Nov. 15, 2013, edition
By Jennifer Janikula
For The Visitor

When the Diocese of St. Cloud was established in 1889, central Minnesota was still considered part of America’s western frontier. Forest and prairie dominated the landscape. Bears and coyotes outnumbered people. Existing roads were more like trails and impassable most of the year.


Bishop Seidenbusch

One prelate, Bishop Rupert Seidenbusch, the first abbot of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, oversaw what was then the Vicariate Apostolic of Northern Minnesota until St. Cloud became a diocese.

Since then, the diocese has grown from 30,000 Catholics to more than 160,000.

Prior to Bishop Donald Kettler, eight bishops led the diocese through more than 100 years of challenges and opportunities. Here is a brief overview of Bishop Kettler’s predecessors, largely based on the two-volume history, “The Spirit in Central Minnesota” by the late Msgr. Vincent A. Yzermans.


Bishop Otto Zardetti 

bishopzardettiBorn: Jan. 24, 1846 in Rorshach, Switzerland
Ordained: 1870, St. Gall Cathedral, Switzerland
Consecrated Bishop: 1889, Switzerland
Bishop of St. Cloud Diocese: 1889-1894
After St. Cloud Diocese: Metropolitan Archbishop, Bucharest, Romania
Died: 1902 at age 56 in Rome, Italy

During the time of Bishop Otto Zardetti, parishes of the diocese were isolated in small pockets, often by nationality. Most settlers in the diocese were German or from German-speaking countries, but there were also Polish, French-Canadian and Irish settlers.

As the first ordinary of the Diocese of St. Cloud, Bishop Zardetti focused on creating the identity of the diocese and uniting the isolated parishes. He established his leadership team (curia) and worked tirelessly to find new priests for his growing diocese.

The poor financial health of the diocese was one of Bishop Zardetti’s biggest challenges. The settlers of the American frontier lived in poverty, often struggling to provide food and shelter for their families. Despite the poverty of much of the Catholic faithful, the churches and schools of the diocese in the late 1880s were created by the hard work and sacrifice of local communities.



Bishop Martin Marty, O.S.B. 

Born: Jan. 12, 1834 in Schwyz, SwitzerlandbishopmartyMonastic Profession: 1855, Schwyz, Switzerland
Ordained: at age 22 in 1856, Schwyz, Switzerland
Before St. Cloud Diocese:
— Abbot, St. Meinrad Priory, Indiana 1871-1876,
— Vicar Apostolic of Dakota 1879-1889,
— Bishop of Sioux Falls, S.D. 1889-1895
Bishop of St. Cloud Diocese: 1895-1896
Died: 1896 at age 62 in St. Cloud

For 19 years before his arrival in St. Cloud, Benedictine Father Martin Marty lived the demanding life of a missionary in the Dakota Territory. At one point, his region covered 150,000 square miles across North and South Dakota. He was passionate about his work with the American Indians; they were his friends and he was their advocate. The Hunkpapa Dakota even inducted him into their tribe and named him Black Robe Lean Chief.

Upon his appointment to the Diocese of St. Cloud, Bishop Marty was quite ill. He only served for one year before his death in 1896. His lasting contribution to the diocese was the initiation of an effort to incorporate the diocesan churches.

At the time, the parish communities supplied much of the money and labor to build churches and schools. Many parishes did not have resident priests. This left room for confusion about who owned the buildings and who controlled the finances of each parish. Incorporation defined the diocese as the owner of parishes. Bishop Marty’s successor, Bishop James Trobec managed the completion of the incorporation process.


Bishop James Trobec 

bishoptrobecBorn: July 10, 1838, in Polhov Gradec, Slovenia
Ordained: 1865, St. Paul
Consecrated Bishop: 1897, St. Paul
Bishop of St. Cloud Diocese: 1897-1914
Died: 1921 at age 83 in St. Stephen

When Bishop Trobec was appointed to the St. Cloud Diocese in 1897, central Minnesota was no longer considered part of the “American Frontier.” The railroad system was well established, which promoted commerce and improved local economies. Most towns had large buildings and beautiful churches on their main streets.

