ST. STEPHEN'S MISSION RECORDS Historical Note Notable Events and Notable People Religious Superiors Chronology

The collection documents the history of Catholicism among the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshoni on the Wind River Reservation, Wyoming, which has been centered at St. Stephen's Mission and School, administered by the Jesuits and Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. Gift of St. Stephen's Mission, 2003, 2010. The collection also includes photocopied correspondence loaned by the Midwest Jesuit Archives (St. Louis, Missouri), 2003-2004. The records acquired directly from St. Stephen's included related facsimile documents from the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia and the New York Province Jesuit Archives.

Mark G. Thiel, CA (Certified Archivist), processed the records in 2003-2004, and selected series were microfilmed in 2004.


Historical Note

Jesuits established St. Stephen's Mission in 1886 with approval by Chief Black Coal (Arapaho). Jesuits and Franciscan Sisters staffed the school continually until control was transferred to the St. Stephens Indian School Educational Association, a local Native American corporation. After some initial federal funding, the mission school had prospered with private contributions from Katharine Drexel and tribal trust funds disperse by the United States government.

Catholicism flourished on the reservation during the first half of the twentieth century. In most communities, local parishes were organized, each with a catechist, lay sodalities, and an itinerant Jesuit pastor. Annually, the faithful gathered for reservation wide general sodality meetings.

Christian fervor waned after World War II, which has been addressed by revitalization efforts since the 1970s. Parishes were re-organized with more resident (and fewer itinerant) Jesuit and Native priests and deacons, and parish councils. The general sodality meetings and Catholic Sioux Congresses remain popular among the elders, however, many faithful also attend Mini (diocesan) and National Tekakwitha Conferences and have organized parish Kateri Circles.

See also -- Authors and Photographers among the Jesuits and Franciscan Sisters


Notable Events and Notable People

Principal sources: Catalogs of the German, Missouri, and Wisconsin Provinces of the Society of Jesus and History of the Diocese of Cheyenne by Bishop Patrick A. McGovern, 1941.

