director: Christian Riehl; Director of Publication: Joelle Bernhard; Publishing Assistant: Marc de Jong; Design and Layout: Sylvie Tusinski; Photoengraving: Editions du Signe DB – 105825

© Editions du Signe 2005; ISBN: 2-7468-1444-7; All rights reserved–Reproduction forbidden; Printed in Turkey by Ohan Printing House Co. Ltd

Bishop’s Foreword

Bp Leibrecht lightened

This pictorial history is about Jesus Christ. He told his disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them … teaching them to observe all I have commanded you” (Mt.28:19). The Lord’s continuing presence in the world and Roman Catholic Church these past 2,000 years is shaped to each era and locale.

The Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, part of the universal Catholic Church, observes its Golden Anniversary in 2006. However, the Catholic Church in southern Missouri goes back much farther, its history in the 39 counties of the diocese beginning much earlier with the Spanish explorers.

Prior to 1956 when the new Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau was established by Pope Pius XII, the eastern counties of southern Missouri were part of the Archdiocese of St. Louis (founded in 1826) and the western counties part of the Diocese of Kansas City (established in 1880). The first small communities of faithful who lived the Catholic faith in Missouri developed with time into parish communities.

Catholic followers of Christ continue to increase in numbers in southern Missouri. They live among and work with fellow Christians and neighbors of other religious faiths. They contribute significantly to the well-being of their cities and towns, taking seriously both their Catholic faith and American citizenship.

Fifty years of history, comparatively brief as it is, cannot be adequately related in these pages. The text and photos tell only part of that story, enough I trust, to witness that the Lord’s commission to his disciples continues to be carried out.

Sincerely in Christ,

Most Reverend John J. Leibrecht
Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau


Since the founding of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau 50 years ago, its Catholic population has doubled. And it continues to add new members. In 2004 its 65 parishes, 19 missions and 2 chapels initiated 352 new Catholics into the local church of southern Missouri. This growth is all the more remarkable since the 39 counties constituting the diocese are an area that encompasses the world headquarters of the Assemblies of God, Springfield; the General Baptist Church, Poplar Bluff; and the Pentecostal Church of America, Joplin. There are Amish, Mormons and Mennonites in the western communities of the diocese and pockets of Zionists outside the Mansfield area.

Indeed, though situated in the heart of the cultivated and highly developed United States, the Church of Springfield-Cape Girardeau is true mission territory.

First, it traces its origins back to the 17th century missionaries, Marquette and Joliet, who navigated the Great River (Mississippi), to bring Catholicism to the peoples of the New World.

Second, parishes in the southern third of the state are small, scattered and surrounded by people of other denominations. At the creation of the diocese in 1956, 70 priests served the 55 parishes and 32 missions of the area, whereas the Archdiocese of St. Louis, with its heavier Catholic population, had 833 priests for its 221 parishes and 15 missions. The Diocese of Kansas City counted 283 priests for 103 parishes and 29 missions.

Third, a great challenge to the Church has been caring for the spiritual needs of many new immigrants, especially from Vietnam, Mexico and Latin America.

As the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese prepares to celebrate golden anniversary in 2006, it faces the missionary mandates of serving and enlarging its farflung congregations, making its spiritual image appealing to its neighbors, especially by reaching out to the unchurched, and cultivating the strengths of its increasingly diverse membership.

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St. Pius X–Diocesan Patron

Plaque picturing St. Pius X, in the lobby of The Catholic Center.
Plaque picturing St. Pius X, in the lobby of The Catholic Center.

The patron of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, St. Pius X is a model for all its members, especially the laity. As the pope who allowed First Communion to children from the age of reason, St. Pius X further demonstrated his great love for the Eucharist by recommending frequent reception of Holy Communion to all Catholics.

St. Pius was also an apostle of religious education, both of children and adults. The many religious formation programs throughout the United States and the world today are the products of his endeavors.

Finally, far ahead of his time, St. Pius X initiated the lay apostolate in the form of Catholic Action, which, since Vatican Council II, has exploded in a profusion of lay ministries in the Church.

The diocese is blessed to have so contemporary a patron for imitation.

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Secondary Patron of the Diocese

P 5-2
St. Philippine Duchesne sculpture in The Catholic Center lobby. (Sculptures by Rudolph E. Torrini, Torrini Studios, St. Louis, MO).

Because of her apostolic work in Missouri, Mother Philippine Duchesne was chosen as secondary patroness of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.

Excerpts from a letter written in 1820 to Mother Madeleine Sophie Barat, foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in France, explain Mother Phillipine Duchesne’s connection to southern Missouri.

“… the steamboat (Cincinnati) ran aground on a sandbank in mid-stream, about 100 leagues below St. Louis … New Madrid. … I remained there doing nothing until Divine Providence inspired a French lady in New Madrid to invite us to her home. We went there in a canoe and stayed five days until the water rose in the river and lifted the steamboat off the sandbank. … I am more than ever convinced of the great need there is for teachers who could be placed gradually in the larger towns where there are priests–towns like New Madrid, where there are sixty or eighty Catholic families. …” She went on to found six houses in Louisiana and Missouri. After her death, the Society spread to North and South America. She was canonized on July 3, 1988.

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