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Kris Jonyka, a member of the Ss. Peter and Paul Parish 100th anniversary planning committee, left, artist Richard Harrison, and Father Frank Jindra, pastor, discuss June 6 a Croatian mural (in background) Harrison is creating in part to honor the anniversary celebration. A part of the South Omaha Mural Project to recognize the cultural, ethnic and historic background of the area, the mural decorating the outside of a social hall near the church is funded by the parish, the Croatian community of south Omaha, the Nebraska Arts Council and the City of Omaha Historical Fund. Photo by MIKE MAY/STAFF.

Ss. Peter and Paul Parish to celebrate 100 years

One hundred years of faith and service to the south Omaha community will be celebrated this month at Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Omaha.

"Celebrating the Past, Welcoming the Future," June 24, 25 and 29 (the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul), will include Masses with Archbishop George J. Lucas and former parishioner Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, plus several other centennial events.

Father Frank Jindra, pastor, said the celebration is a chance for parishioners to acknowledge their history and the parish’s continued growth and interaction with its neighborhood.

"This is arguably the largest Euro-ethnic parish in southeast Omaha" he said. Originally established to serve the Croatian and Slovenian populations in south Omaha, it also includes people of Lithuanian and Hungarian descent, and a growing Hispanic population.

The parish also grew through its 2014 merger with the former St. Anthony Parish.

The people of Ss. Peter and Paul were very welcoming to the St. Anthony parishioners, said Kris Jonyka, a former St. Anthony parishioner and member of the anniversary planning committee.

When Mass was celebrated for the last time at St. Anthony, its congregation processed halfway to Ss. Peter and Paul, and the people were met and welcomed by its parishioners, she said.

Although some former St. Anthony parishioners have moved away, Father Jindra said, many have integrated into the life of the parish, including as choir members, lectors and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.

Parish traditions remain strong, Father Jindra said, including a festival held every year since the parish’s founding, complete with many ethic food items.

Father Jindra, who became pastor in 2011, said his assignment was a homecoming of sorts. "I have my roots in south Omaha, being raised in St. Mary where I am also pastor, so I already knew a lot of the names."

Jonyka said the anniversary will be a celebration of the parish’s ethnic pride as Gary Kastrick, local historian and curator of the South Omaha Museum, conducts a trolley tour of south Omaha historic sights and murals June 24 at 2:30 p.m. A family night and dinner/dance is set for 6 to 10 p.m.

Archbishop Lucas will preside at a 10 a.m. Mass June 25. A dinner at noon and a dedication of a Croatian mural on a wall of Bere’s Hall at 36th and W streets at 2 p.m. conclude the weekend events.

The June 29 Mass with Cardinal Cupich will be at 6:30 p.m. A choir concert and ice cream social are planned after the Mass.

Each parish family will receive a commemorative booklet, with additional copies available for $5 each, and commemorative Christmas tree ornaments will be available for $10 each.

Registration forms, along with prices for the events, were sent to current and past parishioners. Others may contact the parish to register or purchase booklets or ornaments.

A look at the past

The parish’s first pastor, Father (later Msgr.) John Zaplotnik, then assistant pastor of then-St. Agnes Parish, began serving the spiritual needs of the Croatian and Slovenian communities in 1908.

In 1917, he and about 150 families obtained permission from Bishop James Harty to establish a parish and began raising money to build a church at 36th and X streets.

Construction began June 29, 1917, and the first Mass was celebrated on Easter Sunday in 1918. A rectory was added two years later.

From 1925 to 1960, Father (later Msgr.) John Juricek oversaw the building of an elementary school, a convent, a new rectory and two school additions.

In 1967, the original church was replaced by the current church, built "in the round" to adapt to Vatican II liturgy reforms encouraging greater participation in the Mass by the congregation.

 

PASTORS

Msgrs. John Zaplotnik and John Juricek, Fathers Anthony Petrusic, Donald Shane, Ralph Lammers, Frank Partusch, Frank Jindra.

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