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Roman Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City

Diocese of Jefferson City

Dioecesis Civitatis Jeffersoniensis
Cathedral of Saint Joseph
Coat of arms
Country United States
Territory38 counties across central and northeastern Missouri
Ecclesiastical provinceSt. Louis
HeadquartersJefferson City, MO
Coordinates38°35′30″N 92°12′32″W / 38.59163°N 92.20891°W / 38.59163; -92.20891
Area22,127 sq mi (57,310 km2)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2010)
88,000 (10.4%)
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
EstablishedJuly 2, 1956 (67 years ago)
CathedralCathedral of Saint Joseph
Patron saintImmaculate Heart of Mary[1]
Current leadership
BishopShawn McKnight
Metropolitan ArchbishopMitchell T. Rozanski
Bishops emeritusJohn R. Gaydos
The 38 counties in the Diocese of Jefferson City
The 38 counties in the Diocese of Jefferson City

The Diocese of Jefferson City (Latin: Dioecesis Civitatis Jeffersoniensis) is a Latin Church ecclesiastical territory, or diocese, of the Catholic Church in the state of Missouri in the United States. It is a suffragan diocese in the ecclesiastical province of the metropolitan Archdiocese of St. Louis.

The mother church of the Diocese of Jefferson City is the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Jefferson City.


As of 2023, the Diocese of Jefferson City had 93 parishes and nine missions. The diocese was 77 active diocesan priests, 18 priests from other dioceses, 27 nuns and 101 permanent deacons. The Catholic population was over 76,200.[2]

The diocese consists of 38 counties in mainly rural northeastern and central Missouri, and includes the urban areas of Columbia and the state capital, Jefferson City.


1600 to 1956

The first Catholic presence in Missouri was from European explorers in the 17th century traveling the Mississippi River. In present-day Hannibal, the first Catholic masses were celebrated by the Belgian missionary, Reverend Louis Hennepin, in 1680 at Bay de Charles.[3] At that time, all of Missouri was part of the French colony of Louisiana.

With the Louisiana Purchase of 1804, Missouri passed from France to the United States and the bishop of the Diocese of New Orleans assumed jurisdiction for Catholics in Missouri. On July 18, 1826, Pope Leo XII erected the Diocese of St. Louis, covering the new state of Missouri along with vast areas of the Great Plains.[4] The Jefferson City region would remain part of this diocese and others for the next 130 years.

The first German language parish west of the Mississippi River, St. Joseph's, was founded in Westphalia in 1835.[5] In Jefferson City, St. Peter's, the first Catholic church, was dedicated in 1846.[6] St. Patrick's was founded in 1862 in Rolla to minister to the Irish Catholic railroad workers.[3]

1956 to present

St. Peter's Church in Jefferson City was the first diocesan cathedral.

On July 2, 1956, Pope Pius XII established the Diocese of Jefferson City. Its territory was taken from the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Dioceses of Kansas City and Saint Joseph.[7][8] The pope named Auxiliary Bishop Joseph M. Marling of Kansas city as the first bishop of the new parish.[9]

During his tenure, Marline oversaw the construction of a new cathedral, twenty-five churches, twenty-nine schools, thirty rectories, sixteen convents, and a Carmelite monastery. He also established the diocesan newspaper and missions in Peru. Marling retired in 1969.

Pope Paul VI appointed Reverend Michael McAuliffe of Kansas City as the second bishop of Jefferson City in 1969.[10] In 1980, McAuliffe appeared before the Missouri General Assembly to support the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution.[11] In 1982, Holy Family Parish in New Haven won a court battle with McAuliffe about the relocation of an ornate marble altar within the church sanctuary. McAuliffe stated that the guidelines of the Second Vatican Council forced him to relocate the altar. The judge ordered McAuliffe and Holy Family Parish to negotiate a compromise solution.[12] McAuliffe retired in 1997.

To replace McAuliffe, Pope John Paul II in 1997 named Monsignor John R. Gaydos of St. Louis as the next bishop of Jefferson City. Gaydos retired early in 2017 due to poor health.[13]

The current bishop of Jefferson City, as of 2023, is Shawn McKnight from the Diocese of Wichita.[14]

Sex abuse

In 2001, Bishop Gaydos and the diocese were sued by a former student at St. Thomas Aquinas Preparatory Seminary in Hannibal, Missouri. The plaintiff claimed that Bishop Anthony J. O'Connell of the Diocese of Palm Beach, then rector at the seminary, had sexually exploited him.[15]

In 2002, a new report revealed that the Diocese of Jefferson City paid a secret settlement of $125,000 in 1996 to Christopher Dixon. A former seminarian, Dixon claimed to have been sexually abused by O'Connell in 1969 at the seminary.[16] In 2002, O'Connell admitted abusing two boys at the seminary and resigned as bishop of Palm Beach.[17] In May 2002, facing declining enrollment at Thomas Aquinas Seminary and pending more sexual abuse lawsuits, Gaydos closed it.[18]

In 2003, Bishop McAuliffe and the diocese were sued by a North Carolina man who claimed to have been sexually molested by two diocesan priests when he was a child.[19] That same year, Gaydos and the diocese were named in a sexual abuse lawsuit by a Missouri man. The plaintiff alleged that Reverend Gary Pool and Reverend Kevin Clohessy, two priests in the diocese, had sexually abused him for most of his childhood.[20]

In 2015, the diocese settled for $40,000 a long-standing sexual abuse claim by David Clohessy, the brother of Keven Clohessy, against John Whiteley, a diocese priest. Clohessy had sued the diocese in 1991, claiming that Whitely, then a pastor at St. Pius X Parish in Moberly, had sexually abused him. Clohessy's case was dismissed in 1993 due to the Missouri statute of limitations. However, Clohessy renewed his claim in 2015 and the diocese decided that it was credible.[21][22]

