Pray the Rosary

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A Centennial History - Chapter 3

St. Mary's has an 8th Grade School

       On June 10, 1925 Rev. E.J. Blankemeier, who had been station at Arcadia as assistant for the past ten years, was appointed by Archbishop Glennon to take charge of St. Mary's Parish.  The new pastor left Arcadia on July 1st and went to Moselle for the first time on July 3, 1925.

       In the absence of a pastor, the congregation had arranged a picnic for July 4th. During the last weeks of Father Wigger's residence in Moselle, the congregation had decided to build a hall for entertainment and dances.  Scarcely had the work begun when Father Wigger left.  The men were determined to finish this work, and as had been the custom before, willingly donated their time.  While the hall was not a thing of beauty, it was large and convenient and quite inexpensive. It was completed, at least so it could be used in time for the Fourth of July picnic.  The hall is situated west of the priests' residence and has a basement used as a dining room, and the floor above measures about 30x50.

      The picnic netted about $400.00 and since that was about the amount of indebtedness on the church, it was suggested that the debt should be cancelled and then it could be truly said that before Father Wigger's successor came, the fine stone church was completely paid for.

      The trustees, at their first meeting with the new pastor, were continued in office. Upon their suggestions it was decided to have two Masses on Sunday and Holy Days.  This arrangement made it possible for members to assist at mass and also to receive Holy Communion more frequently.

       Early in 1926 a meeting of the parish was called to discuss the advisability of procuring their school as the foundation of all religious life, and had engaged a teacher and conducted a Catholic school even before any independent mission.  The majority favored the procuring of teaching Sisters and those who opposed did so, not because of objection to the Sisters, but because they feared the expense of having to provide a home for them.  Archbishop Glennon, in a special letter, urged all to make any sacrifice to procure Sisters.

      Mother Ambrose, Superior of the Ursulines at St. Louis, had been invited to come out and look at the place. She visited St. Mary's in company of Mother Honora, the Prefect, in November 1925, and promised to send two teachers and a lay sister as soon as the congregation would make ready for them.  It was agreed to turn over the priest's house to the Sisters' and build a new 'priest's house'.  The location of the house was between the church and the present house but back, so that the front of the house would be on a line with the sacristy of the church.  Work on this new house was begun in the summer of 1926.  During the spring a census had been made of the parish and subscription taken for the new building.  A sum of nearly $1,000.00 was promised, some of which was paid for immediately.  A number of families pledged to pay $50.00 in two annual installments and the rest pledged $25.00

    Miss Antoinette Sankey had not been engaged to teach in September as the Sisters were expected.  They arrived on September 10, 1926 and were ready to open school the following week.  Heretofore, only five grades had been taught.  With the two Sisters, all eight grades were included and people were urged to keep their children in school until they finished.  The school was opened by Mother Henrietta as Superior who taught the lower grades, Sister Ruth, who taught the higher grades and was organist, and Sister Pulcheria, the housekeeper.  The enrollment during the first week showed a gratifying increase.  From about forty pupils in June 1926 the number rose to over seventy - practically every child of school age in the parish was enrolled.  This showed beyond a doubt the sterling Catholicity among the people of St. Mary's Parish.

     During the late July and August, men of the parish worked on razing the stable, which was of no further use and stood partly in the way of the new building.  They also wrecked the old building across the road, which had been in turn a teacher's house, temporary priest's house, school and hall.  The lumber of these two buildings was used as much as possible in the new building.

     When the Sisters came in September 1926, the priest's house was hardly begun, so the Pastor took up his quarters in the east Sacristy where he lived for almost two years.  The building of the new house was delayed for months.  Each man of the parish had pledged to give six days work and in many cases the parish had to wait until work on farms was not so heavy.  The work that required skilled labor had to await the coming of men who promised to do the work in their line whenever they could get away.  Most of the material, too, was either donated or bought at cost.  The result of all this was that the building, easily worth $10,000, was completed for $3,000 of which $1,000 was paid by the parishioners and $2,000 was borrowed from Mrs. J.C. Kanouse.  The work was begun in late July 1926 and the house was completed by the first of July 1928.

