Cerro Gordo County Iowa
Part of the IaGenWeb Project



Epiphany Parish of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dubuque IA
714 North Adams, Mason City
Mason Township, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa


The Globe-Gazette, Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Mason City Centennial Issue
Monday, June 01, 1953, Section 7, Pages 26 & 37

To Organize Holy Family

With the increase in numbers of the Catholic faith it was decided to made a second parish in Mason City. The Most Rev. John J. Keane, archbishop of Dubuque, appointed Rev. E. J. Dougherty the first pastor of the new Holy Family parish in Mason City.

In October, 1908, the first mass for the Holy Family parishioners was offered in the Mason City public library. Construction of a church took place in 1909 on 2nd N. W. near Washington. This church served the congregation until the erection of the new church in 1950.

In the summer of 1918, after the transfer of Father Dougherty to Oelwein, the Rev. R. P. Murphy of Clarion was appointed to the Holy Family parish. He served the parish for three decades.

NOTE: Monsignor Edward J. Dougherty, the son of Daniel and Mary (Gallagher) Dougherty, was born August 27, 1868, ordained December 27 1892, and died at the age of 83 years on March 2, 1951, Waterloo. Interment made at St. Patrick's Catholic Cemetery at Dougherty, Iowa.

Built Holy Family

One of the largest church building projects got underway almost immediately after His Excellency Archbishop Henry P. Rohlman appointed the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Arthur J. Breen pastor of the Holy Family parish in Mason City on May 24, 1949.

Formal installation of the monsignor took place June 12 and the following July 17 ground for a new church was blessed and the first spadeful of earth turned by the archbishop.

Thus did events move rapidly toward the building of the beautiful Holy Family church and rectory, part of the ground work for which had been laid by the monsignor's predecessor, the Rt. Rev. Msgr. R. P. Murphy, now of Corwith.

Dedication of the church and rectory, which cost $700,000, took place in June, 1951, with Solemn Pontifical Mass by His Excellency the Most Rev. Leo Binz, D.D., coadjustor archbishop of Dubuque.

Of semi-traditional Tudor Gothic architecture, the church seats 800 persons. Various types of beautiful Italian marble were used in the treatment of the altar and other parts of the church, adding to the beauty of the interior.

NOTE: Rt. Rev. Msgr. Arthur J. Breen died on December 11, 1973.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, December of 2014

~ ~ ~ ~

The Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Monday, June 01, 1953
Section 8


[Section 8, Pages 4 & 10] On Sunday afternoon, July 17, 1947, the Most Rev. Henry P. Rohlman, archbishop of Dubuque, blessed the site and turned the first spade of sod to start the construction of the large and beautiful Holy Family Catholic Church and rectory in Mason City.

The ceremony took place soon after the arrival to Mason City of the Msgr. A[rthur]. J. Breen to succeed the Msgr. R. P. Murphy, as pastor of the parish. Construction of the church soon got under way and in June, 1951, the completed structure was dedicated.

The church and rectory were built in the 700 block on Adams N. W., of brick and stone, harmonizing in color with the parish school across the street. Of Tudor Gothic architecture, the structure contains a number of interesting features.

Without Columns

The church proper has five entrances with the main entrance to the east leading to a spacious narthex. The nave is without columns with a clear width of 53 feet and length of 92 feet, terminating in the west end with a chancel framed in a molded stone arch frame.

Windows of the church are double glazed with stained glass and outer protective panes - all set in stone tracery. The stained glass windows depict the memorable scenes in the life of the Holy Family.

Floors throughout the nave and narthex are of terrazzo in contrasting and harmonizing colors. The ceiling of the nave features exposed wood trusses and cross beams finished in natural weather oak.

The altar is of Botticino marble with a frontal insert panel of Onice marble and the monogram in Florentine mosaic. The reredos, including the oakwood cross and hand-carved basswood corpus, is finished in natural color. About the sanctuary is an oak stained wainscoating. There are marble side altars to match the main altar.


Left Legacy

In turning the first spade of sod for the new church, Archbishop Rohlman paid tribute to the 30 years of work by the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Murphy, who, he said, had "built the spiritual foundation of this church and accumulated the funds" that made the building possible.

A significant part of the contributions was a $60,000 legacy to the church provided in the will of the late P. W. Corcoran.

L. R. Boomhower, trustee of the estate, made the payment Nov. 13, 1945, in accordance with an order issued by Judge M. H. Kepler in district court. The legacy was provided under the will of Mr. Corcoran, a Mason Cityan who left the money to the church of which he was a member. The check was turned over to D. H. Fitzpatrick, attorney for the church, and J. P. McGuire of the church's financial committee.