Bishop McKnight announced in 2020 that two diocesan priests, Reverend Robert Duesdieker and Reverend Mel Lahr, had been laicized by the Vatican due to credible accusations of sexual abuse of children.[23] In January 2022, the diocese released a list of clergy accused of violating the Charter for The Protection of Children and Young People issued by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.[24]


Bishops of Jefferson City

  1. Joseph M. Marling, C.PP.S. (1956-1969)
  2. Michael Francis McAuliffe (1969-1997)
  3. John R. Gaydos (1997-2017)
  4. Shawn McKnight (2018–present)

Other diocesan priest who became bishop

Anthony Joseph O'Connell, appointed Bishop of Knoxville in 1988, later Bishop of Palm Beach, resigned due to sexual abuse admission.


The Diocese of Jefferson, as of 2023, had three high schools and 37 elementary schools, with a total student enrollment of approximately 6, 700.[2] The high schools are:


"The Catholic Missourian" is the official newspaper of the diocese.[25]

Alphonse J. Schwartze Memorial Catholic Center

Alphonse J. Schwartze Memorial Catholic Center

The Alphonse J. Schwartze Memorial Catholic Center serves as the chancery offices for the Diocese of Jefferson City. Located adjacent to the Cathedral of Saint Joseph, it is the pastoral center and a headquarters for the diocese. The center is named for Alphonse J. Schwartze, a parishioner of St. Joseph's Church in Westphalia. Groundbreaking for the center took place in 2004.

The center building is 26,795 square feet (2,489.3 m2) and contains 47 rooms, including the chapel and meeting rooms. The walls display gifts from the diocesan clergy and laity. Most of the original paintings were created by Louis Wellington McCorkle, a member of the American Artists Professional League. The Peruvian artwork was donated by the estate of Francis G. Gillgannon.

The Saint Alphonsus Chapel is dedicated to the Italian Bishop Alphonsus Maria de Liguori. It is dominated by an imported 4½ foot wooden image of Christ modeled after the Gero Crucifix of the Cathedral of St. Peter and the Virgin Mary in Cologne, Germany. The diocese selected this crucifix to link the occupation of the center with the 2005 World Youth Day in Cologne. The chapel seats 50 people.

See also


  1. ^ "About Us | Diocese of Jefferson City". 17 December 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Statistics | Diocese of Jefferson City". 2019-04-02. Retrieved 2023-10-06.
  3. ^ a b "History | Diocese of Jefferson City". 2018-12-17. Retrieved 2023-04-23.
  4. ^ "Saint Louis (Archdiocese) [Catholic-Hierarchy]". Retrieved 2023-10-06.
  5. ^ "St. Joseph (Westphalia) | Diocese of Jefferson City". 2019-03-15. Retrieved 2023-04-23.
  6. ^ "Our History | ST PETER CATHOLIC CHURCH". Retrieved 2023-04-23.
  7. ^ "Diocese of Jefferson City". Giga Catholic. Retrieved 2013-06-04.
  8. ^ "Jefferson City (Diocese) [Catholic-Hierarchy]". Retrieved 2023-10-06.
  9. ^ "Bishop Joseph Mary Marling [Catholic-Hierarchy]". Retrieved 2022-11-05.
  10. ^ "Bishop Michael Francis McAuliffe [Catholic-Hierarchy]". Retrieved 2023-10-06.
  11. ^ "Testimony of Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe" (PDF). Retrieved November 5, 2022.
  12. ^ "Church parishioners win legal fight". UPI. Retrieved 2022-11-06.
  13. ^ "Bishop John Raymond Gaydos [Catholic-Hierarchy]". Retrieved 2023-10-06.
  14. ^ "Bishop William Shawn McKnight [Catholic-Hierarchy]". Retrieved 2023-10-06.
  15. ^ "Ex-Seminarian Sues Former Palm Beach Bishop Over Sexual Abuse". Boca Raton News. March 19, 2002. Retrieved 2021-12-01.
  16. ^ Tubbs, Sharon (March 9, 2002). "Bishop admits abuse, resigns". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2023-04-23.
  17. ^ Ross, Brian; Schwartz, Rhonsa; Schecter, Anna (15 April 2008). "Victims: Pope Benedict Protects Accused Pedophile Bishops". ABC News. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  18. ^ "Childproof 30: Breaking the Silence | Some True Things about St. Thomas Perpetrators; Jefferson City Predators, The Diocese of Jefferson City, May 07, 2012". Retrieved 2021-12-01.
  19. ^ SLOCA, PAUL (2003-02-18). "Ex-Priests Face Abuse Lawsuit by Mo. Man". Midland Daily News. Retrieved 2022-11-06.
  20. ^ "Sex Abuse Suit Filed In Missouri". February 19, 2003. Retrieved 2021-12-01.
  21. ^ "Clohessy, JC Diocese settle priest abuse case". September 4, 2015. Retrieved 2021-12-01.
  22. ^ Roewe, Brian (September 4, 2015). "SNAP leader settles with Missouri diocese". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 2023-04-22.
  23. ^ Gamm, Joe (2020-07-05). "Two former Diocese of Jefferson City priests dismissed". Fulton Sun. Retrieved 2023-04-23.
  24. ^ "Priests and religious brothers credibly accused and/or removed from ministry in the Diocese of Jefferson City" (PDF). Diocese of Jefferson City. January 10, 2022. Retrieved April 22, 2023.
  25. ^ "The Catholic Missourian". Retrieved 2016-05-14.
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Roman Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City
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