Sacred Heart Parish History

Sacred Heart Parish, Eagle Grove

 Eagle Grove was the end of the Chicago Northwestern line, when the town was incorporated on October 16, 1881. Catholic settlers were visited that year by Father Eugene O’Keefe, the first resident pastor of Webster City, and he probably celebrated the first Mass for the Catholic pioneers.

Father James T. Brennan followed Father O’Keefe in the Webster City parish in August 1881 and also served the Eagle Grove Catholics.

Priest and people established the parish in 1882 and built the first church at the present corner of N.E. 2nd Street and North Jackson Avenue. These men assisted Father Brennan in the building: John Bowes, Patrick Brennan, Robert Doyle, James Halligan, George Howell, Joseph Kist, Jacob Knorr, Philip Maier, Frank Mulligan, James Mulligan, and Martin Schaffer.

The parish continued as a mission of the Webster City parish until the appointment of Father John J. Garland as resident pastor in January 1890.

In 1891 the parish built a larger church on the comer of S.E. 1st Street and Jackson Avenue, which is part of the city block given to the parish by Jeremiah Fitzmaurice, who was not a Catholic. The old church was removed to this block and remodeled to serve as a rectory.

In June 1894 a tornado destroyed the church, and the parish immediately prepared to build a brick structure. At that time a rectory was also built west of the church. Bishop J. B. Cotter of Winona laid the cornerstone inscribed “Church of the Sacred Heart.” Two of the newspapers enclosed in the cornerstone were the Iowa Catholic Messenger and the Northwestern Catholic.

Catholic families of German ancestry had been settling on farms southeast of Eagle Grove. At first they attended either Webster City or Eagle Grove, but by 1894 they desired their own parish church. Father Garland assisted them, giving altars, pews, and windows from the damaged church. He named the church for Saint Joseph.

Saint Joseph's became a mission of the Eagle Grove parish and then of Saint John’s in Clarion. Later it became known as the Woolstock church because of the nearby town. The building was removed in the 1960s, but the cemetery remains in use.

Eagle Grove Catholics buried their dead in Rose Hill Cemetery until 1898, when they provided their own cemetery, at first named Gethsemane and later Calvary Cemetery.

The parish built its first school in 1901 under Father Garland’s direction and welcomed the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters to staff it. Additions were made to the building in 1912. The high school was accredited in 1916, but was discontinued in 1932 for lack of funds during the great depression.

Father Thomas F. O’Brien served as pastor from 1905, followed by Father Timothy Nolan in 1912. During Father Nolan’s last years until his death on November 28, 1931, he was assisted by the following priests: Fathers Albert H. Nees, Victor J. Hintgen, Thomas, B. O'Toole, Vern F. Cross, Joseph W. Bohr, and Laurence W. Klassen.

Father Patrick J. Molloy came in 1932 and succeeded in keeping the parish solvent during those difficult times. The parish was host for the deanery celebration of the archdiocesan centennial in 1937.

Father John L. Byrne served from 1938 and Father James E. Slowey from 1947 until 1952.

The next pastor, Father Maurice A. Mullan, led the parish in 1958 in completing a stone church that seats 450. At that time there were over 650 members.

Father Francis J. Phelan became the eighth resident pastor in February 1961. He began a weekly bulletin to inform the parishioners of activities in parish and school. Greater participation in the Mass resulted from the efforts of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Men. Plans were begun for a new school.

Father John J. Brickley came in 1966 and carried out plans for a new school begun during Father Phelan’s pastorate. It was completed in 1968. He continued the work of renewal encouraged by the Second Vatican Council.

Father Francis J. McEnany came to Eagle Grove in 1969 when he and Father Brickley exchanged parishes. The 7th and 8th grades were discontinued in 1969, and the following spring the parochial school closed because of the shortage of religious Sisters.

In the fall of 1970 Father Edward Lechtenberg came to Eagle Grove to guide the parish and parish council in healing the wounds of the school closing.

Father Norman White came in July 1974 and led the parish in greater interest in spiritual growth and social justice. The parish went on pilgrimage to Des Moines for Pope John Paul’s visit, and the following year the grotto at West Bend. Father John Hemann became pastor in July 1980 and led the parish in preparing for its centennial in 1982. At that celebration, the parish presented its pastoral plan to Archbishop James J. Byrne.

Father Paul Peters and Father John Herzog served short terms as pastors, followed by Father Wayne Droessler in July 1987. He serves a parish of 940 souls with the help of a pastoral minister, Louise Russell. Jackie Zigrang directs religious education for about 140 young people, in addition to a special religious education class and adult education.

The parish has adopted sacrificial giving and is in the RENEW program as well as the R.C.I.A. (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults).

Six women of the parish entered the convent, and twelve men were ordained priests.

In the history of the parish, one man was ordained to the Permanent Deaconate. Deacon Gerald Temeyer was ordained in 2009. In August of 1997, Sr. Carol Besch, OSF was hired by the Catholic Charities Office of the Archdiocese of Dubuque to minister to the Hispanics in the Webster City Deanery.

In July 1999, Father David Beckman became pastor. On October 26, 2000, Archbishop Jerome Hanus, OSB officially approved the formation of the cluster.

In 2003, the cluster twinned with a sister parish in Anse Rouge, Haiti. Father Christopher Podhajsky became the second Pastor of the cluster in July 2005. Construction of a new entryway was completed in the fall of 2008. Father Paul E. Lippstock was interim pastor for three months in 2008.

In July 2008, Father Nils de Jesús Hernández arrived and became pastor for the Holy Family Cluster consolidating several programs and committees as well as the offices under one Cluster.

In 2014, Father Jerry W. Blake was appointed pastor of the Holy Family Cluster and is currently serving the administration and needs of the Cluster assisted by Deacons Michael Whitters and Pedro García as well as cluster staff and volunteers.