St. Patrick Catholic Church
                Imogene, Iowa

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History

The town of Imogene was incorporated in March of 1879 and the town was platted in November of 1879.  Captain Anderson took out the township papers and named the town Imogene in honor of his daughter.  In June of 1880, Father Gerald Stack organized the Imogene St. Patrick parish as a mission of Shenandoah.  Ground for the first church was purchased on June 17, 1880.  The final papers were signed on June 21, 1880.  There were 11 families with 120 members.  A cornfield in the NE part of the new town was selected as the site for a small frame church that cost $1,800.  The church was built on the SE corner of the property.  Wagon seats were brought into the church each Sunday for services until the church was completed.

By 1882, there were 150 people in Imogene.  Father John Ryan ministered to the people in Imogene.  He purchased land one half mile south of the church for the Mount Calvary Cemetery.  In February of 1884, he was on a sick call from Shenandoah to Imogene when he fell into the frigid waters of the Nishnabotna River.  Despite being soaked and freezing, he completed his sick call.  Tragically he died of pneumonia two days later and was one of the first to be buried in the cemetery.  He was followed by Fathers Schiffmacher (six months), Peter Clark (one year) and John Cook.

Father Edmund Hayes came from Melrose, IA in 1888 to become our first permanent pastor.  He inherited wealth and made more in California gold and Nevada silver mines.  He was a world traveler and an eloquent speaker.  He enlarged the frame church shortly after he arrived in Imogene.  By 1892, the town of Imogene had grown to 500 people. The original frame church was too small and was moved to the NW corner of the property.  It was used as the parish hall.  Father Hayes was able to raise $14,000 to build a larger brick church on the SE corner of the church property.  The church was made of pressed brick with granite trim in the Gothic style of architecture.  The focal point of the church was the life-sized crucifix behind the altar rail.  Father Hayes brought it to the church directly from the Chicago World’s Fair.

In 1901, two teenage girls walked through the fields and streets of Imogene collecting enough money to purchase a church bell.  The bell was dedicated on May 27, 1901. 

The parish rectory, directly west of the church, was built in 1904 at a cost of $3,000.  All suitable lumber from the original frame church was used in its constructio
n.

St. Patrick Academy was located on the area now serving as the north church parking lot.  It opened on September 9, 1907.  It was staffed by Mercy Sisters ( 1907 – 1918) and Dominican Sisters ( 1920 – 1969).  The Academy closed in May of 1969 and was demolished in 1972.  The Sisters remained in Imogene one more year in order to start a CCD program. 

The 2 ½ ton Pieta statue arrived in Imogene on June 22, 1910.  It was originally ordered as a tombstone.  For some unknown reason Father Hayes ended up purchasing it for the church.  It was placed in front of the second church. 

A wedding was held in our second church early in the morning on February 12, 1915.  Around 1PM, schoolchildren spotted smoke coming from the church.  The janitor discovered flames in the basement.  Father Hayes raced to save the Blessed Sacrament and a few vestments before being overcome by smoke.  Schoolchildren across the street could hear the thud of the bell as it fell into the church basement.  It was feared that the frame rectory would also go up in flames.  People threw furniture, artwork, items Father Hayes collected on his world travels and church records out the rectory windows.  Much of this was destroyed by water and mud.  Although the rectory did not burn, the church was in ruins by nightfall.

The following Sunday, services were held in the nearby Hibernian Hall.  Plans were made to build a church to seat 600.  Work on the current church began on August 20, 1915.  Harry Lawrence was the architect and Ed and Jack Sprague of Omaha, Nebraska were the contractors.  The church is made of black Hylex brick.  It measures 65x130x65 with an 80 foot bell tower.  It is built in the English Gothic style. The supporting walls in the basement are five bricks thick.  The ceiling is made of oak panels with steel beams covered in oak.  This was a very unusual type of construction for that time.

The bell from the second church was retempered and hung in the new church.  The Pieta statue can now be seen in the SW corner of the church.  Our present church was built around it. One of the marble altar gates ordered for our present church ( they never shut properly) is cemented to the front.  If you look closely, you can still see part of the tombstone inscription behind the altar gate.

The church was built and furnished largely through the wealth of Father Hayes and the generous donations of groups and individuals.  Father Hayes went to Pietrasanta, Italy to personally order the altars he was donating in memory of his family.  The altars left Italy on November 1, 1916 and now lie at the bottom of the Mediterranean.  The ship carrying them was torpedoed in WWI action.  The altars in our church today were his second choice.  Similar altars can be found in the Denver, Colorado Cathedral and in St. Louis, Missouri.

The altars are of polished Carrara marble.  For contrast, the statues have a dull finish.  The altars came in thousands of pieces, on several boxcars, over many months.  Italian sculptor, Enrico Tomegetti, assembled them.  Their cost then was estimated at $60,000-$90,000. The main altar is 29 feet high by 28 feet wide.  The side altars are 18 feet high by 8 feet wide.