      As a matter of record, as well as a token of appreciation, the names of the donors of material and skilled labor are herewith subjoined.  During the greater part of these two years, Mr. Louis Dusard of Kirkwood was ever faithful.  Even before there was though of building, Mr. Dusard volunteered to assist in such was as he might.  During the summer of 1926, he painted the priest's house, which was given over to the Sisters.  Earlier than that, during the winter of 1925, he stained and varnished all the floors.

     The James Kelly family of Kirkwood made themselves most useful on many occasions.  They did all of the plumbing.  Michael, Joseph, and Lawrence assisted Maurice McDonald.  William Kelly did all of the stucco work and was assisted in this by Ben Atkinson of St. Clair. In addition to this, Daniel Kelly donated a toilet and Lawrence was instrumental in getting a manufacturer to donate a lavatory.

     John Gilmore of St. Louis gave a bathtub as a Christmas gift in 1927, and William Daly of Kirkwood donated the kitchen sink, at the same time.  All tin work was sold at cost by Otto Roebber of Kansas City, and uncle of the Pastor, and was installed by Edward Durand of Kirkwood, who also made several other trips out to help friends who were working on the building.  The parish is indebted to Mr. George F. Robertson and his fine band of plasterers for all the interior plastering.

    Mr. Ralph Newton of Kirkwood donated the tile for floor and walls of the bathroom and four Italian workers of the Terrazo Company, Inc. of St. Louis made installation.  The tile roof, worth several hundred dollars, was sold by Mr. Joseph Masterson of the Mound City Roofing Tile Company for $100.00 and was installed by Mr. Joseph Rieger of Kirkwood, who charged $30.00 for his work and spent $50.00 at a picnic on July 4, 1927 at the time he was working.

    Two local men, Ben Hanneken and Henry Unnerstall, did the rough carpenter work and the finishing was donated by Kirkwood carpenters, led by Frank Baumstarck.  The others who worked at carpentering were George Riefer, who later installed the screens gratis, Henry Hoerstkamp, Gregory Miller, John Lederle.  Through the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Boothe, a lotto was held at Wellson January 2, 1928 from which sufficient funds were realized to purchase a Mellow hot air furnace, which was installed very painstakingly by Mr. John Donahue of Kirkwood.  Interior and exterior painted was done by Will Ferde, Walter Wahlig and A.H. Boos, all of Kirkwood - and in this, as in so many other things the never failing efforts of Louis Dusard helped immeasurable.

     The concrete floor in the basement was the work of Mr. Ed. Hamilton and Mr. Ed Wagner, while Charles Groene did the brickwork for a nominal sum.  A boy of the parish, Ed. Unnerstall, very neatly installed the electrical work.  The hardwood floors were a donation for Mrs. J.C. Kanouse.  They were laid by Henry Unnerstall at forty cents an hour, scraped by Ralph Bullard for $50.00 and finished by Louis Dusard, gratis.  Through the courtesy of Mr. J.C. Jacobs of Union, a concrete mixer was used for all the concrete work.

     After the building was completed donations of friends in Kirkwood helped to furnish it. Mrs. Kanouse, the housekeeper, had sold many articles of furniture for a nominal sum to the Parish.  The now aging, Henry Vondera dug a new cistern at the back of the house.  Again, rock was struck within a few feet of the surface and much blasting was necessary.

     The completed priest's house has a full basement with an extra, all-concrete wine cellar.  A garage enters from the rear of the basement.  There is a long double deck porch at the rear, affording a wonderful view of the surrounding country.  On the first floor, as one enters, is a sun room, used as an office, a library with large fireplace, a dining room, kitchen, two bedrooms and bath.  Upstairs are the housekeeper's quarters and two spare rooms.

