Rudolph Aloysius Gerken, first Catholic bishop of Amarillo, one of thirteen children of William and Elizabeth (Sudmeier) Gerken, was born in Dyersville, Iowa, on March 7, 1887. He attended Pio Nono College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and graduated from St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Indiana. He subsequently moved to Texas and from 1910 to 1912 taught in the public school at Scotland. Through the encouragement of Bishop Joseph Patrick Lynch of Dallas, he began studies for the priesthood while teaching at the old University of Dallas and at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. On June 10, 1917, he was ordained a priest in Sacred Heart Cathedral of Dallas by Bishop Lynch. From 1917 to 1927 he served as pastor of churches at Abilene and Ranger and was instrumental in building new churches, schools, missions, and rectories in various sections of West Texas and the Panhandle. On April 26, 1927, Gerken was consecrated the first bishop of the new Catholic Diocese of Amarillo. During his six-year administration of the diocese, he built twenty churches, thirteen rectories, six schools, three hospitals, a convent, and four homes for teachers. He also opened St. George's (later Price) College in 1928 and served as its first president. On August 23, 1933, Bishop Gerken was named archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, a position he held for the rest of his life. He died at St. Vincent's Hospital in Santa Fe on March 2, 1943, after suffering a stroke.
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every penny helps.
Please make your contribution today.
Amarillo Daily News, March 3, 1943. Who's Who in America, 1934–35.
Activism and Social Reform
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Sister M. Claude Lane, O.P.,
“Gerken, Rudolph Aloysius,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 18, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
January 1, 1995
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: