Parish overcomes tragedies to mark 150th anniversary
By LISA SCHULTE
The Catholic Voice
St. Patrick Parish in Jackson has survived a long history, which includes two fires and a tornado in its 150 years, and now the parish, one of the oldest in the Archdiocese of Omaha, will celebrate its milestone anniversary this weekend.
St. Patrick Parish, the first Catholic parish founded on a settlement in Nebraska, will culminate its yearlong celebration with activities June 10-11.
Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss will preside at a Mass of Thanksgiving on Saturday, June 10, at 5 p.m. A 6 p.m. concert by the Irish band, The Turfmen, and fireworks at 10:15 p.m. are also planned for Saturday.
On Sunday, June 11, parishioners will participate in the Parade of Clans at noon before a potluck picnic in the park.
'There's a lot of pride in being first and I think for us, there's a sense here that this is really an archdiocesan celebration because it's where the Gospel began," said Father Richard Whiteing, the 26th pastor of St. Patrick Parish. 'We would like people of the archdiocese to know that we're not charging for this thing. We're just opening it up to everybody and hopefully a lot of people will come join us."
Growth and hardships
Father Jeremiah Trecy founded St. Patrick Parish, originally named St. John, in 1856. He was the pastor of the Parish of Garryowen in Jackson County, Iowa, before he led a group of nearly 63 people across Iowa and the Missouri River to settle in Nebraska.
For a short time, Masses were held in a tent until a log church was erected. A frame-structured church replaced the log structure until 1860, when the church was moved about a mile and a half south of the original site. The town of Jackson grew there, but St. John's Cemetery, possibly the oldest cemetery in Nebraska, remained at the site of the original settlement.
A new church was completed in 1880, with a parish hall and rectory built in 1891.
In 1893, St. Catherine's Academy was built and staffed by the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, Wisc. It served as a convent and boarding school, and also provided classrooms for a day school. Eventually it became a girls' school when some of the teachers were appointed to teach at the public school in Jackson.
Tragedy hit Jackson in 1912, when a fire destroyed the church and rectory and did considerable damage to St. Catherine's Academy. Almost immediately, an altar was installed in the parish hall and a house was purchased to serve as the rectory. A new church was completed and dedicated two years later.
Fire struck again in 1933, this time destroying the parish hall. Parishioners rebuilt the hall in 1937.
The interior of the church was renovated in 1941 and again following the Second Vatican Council in 1964.
In the 1970s, a parish council was formed and improvements were made on the parish hall. Notre Dame Sisters and the School Sisters of St. Francis helped at the parish in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
During that same time, St. John's Cemetery, located near the site of the old church, was enlarged and an outdoor altar and cross were installed and dedicated.
In the late 1980s, the church's stained-glass windows were restored and a major remodeling and painting of the church was completed.
On Aug. 17, 2001, tragedy hit Jackson again. A tornado caused close to $130,000 in damages to the parish's three buildings "“ church, rectory and hall. All repairs were completed by the summer of 2002.
Over the past 150 years, St. Patrick Parish has had 2,743 baptisms, 610 weddings, 1,025 first holy Communions, 1,389 confirmations and 685 funerals. The parish, which currently has 346 members, has had at least 32 of its members enter the priesthood or religious life. Eleven Jackson natives and eight alumnae of St. Catherine's Academy became sisters and 13 men from Jackson became priests.
Members of St. Patrick have spent several months celebrating the history of the Jackson parish.
In October 2005, a parish mission was conducted by Deacon Tom Schulte and wife, Kathy, from Holy Ghost Parish in Omaha. In February, Catholic and Protestant women in the area gathered for a special dinner.
Tom Kuhlman of Omaha presented a monologue on the life of Father Jeremiah Trecy at the parish's annual St. Patrick's Day potluck dinner. And several parishioners traveled to Garryowen, Iowa, where Father Trecy started his journey to Northeast Nebraska in 1856.
'For the people in the parish whose roots go back 150 years, it's really a time of reflecting on the depth of their faith and the strength of the people who brought the faith out here," Father Whiteing said.