Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dubuque

Archdiocese of Dubuque
Archidioecesis Dubuquensis
Country United States
Territory 30 counties in Northeastern Iowa
Ecclesiastical province Dubuque
Coordinates 42°29′06″N 90°40′31″W / 42.48500°N 90.67528°W / 42.48500; -90.67528Coordinates: 42°29′06″N 90°40′31″W / 42.48500°N 90.67528°W / 42.48500; -90.67528
Area 17,400 sq mi (45,000 km2)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2013)
200,588 (20.1%)
Parishes 167
Denomination Catholic Church
Rite Roman Rite
Established July 28, 1837 (179 years ago)
Cathedral St. Raphael's Cathedral
Patron saint St. Raphael
St. John Vianney
Current leadership
Pope Francis
Archbishop Michael Owen Jackels
Emeritus Bishops Daniel Kucera, O.S.B.
Jerome Hanus, O.S.B.
St. Raphael's Cathedral on Bluff Street in Dubuque

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dubuque (Latin: Archidioecesis Dubuquensis) is an ecclesiastical territory or diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in the northeastern quarter of the state of Iowa in the United States. It includes all the Iowa counties north of Polk, Jasper, Poweshiek, Iowa, Johnson, Cedar, and Clinton counties, and east of Kossuth, Humboldt, Webster and Boone counties. The Archdiocese has an area of about 17,400 square miles (45,000 km2).


The seat of the Archdiocese is St. Raphael's Cathedral in the city of Dubuque, named in honor of the Archangel Raphael.

The twelfth and current Archbishop is Michael Owen Jackels.[1] Jackels completed a Doctorate in Sacred Theology at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in Rome in 1989. On 4 April 2005, he was consecrated bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wichita, USA.[2]

The Archdiocese of Dubuque is unique as it is the only US Archdiocese not based in a major metropolitan area. The archdiocese contains 199 parishes, three Catholic colleges in the Archdiocese: Clarke and Loras Colleges in Dubuque, and Mount Mercy in Cedar Rapids. A number of religious orders maintain a presence in the Archdiocese. Notable orders include the Trappist monastery New Melleray Abbey (male) southwest of Dubuque, and the Trappistine monastery, Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey (female) south of Dubuque. The Basilica of St. Francis Xavier is located in the Archdiocese, located in Dyersville, about 25 miles (40 km) west of Dubuque.


Prior to the founding

During the years prior to the founding of the Dubuque Diocese, the area was under the jurisdiction of a number of Bishops. Many of these were purely academic as no Catholic presence yet existed in the area. Most notable among these was the St. Louis Diocese under Bishop Rosati. During the early 1830s it was under his jurisdiction that the early missionaries arrived in what would become the state of Iowa.

In the 1830s, the church studied how to address the expansion of the United States into the western frontiers. Those conducting the study recommended to the Pope that three new dioceses be created, one of which was the Dubuque Diocese. Father Charles Fitzmaurice established the Saint Raphael's parish at Dubuque in 1833. This was the first church of any Christian denomination in the territory that would become the state of Iowa.

Samuel Charles Mazzuchelli was one of the most famous missionaries to work in the Dubuque area. He established a number of parishes in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin several were named after the Archangels: Saint Raphael's in Dubuque, Saint Michael's at Galena, Illinois, and Saint Gabriel's at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Pope John Paul II declared Father Mazzuchelli Venerable in 1993, and his case for sainthood is pending.

A stained glass image of Bishop Loras.

Early years

Pope Gregory XVI created the Dubuque Diocese on July 28, 1837, and named Bishop Mathias Loras as its first bishop. Loras gathered funds and personnel for the new Diocese, and he arrived in 1839. St. Raphael's became the Cathedral parish in August of that year. He oversaw the expansion of the church in the early years of the diocese, first in the Iowa territory, then after 1846 in the new state of Iowa.

Bishop Loras encouraged immigration to the area, especially German and Irish settlers. He expanded the Catholic Church in Dubuque by overseeing the creation of new parishes, and also he invited several religious orders to the area. This included a Cisterian order that built the New Melleray Monastery south of Dubuque. Shortly before his death, he directed the construction of the third structure to house St. Raphael's Cathedral which remains today.

