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St. Patrick’s on Cedar celebrates 140 years

2 p.m. open house will kick off activities

October 20, 2012
Messenger News

GREENE?COUNTY?- On Sunday, the community of St. Patrick's on Cedar will celebrate 140 years of their Catholic faith.

St. Patrick's was the first Catholic Church in Greene County. It is located four miles west of Churdan, on Avenue E north of County Highway E19.

The celebration will begin with an open house at 2 p.m. There will be displays of church vestments and other artifacts.

There will be a video presentation at 2:45 p.m. Following the video, visitors will be taken on a cemetery tour, recreating the history of St. Patrick's.

Stories will include the history of Jeremiah Mackey, the first person buried in the cemetery; Father Marsh, the first priest who came by horseback to say Mass; the life of the pioneer woman; the history of those who have chosen a religious life; the story of Ann Hardy, the first of her family to settle in the area and the story of how many of the original settlers came to the area via St. Patrick's of Lucan, Ontario, Canada.

The afternoon will conclude with a pioneer meal consisting of Irish stew, sandwiches and delicious homemade breads.

The church's history begins in 1852 when the first settlers came to the area.

By 1863 other Catholic families had settled in the area.

The first Mass was said in Cedar Township in June of 1863, by Marsh. In the fall of 1872, five acres of land were donated for the establishment of a Catholic Church. The church was a white frame building with a high bell tower.

By 1915 St. Patrick's had outgrown its small church.

A new church was constructed of matte-faced brick and stone designed by the now renowned architect William LaBarthe Steele.

In 1916 the church was struck by lightning, causing much damage to the bell tower.

On Trinity Sunday, June 15, 1919, fire destroyed the building. Using the original brick foundation and walls, the design was modified by removing the side entrances, and with the help of the parishioners the church was rebuilt by August of 1920.

Suffering through the depression in 1934 the church property was in receivership and Dennis E. Hayes purchased the property at a public auction. The church was able to redeem this debt from Hayes, and in 1936 he returned the ownership of St. Patrick's church to the parish.

During the depression years the church became the major focus of social activity. The basement of the church was the site for potluck dinners, dances, plays and card parties.

A youth organization was formed called "Four C's" - Cedar, Churdan Catholic Church. They held their parties in the church basement and also formed a very successful baseball team and printed the first weekly church bulletin.

The two parishes became united on many fronts and enthusiasm was kept high during a most depressing time.

Many priests have served the St. Patrick's/St. Columbkille's parish. With the decreasing number of available priests, the first cluster churches of the Sioux City Dioceses were organized and included St. Patrick's Cedar, St. Columbkille Churdan, St. John's Paton and St. Bridget's of Grand Junction in 1988. The parishes were used as an example for the reorganization of parish churches throughout the diocese.

In 1992 the church was appointed to the National Register of Historic Places. In the years since this designation the parishioners have spent many tireless hours in an attempt to keep the building in very good condition. Local artists were enlisted to recreate and reclaim various aspects of the church's statues and structure.

In 1996 the church was officially reduced to Oratory status. This meant that only St. Patrick's Day Masses, Memorial Day Masses and funerals of parishioners at the time it became an Oratory could be held.

The 125th anniversary of St. Patrick's in 1997 was celebrated with a daylong celebration with a Mass, dinner for hundreds and Irish music.

In the past few years the church has not been allowed to continue the upkeep as it once was and the building interior suffered under the extreme humidity of Iowa summers.

In June 2011, a group of former parishioners formed a committee to investigate the measures it would take to repair the damage.

At this time, the damaged windows have been repaired and repairs continue as funds become available.



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