Our Diocese was created out of the southern counties of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the southern counties of Diocese of Kansas City in 1956. Since the foundation of our Diocese we have seen our Catholic population grow from 31,000 to almost 65,000.
Our Diocese has over its short history met several strong challenges and overcome them, becoming even stronger in faith and in building up the church. Found within the physical boundaries of our Diocese is the world headquarters of the Assemblies of God, Springfield; the General Baptist Church, Popular Bluff; and the Pentecostal Church of America, Joplin. There are Amish, Mormons and Mennonites, along with countless different free standing protestant churches. Our Diocese is comprised of 23,000 square miles and many of our parishes are small and in the rural areas. Lastly our Diocese has seen different waves of immigrants and has risen to meet the spiritual needs of those immigrants coming from Germany, Ireland, Vietnam, Mexico and Latin American countries. Each group of immigrants have made our Diocese more vibrant and open to new ideas and ways of working together.
We are a Diocese of 66 parishes, 18 missions. Last year we celebrated 399 infant baptisms, 589 children thru adults were received into the Church through a Profession of Faith or baptism There were 254 marriages of which 96 were mixed religion (Catholic & non Catholic). There are 2834 students enrolled in Catholic Elementary Schools, and 993 students enrolled in Catholic High Schools. There are 2781 students enrolled in Parish Grade Schools of Religion and 962 students enrolled in High School Parish Schools of Religion.
As our government struggles with the immigration issue, this is nothing new. In 1875 all Asians, especially Chinese were given a limited quota, followed by quotas of Eastern European countries from 1900 thru 1924, also limited in the 1920 thru 1930 were Italians and Irish. Northern European immigrants, especially non Catholic were welcomed. Unfortunately the Hispanics are being targeted today as lazy, as drug users and criminals, so send them back to where they came from. Immigrants as a whole regardless of where they have come from are mostly hard working and trying to use the freedoms of our country to build a better life for their families.
We have so much to be thankful for in our country and Diocese. With the grace of the Holy Spirit we will continue to meet the needs of the Church in the years to come here in southern Missouri. All of us need to be open to what the Holy Spirit is asking and directing us toward in the future. We have growing numbers of different immigrants, we have fewer priests being ordained, and we have more laity taking leadership roles in the Church; all of which need the guidance of the Holy Spirit.