Baileyville Catholics celebrate centenary of parish
by Audra Sudbeck
BAILEYVILLE — When Catholics here decided in the early 1900s to establish a parish, Bishop Thomas L. Lillis gave them some advice: Be sneaky.
“His Lordship advised that a centrally located block in the village be acquired, if possible, secretly, and ‘to drop down into Baileyville like a bee into a strange beehive,’” according to a parish history written in 1928.
Not everyone was thrilled with the prospect of a Catholic church in Baileyville. One owner of a targeted lot said “they preferred the coming of a bunch of rattlesnakes to that of a Catholic priest.”
Thanks to the use of proxy buyers, the parish was able to acquire the land, although the original owners had a fit when they found out what happened and would only deed the land to the proxy. The land was finally purchased on March 10, 1910, however, and the first Mass was celebrated in what was known as Marion Hall on March 10, 1912.
Fortunately, no subterfuge was required for parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish of Baileyville to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the parish on March 11.
The anniversary festivities began with a 10:30 a.m. Mass celebrated by Father Joe Nassal, CPPS. The concelebrants were Abbot Barnabas Senecal, OSB; Father Ed Oen, CPPS, pastor of Sacred Heart since 2007; and former pastor Father Ron Cornish.
Parish members and guests gathered in the church hall after Mass for a dinner, complete with anniversary cake. There, they talked about the church and honored parishioners. Parish memorabilia photos of the parish’s history were on display, as was a timeline that showed all of the priests who shepherded Sacred Heart over the years.
At the reception, Father Ed spoke of Sacred Heart’s reputation for hospitality, generosity and thoughtfulness toward the pastor and one another.
Baileyville has come a long way from its pioneer days, when it had the nickname “Haytown,” for the great piles of hay that were harvested and stored there. The parish, which began with 50 founding families, now has 203.
The town was named for Monroe Bailey and his son, Willis Joshua Bailey, who later became the 16th governor of Kansas. The Baileys founded the town on the edge of their farm in 1880. By the early 1900s, about 50 German Catholic families had settled in the area.
On Dec. 1, 1909, a meeting was held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Broxterman for all who were interested in the organization of a Catholic parish in Baileyville. Out of that group, a committee of three men — Henry Rethman, Albert Eigenmann and John Houlton — were elected to represent the organizers to the bishop. They drew up a map illustrating the location of Baileyville and interested family homes in the area. A petition was obtained and presented before Dec. 8 to Bishop Thomas Lillis, then the ordinary of the Leavenworth Diocese.
The assignment of a priest to the new parish was delayed by the transfer of Bishop Lillis from the Diocese of Leavenworth to that of Kansas City, Mo. On Dec. 6, 1911, Henry Rethman and Bernard Dalinghaus met with Leavenworth’s new bishop, Bishop John Ward, who promised them a priest by the beginning of the new year.
Sacred Heart’s first pastor, Father Joseph Hohe, arrived on Feb. 5, 1912, to organize the new parish. Future parishioners lined the walk from the depot to Marion Hall, where a reception and meeting were held. On March 6 of that year, Father Hohe came to live in Baileyville.
Father Hohe celebrated the first Sunday Mass in Marion Hall on March 10, 1912, and it was used regularly that summer for Masses.
It wasn’t long before construction of the new church/school was underway, and Bishop Ward dedicated the building on Oct. 22, 1912.
In September 1924, under the leadership of Father A.J. Blaufuss, the parish began excavation for the basement of the new church. It was blessed by Bishop Ward on Nov. 22, 1925. The church was covered with a temporary roof because the parish intended to finish the entire structure within five years. The Great Depression postponed construction of the upper portion of the church, and the basement church continued to serve the parish for another 25 years.
Father Arthur Trompeter was assigned to Sacred Heart Parish in 1949. During his pastorate, the new Sacred Heart Church was erected on the original site of the “basement church.” The cornerstone of the current Sacred Heart Church was blessed in 1952 by Archbishop Edward J. Hunkeler of the new Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. Archbishop Hunkeler dedicated the new Sacred Heart Church and celebrated the first Mass on Jan. 27, 1954.
The final cost of the new church, including pews and stained-glass windows, came to approximately $300,000. And the interior of the church is designed so as to draw the eye immediately to the main altar.
The parishioners of Sacred Heart are, by and large, the descendents of those German immigrants who were “as a class of virile Catholicity who possessed the spirit of enterprise and sacrifice,” wrote the anonymous chronicler in 1928. As the parish celebrated its accomplishment a century ago, Father Ed offered a hope for the future.
“I pray that our parish will continue to be recognized for its deep faith, hospitality and generosity for the next 100 years,” he said.