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5 Catholic sites not to miss when visiting Wyoming

Catholic sites in Wyoming

Alexander Lukatskiy | Shutterstock | Wikimedia | Flickr | Altered by Aleteia

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 11/27/23

There are only 37 Catholic parishes in the entire state, yet Wyoming has its own Catholic history and boasts several noteworthy Catholic sites.
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Wyoming is notable for several historic “firsts,” including the first state to give women the right to vote (all the way back in 1869!) and the first state to have a national park (Yellowstone, in 1872). 

But it’s not been notable throughout history for its Catholic presence. Catholics didn’t come to the region until relatively recently, hundreds of years after reaching the East and West coasts. 

Today, about 14% of Wyoming residents are Catholic, a much smaller percentage than in most other states. There are only 37 Catholic parishes in the entire state (by comparison, there are 246 parishes in the city of Chicago alone).

Yet Wyoming has its own important Catholic history and boasts several significant Catholic sites.

1
Monument of Father De Smet’s first Catholic mass, Daniel

Jesuit Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet celebrated Holy Mass in Wyoming for the first time ever on July 5, 1840. Today, a monument marks the spot near the town of Daniel.

2
Carmelite Monastery, Cody

A community of Carmelite monks make their home in the Rocky Mountains at the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the Diocese of Cheyenne. 

The Wyoming Carmelites spend most of their day in silent prayer, with 8 hours of the divine office, a sung Mass, daily Rosary and two hours of mental prayer. 

You may have heard of their coffee company, Mystic Monk, through which they fund their monastery and ongoing building projects. Plans are underway to expand the monastery with public areas for visitors, so stay tuned!

3
Wyoming Catholic College, Lander

I’ve long been fascinated by the Pearson Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas, a program that only existed for about 10 years in the 1970s, but left an immeasurably huge impact on American Catholicism. One of the many good effects of the program is the establishment of Wyoming Catholic College, founded by an alumnus of the program and with a very similar mission.

The first Catholic college to exist in the state, Wyoming Catholic College began in 2007 and brings together a rich and wonderful classical education with a robust outdoors program of hiking, camping, horsemanship, rock climbing, and much more. It looks like an absolutely magnificent way to spend one’s college years, and the 600-acre campus is well worth a visit.

4
Our Lady of Peace Shrine, Pine Bluffs

Witness one of the tallest statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary in North America. The sculpture is 30 feet (5 stories) high, and weighs 180 tons. 

Erected in 1998 by Wyoming residents Ted and Marjorie Trefren, the Shrine greets interstate travelers every day in any kind of weather.

5
Cathedral of St. Mary, Cheyenne

Built over 100 years ago, this towering sandstone cathedral is on the National Register of Historic Places. The cathedral offers an active schedule of events and activities, as well as Mass times and other sacraments.

BONUS
BUFFALO BILL CENTER OF THE WEST

What is the Buffalo Bill Center of the West doing on this list, you ask? Good question! It turns out that America’s most famous cowboy-showman was brought to the Catholic faith by the Indigenous Americans who participated in his Wild West show, plus an 1890 encounter with Pope Leo XIII. Buffalo Bill was received into the Church the day before his death in 1917. You can find out more about the story here.

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