History and Memories of St. Teresa Church's Seventy-Five Years
"St. Teresa Parish has been a very important part of my life for over 55 years, and I was asked to write its history. The years have passed so swiftly. Memories flooded back as I read old secretary books, talked to long-time parishioners like Margaret Carter and Thelma Imlay, and poured over scrapbook articles."
The Early Years
On February 3, 1926 due to the rapid growth of Lincoln, the Diocesan Consultors approved a proposal for a parish to be erected in East Lincoln with boundaries of O St. on the north, Garfield and Normal on the south, 27th on the west, and the city limits and territory adjacent to the city limits on the east.
On April 24, 1926 Bishop Francis Beckman appointed his Vicar General Msgr. Albert Petrasch as temporary administrator of the new parish. It was one year after St. Therese of Lisieux had been canonized so it was called St. Therese of the Child Jesus or The Little Flower Parish. Until a basement church could be completed in the spring of 1927,a private home at 636 S. 36 St. was used for Mass. The parish numbered 20 families. The Oblates agreed to take over the parish and Father William Healy, O.M.I. succeeded Father Petrasch in May of 1927.
The debt on the new, unfinished building was $41,500 and the total income for 1927 was $3,500. The building consisted of a church in the basement, with plans for classrooms and living quarters for the sisters above. The top floor was to be used as a lunch and meeting room. Oblate Father Daniel McCullough came in 1928 and served until 1933.
Through bazaars and other parish projects of the Altar Society led by Mrs. Gus Sobott, Father McCullough and parishioners were successful in paying the $1,500 interest plus $1,000 on the principal. The "h" was gradually dropped and the parish became known as St. Teresa, perhaps because the first Catholic church in Lincoln built in 1868 at 15th & M streets was known as St. Therese Pro-Cathedral. A pipe organ from St. Francis DeSales on 18th and J was moved to the basement church to replace the reed organ in 1932.
Another mortgage of $39,000 was arranged and work began on the school above the church basement. Two south rooms were completed so school could begin in September 1930. Two Dominican Sisters from St. Catharine's in Kentucky, Sister Theona and Sister Martha, were the first teachers and occupied the rest of that floor (all of these rooms are now the Thrift Shop).
Kay Harding remembers starting school that first year in 4th grade with kindergarten to 3rd grade in one room and 4th to 7th grades in the other. One night when the sisters went down to pray in the church, they were frightened by a tramp and Father was called to evict him. That was Kay's memory! Her sister, Genevieve Huerstel, remembered that punishment for misdeeds was memorizing poetry, and she still remembers the poems she learned.
The Oblates, who saw no hope of paying the large debt in those days of depression, drought and crop failures, left in 1933. Father Maurice Helmann came for three months and arranged for the sisters, who now numbered five, to move to 717 South 36th, a dwelling which had served as the rectory. Father moved to St. Francis DeSales rectory.
In September 1933 he was succeeded by Rev. Adolph Mosler, who organized a finance committee consisting of E.A.Becker, T.M. Blockwitz, E.J. Fogerty, and John McCullough. Next, the Dominican Order operated the parish from June 1934 to January 1935 with Father Ralph D. Goggins, O.P. as administrator. There was a charge of $1.00 per child per month to attend school. Then came Father Andrew DeMuth who contracted tuberculosis and had to leave in March of 1936.
Father Mitchell Kaczmarek was ordained on April 30, 1935. He was appointed administrator of St. Teresa Parish in late 1936 and was named pastor on September 10, 1938 taking charge of a small parish with a huge debt. With youthful energy, enthusiasm, and good rapport with the congregation, the pastor and parishioners gradually rescued the parish from the verge of bankruptcy: Twenty of the 39 families pledged their personal property to make sure payment would be made on the debt.
Soon, two Masses could not accommodate the parish, and Father received permission to offer three. In 1948 the first assistant arrived: Father Daniel Kealy.
Father Kaczmarek had been living in the church/school building until 1942 when he moved into a little house next to the convent. (Both houses were on the site of the present church. In 1949 the parish bought the Kilb house at 635 S. 36 St. to be the rectory, where the Roy Loudons now live. From 1942-1949 the rectory had been where Bud Imlay later raised his family on 37th St.)
St. Teresa School
The school was staffed by the Dominican Order for 58 years. It opened in 1930 with 23 children and two sisters, much like a rural school. By 1934 the school had grown to 100 students with five sisters. There were four rooms, each with two grades and a music sister.
In an old financial statement book, I found the sisters' collective salary to be $100 a month, no matter how many were in residence. Father Kaczmarek's salary started at $125 a month but in September of 1937 was reduced to $100 and the sisters to $75 a month. The janitor's pay was dropped from $50 to $37 a month. The gas and electric bill for the one building for January 1938 was $37.13.
In 1940 there were 110 children attending the school. The parish almost doubled in size between 1942 and 1945 with war industry and the rapid growth of the city in an easterly direction.
In 1947 a new room was finished on the third floor of the church/school building and 9th grade was begun, making St. Teresa School an accredited junior high. The following year another room was finished and the 7th and 8th grades were moved to that floor.
By 1951 the year our first child, Susan, started kindergarten, the entire third floor consisted of classrooms for the 250 children enrolled. Tuition was $11 a year for kindergarten and $20 for others. The 46 kindergartners went to Mass each morning under the watchful eye of Sister Hildegarde, until she broke her leg and found it too difficult to teach while on crutches and went home to St. Catharine's. For the rest of the year the children were seated around the edge of the first grade room and courageous Sister Columba taught both classes.
The kindergarten children graduated in white cap and gown in the 40's as well as from 1961-1963. In 1963 the kindergarten was closed for seven years and the Altar Society members made altar boy surplices from the kindergarten gowns.
