Crawford County, Iowa, IAGenWeb

Church Histories

St. Rose of Lima Parish

Denison, Iowa

Early Years

The Catholic Church in Denison was a missionary church for the first fifteen years of its history.

There is a record of service as early as 1867 by Fr. Peter J. DeSmet, S.J., who was born in Belgium in 1801 and died in St. Louis, Missouri in 1873.

Those missionaries who served the early settlers and offered the Mass in their homes were:

Fr. William Kelley, from Council Bluffs, the first priest in Davenport.

Father Francis Moore from Dunlap.

Fr. Peter Francis Garrahan, from Dunlap, recorded here in 1874 and who was born in Co. Roscommon, Ireland, and later served as a priest in Dubuque.

Fr. Frederick Wm. Papefrom Carroll County, born in Germany and later a priest in Dubuque.

Fr. Theodore Wegmann, from Carroll County, born in Prussia.

During these years the Diocese of Sioux City had not yet been founded. The fledgling parish of St. Rose of Lima was under the care of Most Rev. John Hennessy, the Bishop of Dubuque from 1866-1893, and Archbishop of Dubuque from 1893-1900. Succeeding Bishop Hennessy who died March 4, 1900, was Most Rev. John J. Keane, who was Archbishop of Dubuque from 1900-1911, and who was the Bishop of St. Rose of Lima until the Diocese of Sioux City was formed in 1902.

The Parish Buildings

The first Catholic church built in Denison was a frame structure dedicated on October 9, 1872, by Fr. Roger McGrath, resident pastor of Vail, who made regular visits to the church in Denison. During this time the parish at Denison grew to such an extent that it was necessary to enlarge the church building. The parish continued to grow and in 1896 a still larger church was needed. It was then that the old church was built at a cost of $20,000. Around 1906 Fr. Farrelly purchased the residence at 831 Second Avenue South that was to be the rectory for many years.

St. Rose Church was renovated and redecorated during the tenure of Fr. Koenig between 1963 and 1971. The east doors were removed and closed over, and a new entrance was constructed.

During Fr. Hoffmann's tenure in the 1990s he evidenced the growing need for discernment as to a decision to renovate the existing church edifice or construct a new one. Study committees were formed and a lengthy process was undertaken, resulting in the conclusion by the parish that good stewardship and growing needs require a new church facility.

The Westbrick block, to the west of St. Rose was purchased from the Denison Public Schools for the purpose of new church construction. Fr. Hoffmann incepted the Art and Environment Committee to enhance church decorating.

Into the late 1990s the aging church facility continued to deteriorate. Many parish committees were formed to raise $3.1 million needed for the new St. Rose of Lima. Fr. Murray with the Building Committee recruited the RDG Architectural Firm from Omaha to develop a building plan. Construction began in 2004.

The Parish Priests

As noted above, Vail was Fr. Roger McGrath's priest's first assignment, who as resident pastor of Vail, made regular visits to the church in Denison. It was in Vail where he built the largest brick church between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers on the line of the Chicago Northwestern Railway.

Fr. Mathias C. Lenihan, succeeded Fr. McGrath in 1880. He was ordained Dec. 20, 1879, and his first pastorate was St. Ann's at Vail with Denison as a mission.
Fr. Lenihan was born in Dubuque on Oct. 6, 1854, was the first native priest of Iowa and the first priest born in Iowa to become a Bishop. He was baptized by Bishop Loras, the first Bishop of Dubuque. He was one of the first pupils of a Catholic school in Iowa. He attended St. Joseph's College in Dubuque, St. John's College in Prairie du Chein, Wisconsin, and Grand Seminary in Montreal, Canada.

Fr. Lenihan was chosen by Pope Pius X to be the first Bishop of Great Falls, Montana, and was ordained on Sept. 21, 1904. In 1929 he celebrated the 75th anniversary of his birth, the 25th anniversary of his consecration as Bishop and his 50th anniversary of ordination to priesthood. In recognition of his splendid record as a priest in the Archdiocese of Dubuque and as Bishop of the Montana See, Pope Pius XI named him Titular Archbishop of Preslavo, Bulgaria. He died August 19, 1943. His brother Thomas was the second Bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Fr. Bartholomew C. Lenehan, born in New York City Feb. 3, 1843, was the first resident pastor at Denison from the spring of 1886 until the fall of 1887.

At that time Fr. Michael J. Farrelly was installed as pastor at Denison with a mission in Charter Oak, which lasted nearly twelve years until a resident pastor was assigned there. Fr. Farrelly was born March 1 1854, in Aughavass, Ireland, and ordained Sept 21. 1880, by Bishop Hennessy of Dubuque. Fr. Farrelly died in Denison on Nov. 12, 1919 after 32 years as the pastor of St. Rose.

From 1919-1920 Fr. William Veit, born in Chelsea, Iowa, Nov. 8, 1887, was the pastor. He was followed by Fr. John Phelan. Fr. Phelan was born in Roserea, Ireland on Aug. 9, 1852 and died in Denison on Jan. 8, 1922. Fr. Michael Bradley, born Oct. 20, 1873 in Ireland, was named pastor and remained until 1929, when Fr. Edmund F. Casey was assigned.

