The Diocese, or ecclesiastical territory, is composed of 22,127 square miles [57,287 square kilometers], decided rural, embracing 38 counties in northeastern and central Missouri. It includes the urban areas of Columbia, Hannibal and the State Capital of Jefferson City. The Diocesan patroness is the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The well-organized system of rural parishes, particularly in Cole, Osage, Adair, Ralls, as well as Monroe Counties were the result of wandering Jesuit missionaries and due to German, Italian and Irish immigrations. The oldest parish of the Diocese is St. Paul, Center (1829). The oldest active parish in the Diocese is St. Stephen’s in Indian Creek (1833). The largest parish in the Diocese is Our Lady of Lourdes in Columbia (1958), 1,991 households. The newest parish in the Diocese is St. Andrew’s in Holts Summit (1975). The National Shrine of Mary, Mother of the Church in Laurie (2003) is located in the Diocese.
It is a Suffragan, or subordinate, of the Metropolitan See of St. Louis. The Diocese was established by Pope Pius XII on November 27, 1956 from the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Diocese of Kansas City and the suppressed Diocese of St. Joseph. The First Bishop was Bishop Joseph M. Marling, CPPS, who established the foundations of the young Diocese. He served until his resignation in 1969. Bishop Marling served nationally as the President of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference and was one of the founding members of the Missouri Catholic Conference in 1967. The Second Bishop was Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe, ordained and installed in 1969. He further implemented the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. He served until his retirement in 1997. Bishop McAuliffe served nationally as the Episcopal Moderator to the Catholic Scouts and on the Role of Women in the Church. Currently, Bishop John R. Gaydos, who was ordained and installed in the Cathedral in 1997, serves the Local Church.
By 2007 Catholics in the Diocese numbered 88,085 out of a population of 860,701. There are 95 parishes and 15 missions served by 68 diocesan priests and 11 religious priests as well as 52 active permanent deacons. The Diocese currently has 15 seminarians. In 2004, the number of Catholics per priest ratio is one priest for 929 Catholics. Two Christian brothers and 70 Sisters also work in the Diocese which has two high and 38 elementary schools. One Catholic hospital. The Diocese religious communities of men include the Precious Blood, LaSalette, Benedictine, Vincentian and Dominican Fathers. Among the community of Women Religious are the Carmelites, Dominicans, Incarnate Word, Notre Dame, Franciscan, Christian Charity, Divine Providence, and St. Joseph.