What is the Archdiocese of Omaha?

The Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska is comprised of 23 counties and more than 230,000 Catholics throughout northeast Nebraska. It originally started as a diocese in 1859 (Bishop James M. O'Gorman first served). See our leadership for more information.

The chancery building (located near 108th and Blondo Street in northwest Omaha) is home to all Archdiocesan departments, and the Centro Pastoral Tepeyac (located in South Omaha) is the home of the Hispanic Ministries offices. Learn more here! 

The Archdiocese has had 10 bishops to date, and the current being the Most Rev. George J. Lucas (since 2009).

The state of Nebraska is made up of three (3) dioceses - Omaha, Diocese of Lincoln (Bishop James D. Conley) and Diocese of Grand Island (Bishop Joseph G. Hanefeldt).

 

A little bit of history...

  • Vicariate Apostolic of Nebraska
    • Erected: 6 January 1857
  • Diocese of Omaha
    • Latin Name: Omahensis
    • Elevated: 2 October 1885
    • Metropolitan: Archdiocese of Dubuque
    • Archdiocese of Omaha
      • Elevated: 4 August 1945
      • Suffragan Sees:  Lincoln, Grand Island
      • Conference Region: IX (IA, KS, MO, NE)
    Description: Boyd, Holt, Wheeler, Greeley, Howard, Merrick, Nance, Boone, Antelope, Know, Pierce, Madison, Platte, Colfax, Stanton, Wayne, Cedar, Dixon, Dakota, Thurston, Cuming, Dodge, Burt, Washington, Douglas, and Sarpy Counties parts of Hall County.    Square Miles: 14,998

 

Cathedral of Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Feast, November 22nd)

  • Cornerstone laid:  October 6, 1907
  • Consecration:   April 9, 1959

 

Past and Present Ordinaries

  1. James Michael Myles O'Gorman, O.C.S.O. † (18 Jan 1859 Appointed - 4 Jul 1874 Died)

John Ireland † (12 Feb 1875 Appointed - 28 Jul 1875 Appointed, Coadjutor Bishop of Saint Paul, Minnesota)

  1. James O’Connor † (26 Jun 1876 Appointed - 27 May 1890 Died)
  2. Richard Scannell † (30 Jan 1891 Appointed - 8 Jan 1916 Died)
  3. Jeremiah James Harty † (16 May 1916 Appointed - 29 Oct 1927 Died)
  4. Joseph Francis Rummel † (30 Mar 1928 Appointed - 9 Mar 1935 Appointed, Archbishop of New Orleans, Louisiana)
  5. James Hugh Ryan † (3 Aug 1935 Appointed - 23 Nov 1947 Died, Archbishop 1945)
  6. Gerald Thomas Bergan † (7 Feb 1948 Appointed - 11 Jun 1969 Retired)
  7. Daniel Eugene Sheehan † (11 Jun 1969 Appointed - 4 May 1993 Retired)
  8. Elden Francis Curtiss (4 May 1993 Appointed - 3 Jun 2009 Retired)
  9. George Joseph Lucas (3 Jun 2009 Appointed - )

     Born: June 12, 1949
     Ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, MO: May 24, 1975
     Ordained Bishop of Springfield, IL: December 14, 1999

 

A Brief History of the Archdiocese of Omaha

Fr. Scott A. Hastings ('08)

     On 25 April 1793, the Diocese of Louisiana and the Two Floridas (later, the Diocese of New Orleans) was erected to cover what would later be the entire area of the Louisiana Purchase. By 1850, this territory was subdivided and the Apostolic Vicariate of the Indian Territories East of the Rocky Mountains was erected with its see in Leavenworth, KS. In 1857, this territory was again subdivided, creating the Apostolic Vicariate of Nebraska, with its see in Omaha. In her earliest days, Nebraska in 1542 saw the death of the protomartyr of the United States, Fr. Juan de Padilla, OFM, who was on mission along what is now the Kansas border. 1720 saw the deaths of the martyrs Fr. Juan Mingues, OFM, and Fr. Juan de Dios, OFM, both of whom died near the confluence of the Loup and Platte Rivers south of present-day Columbus. By the 1830’s, Fr. Pierre Jean DeSmet, SJ, the most traveled American missionary, was working his way from Missouri to Nebraska and back again.

     In 1851, with roughly 5,000 Catholics between Kansas and Montana, the Rt. Rev. John Baptist Miege, SJ, was named Vicar Apostolic of the entire area. He had few priests and predominantly native converts under his care. He was known to be a tireless missionary, visiting his faithful by horse or mule throughout the territory. In 1856, the first church was built in Nebraska—St. Mary in Omaha. It was a 24x40 foot structure built on land donated by the Nebraska and Iowa Ferry Company at Eighth and Howard Streets. By that time, the area had become too unwieldy and at the request of the Vicar Apostolic, the Vicariate was separated into the Vicariates of Nebraska and Kansas in 1857. St. Mary’s was named the cathedral of the Vicariate of Nebraska. 

