Most Reverend Joseph G. Hanefeldt


Nebraska native Bishop Joseph G. Hanefeldt, was ordained and installed as eighth bishop for the Diocese of Grand Island on March 19, 2015, at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Bishop Hanefeldt succeeds Bishop William J. Dendinger, who submitted his resignation upon his 75th birthday on May 20, 2014.

Born April 25, 1958, in Creighton to Helen Hanefeldt and the late Adolph Hanefeldt, Bishop Hanefeldt is one of four children. A sister, Pamela, and her husband Deland Reynolds, and brother, Bill and his wife, Kris, all live in Bloomfield, while his other brother, Jerry and his wife, Dixie, live on the farm in Center where Bishop Hanefeldt grew up. They raised corn, oats and alfalfa, stock cattle, farrowed out hogs and chickens. Bishop Hanefeldt spent summer days cultivating corn, raking hay, thrashing oats, fixing fence and chopping thistles. For a few summers in high school, he and his sister raised cucumbers to be sold to the Gedney Pickle company. 

He was baptized and received his first communion at St. Wenceslaus in Verdigre and was confirmed at St. Ludger in Creighton. He attended elementary school at St. Ludger Catholic School. He graduated from Creighton Public School in 1976 and attended the University of St. Thomas and St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., graduating with a bachelor of arts in sociology in 1980. He received an STB in Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1983. He also began a licentiate program in sacramental theology at the Pontifical University of Sant’ Anselmo in Rome. While in Rome, Bishop Hanefeldt was ordained a transitional deacon on April 14, 1983, at the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood at St. Ludger in Creighton on July 14, 1984.

He was assigned associate pastor at St. Mary’s in West Point with teaching responsibilities at West Point Central Catholic High School, from 1984 to 1988. From 1988 to 1992, he was associate pastor at St. Joan of Arc in Omaha. In 1992, Bishop Hanefeldt was named pastor of St. Joseph in Omaha, and in 1995, he was named pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Omaha. From 1991 to 2006, he was archdiocesan director of the Bishop’s Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life activities. He was named a monsignor in December 2010.

Bishop Hanefeldt received a certificate in spiritual direction and retreat ministry from the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha in January 2005. In 2007, Bishop Hanefeldt returned to Rome, this time as spiritual director at the Pontifical North American College. He served as director of spiritual formation from 2009 to 2012. He returned to his home archdiocese of Omaha in 2012 where he was named pastor of Christ the King in Omaha. He was named vice president of the priests council in 2013 as well as vicar forane of the Urban West Central Deanery and a member of the College of Consultors.

Over the years, Bishop Hanefeldt has also served as spiritual director at Christians Encounter Christ retreats, Teens Encounter Christ retreats and for the summer program for seminarians for the Institute for Priestly Formation. He served two terms for the priests personnel board, on the priests committee for the Ignite the Faith Campaign and as a member of the Knights of Columbus, 4th degree.

He enjoys photography, travel, cooking and visiting friends.


Designing his shield – the central element in what is formally called the heraldic achievement – a bishop has an opportunity to depict symbolically aspects of his life and heritage, and elements of the Catholic faith that are important to him.  Every coat of arms also includes external elements that identify the rank of the bearer.

The formal description of a coat of arms, known as the blazon, uses a technical language, derived from French and English terms, that allows the appearance and position of each element in achievement to be recorded precisely.

A diocesan bishop shows his commitment to the flock he shepherds by combining his personal coat of arms with that of the diocese, in a technique known as impaling.  The shield is divided in half along the pale or central vertical line.

The arms of the diocese appear on the dexter side – that is, on the side of the shield to the viewer’s left, which would cover the right side (in Latin, dextera) of the person carrying in the shield.

The arms of the bishop are on the sinister side – the bearer’s left, the viewer’s right.

The green background (vert) of the arms of the Diocese of Grand Island alludes to the rich farmland of western Nebraska, and the wavy border painted white or silver (argent) recalls the Platte River, which forms most of the southern border of the diocese.  The shield is charged with a cross in gold (Or); it reaches to the ends of the heraldic field as a sign of the Faith that must be proclaimed “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:18).  Within the arms of the cross is a six-pointed star to represent the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Among her many titles is Stella Matutina, the “Morning Star” that rises first in the East to announce the coming of the dawn.

The shield of the personal arms of Bishop Joseph G. Hanefeldt is divided vertically white and blue (per pale argent and azure), colors traditionally associated with the Blessed Mother.

On the dexter side appears a red rose, likewise a symbol of Our Lady, referring to another of her devotional titles, Rosa Mystica, the “Mystical Rose”.  It has also become a symbol of the pro-life movement, especially in the United States.  Bishop Hanefeldt traces his desire to serve the Church and the Gospel of Life to the days following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which made abortion legal throughout the nation.  For 15 years he served as the director of Archdiocese of Omaha Pro-Life Activities.

The lily is a symbol of Saint Joseph, who is often depicted in sacred art holding this flower as a sign of his purity.  Bishop Hanefeldt has many connections to the spouse of Our Lady, his baptismal patron saint.  Saint Joseph was also the patron of the first parish that the bishop served as pastor in Omaha, and it is on the saint’s feast day, March 19, that he was ordained as a bishop.

The stems of the rose and the lily are united to a grapevine that runs the length of the shield.  Thus, the whole design becomes a symbol of the Holy Family, in which Mary and Joseph are united to the Lord Jesus, who told his apostles at the Last Supper, “I am the true vine” (John 15:1).  It recalls that Bishop Hanefeldt’s ordination is taking place in 2015, the year that will see the first World Meeting of Families to meet in the United States, as well as the meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the theme of “The vocation and mission of the family in the church and in the contemporary world.”

The motto, placed on a scroll below the shield, also recalls the words of Jesus at the Last Supper: “Remain in me, as I remain in you” (John 15:4).  In order to “bear much fruit” as the Lord commands his apostles and their successors (John 15:8), the bishop, and indeed all disciples, need to stay united to Christ, the source of life and grace.

The shield is ensigned with external elements that identify the bearer as a bishop.  A gold processional cross appears behind the shield.  The galero or “pilgrim’s hat” is used heraldically in various colors and with specific numbers of tassels to indicate the mark of a bearer of a coat of arms.

A bishop uses a green galero with three rows of green tassels.