Bishop Trobec led the church of St. Cloud through a time of great growth. His priorities included vocations and Catholic education. The number of diocesan priests, the number of parishes and the number of children educated in Catholic schools nearly doubled during his tenure.

One challenge of Bishop Trobec’s time was the movement toward the Americanization of the Catholic Church in the United States. As in much of the United States, most Catholic churches in the St. Cloud Diocese were founded by settlers from a single country of origin. Parishes, especially those of German settlers, fought to preserve their nationality in the context of their church.


Bishop Joseph F. Busch 

bishopbuschBorn: April 18, 1866, in Red Wing, Minn.
Ordained: 1889, Innsbruck, Austria
Consecrated Bishop: 1910, St. Paul
Before St. Cloud Diocese:
Bishop of Lead, S.D., 1910-1915
Bishop of St. Cloud Diocese: 1915-1953
Died: 1953 at age 87 in St. Cloud

At the time of Bishop Busch’s appointment, the diocese was well established and in excellent financial condition with no shortage of priests. By 1915 the people of central Minnesota were settled into their careers and automobiles were showing up on city streets.

In his first year, Bishop Busch initiated a project to build a new episcopal residence. Previous bishops of St. Cloud lived in the rectory at Holy Angels procathedral.

Instead of the rectory residence, Bishop Busch envisioned the French-chateau style building that currently serves as the chancery building on Third Avenue South. The project cost $45,000. To pay for the new building, Bishop Busch obtained a $30,000 donation from his mother, and an additional $15,000 from parish assessments.

Bishop Busch, the first American and Minnesota-born bishop of St. Cloud, promoted social activism and was quite progressive. He supported the creation of the Women’s Guild and the Women’s Mission Circles. He initiated a diocesan convention to solicit input from lay Catholics. As bishop he even issued a directive that Sundays and Holy Days required at least one sermon in English, that confirmations would be conducted in English and that pastoral letters would be produced and read in English.

During the time of Bishop Busch, the growth of the diocese came to a halt due to the Great Depression. Between 1915 and 1924, 15 new parishes were established; from 1924 to 1942, the diocese did not establish any new parishes and did not build any new buildings.


Bishop Peter W. Bartholome 

bishopbartholomeBorn: April 2, 1893 in Bellechester, Minn.
Ordained: 1917 in Winona, Minn.
Consecrated Bishop: 1942 in Rochester, Minn.
Before St. Cloud Diocese:
Coadjutor Bishop of St. Cloud 1941-1953
Bishop of St. Cloud Diocese: 1953-1968
Died: 1982 at age 89 near Grey Eagle

The dramatic population and financial growth of the 1950s created new opportunities for the Diocese of St. Cloud. During Bishop Bartholome’s era, the diocese built 28 churches and 31 schools. The number of Catholics in the diocese grew 42 percent to 140,000. Lay people, by necessity, were empowered to take leadership roles in the churches and the schools.

The youngest of 11 children, Bishop Bartholome valued family. To combat increased divorce rates after World War II, he introduced marriage preparation classes to the St. Cloud Diocese and promoted the benefits of the classes across the United States. He also urged parishes to support family farms and creameries.

Along with his concern for Christian families, Bishop Bartholome also felt a great responsibility for the priests of the diocese. He made sure young priests were paired with pastors who would be good teachers. He visited priests who were ill, brought Christmas gifts to retired priests and officiated at the burial of every priest.

Bishop Bartholome was an avid reader, wrote many pastoral letters and was a good (but not brief) speaker. He valued propriety, formality and decorum in a time when the Second Vatican Council was about to dramatically change the church. Speaking about his retirement in 1968, he often joked, “I got out just in time.”

In retirement, Bishop Bartholome focused on reading, prayer and meditation. He raised chickens and tended a garden on his farm near Grey Eagle.


Bishop George H. Speltz 

bishopspeltzBorn: May 29, 1912 in Altura, Minn.
Ordained: 1940 in Winona, Minn.
Consecrated Bishop: 1963 in Winona, Minn.
Before St. Cloud Diocese:
— Auxilliary Bishop of Winona 1963-1966
— Coadjutor Bishop of St. Cloud 1966-1968
Bishop of St. Cloud: 1968-1987
Died: 2004 at age 91 in St. Cloud

Bishop Speltz used the word “turbulent” to describe his early years in St. Cloud. The number of priests and parishioners peaked in the mid-1960s and began a steady decline during his tenure. During this time the diocese saw two years without ordinations and a sharp decline in baptisms.

