Saint Luke’s Parish is a community of God’s people called Church - empowered and growing in the Spirit of God. We are sent forth by that Spirit to love, serve and bring others to Christ. As a family of common faith we are to embrace our brothers and sisters, regardless of race, age, or social status and welcome each for their God-given gifts and talents and encourage the use of those gifts.
Named for the Ogalala Band of Dakota Sioux that once roamed the western prairies, Ogallala became known as the end of the trail. Cattlemen from Texas drove their herds over the open range on the Chisholm Trail, across the South Platte River, to the Union Pacific railroad at Ogallala. Corralling their herds on Bosler Hill just west of the town, the drovers would go into town to wash down the trail dust at the local saloons and gambling halls.
The Oregon Trail also crossed the South Platte River at Ogallala, at the foot of Bosler Hill. This is the route that Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet S.J., a Jesuit priest from Florissant, Missouri, traveled when he stopped at the south river crossing to instruct and baptize 263 Ogalala Indians in 1859. In an era of gambling, free flowing liquor and bar room brawls, Father DeSmet began to turn the hearts and minds of men to God. It is presumed that since Father DeSmet stayed at Ogallala long enough to instruct and baptize the Indians that he also offered Masses. Father DeSmet was the first to offer Mass in the Diocese of Grand Island.
Mass was offered at the west end of town in the early days of Ogallala and priests stayed overnight at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Girmann. The first church was built as a mission attended to from Sidney in 1887.
The rectory was built in 1913 when Ogallala received the status of parish and its own resident priest, Father Edward Hynes. Between 1922 and 1924 the parish had grown to the point that an addition was needed so the church was extended to the north, east and south. Later, during the pastorate of Father James McMahon, the basement of the church was extended to the west. In 1949 the final addition was made to the old church when Father F.J. Keller added a new front and extended the balcony. This church served the Ogallala Catholic Community for the next eleven years.
Saint Luke’s school was dedicated in 1953, staffed by Dominican Sisters from St. Catherine, Kentucky until 1970; the school provided eight grades of spiritual and academic education for the students of the Ogallala parish and community. The Ursuline Sisters of Louisville, Kentucky came in 1972, and the school changed to K though 5 in the early 1980’s. Sister Mary Foley served the school and parish for 23 years. Sister Shirley Ann Simmons served as school principle for 25 years and continues to serve the school and parish as Pastoral Minister. Sister Loretta Krajewski, an alumnus of St. Luke’s School, has served as principle from 2005 to present day. A School Endowment Trust was begun in 1985 to assist the school in its operational costs.
Early in 1960, construction of a new $250,000.00 parish church began under the direction of Monsignor Peter Kenny. On November 29, 1960, Bishop John L. Paschang dedicated and blessed the beautiful new parish church. A new rectory was then completed and the old rectory was sold and moved to its current location on East O Street in Ogallala. A major renovation of the church was completed in 1993.
The first baptism on record in the parish was that of John Beal, a convert, baptized on November 19, 1913. His is also the first wedding on record. He contracted marriage with Elizabeth Elda Waters on November 20, 1913. Both ceremonies were performed by Father Edward Hynes. Father Hynes also presided over the first funeral on record; that of Frank J. Sobetskai, held on July 9, 1914, with burial in Paxton.
Some of the pioneer members of St. Luke’s Parish were: Mr. and Mrs. Peter Girmann, Mr. and Mrs. George McGinley, Mr. and Mrs. Micheal O’Brien, and Mr. and Mrs. Louis Martin.
Priests who have served as pastors of Saint Luke’s parish include Rev. Edward Hynes; Rev. Timothy P. Maloney; Rev. John Gleeson; Rev. Patrick Sloan; Rev. Cornelius McLaughlin; Rev. McGuinness; Rev. James McMahon; Rev. M.L. Daly; Rev. H.L. Hermann; Rev. Francis Keller; Msgr. Peter Kenny, 1950-1966; Msgr. Thomas Siudowski and Rev. Walter Phelan, 1966-1970. Rev. James Whalen, 1970-1990; Rev. Thomas Mullowney, 1990-1993; Rev. Jack Schlaf, 1993-2005. Rev. Stephen Deaver, Rev. Tom Ryan and Rev. Michael Murphy served as assistant pastors under Msgr. Peter Kenny. Rev. Bryan Ernest now presides over both Saint Luke’s parish of Ogallala and Saint Patrick’s parish of Paxton.
St. Luke’s parish has been blessed with several vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life. Priests and sisters from Ogallala include Rev. Arthur Faesser, Rev. Thomas Reimers, Rev. Todd Philipsen, Rev. Matt Koperski, Sister Anne Matthias Beckius, Sister Loretta Krajewski, and Sister Pat Eichner.
In 1884 the village of Paxton was known as Alkali and 64 people made up the entire population of Keith County. In 1887, the first wooden bridge was built across the South Platte River south of the town now known as Paxton. Whenever possible a Mass was offered in homes; the first Mass on record was offered by Rev. J.J. Barrett on February 27, 1887.
In 1888, Paxton was a mission of the Sidney parish; with Mass being offered in Paxton once a year and by the late 1890’s once a month on Saturday. The priest often made the trip by freight train.
Rev. Flood encouraged members to build a small frame church in 1902. In May 1904, the first mission was offered by Rev. J.P. Devine.
In 1913, the building was moved to the intended site and an addition was made. In October 1913, Paxton became a mission of Ogallala with Rev. Edward Hynes in charge.
When the Sutherland parish was established in 1922, Saint Patrick’s became a mission of Sutherland, with Rev. Alphonse Gasser as pastor. At that time, with the parish consisting of nearly forty families, a new brick church was erected at the cost of $26,000. Sixteen Thousand dollars of the total cost to build the new church, was raised by subscription and paid at the time the church was completed. The first Mass in the new church was offered Christmas morning 1930. Dedication services were conducted by Bishop James Duffy on May 28, 1931.
After Rev. Gasser’s death in 1931, Rev. Francis Tschida served Saint Patrick’s until 1938; followed by Rev. Joseph Muldoon. Rev. Muldoon, with Rev. Anthony Radziewicz assisting during his last year, served until his death in 1949. Rev. C. J. Shumski served the Paxton parish, for the next 12 years, from 1949 until 1961.
Over the years there were many different priests who served the Paxton Parish including: Rev. Walter Phelan, 1961-1966; Rev. James Kremeier, 1966-1967; Rev. Gerald Harr, 1967-1973; Rev. Gerald Carlson, 1973-1981, Rev. Jacob Bauer, 1981-1990; Rev. Thomas Dillon, 1990-1998; Rev. James Janovec, 1998-2003.
Saint Patrick’s remained a mission of Sutherland until 2003 when it became a mission of Saint Luke’s in Ogallala under Rev. Jack Schlaf. Rev. Bryan Ernest now presides over both parishes.
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