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Rise and Fall of St. Thomas

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Series

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published November 14-16, 2004, a
three-part series about the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri; its education program for priests at St. Thomas Aquinas High School Seminary and its students. The former rector, Anthony J. O’Connell, led the college prep school for more than 25 years before being promoted to bishop of the dioceses of Palm Beach, Florida (1998-2002), and Knoxville, Tennessee (1988-1998). The following stastical information about the in Hannibal, Mo., educational institution represents a small timeline of history:

Secrets, Sins and Silence

Coming to Terms

As Scandal Breaks, the Search for Truth Begins

The Rise and fall of St. Thomas
The Post-Dispatch
Monday, Nov. 15, 2004
Copyright 2004,
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

1956: The Jefferson City Diocese is established across 38 counties of Missouri, consisting mostly of small, rural parishes.

1957: The diocese opens St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Hannibal to help it groom high schoolers for the priesthood to serve its parishes.

1963: Anthony J. O’Connell, who had emigrated to St. Louis from Ireland to attend college seminary, is ordained and assigned to the St. Thomas faculty.

1969: Michael A. McAuliffe, who since 1945 had served in a number of positions in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, including superintendent of schools, is installed as the second Jefferson City bishop. He replaces Bishop Joseph M. Marling and protects O'Connell throughout his tenure.

1970: Manus Daly, a priest who served in several Jefferson City Diocese parishes, joins the St. Thomas faculty.

1982: St. Thomas graduate James P. McNally, who had become a priest, joins the St. Thomas faculty.
                                                                                        Bishop Michael F.
O’Connell is appointed bishop of Knoxville, Tenn.      McAuliffe

1997: John R. Gaydos, vicar general of the St. Louis Archdiocese, is installed as the third bishop of the Jefferson City Diocese, replacing Bishop Michael A. McAuliffe, who resigned after 28 years as bishop.

1999: Anthony J. O’Connell is appointed bishop of Palm Beach, Fla., to help bring stability to the diocese after a sex scandal.

March 2002: O’Connell resigns as bishop after public revelation of a confidential settlement with a former Missouri priest who said O’Connell sexually abused him when he was a seminarian at St. Thomas Aquinas.

May 2002: The Jefferson City Diocese closes St. Thomas, citing dwindling enrollment, strained finances and the negative publicity from the O’Connell scandal.

August 2004: The St. Thomas property is sold to a Hannibal church for $243,000.

Jefferson City Diocese at a glance
Saturday, Nov. 13 2004

  • Established: 1956
  • Bishops: Joseph Marling, 1956-1969 , Michael F. McAuliffe, 1969-1997, and John R. Gaydos, 1997-present.
  • Location: Covers 38 counties in north-central Missouri.
  • Membership: 90,000
  • No. of parishes: 95
  • No. of missions: 15
  • No. of priests: 87 active diocesan priests and eight priests from religious orders.

Source: Jefferson City Diocese

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