St. Anthony's Church
St. Anthony's Polish Parish, Columbus, Nebraska
(By Rev. Sigismund Masalski, O. F. M., and Additions by P. E. H.) 1913-1931
THE FIRST POLES IN MID-NEBRASKA,
The immigration of the Poles to Nebraska dates back to the year 1868. The pioneers in these parts settled in what is now Nance, Polk and Platte counties. The first of them settled in or near Columbus. Up to Sept., 1913, these good people had no church of their own, but attended St. John's or St. Bonaventure's church, together with the Germans and English-speaking Catholics. The Polish Fathers, having parishes of their own to attend, could but occasionally serve the Polish people in Columbus. Nor could the people then dream of building their own church, as their number and financial ability were rather limited. No wonder that this condition brought about some apathy in the religious fervor of some of the people.
THE POLES ARE RECOGNIZED
However, a change for the better came in the year 1903. In this year Rev. Theobald Kalamaja, O. F. M., who speaks Polish, English and German fluently, was made superior and pastor of St. Bonaventure's. He introduced special services with Polish sermons each Sunday for the Polish people. Their spirit and ardor revived seeing that they were being given equal rights and privileges with the others. Gradually the number of Polish families increased, as could be seen from the crowded church during their services.
DREAM OF A POLISH PARISH
Here and there a soft whisper was heard: "How beautiful and advantageous would it be, if we had our own church." This inspiring thought came from Rev. Cyril Mitera, O. F. M., who was then pastor at St. Stanislaus, Duncan, Nebraska. Because it was a very appropriate idea, all of the Polish Fathers that followed Fr. Theobald, and acted in the capacity of pastors to the Polish people, at the same time being assistants to the rector of St. Bonaventure's, worked more or less zealously to bring this idea and project to realization.
PLANS ARE MADE FOR A NEW PARISH
Finally, the first step towards the founding of the present St. Anthony's parish was made in the year 1911. In January, Rev. Zygmunt (Sigismund) Masalski, O. F. M., was appointed assistant at St. Bonaventure's to succeed Fr. Wolfgang, O. F. M. Fr. Zygmunt stepped out openly and boldly with the idea that a separate Polish congregation was absolutely necessary, in order to better the spiritual condition of the Poles. He made a diligent canvass, which showed that there were 143 families and 20 single people. Apprised of these conditions the Provincial and his council wrote to the superior at Columbus:
St. Louis, Mo., Dec. 13, 1911.
Dear Father Praeses:
After the Definitorium has taken cognizance of the circumstances at Columbus, they are of the opinion that no difficulties should be put in the way to the erection of the new church for the Poles. Presupposing that the Rt. Rev. Bishop grants permission, the following conditions are to be fulfilled:
1. Before beginning with the church, the Provincial must be informed about the cost of the building.
2. The Polish people remain with the old church until the new church is ready for occupancy.
3. The Father who attends the new parish must do so from the old residence.
Please communicate this to P. Sigismund and, after the Bishop's permission has been obtained, allow him to ask the Poles how much they will contribute towards the church. But do this as soon as possible, for it is evidently to the interest of religion.
Fr. Benedict, Min. Prov.
The next step was to put the matter before the Bishop. The Rt. Rev. Richard Scannell, D. D., then Bishop, upon learning the true condition and state of affairs, not only gave his whole-hearted consent, but expressly commanded that a Polish parish be organized. This was in 1912. Thereupon a subscription was taken up, which netted $6,785. Several meetings were held in which locations for the new church were discussed; but no action was taken until July, 1913. Then, under the leadership of Rev. Protase Kuberek, O. F. M., the so-called Speice property, located at 6th street and 18th avenue, consisting of seven lots, was bought from John Dischner for the sum of $6,750. In the same year an additional lot was bought, thus rounding out an entire block.
