St. Mary's Catholic Church

The Catholic Church in Grant Township

In the development and civilization of one of Iowa's best counties, viz.: Grundy, the sons and daughters of the Catholic church have played a part. Though not as numerous in this as in other counties of our state, yet their work is manifest to the eye of the visitor. As early as 1866 the fertility of the soil of Grundy county appealed to some Irish land seekers. They entered the northeast portion now known as Grant Township. The first settler being John B. Murphy, soon others of the same name and faith arrived. The following ten or twelve years brought other of the same race. As there were more Murphys in that portion of the township than of any other name, these early settlers in accordance with the custom saw fit to designate that locality as "Murphy Settlement," by which name it is yet familiarly known.

While the motive which brought these people thither was primarily to secure a home, yet deep in their bosoms rested the faith of their fathers. No house of Catholic worship could be seen by these frontiersmen nearer than Cedar Falls. The distance was not less than fifteen miles from any of them. Automobiles were not dreamt about. Buggies and carriages were unknown. A spring seat on a wagon was a sort of a luxury. In this sort of vehicle the Murphys and their fellow Catholics might be seen wending their way on Sundays to St. Patrick's Church at Cedar Falls to give the homage of divine worship to their creator.

As the years went by and priests like the people increased in Iowa, these people requested that a priest should come amongst them. Their homes were then but a light shadow of what they are now, yet they considered they were at least as good as their Stable of Bethlehem and so in their turn they threw open the doors of their humble homes, and had all who would enter to adore their God as the priest offered the holy sacrifice of the Mass, administered the sacraments, and instructed the old and young alike in Christian doctrine. The manner of worship was carried out successively by Fathers Flavink Ryan, O'Dowd, Smyth and McCabe. The latter came amongst them in 1878, their numbers and means had now increased considerably and under his guidance a church was built and dedicated in 1880, one quarter of a mile south of Grant Center school house. The spiritual destinies of the people were guided by Father McCabe for eighteen years, coming regularly amongst them from Cedar Falls. In the summer of 1896 he was transferred to Clermont, Iowa, and Father Coyle assumed the charge. He being of frail structure, and also because the people of that mission expressed a wish for more frequent attendance on Sundays, the charge was transferred to the care of Father Hogan in the fall of 1896, who was sent into Grundy County by Archbishop Hennessey as its first resident priest He was given an option to live there or at Grundy Center. After viewing the situation and condition of both places he decided to make the county seat his home, where he still resides at this writing, making at least bi-weekly visits to his spiritual care in Grant Township. The people there are prosperous, progressive, law abiding and Christian to a very high degree, as their beautiful homes and the peace of the community will amply testify.

by Rev. P. J. Hogan

--Atlas of Grundy County, Iowa, 1911, pg 99

St. Marys Church Founded In 1880

As early as 1866 the fertility of the soil of Grundy County appealed to some Irish land seekers. They settled in Grant township, several miles south of the present town of Dike. The first settler was John B. Murphy, soon after him came John D. Murphy, from Wisconsin and the six Murphy brothers from New Melleray, near Dubuque. Thus began the rural community which was called "Murphy Settlement." It outdates the founding of the town of Dike by more than a quarter of a century, and very likely it was the first permanent Catholic settlement in Grundy County.

As the number of Catholics in the Murphy Settlement increased the people requested that Divine Services be held in their community. Accordingly, the Rev. Fathers Flavin, Ryan, O'Dowd and Smith went to the Settlement at stated intervals to administer the Sacraments and offer the Sacrifice of the Mass in homes and schoolhouses until the congregation should be able to furnish a church of its own.

The Rev. Charles McCabe, who became pastor of St. Patricks, Cedar Falls in 1878, also had charge of the Settlement, and under his guidance, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Doorley ceded the use of a parcel of land for the erection of St. Mary's Church. This church was built and dedicated in 1880, and is still in use by the present congregation.

On the transfer of Father McCabe to Clermont, Father Coyle of Cedar Falls assumed charge until a resident pastor could be appointed. Archbishop Hennessey appointed the Rev. Patrick Hogan first resident priest a few months later, in the fall of 1896. He was given charge of both Murphy Settlement and Grundy Center and was furthermore given the option of residing in either parish. After surveying the situation he decided to establish his residence at the county seat.

--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 25 May 1950, Dike Golden Jubilee Section of the Grundy Register

Dedicate New St. Mary's Church Building Sunday

St. Mary's Catholic Church of Dike has a new look. No, the small, wooden-framed building in the country hasn't been repainted or re-carpeted; instead, a new location has been purchased, renovated and will be dedicated this weekend. St. Mary's has moved to town.

What once was the Wagon Wheel restaurant was purchased by the parishioners of St. Mary's in February of 1987 an has been renovated into a church. The new church will be dedicated this Sunday, June 19. Bishop Franklin, Auxiliary Bishop of Dubuque Diocese, will participate in the ceremonies.

According to Fr. Richard Funke, current pastor of the church, members of St. Mary's have, in the past, showed a desire to have a church in town. In fact, several years ago a facility in Dike was considered. However, last fall the Wagon Wheel was available at a "reasonable price," the council approved its purchase and after the parishioners donated one-half the agreed upon cost, it was purchased, Funke explains.

Since the purchase, many parishioners have volunteered numerous hours of work to change the appearance of the building and make it suitable for a church. This has involved tearing out walls, lowering the ceiling, adding stained glass windows, re-carpeting, painting, adding pews and an alter, etc.

History of the Parish
St. Mary's has been a part of the Dike area since 1870. First called "Murphy Settlement" --after the first settler, John B. Murphy, an Irish immigrant who settled in Grant Township several miles south of the present town of Dike -- the church out-dates the founding of the town of Dike by more than a quarter of a century. It is very likely that this was the first permanent Catholic settlement in Grundy County.

At first, a few Catholics in Murphy Settlement drove horse-drawn wagons to Cedar Falls on Sunday to attend Mass, later, in 1870, the people requested that services be held in their community. This began with the Sacraments and Mass being offered in homes and schoolhouses.

IN the late 1800s Mr. and Mrs. Michael Doorley ceded the use of a parcel of land for the erection of St. Mary's Church. The church was completed in the fall of 1880 at a cost of $1,200. Five years later, Mr. and Mrs. James P. Murphy sold two acres to the parish for use as a burial ground where St. Mary's Cemetery is now located.

In 1941 electric lights were installed in the church. Until this time the church was lighted with kerosene lamps, three each on the sidewalls. Since that time, numerous restorations have been made. These include: adding a choir loft, carpeting the altar and sacristy area, re-varnishing the pews, painting, adding statues, etc.

Now, the 54 families belonging to St. Mary's have opted for another change. Fr. Funke explains some of the advantages of the change of location.

"Dike is the center of the community. The new location will be much more convenient and is a well-constructed, air conditioned facility that should be more comfortable for the parishioners It will enable us to have religious education classes and meetings at the church and hopefully, the accessibility of the church will encourage more parishioners to get involved," Funke says.

"People (parishioners) have wanted a more visible church. The new location will give clear evidence of their faith and commitment to building a stronger Catholic community in Dike"

--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 16 June 1988, pg 8

List of Ministers

NameYears Served
Father Paul Grace