Early black/white postcard photo of St. Joseph's Catholic Church, LeMars, IA
LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel, Oct. 3, 1902
ST. JOSEPH'S CATHOLIC CHURCH--Park and Sixth streets, Rev. Feuerstein, pastor. Service and mass 7:30 a.m. High mass 10:00 a.m. Vespers 3:00 p.m. Mass every morning at 7:30.
ST. JOSEPH PARISH
St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, LeMars, is one of the oldest Catholic parishes in Northwest Iowa. This church from its early beginning quickly flourished and became a vital part of the LeMars community. In 1975, St. Joseph’s Church celebrated its centennial year as a parish.
Early Catholic settlers of the LeMars area were Peter Gehlen, C.D. Hoffrmann, Thomas Gallagher, John Hentges, Nick Hentges, Charles Burns, John Herron, B.F. Monahan and John Toby.
The first Mass was offered in LeMars on April 24, 1870. After the Mass a collection was taken and plans made for the erection of the church. Land was purchased and the first frame church was built. In 1875, St. Joseph’s church was canonically recognized as a parish. Its first pastor was Fr. Herman Meis. In 1876 a new steeple and 2-story addition was added to the church. In 1884 the cornerstone of the present church was laid and the next year the super-structure was built. In 1889, a new rectory was built and the school quarters were remodeled. In 1904, a new rectory was built and replaced in 1970 by the present and third rectory. In 1907, the church steeple was completed and clocks installed. Various repairs and renovations have been made through the years. The last was a complete redecorating and renovation for the Centennial Observance in 1975.
Prominent from the beginning of the parish was a parochial school which was staffed by the Sisters of Christian Charity. In 1952, a Central Catholic School was organized and Gehlen High School constructed. In 1961, an expansion program was initiated with new convents, an addition to the High School and a new primary building constructed.
St. Joseph’s Parish has been served by six pastors during its life of over 100 years: Fr. Herman Meis 1875-1901; Msgr. F.X. Fuerstein 1901-1916; Msgr. Wm. Pape 1917-1933; Msgr. Joseph Fisch 1933-1966; Msgr. Dean Walker 1966-1975; Fr. Francis Staber, present pastor, appointed June 1975. Numerous assistant pastors have served at St. Joseph’s.
St. Joseph’s Parish has yielded 16 native sons who became priests and 2 native sons who became Brothers. Eighty young women have entered the religious life from St. Joseph’s parish since its beginning.
From a young parish and a congregation comparatively small, the parish has grown to about 500 families with approximately 2,000 souls. Since 1976, there have been 5,217 baptisms, 3,142 burials, 1,359 marriages.
Many families can trace their ancestors to the first families of St. Joseph’s and a number of the present parishioners have spent their lives as members of St. Joseph’s Church.
~Source: Pictorial Atlas, Plymouth County, Iowa, Bi-Centennial 1776-1976