Brief History of the Diocese of Lincoln
On August 2, 1887, the 23,844 square miles of Nebraska located south of the Platte River became the Diocese of Lincoln by decree of Pope Leo XIII. This extensive Diocese is larger than the four states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, whose combined area is 22,067 square miles and includes 13 Dioceses.
The history of God’s Kingdom in this Diocese is a study of the Lord’s goodness and the gradual unfolding of His plan of Providence. The Lord has guided the Church from her beginning, and will continue to care for Her until the end of time. He is the one to Whom we owe praise and thanksgiving for all the achievements and accomplishments that have been made. Gratitude is also owed to those, known and unknown, who through the history of this portion of God’s vineyard have labored through both joys and sufferings for His glory and the salvation of souls. They have been instrumental in weaving the history of the Diocese through their many sacrifices and prayers.
One tangible example of progress in the Diocese of Lincoln over the years is the increase in the number of Catholics. In 1887, there were approximately 25,000 Catholics in Southern Nebraska, constituting 5% of the total estimated population. Currently there are over 97,550 Catholics, constituting about 16.5% of the total estimated population. It is logical to conclude that the Christian spirit radiated by many members of the Church has attracted others to become members of Christ’s Mystical Body.
When the Diocese of Lincoln began in 1887, there were 32 priests caring for the needs of souls. Now, there are 128 active diocesan priests ministering in the Diocese. In 1887, there were 29 churches with resident priests, 46 missions, and 26 stations without churches. Today, the Diocese has grown to 84 parishes with resident priests and 50 parishes that are missions of those with resident priests. Also in 1887, there were three religious Communities of women in the Diocese. Currently, seventeen congregations have members serving in parishes, schools, and other diocesan institutions. Of these, three have the distinction of being diocesan orders, with motherhouses in the Diocese: the Marian Sisters of the Diocese of Lincoln, the School Sisters of Christ the King, and the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Mercy. There are also two houses of contemplative religious women: the Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration, and the Nuns of the Order of Discalced Carmelites
In the two decades following WWII, there was an era of extensive construction in the Diocese of Lincoln. Some buildings erected include the Cathedral, Chancery, Catholic Center (which includes a school, retreat house, and motherhouse), and numerous churches, schools, convents, rectories, and parish halls. In 1960, the growth of the Catholic student population at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln inspired the construction of a Newman Center, which has now outgrown that building. Construction has begun on a new Church and Newman Center, along with a Catholic fraternity and sorority, so that the administration of the Sacraments and sound moral guidance can continue to be offered to those Catholics attending UNL.
During the time Bishop Glennon P. Flavin and Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz were the Ordinaries, their foresight, and the dedication and generosity of the priests and laity of the Diocese, has enabled further growth and evangelization. Bishop Flavin’s focus on vocations and education bore tangible fruit in the strengthening of parish schools, numerous ordinations of priests and professions of religious Sisters. He was instrumental in founding the School Sisters of Christ the King, and welcomed the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters to our diocese. Bishop Bruskewitz established St. Gregory the Great Seminary in 1997, and later he welcomed Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, as well as the Carmel of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Paul VI Heights, an affordable housing development, was dedicated and opened. In 1995, the Diocese took over sponsorship of Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital. In 2001, the Blessed John XXIII Diocesan Center was purchased to expand diocesan offices. A Schoenstatt Shrine was dedicated in 2007, and in 2009, Catholic radio began broadcasting in the city of Lincoln and surrounding communities. New parishes and four Catholic schools were opened. Parishes serving the Spanish-speaking and Vietnamese communities have grown. Recently, St. Gianna Homes for Women opened under the auspices of Catholic Social Services.
We give thanks to God as we continually witness the many ways He manifests His providential care within the Catholic Church of Southern Nebraska.
The History of the Diocese: Volume II (1987-2002) is available for purchase: $26.75 (pick up), $31.75 (if mailed within Nebraska), $29.75 (if mailed outside Nebraska). Checks should be made payable to "Catholic Bishop of Lincoln" and mailed to: Catholic Chancery; PO Box 80328; Lincoln NE 68501.