Lawler_lgMost Reverend John J. Lawler

Third Bishop of the Diocese

Motto: DEVS PROVIDEBIT (“God Provides”)


  • Born August 4, 1862, in Rochester, Minnesota
  • Ordained to the priesthood, 1885
  • Consecrated as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, May 19, 1910
  • Installed as third bishop of Lead, May 4, 1916
  • Retired in 1947; served 31 years as bishop
  • Died March 11, 1948


After his ordination as a priest, Lawler pursued graduate studies in Belgium and served as vice rector of the American College there. When he returned to Minnesota, he became the spiritual director of a seminary, then founding pastor of a parish, then rector of the old St. Paul Cathedral. When he became bishop of the diocese in 1916, Lawler was determined to establish more parishes and schools and to recruit priests to serve in the parishes and mission churches. The see was transferred from Lead to Rapid City on August 1, 1930.There were 107 priests, 87 parishes, ten schools, and two hospitals with nursing schools in the diocese when he retired in 1947.

Note: Fr. Leo F. Dworschak was consecrated coadjutor bishop of Rapid City with the right of succession in 1946. He was transferred to the Diocese of Fargo in 1947.