In the late 60's we had 700 students at St. Teresa School. In 1967 the ninth graders moved to Pius X. In 1976 when St. Joseph Parish was founded, we lost nearly half of our membership. Also, families grew smaller. In 1999 there were 220 children in our school.
On May 22, 1987 the School Sisters of Christ the King 1935 with Father Ralph D. Goggins, O.P. as administrator. There was a charge of $1.00 per child per month to attend school. Then came Father Andrew DeMuth who contracted tuberculosis and had to leave in March of 1936.
Father Mitchell Kaczmarek was ordained on April 30, 1935. He was appointed administrator of St. Teresa Parish in late 1936 and was named pastor on September 10, 1938 taking charge of a small parish with a huge debt.
With youthful energy and enthusiasm and good rapport with the congregation, the pastor and parishioners gradually rescued the parish from the verge of bankruptcy: Twenty of the 39 families pledged their personal property to make sure payment would be made on the debt. Soon, two Masses could not accommodate the parish, and Father received permission to offer three.
In 1948 the first assistant arrived. Father Daniel Kealy. Father Kaczmarek had been living in the church/school building until 1942 when he moved into a little house next to the convent. (Both houses were on the site of the present church.)
In 1949 the parish bought the Kilbhouse at 635 S. 36 St. to be the rectory, where the Roy Loudons now live. From 1942-1949 the rectory had been where Bud Imlay later raised his family on 37th St.
Christ the King were assigned to Saint Teresa School. Sister Joan Paul was to be an intern principal and Sister Maura Therese was to teach fourth grade.
Serious illness caused the Dominican Sisters to return to their Mother house in Kentucky and, in the summer of 1988, the transition to the School Sisters of Christ the King took place. Christ the King Sisters moved into the convent in July and four sisters were assigned to administer or teach during that year.
My architect husband was with M. W. Anderson, the company that built the classrooms on the top floor of the old school building and also the new convent and rectory.
In August 1951 Bishop Louis B. Kucera blessed the $45,000 debt-free convent which accommodated the ten sisters. Plans for the church were begun before the convent was completed.
Fritz Craig was the architect for the building that was 146 feet by 79 feet with a copper tower 45 feet in height. The men on the building committee were Edward Becker, T.M. Blockwitz, Joe Carter, Harold Hoppe, John Lawlor, Leon Michal, John Origer, and W.J. Rice. The $240,000 structure was dedicated by Bishop Kucera on November 19,1952.
Next came a 12-classroom addition to the school plus a kindergarten room, faculty room, library, and a gymnasium (which was attached to the original church/school structure on the south side). It was blessed November 17, 1956 and cost $250,000.
The parish plan was completed in 1962 when the new rectory was constructed at a cost of $80,000. As construction was complete, all debt was retired. In 25 years, the parish had built a school, convent, rectory, and church.
On November 14, 1992, after forty years, St. Teresa Church was re-dedicated after undergoing an extensive renovation of painting, carpeting, new light fixtures, and general updating under Msgr. Pleskac's direction at a cost of $178,500.
As with construction in the 50's, the debt was retired when the renovation was complete. As of June 1999 the parish has 858 registered families and individuals.
Pastors, Parish Life and Vocations
Father Mitchell Kaczmarek came in late 1936. He became Msgr. Kaczmarek in April,1955. After serving St. Teresa's Parish 45 years, Msgr. Kaczmarek retired June 18, 1980. He returned to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of his ordination on April 21, 1985. Msgr. Kaczmarek died on July 14, 1993. In 1980 Father Myron Pleskac succeeded Msgr. Kaczmarek. He became a Monsignor in 1991 and served at this parish until 1993. In 1993 Father Joseph Nemec became the pastor for St. Teresa Parish Family. Fr. Jamie Hottovy became Pastor of St. Teresa Catholic Church in 2017.
A first priority for pastor and parishioners is development of spiritual life. Limited Eucharistic Adoration, by the Legion of Mary under the leadership of assistant pastor, Father Stanley Redmerski, was extended to Perpetual Adoration by Msgr. Pleskac in May 1985. The first Marian Mass, Rosary and Candlelight Procession at the Catholic Center in Waverly was sponsored by St. Teresa Church on August 14, 1988. Now an annual event, it was inspired by a parish pilgrimage led by Father Pleskac to Lourdes, France and Fatima, Portugal.
The pastoral vision of Fr. Hottovy has resulted in a more robust participation in Eucharistic Adoration. Fr. Hottovy has led several day pilgiramges to local churches, as well as parish pilgrimages to Poland and the Czech Republic, the Holy Land, and Rome. In October 2019, Fr. Hottovy initiated the renewal of the St. Teresa parish vision to build on the legacy of previous pastors and ensure a vibrant and healthy parish for future generations.
Seven young men from the parish have become priests. They are Father Robert Wirth, C.S.S.R., Father Patrick Powers, Father Patrick Murphy, Father Paul Witt, Father Stephen A.Cooney, and Father Albert Pettinger. Lothar Gilde was ordained in 2006. Father Christopher Stoley was ordained in 2015.
Three women from the parish have joined the Dominican Sisters of St. Catharine in Kentucky. They are Sister Teresa Wolfe, Sister Clarellen McGinley, and Sister Karen Flaherty.
In 75 years St. Teresa Parish has grown from a small, financially challenged congregation to one well equipped to serve the spiritual, educational and social needs of its closely knit parish family. It required a great deal of effort, sacrifice and teamwork by clergy, religious, and lay people throughout the years to make those early dreams reach fulfillment.
When young Father Kaczmarek arrived in 1935, he and his struggling parishioners began novenas to St. Therese asking for her intercession. The memory of St. Therese is honored and she continues to bless her namesake church. God has been good to us!