The diocese's territory covers all or part of 23 counties in western Montana and employs about 200 people in its parishes, schools and social-service programs. It was created in 1884, five years before Montana became a state, and covered the entire state until the Diocese of Great Falls was formed in 1904, according to the Helena diocese's website.
The Diocese of Great Falls-Billings now covers the eastern half of Montana.
In one of the lawsuits, the plaintiffs said they were repeatedly raped, fondled or forced to perform sexual acts while at school, on the playground, on camping trips or at the victims' homes.
The second lawsuit, filed a week after the first in 2011, includes 95 of the 362 plaintiffs and contains similar allegations against priests, but also alleged that nuns at the Ursuline Academy in St. Ignatius abused dozens of Native American children.
The plaintiffs, the diocese and the Ursulines had pledged to work together to settle the lawsuits, and they have participated in three mediation sessions.
The Ursulines are not part of the proposed settlement, the diocese said.
Blaine Tamaki, the plaintiffs' attorney in that lawsuit, said the case against the Ursulines will proceed to its July date.
The diocese's "tenuous" financial condition has already resulted in about a 3 percent reduction in staff and it has curtailed many parish building projects, he said.
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