TEMPORARY CHURCH AND SCHOOL
A temporary church and school were obtained by remodelling (sic) the old Dischner residence. This work was done entirely gratis by the parish-
ioners. Special credit is due to Paul Rodak, Frank Bugaj, John Toczek, Joseph Czapla, John Klaus and Ignatius Wilcyianski. The neighboring parishes of Duncan and Tarnov generously assisted by giving vestments and other articles for church use. The pews were donated by Rev. Michael Gluba of Omaha, while the school benches were given by Fr. Theobald. The parish was formally incorporated, September, 26, 1913, under the title, "St. Anthony's Church of Columbus, Nebraska."
DEDICATION OF THE CHURCH
On October 4, 1913, the church was formally blessed by Rev. Cyriac Stempel, O. F. M., the superior at St. Bonaventure's, assisted by the Franciscan Fathers Cyril Mitera and Canute Lobinski. The sermon was delivered by Fr. Theobald, O. F. M.
The school opened with the new term, in 1913, with Miss Helen Rodak and Miss Josephine Wass in charge. These young ladies taught the entire year without charge. In addition to this, Miss Rodak served as the first organist.
St. Anthony's Church, Columbus; The Old Speice-Dischner Home and Temporary Church; St. Anthony's School; (1) Rev. Flavius Kraus, O. F. M.; (5) Rev. Casimir Wisniewski, O. F. M.; (4) Rev. Knute Lobinski, O. F. M.; (5) Rev. Protase Kuberek, O. F. M.; (6) Rev. Sigmund Masalski, O. F. M.; (7) Mr. John Toczek; (8) Mr. Frank Bugaj; (5) Mr. Paul Rodak; (10) Mr. Steve Banach; (11) Rev. Denis Czech, O. F. M.
BUILDING THE NEW SCHOOL
School accommodations becoming inadequate, a new school was erected in 1914, at a cost of $3,300. In the same year a change of pastors was made, Fr. Dennis Czech replaced Fr. Protase Kuberek, going to St. Stanislaus, Cleveland, Ohio.
REV. PROTASE KUBEREK,
O. F. M.
Maxmilian Kuberek is a native of Kieferstaedtel, Silesia, Germany, where he was born April 30, 1879, the son of Emmanuel and Paulina Morowiets Kuberek. He made his preparatory studies for the priesthood at Teutopolis, Illinois, took the habit of the Poverello of Assissi on June 24, 1899, and his simple vows on July 28, 1900. After completing the requisite philosophical, and theological studies, he was raised to the priesthood, June 30, 1906.
After his ordination, Fr. Protase labored variously at Bayfield, in the parish at Duncan, with his residence in Columbus, and from the end of August, 1901, to July, 1913, was pastor and su-
perior at Radom, Illinois. There he proved himself an excellent decorator, a violin player, and was very popular among the young folks of the parish. He staged many dramas with the school children and built an addition to the school house so that the pupils living a long ways from school could board there in the winter time.
Fr. Protase was again sent to Columbus in 1913 to organize St. Anthony's parish, which he did, remaining only until affairs were progressing fairly, which was in the following year. Since 1914, Fr. Protase has been doing splendid work at St. Stanislaus Church, Cleveland, Ohio.
REV. DENNIS CZECH,
O. F. M.,
The first act of the new pastor was to procure sisters from LaFayette, Indiana, for the new school. The names of these first Sisters were Ven. Sisters Concordia, Sigismunda and Sophronia.
ST. ANTHONY'S BUILDING CHURCH
Fr. Dennis then set to work to get ready the plans and collect funds for the new church. We quote here an article published at the time by the Columbus Telegram.
DEDICATION OF THE NEW CHURCH
On December 29, 1916, at a meeting of the corporation, it was decided to build a new church according to plans that were drawn up and submitted by the architect, Mr. Charles Wurdeman. Work was started as soon as possible in the following year and vigorously prosecuted, so that the date of dedication could be set for in the fall.