A second catholic parish was planned as the Uptown Catholic Parish to be located on the west side of Main Street between 7th and 8th streets in Dubuque. Bishop Loras planned the parish due to crowded conditions at the Cathedral. A cornerstone was laid for the parish church, but construction work never proceeded past the laying of the foundation. It is unclear to whom the parish would have been dedicated if it had been completed as planned. An early map of the city of Dubuque which included the church buildings of the local Christian denominations included the proposed church building as the Catholic Cathedral.

In 1850, Pope Pius IX separated territory from the Diocese of Dubuque to form the new Diocese of Saint Paul, serving Minnesota Territory (later Minnesota and the Dakotas).

Expansion and Elevation

In 1858, Bishop Smyth established Saint Francis Catholic Church in Balltown.

Rev. Clement Smyth, OCSO served as bishop from February 1858 to September 1865 and oversaw continued expansion of the Catholic Church in the diocese. During his episcopacy the German Catholics of the city of Dubuque began construction of a new Saint Mary's church to replace the too-small Church of the Holy Trinity.

In 1863, Smyth learned of the existence of the pro-Southern Knights of the Golden Circle, with headquarters in Dubuque. He gave members who might be Catholic two weeks to withdraw from the organization or be automatically excommunicated.[3]

After Bishop Smyth died in 1865, John Hennessey succeeded him as Bishop of Dubuque. During Hennessey's tenure, the population of Dubuque exploded as the Milwaukee Railroad Shops came to the city. Hennessey created several parishes in Dubuque: Sacred Heart, Holy Ghost, St. Anthony's, and Holy Trinity to deal with this population explosion. During this time, Bishop Hennessey proposed separating territory from the Diocese to create a new Diocese for southern Iowa. While he proposed Des Moines as the seat of the new Diocese, Pope Leo XIII selected Davenport as the site.

Nicholas E. Gonner (1835-1892), a Catholic immigrant from Luxembourg, founded the Catholic Publishing Company of Dubuque. His son Nicholas E. Gonner (1835-1892) took over in 1892, editing two German language weeklies, an English language weekly, and the Daily Tribune, the only Catholic daily newspaper ever published in the United States.[4]

On June 15, 1893, Pope Leo XIII elevated the Dubuque Diocese to an Archdiocese and Bishop Hennessey became the first Archbishop. Archbishop Hennessey died in 1900 and was buried at the cathedral.

Early 20th century

After the death of Archbishop Hennessey, Archbishop John J. Keane led the archdiocese for eleven years until poor health forced him to retire in 1911. During his tenure, the archdiocese lost its western territory to form the Diocese of Sioux City and achieved its current size.

Archbishop John Hennessy, became third Bishop of Dubuque in 1866, and its first Archbishop upon elevation of Dubuque to an Archdiocese in 1893.

The next Archbishop was James John Keane. Although he and his predecessor shared the same last name, the two men were not related, and had very different personalities. The first Archbishop Keane was well liked in the community, and was known as "Sugar" for his kind and generous nature. The second Archbishop Keane was known as "Hickory" for his stern manner.

The Great Depression and World War II

During the years of the Great Depression and World War II, Archbishop Francis J.L. Beckman occupied the See. In the years leading up to the war, Beckman opposed military action. Beckman also was a collector of fine art pieces. He had placed a number of art pieces in a museum at Columbia (now Loras) College and perhaps, thinking he could gain funds to further his collection, involved the Archdiocese in what turned out to be a dubious gold mine scheme. Because Beckman had signed notes on behalf of the Archdiocese, it suffered a loss over $500,000 when the scheme fell apart and the perpetrator of the scheme was arrested. President Roosevelt directed the FBI to investigate Beckman to determine his role in the financial scheme. However, rumors of the day speculated the investigation was due to Beckman's opposition to the President. Most of Beckman's collection was sold to pay the notes.

