The Catholic Diocese of Wichita was erected in 1887 from the Diocese of Leavenworth. The document establishing the Wichita diocese was issued by Pope Leo XIII. At that time there were 16 priests in charge of churches, and 23 churches attended as missions; nine parochial schools, two of which were taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph, and one by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Dubuque).
The first bishop appointed for the diocese was Rev. James O"Reilly, of Topeka, Kan., who died on July 26, 1887, before his consecration. One year later, Rev. John Joseph Hennessy, was selected, and was consecrated on Nov. 30, 1888, in St. John"s Church, St. Louis, Missouri, where he was rector. The first census conducted in the diocese a year later recorded 8,000 Catholics.
When Bishop Hennessy arrived, his territory was in poor condition after suffering a succession of droughts and crop failures. Many settlers abandoned their farms and sought a fresh start in new Territory of Oklahoma. Wichita had three churches at the time: St. Aloysius (the predecessor to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception); St. Boniface (now St. Anthony), and St. Joseph Church.
Today the Wichita diocese covers 20,021 square miles and includes the 25 counties in the southeast corner of the state. It is home to 114,195 Catholics in 90 parishes.