NOTE: Rt. Rev. Richard P. Murphy was born in Scipio Center, New York, on January 5, 1876, the son of William and Ellen (Flynn) Murphy. He graduated with the spring class of 1898, St. Joseph's College (now Lora College), Dubuque, Iowa. Ordained in 1901, he said his first mass on December 27, 1901 at Mason City. Msgr. Murphy served 31 years at Holy Family Catholic Church, Mason City, then served at St. Mary's in Corwith, Iowa. He became a Monsignor in 1946. During his time at Mason City, the Holy Family Catholic Church and school (in 1926) were built. Msgr. Murphy died on March 10, 1958. Masses were said in Independence and Winthrop. He was interred at St. John's Cemetery, Independence, Iowa. It had been said that there were two saints who lived at Holy Family rectory - Msgr. Murphy and his St. Bernard dog, Bruno.
SOURCES: Msgr. Richard P. Murphy's obituary; Nicklay, Deb. "All In The Holy Family." The Globe-Gazette, Saturday, July 19, 2009.

L. R. Boomhower died on December 25, 1947, interment made at Memorial Park Cemetery.

"P. W. Corcoran died in Rochester, Minn., on July 10, 1940, after a lengthy illness. His will provided the [$60,000] legacy to the church, and, following probate action in court, the payment of the $60,000 was approved last summer. The will contained no stipulation as to how the money was to be used, and church officials said Wednesday that no definite decision about its use, has yet been made. It is understood the funds will be used in connection with a new church building. 'This legacy is made possible through many years of industry, thrift and saving on the part of the donor, Mr. Corcoran. He had a deep-seated conviction of his religious faith and I am sure that the legacy will be wisely expended in the furtherance of the religious cause,' stated Mr. Boomhower, trustee of the Corcoran estate."
SOURCE: ~ The Globe-Gazette. Wednesday, November 14, 1945. Page. 13.

Rt. Rev.Msgr. Arthur J. Breen died on December 11, 1973.

In 2007 the Holy Family School building was demolished to make way for a new cement parking lot. The Holy Family Catholic Church celebrated its 100th anniversary on Sunday, October 19, 2009. The Holy Family Catholic Church sponsored Newman Catholic School which celebrated 50 years of education in Mason City in September of 2011. In 2012, it was decided to merge the Holy Family Catholic Church with St. Joseph's Catholic Church into one parish sometime after July 1st of that year.
SOURCE: Various Globe-Gazette articles.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, January of 2015

~ ~ ~ ~

The Holy Family Catholic Church belongs to the Archdiocese of Dubuque. The Church sponsors Mason City's Newman Catholic School which celebrated 50 years of education on Friday and Saturday, September 3rd & 4th, 2011.

Submission by Sharon R. Becker, February of 2011

~ ~ ~ ~
The Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Saturday, July 19, 2009
by Deb Nicklay

All in the Holy Family family

MASON CITY — The walls of St. Joseph Catholic Church were bursting at the seams in 1908.

It was time to build another church.

The story of how Holy Family Catholic Church was built and thrived is the stuff of "We 'R' Family — Holy Family," a 100th anniversary history written by John R. CUNNINGHAM.

CUNNINGHAM, of Mason City, a native of Dougherty and a member of the Holy Family family, wrote the 213-page book with the help of newspaper articles of the day, maps, directories, diocesan archives, family scrapbooks, clergy and other sources. CUNNINGHAM has written several North Iowa histories.

The book is packed with information and pictures, including composites of all 32 graduating classes of Holy Family School.

"I think one of the most interesting things about the book was how the church was split," said CUNNINGHAM. "St. Joseph's was, at the time, very large."

State Street was set as the dividing line and the separation was not without some emotion. Generations of families had attended St. Joseph's, yet many were instructed to attend the new church.

A site on Second Street Northwest was finally chosen and the church, built in the mission style, was erected at a cost of about $25,000 and dedicated in 1910.

In the 1920's, a chapel was built on the northwest edge of Mason City to accommodate the growing population of Hispanic workers, many of whom worked in the city's Lehigh Cement Plant or at the American Crystal Sugar Beet Factory.

Holy Family served a growing population — that went from 400 to more than 3,000 by the 1940's — before the current church opened its doors in 1951 on North Adams Avenue.

Holy Family School was built in 1926. The "Maroons" provided plenty of rivalry for St. Joseph and Mason City public sports teams.

Much credit is given to the church's leadership, including the Rev. Edward J. DOUGHERTY, who oversaw the first church building and then, the much-beloved Rev. Richard MURPHY.