Because of Beckman's troubles Bishop Henry Rohlman returned from the Davenport, Iowa diocese to become Coadjutor Archbishop in 1944. Archbishop Beckman was allowed to retain his office, but was informed that Rohlman now led the Archdiocese. Beckman retired in 1947, and left Dubuque for Cincinnati.

On December 7, 1941, the Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. One of the casualties in that attack was Father Aloysius Schmitt who was serving on board the USS Oklahoma. The boat capsized during the attack leaving Schmitt and other men trapped below with only a small porthole for escape. Schmitt declined to be pulled from the ship, and instead helped other men, twelve in all, to escape, but perished himself. Father Schmitt was the first chaplain of any denomination to die in World War II. For his actions, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, and a destroyer was named in his honor.

Post War Era

Soon after the war, Admiral Byrd led an expedition to the Antarctica. The chaplain on his flagship, Fr. William Menster, was a priest of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. Fr. Menster became the first priest to set foot on the continent, and later consecrated Antarctica in 1947.

One of the effects of the post war baby boom was an increase in the number of students at some of the Catholic schools. In Dubuque, the Sacred Heart parish school had the largest student population of such schools in the midwest. On December 2, 1954, Archbishop Leo Binz succeeded Archbishop Rohlman as Archbishop of Dubuque and served in that capacity until December 16, 1961, when he became Archbishop of Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Second Vatican Council and the aftermath

James Byrne was named the next Archbishop of Dubuque on March 7, 1962 and was formally installed at St. Raphael's on May 8, 1962. He attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council. Archbishop Byrne implemented the changes brought about by the council in the Archdiocese of Dubuque and quickly established the Priests Senate, a clergy advisory board, as well as another advisory board dealing with assignment of priests. These were among the first such boards founded in the United States.

Archbishop Byrne generally kept a low profile in the community but did encourage Catholics to pray daily before the news. Archbishop Byrne retired from office on August 23, 1983, and remained in Dubuque until his death August 2, 1996.

Late 20th-early 21st centuries

On February 23, 1984, Daniel William Kucera, OSB was installed as the tenth Bishop and eighth Archbishop of Dubuque. Archbishop Kucera had earned a doctorate in education. At 36, he had become the youngest President of St. Procopius College (now known as Benedictine University). His background on education has led Vatican officials, including the Pope, to seek his advice.

During Kucera's tenure as Archbishop, he remodeled St. Raphael's Cathedral, revised and published the guidelines for the sacrament of Confirmation, reduced the number of deaneries from 16 to 14, reorganized the structure of the Archdiocese and created an Archbishop's Cabinet to coordinate administration of the Archdiocese.

In 1987, Kucera also launched a plan that divided the Archdiocese into three regions with a resident bishop in each. The Dubuque Region was served by retired Archbishop James Byrne and Archbishop Kucera; the Cedar Rapids Region by Bishop Francis Dunn, and Waterloo Region served by Fr. William Franklin, who was consecrated as a Bishop in April 1987. However, Bishop Kucera eventually dropped the plan after the death of Bishop Dunn in 1989 and Bishop Franklin's nomination as the head of the Diocese of Davenport.

In 1986 the Archdiocese celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding. Archbishop Kucera also received an honorary degree from the University of Dubuque. On October 16, 1995, Archbishop Kucera retired, and moved to Aurora, Colorado, and then subsequently returned to live in Dubuque.

Recent events

The Archdiocese undertook a number of activities in preparation for the year 2000, both before and after the beginning of 2000.

Sexual abuse crisis

The Dubuque Archdiocese has not been immune to the sexual abuse crisis affecting the church.

Priest shortage

The Archdiocese has also felt the effects of the priest shortage that has affected the church in recent times. In recent years many smaller rural parishes have had to close and their congregations had been absorbed into other nearby parishes. Some rural parishes have been clustered together where one priest will serve two or more parishes. Some parishes have no resident priest. Another effect is that some duties that a priest would have performed in the past are performed by either religious (Sister or Deacon) individuals, or by the laity.