The altar rail is of marble and is 2 feet 4 inches high.  The gates are bronze trimmed in gold and cost $1,000. 

The stained glass windows came from Munich.  They are 15 feet high.  Each window shows three stories in the creation, fall and redemption of mankind. 

 #1 – Creation, Adam & Eve in Paradise, God admiring His works of creation

#2 – Satan tempting Adam & Eve, Annunciation, Visitation

#3 – Nativity, Adoration by the Magi, Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

#4 – Jesus talking to the Temple priests, Baptism of Jesus, temptation of Jesus by Satan

#5 – Transfiguration, Jesus blessing the little children, Mary Magdalene washing the feet of Jesus

#6 – Last Supper, Agony in the Garden, Peter’s denial of Jesus

#7 – Pilate washing his hands of Jesus, Jesus carrying His cross, Crucifixion 

#8 – Jesus is taken down from the Cross, Resurrection, angels tell the women of Jerusalem Jesus has risen

#9 – Risen Jesus ( as a gardener) appears to Mary Magdalene, Jesus gives Peter the keys to His kingdom( the first St. Patrick Church is in the background), Ascension

#10 – Descent of the Holy Spirit on Mary & the Apostles, Assumption, Coronation of Mary as queen of Heaven.

The large St. Patrick window in the choir loft was returned three times before Father Hayes was satisfied with the face of St. Patrick.  Workmen finished installing the windows on April 1, 1918.

The windows over the sanctuary are of the Blessed Virgin (west side) and Our Lord ( east side).  The windows by the Pieta are those of St. Bridget & St. Agnes.  The window behind the baptismal font is of St. John the Baptist.  The vestibule windows are the Greek Alpha (beginning) and Omega ( end) signs.  The window over the west confessional is a symbol of Jesus as the Lamb of God.  The window over the east confessional is the Pelican in her Piety – a symbol of Jesus sacrificing Himself on the Cross for us.

The mosaic Stations of the Cross each have a Cararra marble frame.  They came from Venice.  Mr. Tomegetti spent a year assembling them – much like a jigsaw puzzle.  Father Hayes was an optimist and wired the new church for electricity before electricity came to Imogene.  The new church was built for $125,000.  The church was not dedicated until March 17, 1924 when it was debt-free.

In April of 1926, Father Hayes entered St. Joseph Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska.  He would remain there until his death on February 8, 1828.  St. Patrick Church is his memorial.

Father Francis Doyle was his assistant and became pastor upon his death.  Shortly after becoming pastor, he acquired old cobblestones from Broadway in Council Bluffs, Iowa and used them to build a retaining wall around the church property.  Seventy – eight years of service by only two priests came to an end with his death on September 30, 1966.

The parish was then served by a succession of priests including Fathers John Cunningham, James Stessman, Gordon Gittens, Daniel Delehant, Albert Wilwerding, James McIlhon and James Radde, S.J.

Father John Clarke came to the parish in June of 1981.  He completed 19 years of service to us with his retirement on July 12, 2000.  A ramp and air-conditioning are some of the many improvements made during his stay.  

Father James Kleffman became our pastor on July 13, 2000.  At the same time our parish became a mission of St. Mary parish in Red Oak.  Father maintained his residence in the St. Mary rectory.  He started the well-attended Thursday evening Mass, communion under both species, the practice of blessing little children at communion and periodically having the little children raise their voices in song to God after communion.  The Board of Education became a reality and our parish began to actively participate in Southwest Iowa Parishes United.

    With his encouragement, the rectory was remodeled into a family dwelling and the parish office was moved to the sacristy and updated.  A consecrated wine purification area was installed in the sacristy.  The parish website was established.  Repairs were made on the church roof and water-damaged interior of the dome, the front doors were restored and the church lighting was updated.  The beautiful stained glass windows began to be restored.  Land to the south was purchased for additional parking.  Father was an avid photographer and took many beautiful pictures of our church.

    He retired on July 10, 2003 after 43 years of active ministry.  Twenty of those years were spent as a chaplain in the United States Army. 

    Upon Father Kleffman's retirement, Father Kenneth Gross became our new pastor.  

Today there are about 60 residents in Imogene – less than 10 are members of our church.  Around 150 families are members of our church.  They come from a twenty- mile radius and their children attend school in six separate school districts.  We have a large number of guests attending our services each weekend.  Our church continues to prosper thanks to the leadership of our pastor, the Pastoral Council, Altar Society and CYO. The church is maintained through the generous support of our parishioners and by memorial gifts from former parishioners, relatives and friends.   

   

An Irish blessing - May the power of god uphold you, his wisdom guide you, his hand guard you, his path lie before you, and his shield protect you as you journey today and throughout your life into eternity.

 

 

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