Sacred Heart Parish began in 1880 when German-speaking members of St. Vincent’s Parish in Sedalia asked their Bishop, the Rt. Rev. J. J. Hogan, DD, to create a parish for Catholics of German background in Sedalia. In 1882, the Rev. Bernard Dickman, CPPS, came to Sedalia charged with the task of organizing the new congregation.
From February until May 1882, the congregation met at Keck’s Hall in East Sedalia. From May until October 1882, the congregation met in the vacant Episcopal Church building.
Dickman worked with parishioners to raise $1,244.28 to build a building on West Third Street. Mr. Ferdinand Bahner built the building. Despite work being destroyed by a windstorm in July 1882, by October, the building was finished. The two-story frame building combined the worship space on the second floor, school classrooms on the first floor, and a home for the sisters of the Community of the Most Precious Blood who conducted the school. The building was dedicated in October 1882.
Sedalia experienced a population boom in the late 1880s. Included in the new residents were a number of Catholics, including several German speaking Catholics. In 1891, Bishop Hogan set in motion the changes in parish structure that made Sacred Heart Parish a mixed parish, rather than an exclusively German Catholic parish. This change further expanded the number of members, and made the construction of a new, larger building necessary.
Father Dickman began a fundraising campaign. The cornerstone was laid May 8, 1892, and on April 1893, the new building was dedicated. The building, designed by architect W. Druiding, of Chicago, was in the Gothic style, reminiscent of the European cathedrals of the 13th century.
The high altar, built by Anton Deuschermeier, of Chicago, was given by Joseph Imhauser in memory of his father. Two other altars were installed, one on either side of the high altar. One, the Altar of the Blessed Virgin, was given by Mary Ann Meier in memory of her husband. The other, the Altar of St. Joseph, was given by the McGinley brothers in memory of their son and nephew Hugh McGinley.
In 1897, the Rev. Stanislaus Neiberg, CPPS, came to Sacred Heart Parish. He actively worked to increase the parish’s membership. The parish was served by two other priests. In 1903, the Rev. Christian Daniel served as assistant pastor and chaplain of the M.K. & T. Hospital. The activities of the church extended far beyond Sedalia, as Daniel conducted services two Sundays a month at Clifton City. Another priest, the Rev. Theobald Reitz, conducted worship services at Versailles, Gravois Mills, Cole Camp, Warsaw and Houstonia.
During the early 20th century, the church’s lay people were very active. The Altar Society’s 120 members, under the leadership of Mrs. J.H. Vitt, Mrs. Pat Curran, Mrs. Frank Hayes and Mrs. John Cashman, took responsibility for the decoration and care of the altars. The 60 young women of the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin met monthly.
In March 1919, the members of Sacred Heart, without the knowledge of Neiberg, organized celebration in his honor. Next week’s column details the celebration, which presented an additional surprise to Neiberg.
Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.