History

(Credit to Adam Davis for the information.) 

Mary Immaculate Church in Kirksville began as a mission of St. Mary's Church of Adair, which was in turn the offspring of St. Joseph's church of Edina. 

Catholic services were first said in Kirksville at the home of Dr. E.S. Quinn. The remodeled house still stands at 916 E. McPherson. Dr. Quinn (d. Feb. 24, 1920) left a lifelong record of public service, most prominently as president of the Adair County Medical Society (though he was defeated twice [1898 and 1916] in his Democratic bid for the county coroner's office).

Fr. John O'Shea was among the many missionaries serving the area from the late 1850s onward, when the incoming Irish railroad workers required pastoral care and more regular access to the sacraments.  Father O'Shea would ride horseback to Kirksville to say Mass in the home of Dr. Edward S. Quinn. This was an era of circuit riding priests. These missionaries rode through the settlements, staying in Catholic homes, carrying a portable altar with them. They heard confession, baptized, solemnized marriages, sang Mass, and rode onward. Fr. O'Shea was said to be an avid horseman, hunter and a keeper of hounds:

Fr. O'Shea lies in the cemetery of St. Mary's Church, Killmallock, Ireland. The parish records there read as follows:  Fr John O'Shea, P.P. St Mary's Church Adair, St Louis USA, Died October 6 1939, Aged 84

Services were held for some time in the Masonic Hall, as announced by Fr. O'Shea for May 11, 1890.  The old Masonic Hall, also serving numerous civic purposes before the present courthouse was built; was located directly across the street from the Sojourner's Club (home of the Adair County Historical Society). The site (212 1/2 N. Elson) is now occupied by the A.T. Still Building.  

The angel of our founding was not a parishioner, as Fr. O'Shea noted in a moving tribute:
"The church in Kirksville owes its existence to Mr. John L. Porter . No Catholic was ever kinder to a priest than he was to me, though he did not belong to the Catholic Church, nor had he any personal interest. He gave me the use of the court house [that is, the old Masonic Hall] to say Mass in once a month; he went with me to solicit subscriptions and gave generously himself. And it was he who turned the first sod of earth at the foundation of the church building that we first had at Kirksville, as well as superintended the construction. Let the Catholics of Kirksville look upon Mr. Porter with the deepest gratitude and respect for him and his, always."

With Mr. Porter's help, two lots were purchased in August 1892 at 1307 East Missouri.  The Church at that time was called "Holy Cross;" Thomas Earhart contracted to build the church for $3400.  Inspection of the site suggests it was made of the soft locally made brick used in a good deal of construction at that period, and had a slate roof.  

Holy Cross was dedicated on Sunday, July 2, 1893.  Special trains were run into Kirksville from Moberly, Trenton and Edina, bringing perhaps 1500 visitors. The sermon was preached by Father Moeller, coming from St. Louis for the occasion. 

 In the 1890s, people came from all over the country for treatment by Dr. Still at his famous osteopathic hospital. Many left votive offerings in gratitude for healing at the church, which was said to be richly decorated. Among its treasures was a statue of the Sacred Heart, a costly crucifix and an altar. Unfortunately, these three things and very little else was left after the building was destroyed in the great cyclone of April 27, 1899, which destroyed four hundred buildings, killed thirty-one citizens and injured ninety four with wind, flying debris and the following uncontrolled fires.

Six years would pass before another building could be constructed. Archbishop Glennon laid the cornerstone for the building at the corner of Davis and Washington (the address was 600 Washington) April 14, 1905, while on his way to celebrate the completion of the new church at Adair. The finished building was dedicated June 15.

It was during this period that St. Rose of Lima was established at Novinger.

Father Albert B. Gass D.D., S.T.D. pastored the church at Kirksville from December 1903 to 1910. He had been born at St. Louis on August 26, 1875, to parents born in Germany.  At this time, the parish was under the Archdiocese of St. Louis, but would be transferred to the Diocese of St. Joseph in 1912.

