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February 2014


Meet Our Founding Member Dioceses

This year, as we mark our 125th anniversary, Catholic Mutual celebrates the six founding member dioceses who came together to form our organization. Our prior newsletters have featured the Archdiocese of Omaha and the Archdiocese of Kansas City. This month, we are proud to spotlight the Diocese of Sioux Falls. Through the course of the year, we will also profile the dioceses of Wichita, Salina and Lincoln. Just as in 1889, the year we were founded, it is our members who help us stay true to our mission of service to the Church. We invite you to share this newsletter with any staff, clergy or other members of your diocese whom you think would enjoy it.


Diocese of Sioux Falls


"It is a sweet coincidence," says Jerry Klein, the Delegate for Communications and Social Ministries for the Diocese of Sioux Falls about the fact that his diocese and Catholic Mutual are both celebrating their 125th anniversaries this year. "It speaks to the endurance of the Catholic Church and its institutions that we can share these important anniversaries."


Endurance is a quality that the diocese knows something about. Its first bishop, the Vicar Apostolic of Dakota, Martin Marty, also known as The Apostle to the Sioux, was revered for traveling by horseback and wagon in even the most threatening weather to visit the far-flung parishes and Indian reservations throughout the Dakota Territory and is said to have baptized Sitting Bull in 1883.


Six years later, when he was named bishop of the newly-formed diocese by Pope Leo XIII, Bishop Marty oversaw the entire state of South Dakota. 

With the founding of the Diocese of Rapid City in 1902, the area was reduced but still massive. It currently covers everything in South Dakota east of the Missouri River - an area of 35,000 square miles. You read correctly: the diocese is 35,000 square miles, or about the size of the whole country of Ireland. 


Even when one doesn't have to travel on horseback or by wagon, that's a lot of territory to cover. Which is why the Diocese of Sioux Falls has its own Catholic Mutual Risk Management office which serves as a resource for its parishes.


Because many rural areas tend to be more vulnerable to storms, prairie fires, extreme weather conditions and other natural hazards, having a risk management office in the diocese offers parishes an added level of protection. "With good risk management practices, you can avoid some of the risks of storms and high winds," says Swain. "This is something that our parish administrators have really taken to heart." 


No matter how well safeguarded the church properties are from the elements, preservation is also a big concern.


"Being a primarily rural diocese, the demographics have changed in the different communities we serve," says Mike Bannwarth, the diocese's Director of Finance. "A lot of these churches were built when the community was thriving and they are beautiful architectural representations of the ethnic heritage of the people, whether they were German, Irish, or something else. We have the responsibility to maintain the artwork and restore these churches, but in some rural areas, it's a challenge to even keep the churches standing."


Bannwarth says the diocese and its parishes rely on the flexibility within the coverage Catholic Mutual offers to make decisions that try to honor the past while serving the present and the future. For example, when a tornado destroyed most of the entire town of Spencer, including its Catholic church, the Spencer parish, working with the Bishop, decided that rather than rebuild that church, it was in the community's best interest to merge with the Catholic church in neighboring Farmer. They used their coverage to build a parish center in Spencer that served the new parish. More recently this merged parish joined with yet another nearby parish.


Catholic Mutual feels honored to have assisted the Diocese of Sioux Falls with their challenges and to have taken joy with them in their triumphs throughout our shared 125-year history. We look forward to celebrating many more years of growth and partnership.