     Mr. Dan Mullen of Clayton was the architect. He donated the plans, which were a reproduction of the house of Mrs. M. Dusard of Kirkwood.  Naturally, work on this building occupied most of the activities of the two years 1926-1928.  But there were other activities.

     Eleven stained glass windows were necessary to complete that part of the interior decoration.  Those in the sanctuary which were donated by Mrs. Kanouse were "the scared Heart" and by Henry Henneken (teacher) "Our lady of Perpetual Help".  The Sodalities donated the two smaller windows that bear their names.  The other windows were donated as follows: F. Frick, Matt. Vondera, David Overschmidt, George Otten, Henry Hanneken (Moselle), Mrs. Emi Frei and Rev. E.J. Blankmeier.  Louis Dusard donated installation.  The work was completed during the summer of 1927.

     At about this time linoleum was laid in the aisles and the statue of the Sorrowful Mother was repainted - the former paid for by the parish and the latter by Miss Catherine Dusard.

     It was unfortunate for St. Mary's that the concrete highway #66 was located so as to cross the Bourbeuse River at Pin Oak Ford in place of, as it was hoped, at Shawneetown Ford.  The latter crossing would have insured the road passing directly in front of St. Mary's and would have brought not a few visitors.  As it is, when the highway was opened in the spring of 1927, all traffic over the old Springfield road ceased and even some families moved away.

     Though small, parish activities did not diminish.  It was thought that with the completion of the new hall, many little affairs could be held through out the winter, but it was soon found that these were unsuccessful because of bad roads, bad weather, lack of heat in the hall and activities in other places easier of access.

     But in the summer, St. Mary's came into her own with picnics.  The greatest credit must be given to the ladies who, at these picnics, served the finest kind of dinners, donated all the food and did all the work.  In 1925 two picnics were held, July 4th and Labor Day.  In 1926 it was decided to add Decoration Day as picnic day in addition to the other two.  In 1927 it was thought advisable to again hold only two picnics, the first on July 4th and the other on Labor Day.  But in 1928 it was found necessary to again hold three, the Pastor promising to devote the proceeds of one to the school.

     From a religious point of view, which is of the course the most important, the Parish was progressing.  Since July 1925, two Masses were said every Sunday and Holy Day and were well attended.  The High mass was at nine o'clock in the summer and at ten in the winter followed by Benediction.  The Sodalities received Holy Communion each month, the young people on the First Sunday and married Sodalities on the second.  The children received in a body twice a month, on the First Sunday and on the third Sunday.

     Solemn Communion at the end of the school course, in addition to the First Communion, was abolished because of mistaken notions.  The little children's First Communion was made quite solemn each year toward the end of May.  A three-day retreat preceded the beautiful First Communion Day.

     The Feast of Corpus Christi was celebrated solemnly since the establishment of the Parish.  A procession on the Parish grounds was held and from 1926-1928, the Grus Brothers generously volunteered to play hymns during the procession.  In 1925 the Sacred Heart League was established and its membership numbered over one hundred.  Ten promoters regularly distributed the leaflets and many of the members received Holy Communion on the First Friday.

     The Feast of Christ the King, established in 1925 and celebrated on the last Sunday in October, was reestablished as the Parish's Thirteen Hours Devotion day.  At the closing, each year, five or six priests of the neighborhood were present.  In 1925 Reverend J.G. Hoelting preached the closing sermon, in 1926 Rev. Doctor Schuermann, and in 1927 Rev. Geo. Fugel.  For the feast of Christ the King, the Sisters of the Precious Blood of O'Fallon bought a beautiful new Gothic vestment.

      The last week of October 1925 was a time of special grace, when Rev. Jos. G. Hoelting of the Diocesan Mission Band gave a very successful mission.  The Parish turned out in a body both for morning Mass and evening services.  The great Communion days for the Parish werethe Feast of Christ the King, All Souls, Christmas and Easter.  The Holy Hour on Holy Thursday evening, too, was well attended.