Gass was followed as pastor by Fr. Alexander F. Mercer (1910-18) his farewell reception is reported in the Kirksville paper of May 5, 1919. Mercer was born May 3, 1874 in Pittsfield, MA and studied theology in Rome, where he was ordained on May 27, 1899 for the St. Louis diocese. He died June 20, 1951 in Rockville Center, NY, and is buried in the St. Joseph parish cemetery in Pittsfield, MA.

Fr. J.J. Cafferky (1918-23) built the rectory at 606 East Washington for $16,000, although presumably there had been a previous house at the same spot and used for the same purpose, as Mercer is listed as living there. He had previously served in Forest City (1918) but little is known about him.

For a period in 1923, we had a part-time pastor, the Rev. John A. MacTighe of St. Mary's in Adair, who was relieved of his duties following "a brawl which got publicity," as the editor of the Kirksville paper put it on July 27, 1923. 

The Fr. James S. Ryan, builder of the second church at Adair (see above), pastored us from 1923 to 1926. .

He was followed by Fr. Francis A. Loftus, coming to us from the church at Cameron. Father Loftus took up duties in January 1926. Father Loftus was inducted into the Rotary, and was an active member, indicating a move away from the separatism that marked relations between Catholics and Protestants too often in the early years of the last century. The 1930 census records him as 41 years old, born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Ireland. 
 
In 1930, on the twelfth anniversary of his ordination, he received notice of his re-assignment to Philadelphia.He was for a time assistant and pastor at St. Munchin, Cameron.

Fr. Cornelius "Connie" A. Curry (b. June 10, 1896, New Britain CT, ordained June 6, 1925, d. New Britain, February 28, 1941) came to us in 1930 from Canton, having served previously at the cathedral in St. Joseph and at St. John in Moberly, remaining until his re-assignment to St. Joseph, Trenton in 1935.

Our next pastor was Fr. Patrick J. Barrett, who was born May 25, 1903 in County Kerry, and came to us from Perry, MO in May, 1935, having served as administrator (in the absence of a pastor) for the church at Adair in 1931. He had been ordained in June 6, 1926 at the Kendrick Seminary in St. Louis. At the time of Barrett's pastorate, the parish had sixty five families and four hundred twenty members. There were at that time about 900 Catholics in Adair County.  Fr. Barrett was a good steward, and as of January 8, 1939, he declared the parish debt-free. Under Barrett's administration, the parish celebrated simultaneously its fiftieth anniversary and the retirement of its mortgage. He was proud of the growth of the church: as of January 1939, he boasted 73 baptisms (44 of them converts), 38 marriages and 9 funerals.

It was also in Father Barrett's day that the church was damaged by fire (1945). The church was sold along with the rectory, and work begun on a site a hundred yards to the east, at 716 Washington. The antique cabinet in the vestry at the present church is probably from the 1905 building.  The bell in the steeple, with a founder's mark of 1886 inside the cowl, having survived the cyclone of forty-six years earlier, was salvaged again from the fire, and now hangs above the sacristy in the present church.

The new brick church on Washington Street was designed by Ludwig Abt of Moberly, a regionally well-regarded architect also responsible for the 4th Street Theater in Moberly (now home to the Moberly Historical Society). 
 
Barrett, incardinated into the Diocese of Wichita in 1948, was succeeded by Reverend John F. Kenny. 
 
"Widely known and highly respected among those of all faiths in the area," Fr. John F. Kenny came from Carigallen, in County Leitrim, Ireland, and was ordained on June 5, 1930. He came to Kirksville in December, 1948,  and was also pastor of St. Rose in Novinger, and dean of the Macon Deanery (comprising 10 parishes in Northeast Missouri).

During Fr. Kenny's tenure, on July 2, 1956, the parish was transferred to the newly created Diocese of Jefferson City; for this reason, the cornerstone of the present church was laid by Bishop LeBlond of St. Joseph, while the dedication of the school was presided over by Bishop Marling of Jefferson City.

There is some confusion over who gets the credit for the new church. It seems likely that Fr. Kenny finished what Fr. Barrett began. The price tag for all of this new construction was $89,000. 

Fr. Frederick J. Yehle became pastor when Fr. Kenny was assigned, August 25, 1958, to be pastor and school superintendent at St. Peter's, Marshall.  Certainly Fr. Kenny was responsible for founding the Mary Immaculate School .

