by Joe Bollig
LOUISBURG — They used to call this place “Little St. Louis.”
But there was no way anyone in 1870 could have mistaken the hamlet of 400 souls for the “other” St. Louis on the banks of the Mississippi.
Nevertheless, the railroad insisted. The village became “Louisburg.”
It was lose a saint, gain some transportation infrastructure.
On June 18, the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, a son of that “other” St. Louis came to Immaculate Conception Parish in Louisburg to lead the 125th anniversary celebration of its founding in 1886.
“Anniversaries are wonderful opportunities to recall beautiful memories of how God blessed us,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann in his homily. “We remember today particularly the founder of this parish. In 1886, it was the beautiful faith and unselfish sacrifice of those first families who planted the Catholic faith so deeply in what has become Immaculate Conception Parish in Louisburg.”
Those deep pioneer roots are still alive.
Bradley Hennigh, a member of the Knights of Columbus honor guard at the anniversary Mass, lives in Osawatomie, but belongs to Immaculate Conception.
“My family goes back to its founding,” said Hennigh. “My great-grandmother Margaret McGuirk Hennigh’s parents were among the founding families of the parish. And to me, it’s a beautiful thing to be a part of this [celebration]. My grandparents were here for the centennial, and I feel as if they were here at this occasion. They’re both gone now.”
The departed were remembered symbolically at the Mass — a silver chalice used by a former pastor, the late Father Charles Andalikiewicz, who died in April 2009; a stained-glass window from the original church, donated by Larry and Diana Day of Wea; and the original bell in the belfry.
Those absent were remembered, too. The pastor Msgr. Robert Bergman read a letter from Father George A. Seuferling, who was celebrating Mass that evening in Osage City.
“My prayer and wish is that God continues to bless you to make his kingdom grow through your cooperation with God’s graces,” read Msgr. Bergman. “I have such wonderful memories of Immaculate Conception: when I served Mass for Father Phelan, my first solemn Mass, and many weddings and funerals there since. I ask for your prayers that I will continue to grow in the Lord.”
In addition to being the main celebrant, Archbishop Naumann was the homilist; Msgr. Bergman concelebrated.
Louisburg is no longer just a little hamlet a skip from the Missouri border, said Msgr. Bergman. Highway 69 has turned Louisburg into somewhat of a bedroom community of bustling Johnson County to the north, where many Louisburg residents find employment. The parish of about 250 families is a neat blend of new people and folks whose roots run deep in the community.
“It’s a city, but people here want a small town where you know your neighbors and care about your neighbors,” he said.
Msgr. Bergman has tapped into the vitality of the parish, increasing liturgical participation and helping to establish a youth group.
That youth group recently sent contingents to a Steubenville Conference in Springfield, Mo., and to help in tornado relief efforts in Joplin, Mo.
“They’re also collecting rosaries, holy pictures and crucifixes for those who have lost them in Joplin,” said Msgr. Bergman.
Following the Mass, Archbishop Naumann joined the pastor and Immaculate Conception parishioners for a potluck dinner at the American Legion Hall, a couple of blocks away from the parish.