A brief history of

our Diocese


Called by Jesus Christ to “Seek first the kingdom of God;” we are the Diocese of La Crosse, a sacramental people, who worship God, teach the Catholic faith, and serve the needs of the human person.

Established on March 3, 1868, the Diocese of La Crosse was born by decree of Blessed Pope Pius IX. Today, we are proud to serve 875,000 souls, of whom 135,000 are Roman Catholic among 156 parishes. Father René Menard had arrived within our bounds more than 200 years earlier, and after him came other missionaries, settlers, farmers, woodsman, trappers, and riverboat mariners. The life of this neophyte diocese didn’t come to maturity quickly. Since its inception, the Diocese of La Crosse has seen the growth and increase from many nations—Polish, German, Irish, Hmong, and Mexican—added to its native peoples. It has seen the heroic witness of many, including Venerable Frederic Baraga, Venerable Samuel Mazzuchelli, Blessed Solanus Casey, Servant of God Father Joseph Walijewski, Sister Thea Bowman F.S.P.A. and Polonia’s Guatemalan Martyr Blessed James Miller.

The territory of the Diocese is nineteen counties in the west and central part of the State of Wisconsin. The western boundary of the diocese is formed by the Mississippi River. The Wisconsin River forms the southern and eastern boundary of the diocese. The northern boundary of the diocese is the southern boundary of the Diocese of Superior. Much of the diocesan territory is rural and used for agriculture. There are six urban centers with combined populations close to 630,000, however, thirty-four percent of members of the diocese live outside a metropolitan or micropolitan statistical area.

With unwavering faith in God’s presence and influence in the world,, the Catholic Diocese of La Crosse is a welcoming and worshiping community of faith, hope, and love. Called by the love of Christ we recognize the Spirit of God in one another and give witness to the value of human life by mutual respect and honor. In particular, this is represented in everyone’s call to vocation, marriage and family life, sacred worship and a deep desire to live a saintly life and thus meriting heaven.