Dates Event
1841-1887 The Vicariate Apostolate of Nebraska was established, which included all of Wyoming.
1851 Father Pierre J. de Smet (1801-1873), S.J., an itinerant missionary, spent two weeks at the Great Council visiting and baptizing among the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshoni.
1863 The first Fort Bridger Treaty established the Wind River Reservation for the Shoshoni Indians.
1868 The second Fort Bridger Treaty substantially reduced the reservation to its current size.
1878 The United States government assigned the Northern Arapaho to the Wind River Reservation after Chief Washakie(Shoshoni) consented.
1884 With financial support from Saint Katharine Drexel (1858-1955) and approval of Chief Black Coal (Arapaho, d. 1893), Father John B. Jutz, S.J., of the Buffalo Mission of the German Jesuit Province (Buffalo, New York) established St. Stephen's Mission in the eastern portion of the Wind River Reservation.
1884-1907 The Buffalo Mission of the German Jesuit Province (Buffalo, New York) administered St. Stephen's Mission.
1887 The Diocese of Cheyenne was established, comprising the entire state of Wyoming.
1888 St. Stephen's School began in January and enrolled up to 90 pupils throughout the second semester. The school ceased operation until fall, 1888.
1888-1890 The Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth (Kansas) taught at St. Stephen's School with Reverend Mother Eugenia as superior of their community.
1889-1892 Sisters of St. Joseph (Concordia, Kansas) taught at St. Stephen's School.
1892-1981 The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia established a community and taught at St. Stephen's School.
1892-1939 St. Stephen's School established a boarding school for the elementary grades 1-8.
1895-1950s In the Canadian West, Father Albert Lacombe, O.M.I., created the Tableau-Catéchisme (Pictorial Catechism) or "Two Roads" based on Blanchet's L'Éschelle Catholique Historique. Lacombe added color graphics and two paths -- the evil way with a black road and a righteousness way with a red road each replete with corresponding symbols. On the Wind River Reservation and elsewhere in the United States and Canada, Catholic missionaries and native catechists used the "Two Roads" together with native language worship publications to the mid-20th century.
1907-1909 The Rocky Mountain Mission of the Turin Province (Turin, Italy) administered St. Stephen's Mission.
1909-1912 The California Jesuit Province (Los Gatos, California) administered St. Stephen's Mission.
1912-1993 The Missouri Jesuit Province (St. Louis, Missouri) administered St. Stephen's Mission.
1928 At the mission, a fire destroyed the church, boy's dormitory, the gym, and quarters.
1936 Father Zuercher established the Tekakwitha Temperance Society to combat rising alcoholism on the reservation. Taking the pledge of abstinence at Sunday Mass was its main emphasis.
1938 The St. Stephen's basketball team competed in the National Catholic High School Basketball Tournament at Loyola University, Chicago.
1939 Through the use of school buses, the school changed from a boarding to a day school.
1930s Student enrollment averaged 200 pupils per year. during the 1930s.
1942 St. Stephen's Mission was established as a parish.
1949 Blessed Sacrament Chapel, Fort Washakie, was destroyed by fire caused by lightening.
1940s During the decade, student enrollment declined from 200 to 125 pupils per year at the school.
1955 The Keel Memorial Gym was built at the mission, which provided for expanded athletic events.
1957-1966 St. Stephen's School added a high school level, which later was discontinued for financial reasons. 33 students graduated from the high school in 1965, which was the largest graduating class. The 9th grade was discontinued at the end of the 1967-1968 school year. Fathers Earl J. Kurth and Stephen V. Dillion served as high school principals from 1957-1959 and 1959-1966 respectively.
1960 St. Stephen's High School enrolled 110 student and St. Stephen's Grade School enrolled 350 students.
1967 The mission ended its ranch operation.
1970 Reverend John J. Killoren, S.J., established the development program with the magazine, The Wind River Rendezvous.
1974-1988 Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Monroe, Michigan) established a community. They taught at St. Stephen's School and administered religious education and parish ministry at St. Joseph Church, Ethete.
1974-present Sister Monica Suhayda, C.S.J., has served St. Stephen's in pastoral ministry.
1975-present With support from the Arapaho and Shoshoni Business Council, the St. Stephen's Indian School Educational Association was formed and began managing the school (now renamed St. Stephen's Indian School) with a contract from the Bureau of Indian Affairs under the 1975 Indian Self-Determination and Educational Assistance Act, PL 93-638.
1975 St. Stephen's Mission began "inculturated liturgies," which included Arapaho language and ritual.
1981-1984, 1989-present Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia have continued to serve St. Stephen's Mission through pastoral ministry.
1984-present St. Stephen's Heritage Center and gift shop were established. The following year the Heritage Center led an Arapaho Map Project involving Arapaho elders.
1988-present Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia have administered religious education and parish ministry at St. Joseph Church, Ethete.
1993-2010 The Wisconsin Jesuit Province (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) administered St. Stephen's Mission.
1997-present Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia have administered religious education and parish ministry at Blessed Sacrament Church, Fort Washakie.
2010-present The Diocese of Cheyenne has administered St. Stephen's Mission.

Religious Superiors


Key to Symbols:

[1] = First Jesuit to master and preach in the Arapaho language, which led to several baptisms.

[2] = First superior of St. Stephen's born in the United States.

Sources: Catalogs of the German, Missouri, Wisconsin, and combined U.S.A. Provinces of the Society of Jesus; files of the Midwest Jesuit Archives; and the Official Catholic Directory.

