by Joe Bollig
SABETHA — The novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously said, “There are no second acts in American lives.” Obviously, he never made it to Sabetha.
On Oct. 13, the Catholics of Sacred Heart Parish celebrated the parish’s 90th anniversary — proving the great novelist wrong.
Catholic settlers here had long wanted a parish and, by 1879, finally got permission to do so from Bishop Louis Marie Fink, OSB. In May 1882, they built St. Timothy Church.
The little Catholic community, however, did not grow and was unable to support a priest. The little wood frame church was closed and then sold on March 5, 1896.
After that, to worship, Catholics either traveled to the nearest church at Fidelity, or to a little chapel at St. Anthony’s Murdock Memorial Hospital.
And then came the second act. In 1920, Sabetha Catholics decided to found another parish and so built a modest church in 1923, which they dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Today, members of Sacred Heart Parish worship in a new church, which was completed in 1993.
Last summer, then-pastor Father Greg Hammes launched a renovation program to prepare the church for the upcoming anniversary. When he was reassigned to other duties, Father Barry Clayton was appointed pastor and oversaw the project to its completion.
The work involved new carpet and tile, a cross and a Sacred Heart design in the tile, interior paint, a new altar with wood base and native limestone top, and work done to the area behind the altar.
“The renovations were not too expensive,” said Father Clayton. “The great things is that, because our parishioners are so generous on a regular basis, we had funds we could use to pay for the renovations.
I actually didn’t have to ask parishioners for additional funds, because it was already paid for with savings due to their generosity.”
Since Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann was coming to the parish, Father Clayton and parishioners decided to combine three events: the dedication of the new altar, the celebration of the parish’s 90th anniversary, and the installation of Father Clayton as pastor — his first.
“It was really an honor,” said Father Clayton. “I look forward to serving here as pastor. Pastor is a Latin word that means ‘shepherd.’ I hope, with God’s grace and help, to shepherd my parishioners closer to heaven.”