One of the most popular bishops ever to head the Sioux Falls Catholic Diocese, has died. Paul V. Dudley passed away last night in his hometown of Northfield, Minnesota after a long illness.
Ordained as a priest in 1951, Paul Dudley served in Minneapolis-St.Paul area churches becoming a bishop in 1977 and assigned to Sioux Falls a year later by Pope John Paul II in one of the new pontiff's first appointments.
The new bishop quickly found favor with his flock in eastern South Dakota because of his accessibility and positive outlook on life and people.
Reverend Donald Kettler served the diocese at the same time as Dudley. Kettler, now a bishop himself in Alaska, just happened to be in Sioux Falls when the news of Dudley's death came. “He was just that kind person. There's a tendency sometimes to become a little bit too parental. He never was like that. He was a person that cared for people and treated everyone the same, Kettler says.
In 1988, Keloland news was allowed along as bishops, including Paul Dudley, were invited to the Vatican for a few days for meetings with Pope John Paul II. Then in 1993, we also tagged along as hundreds of young people from the area traveled by bus to Denver and to see the Pope. It was there, Dudley was the only bishop in the country to receive the Heritage award from the pontiff for his work with kids.
Bishop Kettler says, “He would make it so easy for young people to be comfortable with a situation because he was comfortable with that.”
But Bishop Dudley's later years following retirement were marred by old allegations of sexual abuse. Even though the claims were determined to be unfounded, Kettler says the damage was done. “It was extremely difficult for him especially during the time he stepped back and said do the investigation and then when he was exonerated, great relief.”
Donna Cannon, longtime diocese communications director, never lost faith. “I prayed for him the entire time. I knew in the depths of my heart he wasn't guilty. I knew him too well”, she says.
Vernon Brown, who covered the Worldwide Youth Day in Denver for KELOLAND News, remembers Dudley's shining personality. “He is probably the most spiritual man I ever met,” Brown says.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at the cathedral in St. Paul on Wednesday November 29th on what would have been Bishop Dudley's 80th birthday. There will be a Memorial mass at St. Joseph Cathedral in Sioux Falls at 5:30 on Thursday November 30th. KELOLand TV