The Rev. S. J. Neiberg came to Sacred Heart Parish in February 1897, replacing Father Bernard Dickman. On March 16, 1919, parish members hosted a celebration in honor of the 30th anniversary of Father Neiberg’s ordination to the priesthood. The celebration was intended as a surprise, but Father Neiberg suspected the congregation was planning an event. He didn’t realize the full extent of the congregation’s plans.
The celebration was in the auditorium of Sacred Heart School, which had been built in 1906 under Father Nieberg’s supervision. The need for a new, larger school was largely the result of Father Neiberg’s dedication and hard work, which had increased the number of families in the parish and the number of students in the school. The new school, with its classrooms, library, club rooms for church groups, and auditorium with a stage, was also, according to the Sedalia Democrat, the result of Father Neiberg’s excellent business capabilities.
At the celebration, Father Neiberg sat on the stage with several other pastors, including the Right Rev. Hindelang, the Rev. B. Alt, the Rev. M. X. Jennings, and the Rev. Father Breit. Laymen seated on the stage included some of Sedalia’s most well-known citizens — E.G. Cassidy, L.H. Archias, J.P. Quinn, E.L. Zoernig, W.F. Van Hoff, W.S. Cotton, Judge D.E. Kennedy, and John W. McGaw.
The auditorium was filled to capacity with both parish members and others who admired Father Neiberg, which “attested in no small degree to the favor” the community had for the pastor.
E.G. Cassidy served as master of ceremonies. He introduced John McGaw, one of Sedalia’s best orators, who spoke about Father Neiberg’s ordination and the “ennobling” qualities that made Father Neiberg a successful, caring priest. McGaw then presented Father Neiberg with a gift of $100 in gold the congregation had collected for him.
The next speaker, E.L. Zoernig, spoke about the history of the parish. Judge Kennedy spoke of the home-like nature of the parish family, “touching on tender and sacred subjects.”
Instrumental and vocal musical selections were presented during the program.
The Right Rev. Hindelang, Provincial of the C.P.P.S., the order which served Sacred Heart, spoke with eloquence of the joys of religious life and of the good organization of the parish.
Evidence of the parish’s organization was truly shown when the parish presented Father Nieberg with nearly $3,000 to be used to clear the debt owed by the parish. The members had concealed their collection effort from him and he was surprised and pleased at their efforts. Organizers of the celebration sent letters to each member of the parish telling of the plan to pay the debt and the amount of money needed. Two-hundred thirty-five letters were sent, and 264 cash donations were received within 10 days.
Father Neiberg spoke, thanking the congregation for their expression of love and the monetary gift. He praised the parish members for their loyalty and cooperation that resulted in the growth of the parish. He ended his remarks with a compliment to the people of Sedalia, saying that he hoped he “might live his entire life among people of such a noble type.”
Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.