Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Sacred Heart Church

First Catholic Settlers Came To Grundy In 1869

In 1869 the first Catholic settlers came into the territory of the present Grundy Center parish. After some years they obtained the services of a Father Meagha, who came from Tama to offer Mass in the village of Conrad. A few Catholics who lived in and near Grundy Center received the ministrations of Father Smigh of Cedar Falls. In those first years, before the erection of the first Catholic church in Grundy Center, Mass was offered in a room of the schoolhouse, in the courthouse and in the Wegstein and Quinn homes. Father McAbe of Cedar Falls also attended Grundy Center for a time, coming here about once a month on horseback.

In 1879 the Grundy Center charge was attached to the Vinton parish as an out-mission and the pastor of Vinton would travel by train to Grundy Center to minister to the spiritual needs of the Catholics here. Father P. C. Kenny was the pastor of Vinton. In 1884 Father J. J. Hanley took up his residence in Vinton and served Catholics in Grundy Center. That same year the parish purchased two lots at the east end of town and in 1885 the first Catholic church in the city was erected. It was a modest frame structure of more than ample size for the needs of the small congregation at that time. The need for a Catholic cemetery was met by the purchase of two acres just outside of town.

Father M. F. McInerney was the last pastor of Vinton to serve the parish, this being from 1888 to 1892. From 1892 to 1896 Father John Sheehy of Blessing in Black Hawk county had charge of the Grundy Center mission, which at that time comprised about 15 families.

In December, 1896, Father Patrick Hogan was appointed pastor of Murphy settlement in Grant township and Grundy Center. He was directed to build a parochial residence in either of the two parishes. Accordingly a frame rectory was built in the spring of 1897 at a cost of about $1200. The first baptisms to be recorded by Father Hogan were those of Henry Roche O'Connor and Frederick A. Peck. Both of these baptisms took place on December 20, 1896. The first marriage recorded was that of John H. Smith and Bee Marie Murphy. In May 1898 the first death to occur in the parish was that of Frederick Andrew Peck, who died at the age of one year, being also one of the first baptisms. Father Hogan remained pastor from 1896 to 1915. For a number of months, 1909-1910, a Father Reisaman substituted for Father Hogan.

Father T. J. Norris took charge of the Grundy Center and Grant Township parished in 1915 and served until the fall of 1922 when Father E. J. MacDonald was sent by Archbishop James J. Keans to succeed him. He remained here two years, being followed by Father P. J. Boyle in 1924. Under his supervision the present brick church was built in 1931. The new church was dedicated in October 1932 by Father William Leen of Marshalltown. The new church was made possible through the kind generosity of the late William Lynch family, one of the pioneers who helped build the first church in Grundy Center nearly half a century before.

In January 1933, Father Schmeetz took charge of Sacred Heart Parish at Grundy Center and its mission at St. Mary's at Dike. The parish organization for the women was known as the Altar Society. The name was changed at this time to St. Martha's Society, which is still functioning under this name.

Father Schmeetz was succeeded by Father Albert J. Forster in April 1934, and he continued as pastor until August 1937. Father Leo Entringer came at that time. During his pastorate the debt on the church was liquidated in 1945. In June 1946, Father William Holub succeeded Father Entringer and was pastor until 1948. Under his direction the parish study clubs were organized. A new Wurlitzer organ was also installed. Then in June 1948 Father Justin A. Kress was appointed pastor of Sacred Heart Church. He was responsible for forming the Holy Name Society among the men. The interior of the church was redecorated in 1950.

In January 1955 Rev. Donald Weydert succeeded Father Kress and the next year the new parish of Queen of Heaven was started at Reinbeck. The parish boundaries were changed and 15 families of Sacred Heart became affiliated with the new parish at Reinbeck. In June 1959 the Wegstein property which joined the parish property on the west was purchased for the sum of $2750 with the idea of building a new rectory in the near future.

The Rev. Peter C. Bodensteiner succeeded Father Weydert as pastor in September 1959. St. Mary's of Dike, which had been a mission parish of Grundy Center since 1896, was transferred to the care of the pastor of St. Patrick's parish, Cedar Falls, in January 1960.

Plans for the construction of a new rectory were begun in the spring of 1960. Flynn and Saito of Waterloo were engaged as architects for the project. Work was begun on the new rectory in June 1960, and completed in April 1961 at a cost of $43,000. Provisions for four classrooms in the basement of the new rectory were made, to be used for catechetical instruction. The church and rectory were joined by an underground passageway.

In August, 1967, Monsignor John J. Smith from Charles City was installed as pastor. In 1968 the church was redecorated and the sanctuary was updated to comply with new liturgical requirements. The four classrooms were remodeled and furnished with new equipment. This extensive renovation was made possible by the generous bequest of Mrs. Nora Kinsinger. Msgr. Smith celebrated his golden jubilee on Aug. 3, 1969 with a concelebrated Mass, dinner at the Grundy Community School, and a reception. He retired in August 1971 and is at present living in Waterloo.

In July 1973 Reinbeck again became affiliated with the Grundy Center parish and Father Mullan holds two Masses in Grundy Center and one in Reinbeck each Sunday. Each Saturday evening also Mass is held in Grundy Center. Father Mullan was made a member of the papal household with the title of Rev. Monsignor at St. Raphail's Cathedral in Dubuque.

During the summer of 1973 the church was air conditioned and a carillon hung in the bell tower. These were made possible by the use of part of the bequest left to the church by Father John P. Connell.

The parish has given one son to the priesthood, John Connell, son of Jerry and Bridget Cullinan Connell. He was ordained in 1922. Two girls of the same family became Sisters of Humility at Ottumwa. Grace Elizabeth became Sister Rose Marie, and Catherine May Connell became Sister Carmelite. Sister Rose Marie passed away at Ottumwa in 1927. Honorah Connell, the daughter of James and Alice Connell, joined the Sisters of Charity and is known as Sister Mary Adrian. Father Connell is buried in the cemetery at Grundy Center.

Today there are 110 families in the parish.

--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 7 July 1977

List of Ministers

NameYears Served
Father Meagha
Father Smigh
Father McAbe
Father P. C. Kenny
Father J. J. Hanley1884
Father M. F. McInerney
Father John Sheehy
Father Patrick Hogan1896-1915
Father T. J. Norris1915-1922
Father E. J. MacDonald1922-1924
Father P. J. Boyle1924
Father Schmeetz1933-1934
Father Albert J. Forster1934-1937
Father Leo Entringer1937-1947
Father William Holub1946-1948
Father Justin A. Kress1948-1955
Rev. Donald Weydert1955-
Rev. Peter C. Bodensteiner1959
Monsignor John J. Smith1967-
Father Mullan