"MURPHY was known for his many kindnesses and his work among the poor," said CUNNINGHAM. "It has been said that two saints lived at Holy Family rectory, Monsignor MURPHY and Bruno, his St. Bernard dog."

His successor, Monsignor Arthur BREEN, was known for both religious and civic involvement. CUNNINGHAM tells a story about how BREEN, a rather portly man, would urge parishioners to move closer together on Sundays when the pews were full."Move over, move over, there is not a one of you as large as I am," he intoned. He also would say at collection time that he wanted a "silent collection" — in other words, bills — and no coins.

As with his other histories, CUNNINGHAM was fascinated by the research. The process reinforced his long-held feeling that "you can’t move forward without looking back."

Those wishing a copy may obtain one for $20 at the church, 714 N. Adams Ave.

All are invited to celebrate with Holy Family today.

The annual Holy Family HeritageFest, this year celebrating the parish's centennial, will take place from noon to 10 p.m. today at the church parking lot at 711 North Adams Ave.

The HeritageFest provides a variety of live music, food and refreshments celebrating the many cultures that make up the community. The festival opens with concessions, bingo, games and a dunk tank.

Raiders of the Lost Art, a local Dixieland jazz band, will perform from 2 to 4 p.m.

At 4:15 p.m., the Meitner Band will provide the music for a polka Mass in the church.

Lending a distinctively Latin flavor to the upper Midwest's music scene, Iowa-based "Ashanti Latin Jazz" will take the stage from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Performing from 8 to 10 p.m. will be the Sweet Colleens, five multi-instrumentalists who perform Celtic folk-rock and alternative country/Americana with Cajun and Caribbean seasonings.

The "I Double Dare Ya" Dunk Tank celebrity volunteers are the Rev. Jon SEDA noon, Tim JOHNSON 12:30 p.m., Kim KEMNA 1 p.m., Tim FLAHERTY 1:30 p.m., Tammy NETTLETON 2 p.m., Tim SCHOLL 2:30 p.m., Jeff GRIBBEN 3 p.m. and Mark NEIBAUER 3:30 p.m.

Food choices have been expanded. Along with tacos, food will include enchiladas (after 4 p.m.), a slice of pizza and a fresh salad with homemade vinaigrette or ranch dressing, and a Greek dinner consisting of a Greek chicken breast on pita, Greek green beans and two Greek cookies. The big culinary hit of last years HeritageFest — Mexican sundaes, will be back.

Something new this year, in honor of HeritageFest founder, the late Al ZOOK, will be Big Al's Pies and More which will feature two of Al's favorites: homemade pies and root beer floats. German brats, hot dogs and chips and beverages also will be available.

Admission to the HeritageFest is free and everyone is welcome.

~ ~ ~ ~
The Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Saturday, December 6, 2009
by John Cunningham

A Holy Family history lesson

MASON CITY— Mason City was a rapidly growing community in 1908 with many Catholic residents. As a result, a decision was made to create a second parish, named Holy Family, to relieve pressure on the city's original parish, St. Joseph's.

The Rev E. J. DOUGHERTY, a native of Dougherty and the first native-born son of Cerro Gordo County to be ordained to the priesthood, was appointed the first pastor.

Under his direction, a board of trustees was appointed and land was procured at the corner of Second St. N.W. and Washington Avenue to build a new church. While the new church was under construction, Holy Family Masses were celebrated in the Mason City Public Library Auditorium starting in October 1908.

The first Mass in the new church, designed in a mission style, was on Christmas day in 1909. The new church was dedicated May 22, 1910, by the Most Rev. John CARROLL, bishop of Helena, Mont.

In 1918, DOUGHERTY was succeeded by the Rev. Richard MURPHY under whose pastorate land was procured for Holy Family School, completed in 1925 at the corner of Seventh Street Northwest and North Washington Avenue at a cost of $125,000. The first Holy Family graduates formed the Class of 1930.

Holy Family School was staffed the Sisters of Charity, BVM, who lived on the third floor of the school until 1940 when a nearby home was purchased as a convent.

In sports, Holy Family School was known as the "Maroons" and was outstanding in many sports, especially basketball.

Holy Family's last graduating class was in 1961 (Newman High School opened that fall) and Holy Family continued as an elementary school, then a child-care center, until finally all educational services were consolidated on the Newman campus.

In 1923, the mission style Chapel of the Immaculate Conception was constructed by Holy Family parish at the northwest edge of Mason City to accommodate people of as many as 40 nationalities living in that area. Mass was offered and religious instruction was provided for the children of immigrant Catholic families who had come to work in Mason City industries.

