Martin Marty (bishop)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Martin Marty

Bishop of Saint Cloud
Bishop Martin Marty JS.jpg
Personal details
Born(1834-01-12)January 12, 1834
Schwyz, Switzerland
DiedSeptember 19, 1896(1896-09-19) (aged 62)
Saint Cloud, Minnesota
DenominationRoman Catholic

Martin Marty OSB (Schwyz, Switzerland, January 12, 1834 – Saint Cloud, Minnesota, September 19, 1896) was a Benedictine bishop and missionary in America. He was the first Abbot of St. Meinrad Monastery in Indiana, the first Vicar Apostolic of Dakota Territory, and the second Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saint Cloud. His zeal for the Indian Missions earned him the title, "The Apostle of the Sioux".

Early life[edit]

James Joseph Alois Marty was born in the Canton Schwyz in Switzerland on January 12, 1834,[1] the son of a shoemaker and church sexton. Before the age of two, his mouth and face were both severely burned when he attempted to drink from a bottle of acid in his father's shop. The acid caused swelling that nearly suffocated him and left his face permanently disfigured where he had spat it out.

After graduating from the Jesuit-run gymnasium in his hometown, he was granted a musical scholarship to the Jesuit college at Fribourg. There he heard about the work of Jesuit Father Pierre De Smet, and was inspired to work among the American Indians. After the Sonderbund War of 1847, the Jesuit Order was expelled by Switzerland's Anti-Catholic government and the Benedictine Order was forced to fill the ensuing educational vacuum. On December 21, 1847, young Marty was enrolled at the Benedictine school attached to Einsiedeln Abbey.[2]

Monk and priest[edit]

After graduation, he entered the novitiate at the age of 20 and took his final vows on May 29, 1855, taking the name Brother Martin Marty. He was ordained to the priesthood just over a year later in 1856.[2] In 1859, he was assigned a professorship of moral theology.


In 1860, Abbot Heinrich Schmid von Baar ordered the 26-year-old priest to take over responsibility for the Abbey's debt-ridden daughter house at St. Meinrad, Indiana. Although the assignment was intended to last only one year, Father Marty proved so adept at building up the formerly failing monastery that Abbot Schmid von Baar decided that it was God's will for his young protégé to remain in America. When the priory was established five years later, he was made the first prior.[2] On September 30, 1870, Saint Meinrad was upgraded to an independent Abbey by decree of Pope Pius IX. In January of the following year, Father Martin Marty was elected as its first Abbot. The investiture ceremony the following May was conducted by Bishop de Saint Palais of Vincennes, Indiana and Abbot Boniface Wimmer of Latrobe, Pennsylvania. It was during his tenure as Abbot that St. Benedict's Priory was founded in Arkansas.

In 1875, Abbot Martin instituted a change in the devotional practice of the Abbey, substituting the Roman Breviary for the Benedictine Breviary. When this policy caused a major uproar, the dispute was referred to the Sacred Congregation of Rites in Rome. On March 9, 1876, word reached the Abbot that the Congregation had ruled against him and ordered him to reinstate the Traditional Breviary. Although Abbot Marty immediately obeyed, he would always feel that he had undergone a "temporary defeat" in his dream of drawing the Benedictine Order closer to Diocesan clergy. His failure would leave him disheartened with life at St. Meinrad and anxious to obtain a new pastorate.


In July 1876, Marty departed by steamer for Standing Rock in Dakota Territory, where he intended to devote himself to founding a Benedictine monastery to assist the Indian Missions. In August 1879, Marty was appointed Vicar Apostolic of the Dakota Territory and was consecrated bishop on February 1, 1880 and resigned the abbacy. Fintan Mundwiler then became Abbot of St. Meinrad.[1] Marty worked among the Sioux Indians living on the Standing Rock Reservation.[3] The Hunkpapa Dakota called him "Black Robe Lean Chief".[4]

The area was under the jurisdiction of the vicariate of Nebraska. As there were only 12 priests in the territory, Marty actively recruited priests from the eastern U.S. and foreign countries. In 1880 Marty persuaded Benedictine sisters from Missouri to assist him in ministering at Fort Yates.[5]

In 1884, he attended the Third Plenary council in Baltimore, and served on the committee to establish the Catholic University of America, and was appointed president of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions.[6]

Marty, South Dakota is named after him,[7] as is Mount Marty College in Yankton, SD. Bishop Martin Marty was a pastor of St. Mark's Parish in Perry County, Indiana. He also blessed the current church building there. A portrait of him hangs in the church. l[8]


In November 1889, he was installed as first bishop of the Diocese of Sioux Falls which, at that time, comprised all of the state of South Dakota.[9] Upon his appointment to the Diocese of St. Cloud, Bishop Marty was already quite ill when in 1895 he was appointed bishop of the Diocese of Saint Cloud, and died the following year at the age of sixty-two.


  • "Happy would I be if I could sacrifice for God what Custer threw away to the world."[10]


  1. ^ a b "Bishop Martin Marty", Subiaco Abbey
  2. ^ a b c Shea, John Gilmary. The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the United States (New York: The Office of Catholic Publications, 1886), p. 396
  3. ^ "Champion of Excellence: Martin Marty", South Dakota Hall of Fame
  4. ^ "Bishop Marty O.S.B.", Roman Catholic Diocese of Saint Cloud
  5. ^ "Our History", Yankton Benedictines
  6. ^ Ketcham, William. "Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 13 December 2018
  7. ^ Federal Writers' Project (1940). South Dakota place-names, v.1-3. University of South Dakota. p. 50.
  8. ^ Cornwell, Patricia. "Overflow Congregation Celebrates St. Mark Parish's 150th Anniversary". The Criterion Online. Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  9. ^ "About the diocese", Roman Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls
  10. ^ Robert F. Karolevitz, "Bishop Martin Marty; Black Robe Lean Chief," 1980, page 55.

External links[edit]