     In 1859, the Rt. Rev. James Miles O’Gorman, founder of the Trappist monastery at New Melleray near Dubuque, IA, was consecrated bishop by Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick in St. Louis then sent to Nebraska as her Vicar Apostolic. Upon his arrival, he found only three priests in the entire territory. Two months later, he ordained Rev. William Kelly, the first priest ordained in Nebraska, historically styled “The Patriarch Priest of Nebraska.” By 1861, there were eight priests, two parishes with another twelve regular missions and roughly 7,000 Catholics. In 1867, the first railroads began to crisscross the territory. In 1868, for a cost of less than $40,000, St. Philomena Cathedral was consecrated and St. Mary’s was converted to a parochial school. In 1874, upon the death of Bishop O’Gorman, there were 19 priests, 20 parishes, nearly 60 missions, several convents, a Catholic hospital and nearly 12,000 Catholics.

     In 1876, the Rt. Rev. James O’Connor, of Pittsburgh, PA, was named the second Vicar Apostolic. In 1880 and 1883, respectively, the Vicariates of the Dakotas and Montana were erected. On 2 October 1885, Bishop O’Connor was named the first bishop of the Diocese of Omaha, at this time still composed of all of Nebraska and Wyoming. He worked with diligence to bring many religious communities to the diocese, most notably the Franciscans who would be missionaries to what would later be the central portion of the Archdiocese of Omaha. In 1887, the diocese was split in three, with all land south of the Platte River becoming the Diocese of Lincoln and all land west of Nebraska becoming the Diocese of Cheyenne. Bishop O’Gorman died in 1890.

     The Rt. Rev. Richard Scannell, Bishop of Concordia, KS, was named to succeed Bishop O’Connor and was installed in 1891. In his capable hands, the diocese continued to grow, responding to the ever-increasing number of westward migrants. In 1907 work began on St. Cecilia’s Cathedral and in 1912, the Diocese of Kearney (now Grand Island) was erected from the territory of the Diocese of Omaha.

     By 1916, the Diocese of Omaha had its final shape. After a handful of years of territorial dispute over four counties with the Diocese of Kearney, the Diocese of Omaha was comprised of 23 counties in northeast Nebraska. Omaha was what Archbishop Harty would later describe as the “Queen City of the Missouri Valley.”  From 1916 to 1945, Archbishop-Bishop Jeremiah Harty (1916-1926), Bishop Joseph Rummel (1930-1935) and Bishop James Hugh Ryan (1935-1947) would lead the Diocese of Omaha. These were times of tumult not theretofore seen in Nebraska. They would see two world wars, the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. In 1945, Bishop Ryan was named the first Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Omaha. From then until today, through the care of Archbishop Gerald Thomas Bergan (1947-1969), Archbishop Daniel E. Sheehan (1969-1993), Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss (1993-2009) and Archbishop George Joseph Lucas (2009-), the Archdiocese has continued to grow. Today there are nearly 220, 000 Catholics and 134 parishes and missions, over 200 priests and well over 150 permanent deacons. There are 18 high schools, 58 elementary schools and over 20,000 students enrolled. There are two Catholic colleges. In numbers, the Archdiocese looks very much like any other. Historically, it went through the same times as the Dioceses of Lincoln and Grand Island, indeed of any Midwestern diocese. Yet, the character of this place, of these people, is its own. 

     Historically, the archdiocese developed from and around several cities. Columbus was founded in 1856 and the first church, St. John, was built there in 1860. With the arrival of German Franciscans in 1877, the spread of the faith north and west began. From Columbus north to Battle Creek and west past Albion and northwest to Elgin, parishes were started throughout the center of the diocese. From Fremont to West Point to Norfolk, priests followed settlers up the Elkhorn River. As Sioux City developed, the diocese sent priests to care for the faithful on the western shores of the river, founding a parish in South Sioux City and then in surrounding areas. From 1874 to 1902, the corridor between Snyder and Humphrey was settled by Germans and Czechs. From 1877 to 1899, churches were placed from O’Neill to Stuart to serve the needs of more and more Irish and German farmers. In 1917, Rev. Edward Flanagan began his small work that became Boys Town, today the most successful program of its kind worldwide.

     The story of the Archdiocese of Omaha is of two very different types of life. Omaha was and is a river city, fed historically by regular waves of immigrants, of Irish, German, Czech, Polish, Syrian, Italian, Sicilian, Mexican and on and on through the decades. It is a city fed by industry, home to the Union Pacific Railroad and what were once the largest stockyards in the country. It has grown from a small, one parish settlement on the river to a metropolitan area of over 800,000 people. While it is now a thoroughly modern city, it was once a city of warehouses and packing houses. Sermons were preached in a variety of languages generation after generation. Yet, of the archdiocese’s greater than 14,000 square miles, very few are in Omaha. Past Fremont is town after town. Of her parishes, only 59 are in Omaha, half of those that are elsewhere. Each town has its own history, its own culture. Historically, the rural life of the archdiocese was a life of farms, railroads and ranches. Some towns today are shadows of their former selves, and some are growing. Norfolk, Fremont, South Sioux City, Columbus—these have become cities in their own right.

     The history of salvation is the history of migration. Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden. Abraham left Ur, Moses left Egypt, Mary and Joseph fled back with Our Lord. The Apostles were sent to then unknown parts of the world. Spaniards brought the faith to the New World and immigrant after immigrant, up to this very day, brought the faith to Nebraska. Ours is an archdiocese that has the history and flavor of many peoples, but our identity is one. Our identity is as a community of faithful gathered around our shepherd and teacher, our archbishop, and knowing our past, we continue ahead, fulfilling Our Lord’s Great Commission:  “Go, therefore, baptizing all in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”