Primghar - St. Anthony
PRIMGHAR - The first Catholics in the Primghar area were hearty pioneer people of deep faith. They braved the cold winter weather to drive their bobsleds through the snow to Mass in Sanborn each Sunday because there was no Catholic Church in Primghar.
The faith of these people flourished and they formed a small, but vibrant Christian community which later would become St. Anthony of Padua Parish.
Before the turn of the century, there were 10 Catholic families in the Primghar area. The first Mass in Primghar was celebrated in the fall of 1887. Father Timothy Sullivan from Sheldon was the celebrant and Mass was in the sheriff's office of the O'Brien County Court House.
In 1900, the Catholics bought a little frame church from the Methodists in Primghar. John C. Cassidy gave a corner lot in the south part of town and the church was moved to that location. The church was purchased, moved, repaired and furnished at a cost of $1,200. The parish was officially incorporated in 1912, by the first Bishop of the Sioux City Diocese, Bishop Garrigan.
There has never been a resident priest at Primghar. St. Anthony's was a mission from St. Cecilia's Parish in Sanborn until the year 1924, when it became a mission of Sacred Heart in Sutherland.
During the time when Primghar was a mission from Sanborn, the following priests served as pastor: Father B. Corbett (1893-1895), Father John McNamara (1895-1896), Father J. P. Martin (1896-1898), Father James McCormick (1898-1905), Father Fortunatus LeBlond (1905-1910), Father Thomas Coffey (1910-1914), Father J. L. Cooper (1914-1918), Father Clarence P. Conway (1918-1920), Father J. J. Dalhoff (1920-1924).
Many priests served St. Anthony of Padua while it was a mission of Sutherland: Father Wolf (1926-1928), Father Anthony A. Bausch (1928-1934), Father Henry F. Pick (1934-1941), Father Cullen (1941-1955), Father Jerome Koenig (1955-1956), Msgr. Dean Walker (1956-1966), Father Grendler (1966-1967), Father Lloyd White (1967-1971), Father LeRoy Seuntjens (1971-1974), Father Donald Ries (1974-1979), Father Ronald Reicks (1979-1985), Father Anthony Pick (1985-1992), Father Harry McAlpine (1992-1995) and Father Gerald Zeman (1995-present).
In 1925, Anna Arenz, who for many years was the priest's housekeeper in Sanborn and later in Sutherland, gave one acre of land to St. Anthony's to be used as a cemetery. At a later date, two additional acres were purchased.
In 1928, under the direction of Father Bausch, the Primghar parish bought a block of property from the George Schee estate for $4,000. The basement church, 40 x 80 feet, was built on the southeast corner of the former Schee property. The Schee home was situated in the center of the block, facing east. Bishop Garrigan planned that the house would one day be converted into a Catholic school or a residence for retired priests. To keep the house from deterioration, Father Bausch asked the Robert R. Nelle family to live in the house and act as caretakers for the church. The family did so from 1933 to 1950. When it became obvious that neither of Bishop Garrigan's plans for the house were feasible, the house was demolished in 1956.
After 25 years of celebrating Mass in the basement church, the parish finally realized their dream of completing the church. Work began in June of 1953, and was completed in March of 1954. St. Anthony's Church was dedicated on April 21, 1954, by Bishop Joseph M. Mueller. The church was completed at a cost of $65,000.
Two members of St. Anthony's Parish have chosen religious vocations. Sister Jeanette Halbach, daughter of Joseph and Loretta Halbach, entered Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters in 1955. Father John V. Cassidy, son of Vincent and Irene Cassidy, was ordained to the priesthood in the Diocese of LaCrosse, Wis., in 1969.
In 1996, St. Anthony's constructed a sidewalk ramp into the church building with handrails and installed chair lifts up the church and down the parish hall to make it handicap accessible.
Currently, the parish has 90 families.