Dates Served Name (Birth-Death)
1884-1886 Reverend John B. Jutz (1838-1924), S.J.
1886 Reverend Paul M. Ponziglione (1818-1900), S.J.
1886-1890 Reverend Francis X. Kuppens (1838-1916), S.J.
1890-1891 Reverend Ignatius Panken (1832-1906), S.J.
1891 Reverend Aloisius Folchi (1834-1909), S.J.
1891-1894 Reverend Philip Turnell (1850-1938), S.J.
1894-1901 Reverend Balthaser Feusi (1854-1936), S.J.
1901-1902 Reverend Francisco Sansone (1863-1949), S.J.
1902-1903 Reverend Aloisius Van der Velden (1848-1925), S.J.
1903 Reverend John Durgan (1867-1940), S.J.
1903-1905 Reverend Balthaser Feusi (1854-1936), S.J.
1905-1908 Reverend William McMillin (1880-1960), S.J.
1908-1912 Reverend John B. Sifton (1871-1940), S.J. [1]
1912-1914 Reverend Placidus F. Sialm (1872-1940), S.J.
1914-1922 Reverend Aloysius J. Keel (1876-1936), S.J.
1922-1925 Reverend Michael J. Hoferer (1863-19--), S.J.
1925-1932 Reverend Aloysius J. Keel (1876-1936), S.J.
1932-1939 Reverend Albert C. Zuercher (1895-), S.J. [2]
1940-1946 Reverend George P. Prendergast (1904-), S.J.
1946-1953 Reverend Albert C. Zuercher (1895-), S.J.
1953-1961 Reverend Earl J. Kurth (1916-), S.J.
1961-1967 Reverend John G. Flannigan (1910-2004), S.J.
1967-1971 Reverend Leonard M. Murray (1904-1999), S.J.
1971-1974 Reverend Lewis B. O'Neil (1925-2000), S.J.
1974-1975 Reverend John J. Killoren (1915-), S.J.
1976-1982 Reverend Carl F. Starkloff (1933-2008), S.J.
1982-1988 Reverend Joseph E. Damhorst (1936-), S.J.
1988-1994 Reverend Robert J. Hilbert (1926-), S.J.
1994-1995 Reverend Lawrence A. Jonas (1921-), S.J.
1995-1997 Reverend Eugene E. Zimmerman (1918-), S.J.
1997-2003 Reverend David G. Matzko (1949-), S.J.
2003-2004 Reverend J. Robert Hilbert [Acting Superior]
2004-present Reverend Ronald S. Seminara (1944-), S.J.

Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia

Source: The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia at St. Stephens, Wyoming, 1892-Present by Sister Emily Ann Herbes, O.S.F., 2005

The sisters' superior served simultaneously as principal of St. Stephen's Mission Grade School until 1975. Thereafter, the principal was employed by the St. Stephens Indian School Educational Association.

Dates Served Name
1892-1895 Reverend Mother Mary Eugenia Gaeb, O.S.F.
1895-1896 Reverend Mother Mary Paphnutia Clark, O.S.F. (Interim)
1896-1906 Reverend Mother Mary Columba Hering, O.S.F.
1906-1908 Reverend Mother Mary Thaddea Loughran, O.S.F.
1908-1913 Reverend Mother Mary Tranquilla Gallagher, O.S.F.
1913-1915 Reverend Mother Mary Iphigenia Carroll, O.S.F.
1915-1920 Reverend Mother Mary Thaddea Loughran, O.S.F.
1920-1923 Reverend Mother Mary Cornelia Jordan, O.S.F.
1923-1926 Reverend Mother Mary Tranquilla Gallagher, O.S.F.
1926-1932 Reverend Mother Mary Clementina Mullaney, O.S.F.
1932-1935 Reverend Mother Mary Eleonora Redman, O.S.F.
1935-1941 Reverend Mother Mary Clementina Mullaney, O.S.F.
1941-1942 Reverend Mother Mary Felicia Baiers, O.S.F.
1942-1955 Reverend Mother Mary Clementina Mullaney, O.S.F.
1955-1961 Reverend Mother Mary Bernard Weisser, O.S.F.
1961-1964 Reverend Mother Mary Clarina Burns, O.S.F.
1964-1970 Reverend Mother Mary Macaria Flynn, O.S.F.
1970-1972 Reverend Mother Mary Marie Monica Borden, O.S.F.
1972-1978 Reverend Mother Mary Patricia Kidd, O.S.F.
1978-1981 Revered Mother Mary Griffin, O.S.F.


Since 1906, itinerant Jesuits from St. Stephen's Mission established and attended to a number of chapels and missions on the Wind River Reservation and vicinity in Fremont County, Wyoming. Multiple church names indicate name changes with current ones appearing first followed by past ones. Churches, which closed or transferred to diocesan administration are so noted. Others chapels or missions continue to be administered by St. Stephen's.

Dates (Disposition) Congregation, Community
1906-1923, 1924-1937 (transferred to diocesan administration) St. Margaret's Church, Riverton
1963- St. Joseph's/St. James Mission, Ethete
Before 1940?-after 1950? (closed) Sacred Heart Chapel, Mill Creek
1939- Blessed Sacrament Chapel, Fort Washakie
1916-1934 (building moved to Kinnear-Morton) St. Edward's Chapel, Pilot Butte (Mexican Flats)
1935-1957? (transferred to St. Margaret's, Riverton and diocesan administration) St. Edward's Chapel, Kinnear-Morton
n.d. Sage Station
1932-1963 (closed; building moved to Ethete) St. Joseph's Chapel, Arapahoe