Education issues

In recent years, many questions have been raised of the future of Catholic schools. With parishes closing or combining services, schools were also combined together. In recent times, schools in a given geographical area have all been joined together into a school system.

In Dubuque, the Catholic schools are all part of the Holy Family system. There has been much controversy recently about how to best run the schools. The administrators of the system had recently made plans to reorganize the schools. This was due to factors such as a declining number of students attending Catholic schools. An especially controversial move that was proposed was to turn St. Anthony's school into a central school for certain grades. Parents of the parish felt that their concerns were being ignored. Eventually, the Archdiocesan Board of Education vetoed the plan, and told the school system to continue work on planning the system's future.

Controversy over The Passion of the Christ

The Mel Gibson film The Passion of the Christ has caused controversy in the Archdiocese as well. One of the main issues raised by the film was an editorial cartoon on the movie that the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald newspaper published in its Editorial section. This cartoon featured a nun using corporal punishment. Some in the community have felt that this was a slight against the nuns and all their years of hard work. Others, mainly middle age to older adults, have said that this was representative of the nuns who taught them while they were in school. They had said that some of the nuns freely used corporal punishment to enforce discipline.

2004 Presidential campaign

Both main American parties attempted to appeal to Catholic voters. Republicans tried to appeal to Catholics through their stance against abortion. Democrats tried to appeal through an "ethic of life" stance, and through appealing to the social justice concerns of Catholics. Both parties took out full page ads in local newspapers to convince Catholics of the need to vote for their party.

While Bush did enjoy some support due to his stance on abortion, others took an "anyone but Bush" attitude, and concluded that Kerry was the lesser of two evils in this case. Some people felt that the opposition some Bishops showed to Kerry as a supporter of abortion was a thinly disguised endorsement of the Republican party, even if that had not been the Bishop's intent.

On July 3, 2004, John Kerry visited the city of Dubuque as part of his presidential campaign. During the evening, he watched the fireworks from a private boat on the Mississippi River. On Sunday, July 4, he attended Mass at Resurrection Church in Dubuque, and received Communion during the course of this mass. Catholics in the Archdiocese have also expressed concern over his stance on certain issues, especially abortion.

Love Holy Trinity Blessed Mission

In recent years, the Love Holy Trinity Blessed Mission (LHTBM) has become the subject of much controversy in the Archdiocese. The Chicago, Illinois based organization had come to have a large presence in Dubuque and the surrounding areas. The group purchased some buildings in Dubuque and a farm that it used while it owned it as a retreat center near Bellevue.

Supporters of the LHTBM claim that their association with the group has helped make their faith a more meaningful part of their lives. Opponents claim that the group is a cult due to a secretive and authoritarian nature, difficulty contacting relatives involved with the organization, and what they see as a questionable interpretation of church teachings.

The Dioceses of Rockford and Madison had both previously issued formal statements warning members not to associate with the group. On September 15, 2005, Archbishop Hanus issued his own warning regarding the LHTBM.[5] This was partially in response to a young woman who was going to attend Loras College deciding only a short time before she was due to begin classes there to leave home and join the group.

Ordinaries of Dubuque

  1. Bishop Mathias Loras - July 28, 1837 – February 20, 1858 (his death).
  2. Bishop Clement Smyth, OCSO - February 20, 1858 – September 22, 1865 (his death).
  3. Archbishop John Hennessey - April 24, 1866 – March 4, 1900 (his death). Bishop Hennessey became Archbishop in 1893 upon the elevation of the Diocese to an Archdiocese.
  4. Archbishop John Keane - July 24, 1900 – April 28, 1911 (resigned due to poor health).
  5. Archbishop James Keane - August 11, 1911 – August 2, 1929 (his death).
  6. Archbishop Francis Beckman - January 17, 1930 – November 11, 1946 (retired).
  7. Archbishop Henry Rohlman - November 11, 1946 – December 2, 1954 (retired).
  8. Archbishop Leo Binz - December 2, 1954 – December 16, 1961 (transferred to the St. Paul, Minnesota Archdiocese).
  9. Archbishop James Byrne (7 March 1962 – 23 August 1983, retired)
  10. Archbishop Daniel Kucera, OSB (20 December 1983 – 16 October 1995, retired)
  11. Archbishop Jerome Hanus, OSB (16 October 1995 - 8 April 2013, retired); Coadjutor Archbishop in 1994
  12. Archbishop Michael Owen Jackels (30 May 2013 - present)