MURPHY was known for his many kindnesses as he worked among the poor and underprivileged. It was said that two saints lived at the Holy Family Rectory, MURPHY and Bruno, his St. Bernard dog. While MURPHY was pastor, Holy Family witnessed parish growth from 400 members to more than 3,000. MURPHY also is credited with raising the funds for construction of the current Holy Family Church.

After 31 years, Murphy was succeeded by Monsignor Arthur J. BREEN in 1949. Under his direction, a new Holy Family Catholic Church and rectory were constructed in the 700 block of North Adams near the school. These buildings, designed in a modified Tudor Gothic style, were dedicated June 27, 1951. The church has a seating capacity of over 800.

BREEN was known as an area leader in ecumenical and civic affairs.

In 1972, after 23 years as pastor, he was succeeded by the Rev. Robert HOGAN, who served in the team ministry as administrator of Holy Family for 8 years.

In 1980, the Rev. Joseph SLEPICA, a son of Holy Family, was appointed administrator of his home parish.

In 1991, the Rev. John KREMER was appointed pastor. During his pastorate, a $250,000 handicap-accessible addition was made to the church.

In 1997, the Rev. Dennis H. CAHILL, a Newman Catholic High School graduate, was named pastor. In 2004, Cahill was transferred and the Rev. John SEDA was named pastor. He is assisted by Permanent Deacons Matt BERRY and Charles COOPER.

In 2007, the former Holy Family School Building was leveled and a new cement parking lot was poured in its place.

A 2008 parish history shows that 18 women from the parish have entered religious communities and 9 men, the priesthood and/or holy orders.

Currently there are more than 900 households in the parish.

Holy Family celebrated its 100th anniversary on Sunday, Oct. 19, with a 11:30 a.m. Mass offered by Archbishop Jerome HANUS.

A book, "We 'R' Family - Holy Family," a 100-year history of the parish, was written by John R. CUNNINGHAM and paintings of the school and church were commissioned from David ROTTINGHAUS. Both book and prints remain available for purchase.

Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, May of 2011

~ ~ ~ ~

Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
March 13, 2012, By Mary Pieper

Holy Family, St. Joseph’s parishes will merge

MASON CITY — The two Roman Catholic parishes in Mason City will merge.

The Most Rev. Jerome Hanus, archbishop of Dubuque, announced his decision to merge the parishes of Holy Family and St. Joseph’s in a letter included in church bulletins Sunday.

Pat Goedken, spokesman for a pastoral planning task force made up of lay representatives, deacons and pastors from five Roman Catholic parishes in Cerro Gordo and Worth counties, said both St. Joseph’s and Holy Family churches will remain open, but will be part of one parish instead of being separate.

Closing either church “was never discussed” as an option, Goedken said.

The two parishes already are sharing some staff and collaborating in other ways, so the merger is a “natural progression,” Goedken said.

The 24-member planning task force was formed in May 2010 due to the decline in both Roman Catholic church attendance and priests, which is happening not only locally but also nationally.

The archbishop made his recommendation based on the report compiled by the task force.

In addition to merging St. Joseph’s and Holy Family, the archdiocese also plans to reduce the number of priests serving the Roman Catholic churches in Mason City, Rockwell, Manly and Clear Lake from four to three beginning in July.

Goedken said priest assignments will be announced next month.

Currently the Rev. Michael Schueller serves as pastor at both Holy Family in Mason City and Sacred Heart in Manly.

The Rev. Craig Steimel serves as pastor at St. Joseph’s.

The Rev. Rod Allers is the pastor at Sacred Heart in Rockwell. He also is pastor at St. Patrick’s in Dougherty and Holy Name in Rockford.

The Rev. John Tilp is pastor at St. Patrick’s in Clear Lake. He has announced plans to retire.

Goedken said additional linkage options will be created between parishes.

He said Holy Family and Sacred Heart in Manly already are linked as they share a pastor.

Now the parishes in Manly, Rockwell and Clear Lake will be linked with the Mason City parishes or with each other.

Hanus has asked that the St. Joseph’s/Holy Family merger take place as soon as possible. However, Goedken said it will not happen before July 1.

“There’s a lot of work to come,” he said.

Although change can be painful, it also can create opportunities, Goedken said.

He noted some parishes have strengths that others lack, so collaboration will help everyone.

Goedken said although members of the task force did not always agree, “everyone was very respectful and understanding.”

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, November of 2013



  • Return to Cerro Gordo Church Index Page

  • Return to Cerro Gordo Home Page


    © Copyright 1996-
    Cerro Gordo Co. IAGenWeb Project
    All rights Reserved.