Fonda - Our Lady of Good Counsel
FONDA - The construction of a house of worship, then named St. Mary's, commenced in the fall of 1883 and was completed in early 1884 at a cost of $2,000. It was located where the present building stands.
Father P. J. Carroll was the first pastor of Fonda. He served the two churches of Varina and Fonda on alternate Sundays until Oct. 1, 1887, when he was succeeded in pastorate by Father Dennis McCaffery. He remained in charge until October of 1895, when Father J. F. Brennan became pastor of St. Mary's in Fonda. At this time, Varina was assigned its own pastor.
The first rectory in Fonda was built in 1885. In 1886, the church was enlarged, measuring 37-feet by 80-feet. St. Mary's was the largest church in Pocahontas County. In 1898, the rectory was enlarged and greatly improved in its appearance.
Twenty-seven families, mostly Irish, formed the Catholic community that built these two churches.
Times improved and with the prosperity of the early 1900's, Father Brennan began planning for the erection of a new brick church. However, he died in an accident and did not see his dream fulfilled. Father David J. Heelan picked up the reins and under his guidance the erection of the new church was completed and renamed Our Lady of Good Counsel.
A house-to-house canvass was conducted for a new church fund. Beginning in July of 1907, the original furnishings and gifts began to arrive. The main altar, costing $700, was a gift from the Altar Society. The side altars were gifts of James F. Toy, Sioux City. The rose window above the choir loft is considered one of the most beautiful in the country. The approximate cost of the church and furnishings was $35,000. Construction continued and in 1913 the present rectory was completed.
The old wood frame church was made ready to serve as a school and a residence was purchased to serve as a convent. In 1908, Our Lady of Good Counsel School opened. Enrollment was 45 students and five Franciscan sisters came from Mount St. Clare in Clinton.
In 1916, construction began on a new brick school. During this time, classes were conducted at the convent. Since the convent could not accommodate all the pupils, high school boys attended the public school or went elsewhere for their education. This accounts for the fact that the Class of 1917 was composed entirely of girls.
In 1927, Father John J. Howley was appointed assistant to Father Heelan. Other assistants included Fathers Leo McEvoy, F. Pultee and Philip Daley.
Father Peter J. Murphy succeeded Father Heelan until 1941 and Father John J. Howley followed until 1964.
It was under Father Howley that Our Lady of Good Counsel parish and school experienced a period of expansion and improvements. Among them was the acquisition of a convent for the increasing number of nuns, the erection of the school addition and gymnasium in 1954, the latter projects costing $144,000.
Father Francis Staber (1964-1968) was followed by Father Daniel Lynch (1968-1973) and Father C. John Brennan (1973-1986).
The decreasing enrollment, lack of sisters, and increasing costs of running a school soon took its toll. The last class of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School graduated in the spring of 1975. The grade school and junior high school continue to operate today.
Over the years the church was redecorated and repainted and the grounds were improved.
Father Armand J. Bertrand became pastor in 1992 and began the Millennium Project during his tenure. The church was improved in various ways, such as restoring stained glass and replacing rotted wood. The "Tree of Life" was created as a lasting tribute to church parishioners and friends for their financial gifts.
Father Harry D. McAlpine is the current pastor.