Auxiliary Bishops


Saint Francis Catholic Church

Saint Francis Catholic Church is located in Balltown. As of 2006, the church did not have a resident pastor. The parish is part of a cluster of several other rural parishes in northern Dubuque County, Iowa that share a pastor and other facilities.

The parish traces its history back to 1858. A number of area residents had petitioned Bishop Mathias Loras to establish a Catholic parish in the Balltown area. Loras came to the area, and offered Mass in a log cabin near Balltown. Residents gathered the funds to build a church and a school in the area.

In 1891, local resident Andreas Rapp and his wife donated some land, which allowed for the construction of a brick building containing a school and a convent for the Sisters, as well as the establishment of a cemetery. The school opened in September of that year, and there were 45 children attending the school. Another local resident, Peter Cremer, donated land for a new church, and in 1892 the cornerstone for the second St. Francis Church building was laid.

The second St. Francis Church building would serve the parish until August 27, 1976. During a storm that took place on that day, lightning struck the steeple, which caused a fire. The church building was destroyed by this fire. In the aftermath a new St. Francis Church was constructed. At the same time, the old convent building was torn down to make room for the new church.

Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church

Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church is located in Peosta on Sundown Road, just to the north of U.S. Highway 20. The church building is a newer structure, having been built in the late 1980s. As a result, it reflects some of the more recent trends in the church, including having the congregation arranged in a semicircle around the altar.

Currently, the pastor of St. John the Baptist Church is Father Richard Kuhn. The parish is affiliated with Holy Family Catholic Church, which is located about three miles away. Both parishes share a pastor, and the offices for both parishes are located at St. John's. The Archdiocese has indicated that when Fr. Kuhn retires that this arrangement will probably be changed due to the priest shortage, that St. John's would be clustered with several other nearby parishes.

The parish has recently grown to the point where the parish is considering expanding or replacing the current church building.

Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church

Side view of Saints Peter and Paul Church, from the cemetery.

Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church is the parish for the Dubuque County town of Sherrill. It is part of a cluster of rural parishes that share a pastor and other facilities.


Panel in the church's window donated by Catharina Gansemer (1824-1904), an early parishioner and area pioneer. "Geschenk von" means "gift of." Photo by Joe Schallan, 2003.

The parish was founded in 1852 as St. William's. Prior to this, residents living in the Sherrill area needed to travel to Dubuque to attend mass. This was about 15 miles one way—a considerable distance at the time. In response to the need for a local church and to heavy German Catholic immigration to the rural districts surrounding Sherrill, Dubuque Bishop Mathias Loras established the parish.

By the 1860s the name of Saints Peter and Paul had been adopted, and in 1889 the original wooden church was replaced by a large, brick and stone Romanesque Revival structure, which remains in use today. During the 1970s, the church's original carved wood altars were removed and its 19th-century wood trim was painted over, in an effort to give the interior a more contemporary appearance. Recently parish members completed a renovation of the building that restored the wood trim and added decorative details suggestive of its past.

Inscriptions on the church's stained glass windows and on the older headstones in its adjoining cemetery are in German, reflecting the culture of the parish's founding members.

For well over 100 years the parish school was operated by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA) of La Crosse, Wisconsin, and many girls of the parish who felt a calling to religious life joined that order. The school is still operated on the premises of the parish by the Archdiocese of Dubuque, as a consolidation of the original school and the Catholic school which once served the nearby community of Balltown, Iowa.


Other parishes in the diocese include Saint Mary's, Sacred Heart, Holy Ghost, and Saint Anthony's.

High schools


Suffragan Sees

Ecclesiastical Province of Dubuque


External links

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