The dedication of the new St. Anthony's church took place on November 13, 1917. Many gathered from far and near for the festive day. The Most Rev. Archbishop Harty, attended by the clergy, was escorted in solemn procession from St. Bonaventure's Friary to the new edifice, which was then solemnly blessed. Hereupon a solemn High Mass was celebrated by the Rev. Canute Lobinski, O. F. M., assisted by the Franciscan Fathers Gratian Gehrig and William Shliszka of Omaha. The Rev. J. W. Stenson was Master of Ceremonies. Rev. M. Gluba and Rev. W. Mulligan were Deacons of Honor. Rev. Thaddeus, O. F. M., from Sioux City, preached an eloquent serman (sic) in Polish. Attending clergy from the neighborhood were Rev. Florentius Kurzer, O. F. M., Humphrey; Rev. John Turek, O. F. M., Shell Creek; Rev. Odilo Eichenseer, O. F. M., Lindsay; Rev. Flavius Kraus, O. F. M., Duncan; Rev. Salvator Wegemer, O. F. M., Columbus; Rev. Liborius Breitenstein, O. F. M., Platte Center; Rev. A. Butzkueben, O. F. M., Humphrey; Rev. J. Palubicki, Fullerton, Rev. Soliwoski, Cracow, Nebraska; Rev. Gebauer, Clearwater, Nebraska; and Rev. O'Connor, Central City, Nebraska.
GROWTH OF THE PARISH
Having built the church, the parishioners worked hard to reduce the contracted indebtedness. This was entirely wiped out in 1919, and was made possible especially by the gift of $6,000 by Mr. Steve Banach. A few years later, the project of a new school, auditorium and Sisters' residence was mooted and Father Canute, who, in 1924, succeeded Fr. Dennis Czech as pastor, introduced a monthly collection plan towards raising a fund. Fr. Canute was removed in September, 1925, and was succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. Sigismund Masalski, O. F. M., who reanimated the parishioners with new zeal and courage for the new school. Up to date the parish has raised twenty thousand dollars and hopes to commence building in a few years.
In July, 1929, Rev. Sigismund was replaced by Rev. Dennis Czech, O. F. M.
REV. SIGISMUND MASALSKI, O. F. M.
Paul Masalski, son of Nicolaus and Mary Rys Masalski, was born at Jaswitz, diocese of Breslau, Silesia, Prussia, on June 29, 1879, attended the schools of his native town until about 14 years of age, when he came to the United States and attended St. Joseph's College at Teutopolis, Illinois.
In June, 1901, he graduated and was invested the following July 25th. He took his simple vows on July 29, 1902. After a year of humanities at Chicago, he pursued his philosophical studies at Quincy (1903-1905) and his theological course at St. Louis, Missouri, 1905-1909; was ordained priest by the saintly Bishop John Janssen of Belleville, Illinois, on June 26, 1908, and said his first Mass at St. Stanislaus Church, Cleveland, Ohio.
For this solemn occasion his father and two brothers had come from Germany. After completing his studies one year later, Fr. Sigismund was assigned to St. Stanislaus, Cleveland, Ohio (summer, 1910-January, 1911), and after one year and a half, to Columbus, Nebraska, January, 1911-October, 1912, as assistant to the pastor, and pastor of the numerous Poles belonging to St. Bonaventure's, and as chaplain at St. Mary's Hospital and catechist at the academy. In October, 1912, Fr. Sigismund was called to Cleveland, where he labored for eleven years, having all this time besides the regular hard work in that monster parish, charge of the dramatic club. In 1923, he was sent to Petoskey, Michigan, where he attended the missions of Pellston and Round Lake,
Thence he came, September 12, 1924, to Columbus, to take charge of St. Anthony's Polish Church. He also attended to the Polish speaking people of the hospital.
REV. DENNIS CZECH,
O. F. M.,
A holy mission was preached in 1929 by the Rev. Aloysius Staskiewicz, O. F. M., of Sturtevant, Wisconsin.
August 4, Rev. Dennis left for Petoskey, Wisconsin, and Rev. Casimir Wisniewski, O. F. M., the present pastor, took charge.