Just five years after the completion of the new church, on January 14, 1951, Knights of Columbus Council #3375 was founded. Charter knights were W.K. Bowden, F.J. Goeke, E.R. Hawkins, J.S. Higgins, H.H. Holtmeyer, J.F. Kelly, Rev. J.F. Kenny, F.L. King, J.C. Kriegshauser, R.J. Kromer, A. Lanza, A.F. Lawson, H.E. Lindhorst, Jr., F. Schiavone, Jr., J.F. Schwartz, C.O. Stites, W.J. Slciker, J.D. Snider, K.D. Summer, N.J. Berberet, K.F. Buhr, C.A. Crnic, E.E. Crnic, R.W. Dodds, E.J. Goeke, T.P. Higgins, R.H. Itsell, C.W. Kelly, F.W. Kelly, H.D. Krekemeyer, D. Lyle, A.V. Mihalevich, R.F. Mihelavich, A.F. Snell, E.M. Vance, E.J. Yurkon.

editor's note: from Fr. Yehle's period forward, my information is sketchy; notes follow -- we will need the help of parishioners in filling these things out, correcting errors, documenting sources and collecting images. The notes below are gleanings from city directories at the Adair County Public Library:

1964: Rev. Fred J. Yehle, pastor. Rev. Leon Allred associate pastor. Sister Mary Rose Mother Superior and principal.

1966: Rev. Jerome Bestgen, pastor, earlier served at Wien (St. Mary of the Angels, 1958-63); Rev. Leon Allred associate pastor; Sister Mary Rose, Mother Superior and principal

1968: Rev. John Buchanan pastor-
(like his predecessor, Fr. Buchanan served at St. Mary of the Angels, Wien, 1963-64) Rev. Luke
Reichert, associate pastor. Sister Frances Marie, Mother Superior, principal. 1973.

1977: Rev. Michael Flanagan, pastor; Rev. John J. Whitley associate pastor; Betty Doherty principal.

1978: Rev. Michael Flanagan, pastor, Rev. Jim Schafer associate pastor; Anne Gramling principal. The convent is listed at 704 E. Washington (i.e., the current kindergarten building).

Rev. John Prenger, associate pastor and director of the Newman Center. 
Ann Gramling principal. Convent still listed at 704 E. Washington

1981: Rev. Michael Flanagan, pastor. Fr. Flanagan, elevated to Monsignor, moved to Our Lady of Lourdes monastery in Columbia, MO. The convent is listed as 902 East Washington (i.e., the current rectory). 
 
1982: Rev. Tom Dolan, pastor. Sr. Doreen Whitney, principal.
The associate pastor during this period was Fr. LesNiemeyer. 
The 1982 parish directory estimates the number of parish families at 400.

Sister Mary Ann Seeker principal. 
In May 2000, Sr. Mary Ann Seeker celebrated her golden jubilee. Click here for the story.

In 1985, Pat Lehr became our Director of Religious Education (among many other worthy services); 

1988: Rev. John Prenger, pastor. The convent is listed at 902. Presumably what is now the Parish Center served as rectory.


Rev. Bill Kottenstette, 
    Rev. Kevin Clohessy associate pastors 
  
Janie Theobald , principal.

In 1995, the parish ordained four permanent deacons:

Rev. Dr. Tom Capuano 
 
Rev. Mark Chaplin 

Rev. Tim McEvoy 
 
Rev. Dr. David Ream, S.F.O 


 
1997: Rev. David Maher, pastor, listed as living in annex, 702 E. Washington (but I don't think he ever lived there). Fr. Dave would leave to become pastor at St. Francis Xavier parish, Taos. Establishment date for the parish given as 1888. Rev. Bill
Kottenstette associate pastor. 
 
2000: Fr. Patrick Shortt comes to us from St. Pius X, Moberly, and we also engaged our first Director of Youth Ministries, Chris Korte: 

In the summer of 2008, Fr. Chris Cordes returned to Kirksville, where he had spent his college years, serving now as our pastor.

Mary Immaculate Parish
716 E. Washington
Kirksville, MO 63501
660-665-2466 


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