History of the Diocese

Beginnings

On March 8, 1912, the Diocese of Kearney was created when the Diocese of Omaha, which was quite large, was divided in two parts by Pope Pius X. Father James Albert Duffy of Wyoming was named the first Bishop of Kearney and was consecrated in Cheyenne on April 16, 1913.

The original boundaries of the newly created diocese were: on the east, the eastern boundaries of the counties of Keya Paha, Rock, Garfield, Valley, Sherman and Buffalo; on the south, the South Platte River and the boundary between the States of Nebraska and Colorado; on the west and north, the boundaries of the state of Nebraska.

The diocese included 26 counties and 38,000 sqare miles. There were approximately 15,200 Catholics, 58 churches, 21 parishes, 35 missions, 34 stations (without churches), 1 academy, 5 schools and 1 hospital.

Adding On

It soon became evident that additional Catholics, parishes and institutions were needed to strengthen the infant diocese, and so, on May 13, 1916, Pope Benedict XV added the counties of Wheeler, Greeley and Howard, and that part of Hall County which is north of the Platte River.

The See City of the Diocese was changed from Kearney to Grand Island on April 11, 1917. The present Cathedral was built in Grand Island and consecrated on July 5, 1928. It is named in honor of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

More Episcopates

After Bishop Duffy's resignation, Monsignor Stanislaus V. Bona of Chicago was appointed second Bishop of Grand Island. He was consecrated on February 25, 1932. Bishop Bona left the diocese when he was appointed Coadjutor of Green Bay, Wisconsin, on December 2, 1944.

On March 10, 1945, Monsignor Edward J. Hunkeler was appointed the third Bishop of Grand Island. Bishop Hunkeler was consecrated in the Omaha Cathedral on May 1, 1945. On March 31, 1951, Bishop Hunkeler was appointed Bishop of Kansas City in Kansas.

Monsignor John L Paschang was named the fourth Bishop of Grand Island on July 28, 1951. The installation of Bishop Paschang took place at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Grand Island on October 11, 1951.

On July 25, 1972, Bishop John L. Paschang resigned and Father John J. Sullivan of Tulsa, Oklahoma became the next Bishop of Grand Island. He was ordained in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on September 19, 1972 and installed as fifth Bishop of Grand Island two days later. After five years, Bishop Sullivan became Bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri.

On January 10, 1978, Pope Paul VI appointed Father Lawrence J. McNamara as sixth Bishop of Grand Island. Bishop McNamara was ordained March 28, 1978 in the Cathedral in Grand Island and retired October 14, 2004. On October 14, 2004 Pope John Paul II appointed Msgr. William J. Dendinger as seventh Bishop of Grand Island. Bishop Dendinger was ordained December 13, 2004 at St. Mary's Cathedral in Grand Island.