ST. ANTHONY'S SCHOOL
The opening of St. Anthony's school with Miss Helen Rodak and Miss Josephine Wass and the building of a new frame school and the coming of the Sisters from LaFayette have already been mentioned. We add here the names of the Sisters who labored at St. Anthony's:
Superiors: Ven. Sr. M. Concordia, 1914-1919, Sigismunda, Victoria, Cassiana, Ottilia, Seraphia, Tarcisia, Bonavita.
Other teachers were: Sr. M. Domitilla, Stella, Dionora, Otholia, Dioneda, Bonavita.
House Sisters: Ven. Sisters Sophronia, Wenceslaus, Corsina and Accursia, Germana.
Buildings of St. Anthony's Parish, Columbus
DESCRIPTION OF ST. ANTHONY'S CHURCH
"Excavation of the basement for the handsome new church to be erected this summer by St. Anthony's parish at Sixth and Fulton streets, was commenced this week. Willing parishioners are giving freely of their time and labor without cost, to dig the basement and render whatever other service they are able.
The new edifice is to cost in excess of $25,000, and is designed to meet the needs of a parish for years to come. The general contract has been let to Henry F. Woerth for $22,800.
It is estimated that the heating system, which has not as yet been let, will cost approximately $2,200; the interior decoration, $1,500; pews and other furnishings will be additional. The general dimensions will be 40x102 feet, and about 45 feet high. The tower surmounted by a cross will be 106 feet high. The wall will be of red matt brick, with Bedford stone trimmings. Windows will be of art glass. The ceiling in the auditorium and sanctuary will be of Gothic groin design.
"The church will front north on Sixth street. The main entrance will be through a vestibule in the base of the tower. The auditorium will
have a seating capacity of 380. It will be 40x95 feet in dimensions. In the rear will be an organ loft and gallery 40xl8 feet. At the south end of the main auditorium will be the sanctuary, in the rear of which will be the altar. West of the sanctuary will be the boys' sacristy, 20x25 feet, fitted with lockers and cabinets for the vestments. It will project a few feet to the west of the west wall of the auditorium. An outside door will open into a vestibule, from which entrance may be had to either the sacristy or the church proper.
"East of the sanctuary will be the priest's residence, which will be 30x26 feet in dimensions, and will extend about 25 feet eastward from the east wall of the church. It will contain a reception room, 16x19 feet, a living room, a bed room and a toilet. An entrance through a vestibule will be provided on the north side. A corridor will extend from the priest's residence through the church behind the sanctuary to the boys' sacristy. In the basement under the priest's quarters will be a store room and a hot air furnace. A boiler with a steam heating plant will be located in the basement under the church. Interior finish and decorations throughout the church will be of a style in harmony with the architecture. Plans for the building were prepared by Architect Charles Wurdemann. Work on the structure will begin as soon as the material can be delivered on the ground.
"The movement for the erection of the new edifice for the Polish parish was launched about a year ago by the pastor, Fr. Dennis Czeck, and more than $17,000 has been subscribed by members of the parish and their friends toward their building fund. It is hoped that by the time the church is ready for dedication, the entire fund will have been pledged so that it will be free from debt. Rev. Fr. Czech underwent an operation for acute appendicitis some weeks ago and has since been unable to attend to the duties as pastor so that Rev. Flavius Kraus, who has been substituting for him, is carrying the good work along with enthusiastic diligence. As pastor of the church of Duncan, he brought about the erection of the new school (not church) there two or three years ago and supervised the work from start to finish, so is thoroughly capable of attending to the many duties here in the absence of Rev. Czech.
"St. Anthony's parish has flourished since its organization by Rev. Protase Kuberek less than four years ago. It owns the entire block on which are the sites of the old and the new church and of St. Anthony's school. The new church will be one of the sightly improvements in Columbus this year."--Columbus Telegram.
St. Anthony of Padua Church, Columbus, Nebraska