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Catholic Mutual notes 125th anniversary

By JOANNE FOX, Globe editor
(Email Joanne)

From its founding 125 years ago by six Midwestern bishops looking to obtain reasonably-priced insurance on their churches, Omaha-based Catholic Mutual Group has grown to become the primary provider of property and casualty coverage for the Catholic Church in North America.

Since its first policy was penned, Feb. 1, 1889, Catholic Mutual Group has provided coverage and other services, such as comprehensive risk management, claims administration and an employee benefit buying alliance program, for 111 dioceses in the United States – including the Diocese of Sioux City.

Catholic Mutual Group has helped the church recover from every manner of property loss – from major natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to boiler and machinery repairs at churches and schools.

According to Mark Wetz, claims/risk manager since 2012, one of the most substantial diocesan claims was a fire at St. Joseph Church in Sioux City.

Firefighters were called to the century-old church on July 10, 2009, following reports of smoke wafting from the roof. Officials from Sioux City Fire Rescue determined the fire started when a contractor’s torch ignited structural wood behind a gutter that was being installed as part of a roof renovation.

The cost of the renovation was $3.1 million, Wetz reported.

“New copper siding was added, fresh paint was applied, fabric was cleaned, canvas murals were restored and an elevator was installed,” he said. “We were lucky that the domed sanctuary protected the altar so well. That enabled the church to reopen in November of 2010.”

The six bishops who founded the benevolent relief society as the Catholic Mutual Relief Society represented Omaha; Concordia, Kan., (now Salina), Sioux Falls, S.D.; Leavenworth, Kan. (now the Archdiocese of Kansas City); Wichita, Kan.; and Lincoln, Neb.

The chairman of the board has always been the Ordinary of Omaha and is currently Archbishop George J. Lucas. Bishop Walker Nickless of Sioux City is also on the board.

To celebrate the 125th anniversary, Catholic Mutual Group is commissioning unique artwork for each founding diocese, to be presented Aug. 11 at an anniversary dinner in Omaha.

Catholic News Service contributed to this story.

By the numbers
Catholic Mutual serves the Diocese of Sioux City

– 111 parishes
– 16 school systems
– 4 Catholic Charities offices
– 2 nursing homes
– Calvary Cemetery, Sioux City, plus several other parish cemeteries
– Diocesan-owned properties, including the Central Catholic Office building, Sioux City

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