Fr. Casey was born on Jan. 7, 1887, in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and ordained on June 22, 1912, at Falls River, Massachusetts. Fr. Casey was named Monsignor shortly before his retirement in 1964. He died on July 26th, 1979, at Fort Dodge and is interred at the St. Rose Cemetery.

Fr. Jerome B. Koenig was pastor from June 2, 1963, to Aug. 11, 1971. He was born in Halbur, Iowa, on March 16, 1921 and ordained Dec. 16, 1945, at the Cathedral in Sioux City by Bishop Heelan. Fr. Koenig died Sept. 15. 1991 at Milford, Iowa.

Fr. Lloyd W. White was born at Westside, Iowa, on Apr. 27, 1924 and ordained May 31, 1958 at the Cathedral in Sioux City by Bishop Muller. He served St. Rose Parish as pastor from Aug. 11. 1971 to Aug. 1 1985, during which time the Parish Center was built in 1980.

Fr. Gerald A. Hartz was pastor from Aug. 1, 1985 to June 11, 1987. He was born in Dallas, South Dakota, on Sept. 18, 1933 and ordained May, 16, 1959, at the Cathedral in Sioux City by Bishop Mueller. St. Rose was his first pastoral assignment. He spent all his priestly years before that time in education as superintendent of schools at Ft. Dodge and principal in other parishes.

Fr. Hartz combined the parochial First Communicants with the CCD First Communicants into one liturgy. He involved parishioners at every level of ministry. He evangelized many who had become less than fully participant in the Church to reclaim and renew their faith. He was ecumenical and began Lenten Association in Denison. He was very loved in the community and an overflow crowd attended the Mass and farewell on his departure. He guided the parish through the process of Renew and was reassigned in the midst of it.

Fr. Michael T. Larkin was pastor from June 11, 1987, until July 9, 1991. He was born in Sioux City on Jan. 24, 1941 and ordained June 1, 1968 at the Cathedral in Sioux City by Bishop Mueller. Fr. Larkin was another great doer, seeing that the outside of the church was painted, that some of the school windows were replaced and that the school was re-roofed.

Fr. Larkin started "Bat Control" with the school board to try to catch some of the bats that had been hiding and making their home in the school. Some of the members of the school board would come to the evenings with butterfly nets to catch God's little creatures.

Fr. Larkin visited the nursing homes and the hospital regularly and enjoyed his many invitations from his parish family for dinner outings or any other occasion that might come up. During Fr. Larkin's tenure, the steps were redone on the east side of the old church. Fr. Larkin tried to begin a Eucharistic Adoration every Friday, but due to a lack of participation it did not happen.

Fr. Andrew W. Hoffmann was pastor from July 9, 1991; St. Rose being his first pastorate. He was born in Carroll, IA on Dec. 23, 1947, and ordained June 1, 1974, at Holy Spirit in Carroll by Bishop Greteman. Like Fr. Hartz before him, he had spent his priestly years in education as high school principal in several parishes, then as Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Sioux City. He began the first RCIA class and included lay persons in its teaching. He opened the doors of the rectory and welcomed its use for CCD classes and other gatherings.

With the reality of priest shortage, the Diocese determined the closing of several parishes and the clustering of many others. A cluster committee of parishioners from Denison, Dow City, Charter Oak and Ute met regularly with the three pastors to determine how sharing might take place. Our cluster was named Emmanuel Garden, denoting agriculture and our prayer that God be with us.

During the 90's many Hispanic immigrants settled in Crawford County. Fr. Eriberto da Costa traveled from Storm Lake to Denison periodically to assist in this ministry.

Fr. Edward G. Murray has been pastor of St. Rose since July 13, 1999. He was born in Storm Lake, Iowa, and ordained May 24, 1969, at the Cathedral in Sioux City by Bishop Mueller. He has devoted energy to expanding Latino ministry by learning to speak Spanish to the degree that he could pray the liturgy of the Mass in Spanish.

In 2002 Fr. Jose Herrera, who spoke no English, took up residence with Fr. Murray at the rectory, and then in a house purchased by the Diocese, to minister to the growing Latino population until the spring of 2003. Fr. Herrera then accepted another position outside of the Diocese and again Fr. Costa traveled form Storm Lake to Denison twice per month to assist Fr. Murray.

Before Fr. Murray studied to be a priest, he was interested in architecture. Fr. Murray is also the first priest-pilot at St. Rose.

St. Rose of Lima School

The first frame school-convent was built in 1889. It was staffed by German-speaking Brown Franciscan nuns from Dubuque, who went among the Irish parishioners asking for anything the people could give them to begin their school and convent. Some of the students from the outlying area would board at the school during the week. In 1906 the Brown Franciscans were replaced by the Sisters of St. Francis from Clinton. The frame school-convent was torn down and in 1952-1953 a new brick convent was built on the site.

The Sisters of St. Francis withdrew the teaching nuns in 1977 and the school was staffed for the first time with all lay teachers. Since the convent was no longer needed, the old rectory was sold and the convent became the rectory.

In 1913 the new larger brick school building, still in use, was completed.


Source: St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church 2005 parish directory

Photo courtesy of Phyllis Heller