     It has been established some years ago that a Board of School Trustees, consisting of three men of the Parish, should take over the financial aspect of this branch of Parish activities.  These trustees have the duty of collecting tuition from the pupils in school, of arranging any entertainment to be given for the benefit of the school, and of seeing to its that the teachers' salaries are paid and the school buildings properly kept up.

    Every summer the parish elects a new member to this school board to take the place of the one that has served three years and is, therefore, freed from further duty in this regard.  In 1925 the School Trustees were Frank Vondera, Fred Breitenback and Henry Lindemann. In 1926, Will Brinkman succeeded Frank Vondera and in 1927 Mike Eagen was elected to fill the place of F. Breitenbach. 

    The old school building was, year by year, becoming less adequate and serious thought and great effort was to be put forth in the building of a new school.  With this in mind, an arrangement was inaugurated in January 1926 whereby each family was expected to give twenty-five cents every Sunday, which was to be invested monthly in shared with the Kirkwood Building and Loan Association.  The response was at first quite generous, but with the building of a new rectory and other parish activities, and also because of bad farming seasons, many found it necessary to either curtail or cease to donate to this necessary cause.  Through successful picnics and other means, the payments of  $30.00 per month) were continued.

    Another committee, appointed during the winter of 1926, proved most successful.  The wood committee, composed of D.J. Overschmidt, as Chairman, Jacob Gaasch, and Ben Lindemann.  It was the office of this committee to see that all parish buildings were amply supplied with wood.  Each winter certain days were appointed by the Pastor and designated as wood cutting days.  Every man in the parish was expected to work on two such days.  The wood on parish property had been getting scarce and for the winters of 1927-27 and 1927-28, wood was cut in abundance on the property of Peter Kindel, who donated it to the church.

     During the three years, 1925-28, the parish church was the scene of joyful occasions as well as those of sorrow.  In May 1926, Mr. & Mrs. Jacob Gaasch celebrated their silver anniversary.  A High Mass was sung for them and the jubilee blessing given.  At this Mass, all of their ten children were present.  It was indeed a sight of joy to see Mother and Father, who were themselves always outstanding members, in the best sense, of the parish, and true Catholics, surrounded on this occasion by their ten faithful children.  At the time of the jubilee, all the children were yet unmarried.  In the month that followed, however, three of them, Alvina, Henry and Gertrude took life partners unto themselves.

     In May 1927, Mr. & Mrs. George Otten celebrated their silver anniversary.  Again a High Mass was sung and the jubilee blessing given.  A day of rejoicing was held at the Otten home and these worthy couple, though childless, had adopted the entire parish as their own and were surrounded by a host of friends who rejoiced with them.

     Among the sorrowful scenes of 1925 - 1928 was the speedy passing of Mrs. George Overschmidt from this life in November 1925.  Much sorrow had been hers in rearing a large family, some of whom had sadly afflicted.  In July 1926, Bernard Lenau, gentle and faithful to his family was laid to rest.  In May 1927 Mrs. Anna Nebur, died after an illness of several weeks, and in the spring of 1928 Anna Lindemann the oldest resident of the parish passed away.  All were buried after fitting funeral services in the parish cemetery.

      The Church trustees remained the same during 1925 -1928, Bernard Hanneken, David Overschmidt, Henry A. Hanneken and George Otten.  In 1928 Mr. Otten sold his farm and moved to St. Clair and it was necessary to select a trustee in his place.  The Pastor proposed three names, and Mr. Ben Lindemann  was selected at a special election.

     The priest at the time felt that in losing Mr. & Mrs. George Otten, the parish lost on of its best families.  He said, "There has never been a time where Mr. & Mrs. Otten have not shown interest in the affairs of St. Mary's.  They have been untiring in their work and most generous to church, school, priest, and sisters."

