Father Donald DeGrood, pastor in Savage, named next bishop of Sioux Falls

By Maria Wiering

Pope Francis has named Father Donald DeGrood bishop of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the apostolic nuncio to the United States announced Dec. 12.

Bishop-designate Donald DeGrood (Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit)

A priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Bishop-elect DeGrood, 54, has served as pastor of St. John the Baptist in Savage since 2017.

He was ordained in 1997 by Archbishop Harry Flynn. He has ministered as parochial vicar of All Saints in Lakeville (1997-2000), spiritual director at St. John Vianney College Seminary (2000-2004), pastor of St. Peter in Forest Lake (2004-2013), pastor of Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul (2013-2015) and as the archdiocese’s Vicar for Clergy (2013-2017).

Born Feb. 14, 1965, in rural Faribault, Bishop-elect DeGrood is the fourth of Robert and Joanne DeGrood’s five sons. He grew up on a nearby farm. His father died in 2003, and his mother continues to live on the family farm. He has five nieces and four nephews.

He attended Catholic grade school in Faribault and graduated in 1983 from Bethlehem Academy High School, which is run by the Sinsinawa Dominicans. He attended the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul and spent two of his undergraduate years at St. John Vianney College Seminary discerning his vocation.

After graduating in 1987 with a philosophy degree, he worked in business, first as a shoe sales representative and manager, and then at Land O’Lakes as a feed specialist. He entered The St. Paul Seminary in 1993 earned a masters of divinity in 1997. He was ordained that year at age 32. He holds a masters of divinity from St. Paul Seminary and later earned a certificate in spiritual direction from the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha in 2008.

He has served on numerous boards for the archdiocese and related Catholic institutions, including the Archdiocesan Ministerial Review Board (2015-2017), Clergy Review Board (2013-2015), Ministerial Standards Board (2013-2015), Pastors Review Board (2009-2012) and the Incardination Committee (2016-2017). He is also a trustee for The Seminaries of St. Paul (2011-2019).

Bishop-elect DeGrood is a member of an ad hoc committee related to the archdiocese’s Clergy Support Initiative, a spiritual director for priests and a supervising pastor, who mentors recently ordained priests in their ministry. He was a “developing member” of the Institute for Ongoing Clergy Formation, an initiative The St. Paul Seminary launched in 2015 to support priests as they live out their vocation. He has also been a spiritual director for the Institute for Priestly Formation’s summer program.

In his role as the archdiocese’s Vicar for Clergy, Bishop-elect DeGrood served as a liaison between the IOCF and archdiocese, conveying clergy’s needs to the institute director so resources to meet them could be developed and implemented.

He has also ministered to victim-survivors of clergy sexual abuse, and he has recently served on a committee of priests and laypeople, including victim-survivors, who are working on efforts bring healing to the local Church from the impact of the clergy sex abuse in the archdiocese.

In a February 2019 interview with The Catholic Spirit, Ben Hoffman, a clergy abuse survivor in his mid-20s who lives in the Twin Cities, described his first interaction with Father DeGrood as pivotal in his healing process. In 2015, Father DeGrood, whom he didn’t know at the time, approached him at a retreat and said, “I’m sorry.”

“He said, I’m sorry. I’m sorry about everything that’s happened to you, your family,” Hoffman recalled. “He just apologized.”

“That’s when I truly understood and learned what the word ‘sincere’ was, because the way he said it, the look on his face, everything about that moment I will remember for the rest of my life,” Hoffman told The Catholic Spirit. “He was just sorry. He didn’t do anything. It wasn’t his fault. But his compassion and his love for people was eye-opening to me.”

Others have named Bishop-elect DeGrood as an important influence in their vocation to the diaconate or priesthood. In an email interview ahead of his Dec. 7 ordination to the permanent diaconate, St. John the Baptist parishioner Deacon Joel Neisen told The Catholic Spirit that as his pastor, Bishop-elect DeGrood “has been a great mentor.”

“He is a man who loves God and his faith and desires that others fall in love as well,” he said.

Bishop-elect DeGrood was ordained a priest alongside Bishop Andrew Cozzens, auxiliary bishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, who said the two met the first day of seminary and have been close friends since.

“Father DeGrood has proven to be one of the finest pastors in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis who brings his deep relationship with Jesus Christ to people of all ages in his parishes,” Bishop Cozzens said in a Dec. 12 statement from the archdiocese. “He brings a healing presence to many people and has worked closely with victim-survivors of clergy sexual abuse. He is also a revered priest in the archdiocese and served very well as our Vicar for Clergy.

“He is the kind of priest who other priests seek out for spiritual direction and mentorship because he is so deeply rooted and such a compassionate leader,” Bishop Cozzens continued. “Most of all, he is a man of prayer who will bring his deep relationship with Jesus Christ to all as the bishop of Sioux Falls. The diocese is blessed to have a visionary leader who will accompany the lay faithful and priests deeper into their own holiness of life.”

Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis said that the archdiocese “is honored that the Holy Father would have chosen a priest of our archdiocese to become the next bishop of Sioux Falls.”

“In making this selection, Pope Francis seems to have recognized the extraordinary priestly gifts that have long been apparent to Father DeGrood’s parishioners and brother priests,” he said in the archdiocese’s statement. “When I arrived in the archdiocese in 2015, I felt blessed to have him serving as Vicar for Clergy and pastor of Blessed Sacrament parish. I quickly noted his gentle spirit, his compassion for his flock, and his deep love for Christ and his Church.

“I have been especially impressed by the depth and authenticity of his outreach to, and respect for, survivors of clergy sexual abuse,” the archbishop continued. “The faithful of the Diocese of Sioux Falls will soon be welcoming a kind, loving and caring shepherd. I very much look forward to working with him as a brother bishop in our Province.”

The Diocese of Sioux Falls was established in 1889 from territory of what was then the Archdiocese of St. Paul. It is comprised of the part of South Dakota east and north of the Missouri River. The area’s total population is 570,000, with more than 110,000 Catholics in 119 parishes.

According to the 2019 Official Catholic Directory, the diocese is served by 129 priests, 39 permanent deacons and more than 200 religious sisters and brothers. It includes 12 Catholic hospitals, a Catholic college, three Catholic high schools and 22 Catholic elementary schools. Like the Cathedral of St. Paul, its St. Joseph Cathedral was designed by E.L. Masqueray.

Bishop-elect DeGrood will succeed Bishop Paul Swain, who has served as bishop of Sioux Falls since 2006. In September 2018, he turned 75, the age at which bishops traditionally retire. Pope Francis has accepted Bishop Swain’s resignation, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, also announced Dec. 12.

Bishop-elect DeGrood’s episcopal ordination and installation as the ninth bishop of Sioux Falls is scheduled for Feb. 13, 2020.

He follows in the footsteps of three other priests of the archdiocese who served as bishops of Sioux Falls: Bishop Thomas O’Gorman (1896-1921), Bishop Paul Dudley (1978-1995) and Archbishop Robert Carlson, now archbishop of St. Louis (1995-2004).

Bishop Paul Sirba, who was named bishop of Duluth in 2009 and died of cardiac arrest Dec. 1, was the last priest of the archdiocese who was appointed a bishop of another diocese.

Just prior to that, in 2008, Bishop Richard Pates and Bishop John LeVoir, both previously of the archdiocese, were appointed to the dioceses of Des Moines and New Ulm, respectively. More than 30 priests of the archdiocese have been named bishops of another diocese over the archdiocese’s 170-year history.

Bishop Cozzens is the priest of the archdiocese most recently consecrated a bishop in 2013.

Maria Wiering is editor in chief of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

Leave a Reply