These years following the Second Vatican Council spurred unprecedented changes in the diocese: Several Catholic schools closed or were consolidated; parishes added Saturday night Masses and face-to-face confession; laity began to distribute Communion at Mass; parish councils were established; the role of permanent deacon was re-established from the early church; and St. John’s Preparatory School in Collegeville opened its doors to female students.

Bishop Speltz continued the social activism of his predecessor, Bishop Busch. He promoted local and national affordable housing projects, banned the marriage of cohabiting couples, spoke out against abortion and lobbied for tax credits for Catholic school tuition.

Prayer and outdoor adventures kept Bishop Speltz going through those turbulent times. He consistently prayed the Liturgy of the Hours and enjoyed hiking and fishing.


Bishop Jerome G. Hanus, O.S.B. 

bishophanusBorn: May 26, 1940, Brainard, Neb.
Monastic Profession: 1961, Conception, Mo.
Ordained: 1966
Consecrated bishop: 1987 in Collegeville
Before St. Cloud Diocese:
— Abbot of Conception Abbey, Mo.
Bishop of St. Cloud Diocese: 1987-1994
After St. Cloud Diocese:
— Coadjutor Archbishop of Dubuque 1994-1995
— Archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa,1995-2013

Bishop Hanus came to the Diocese of St. Cloud with the motto “to serve rather than rule.” By all accounts, Bishop Hanus lived up to his motto. He was a collaborative leader, a good listener and had an uncanny ability to remember names and faces.

Bishop Hanus used exercise and card games to connect with the people of St. Cloud. He made time for racquetball with parishioners, cards with his fellow priests and an occasional fishing trip with Bishop Speltz.

During his time in St. Cloud, Bishop Hanus promoted healthcare as a ministry of the church. He supported Catholic healthcare institutions, encouraged the hiring of parish nurses and gave the laity a greater role in the healthcare mission of the church.

Bishop Hanus improved diocesan finances by professionalizing accounting processes and investments. He initiated a capital campaign for the priests’ retirement fund and hired a diocesan development director. Bishop Hanus also increased pay and benefits for diocesan staff (both lay and religious).

In addition to his healthcare and finance initiatives, Bishop Hanus also restructured the guidelines for permanent deacons and pastoral associates. He approved new processes for screening, selecting and training candidates.

He recently retired as Archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa.


Bishop John F. Kinney

bishopkinneyBorn: June 11, 1937
Ordained: Feb. 2, 1963 in St. Paul
Consecrated Bishop: Jan. 25, 1977 in Minneapolis
Before St. Cloud Diocese:
— Bishop of Diocese of Bismarck, N.D.: 1982-1995
Bishop of St. Cloud Diocese: 1995-2013
Retired: Nov. 7, 2013

With his 13 years of experience as an ordinary, Bishop John Kinney came to the St. Cloud Diocese with a broad vision of the church and an affirming, consultative leadership style that encouraged unity rather than competitiveness.

He had a strong desire to bring the message and energy of the Second Vatican Council to fruition, evidenced by his support of activities such as the diocesan Men’s Conference, Diocesan Ministry Day, formation for permanent deacons and lay ministers and pastorals on social justice and marriage.

Visits to Angola, Kenya and Venezuela as a member of the board of Catholic Relief Services influenced him to develop partnerships between dioceses in Africa and South America and the St. Cloud Diocese. As a national figure he chaired the first U.S. Bishops’ committee on clergy sexual abuse and held listening sessions in the diocese to better know and understand the harm done to abuse victims and the community.

As changing demographics and fewer priests impacted parish vitality, Bishop Kinney directed a strategic planning process that led to clustering of parishes to better meet the needs of Catholics.

Sources: “The Spirit in Central Minnesota: A Centennial Narrative of the Church of Saint Cloud 1889-1989,” by Msgr. Vincent A. Yzermans; archives of The Visitor.