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Omaha parish to celebrate centennial

Parishioners of St. Bernard Church in Omaha will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the parish's founding with several activities this month. A parish picnic will be held Aug. 14, a dance on Aug. 19 and a Centennial Mass Aug. 20.
Catholic Voice file photo
Pastors through the years
Father D.W. Moriarty, 1906-1914
Father Jeremiah Buckley, 1914-1953
Father Anthony Kluthe, 1953-1967
Msgr. Edward McCaslin, 1967-1984
Father Tom Ward, 1984-1989
Father Roland Peschel, 1989-1997
Father Jerome Spenner, 1997-current

By Lisa Schulte
The Catholic Voice

Members of the Archdiocese of Omaha are invited to help parishioners of St. Bernard Church in Omaha celebrate the parish's 100th anniversary this month.

On Sunday, Aug. 14, the parish plans to hold a family picnic in Benson Park from 1 to 6 p.m. hosted by the Knights of Columbus.

A dance is set for Friday, Aug. 19, in the school cafeteria from 8 to 11 p.m. Cost is $5 at the door.

A Centennial Mass will be at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 20, the feast of St. Bernard. A dinner will follow. Cost is $20 per person.

St. Bernard Church is currently in the middle of a restoration project, including the replastering, repainting and rewiring of the church's interior ceiling and dome. It is expected to be complete sometime this month. Two years ago, the church exterior was restored, as well as the heating and ventilation system.

School plays prominent role

St. Bernard Church began as a white frame building in 1905 located at 61st and Miami streets in Omaha. But in 1912, the church was hoisted on rollers and moved to its present location, 3601 N. 65th St.

That same year, a four-room, red-brick school was built. Sister Mary Stephen, the first principal, and two others from the Sisters of Mercy came to staff the school. As a result of their recruiting efforts, 75 children were enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade that first year.

The cornerstone of a new church was laid on Aug. 20, 1939, the Feast of St. Bernard.

Ten years later, the parish launched another building program. The property across the street from the old red-brick school house was purchased and the new school was dedicated Aug. 2, 1950.

Eight rooms were added to the school and in 1957, a new rectory was built.

A convent was built on land purchased west of the school in 1959, but was sold to the Poor Clare Sisters in 1971. In 1965, when students had to attend school in shifts due to overcrowding, the parish built another eight-room addition.

Today there are about 900 families in the parish, and the school has an enrollment of 226 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

Parish is 'home'

Mildred "Mid" Wingate, 83, has been a St. Bernard parishioner since she was 11. A 1936 graduate of St. Bernard School, she was married at the church in 1941, and all six of her children attended St. Bernard School.

"I have loved the pastors, and the people are just a wonderful, warm, loving community," she said. "There's just no place but St. Bernard's."

Wingate has been a member of the parish choir since she was a child. Now she sings with the senior citizen choir. She was also active in the altar guild and served as a baker for the hot lunch program at the school from 1970-1975. In past years, she has been honored as the parish's Woman of the Year and recipient of the Shoulders of Giants Award.

"The parish has been my life," she is fond of saying.

Bill Silk, who was baptized at the church in 1920, said he is looking forward to the centennial celebration.

"For about four-fifths of the century," he said, "I've been in this parish."

Silk attended St. Bernard Church with his family as a boy before moving away in the early 1940s to serve in the U.S. Navy. He returned to the parish in 1946 and remained there until he married his wife, Laura, in 1948. The Silks built a home in the St. Bernard neighborhood in 1952 and they have been members of the parish ever since. Their five children attended St. Bernard School.

Silk, 84, is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion at the parish and a member of the church cleaning crew with his wife. He also was one of the parish's first Eucharistic ministers and once coordinated the usher program.

"For all practical purposes, I feel like a lifelong member," he said. "This is home."

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