   The new rectory was ready for occupancy after two years, but the builder, Fr. Blankemeier was not destined to dwell in it.  Rev. L.C. Wernert of Arcadia had suffered a stroke of apoplexy in December 1927, and being unfit for further duty, requested His Grace Archbishop Glennon to appoint Rev. E.J. Blankemeier in his place.  The appointment was made and the transfer effected June 30, 1928.  Rev. E.J. Meier, who had studied in Innsbruck and was ordained in 1912, had been assistant at St. peters in Kirkwood, was appointed to St. Mary's Moselle.  The parting, on the part of the people of Kirkwood with their friend and advisor, was hard and many a tear fell from the eyes of his numerous friends as Father Meier bad them farewell at a special meeting.

     Father Meier took up residence in St. Mary's parish immediately and shouldered with a brave heart the many tasks that awaited him in his new field of labor.  Fr. Meier remained as pastor of the parish until June 1936.  During this period of time, Fr. Meier made many repairs and improvements on the buildings and property and continued to raise funds on the parish rectory.  Fr. Meier continued very zealously his spiritual work and was able to realize the result of his labors during his eight years stay in the parish.  In June 1936 Fr. Meier received a letter from Most Rev. Archbishop John J. Glennon, appointing him pastor of the Sacred Heart Church in Valley Park, Mo. Fr. Meier was relieved of his parochial duties of St. Mary's Parish by Rev. Jerome P. Schutzbach, whom he recommended to the parishioner and his friends.

     In June 1936 Fr. Schutzbach left Sacred Herat Parish, Festus, Mo. as assistant pastor, to begin his new duties as Pastor of St. Mary's parish, Moselle.  Fr. Schutzbach immediately picked up where Fr. Meier left off and endeavored to have the parish push forward.  He continued for many years to increase the parish treasury for the purpose of future improvements; at the same time making the necessary repairs and improvements as he found the need in the parish.  In 1945, it was decided that the present parish hall was inadequate and in a most improper location next to the sisters convent; so it was dismantled and moved to a suitable location, in the picnic grove, where it was rebuilt, enlarged and beautified with a covering of asbestos shingles.  On May 2, 1947 Father Schutzbach received word from the new Archbishop, the Most Rev. Joseph E. Ritter, informing him that the Ursuline Sisters asked permission to withdraw from the parish school stating that the sisters think that the children can be transported to a neighboring school with much less expense and with greater profit to the children.  They also suggested a lay teacher.  In view of the fact that there were so few children and that the sisters were needed so badly, the Archbishop said he felt that he should give consideration to their request.  However, he asked an expression from Fr. Schutzbach. On May 5, 1947 Fr. Schutzbach received the following letter from the Archbishop.

      "Dear Fr. Schutzbach:  Just a word to inform you that I have asked Mother Provincial to retain the Sisters at St. Mary's at least for another year. Perhaps during this time we can come to a decision as to what to do in regard to the advisability of retaining the school and erecting a new combination building as proposed."

     On May 14, 1947 the following letter was received from the Archbishop.

     "Dear Father Schutzbach"  I have word this morning from the Provincial of the Ursulines that the Sisters will remain another year at Moselle.  In the meantime, I hope you will help me come to a decision as to what we should do in regard to a new school and convent.  After saving the considerable amount on hand, it would seem a pity not to be able to carry out the wishes of the people and provide them with a modern school building."

     In June, Fr. Schutzbach called upon the Archbishop at the Chancery Office and succeeded in postponing the erection of a new school for the present time.

     On September 11, 1947 Fr. Schutzbach received a letter of appointment, from the Archbishop Ritter, to the Pastorate of St. Bernard's Church, St. Louis.  This time St. Mary's Parish was receiving as Pastor Rev. Wm. B. McCarthy, who had been pastor of our Lady of Victory Church, Sereno, Mo.  He also had charge of the mission church at Lithium, Mo. for fine and one half years and previously assistant pastor of Our Lady of the Presentation Parish, St. John's Station, St. Louis County for fifteen years.  On September 20th a committee presented Father Schutzbach with an offering of appreciation from the parishoners, for the eleven years that he spent as their pastor.

End of Chapter lll

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