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St. Leo’s Catholic Parish celebrates 100th Anniversary

Posted: Thursday, Sep 27th, 2012

Photos/Barb Rapp

LUSK-St. Leo’s Parish of Lusk celebrated their 100th Anniversary on September 16, 2012. The Most Reverend Paul Etienne, Bishop of Cheyenne was the main celebrant of the 4:00 pm mass. He delivered a powerful homily on the marks of true and lasting faith. Bishop Etienne was joined by several other priests and deacons from the area as well as a contingent of Knights of Columbus. Lew and JoEllen Landkamer carried the offerings as recognition of being the longest-married couple who were wed in the parish and in attendance at the Anniversary Mass.

Immediately after the mass, 100 balloons were released in memory of the early founders and deceased members of the parish. The longevity of many of our former parishioners was noted, with mention that the oldest died at the age of 107.

The celebration then continued at the Fairgrounds Auditorium with a pig roast, a hearty side of vegetables prepared in cream can containers, and watermelon. This was followed by cake and home-made ice cream. Entertainment was in the form of jokes and short skits. During a skit involving Pastor Ray Moss and Fr. Drew Duncan, Emcee Julie Greenough uncovered the amazing juggling talents of the associate pastor Fr. Drew. To round out the entertainment, Greg Kilmer, Brent Kilmer, Bruce Kilmer and Julie Greenough lent their musical talents as members of a band aptly named the “Duncan Donuts”, a name inspired by the group’s drummer and instigator, Fr. Duncan. The group performed songs of all genres to the enjoyment of those present.

After putting in so many hours of hard work in preparation for the successful event, the parishioners deemed it to be worth the effort and are ready to do it all again in another 100 years.

History of St. Leo’s Catholic Parish

The history of the Catholic Church of Niobrara County began with the U.S. government inviting Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet to the Great Council at Fort Laramie in 1851. While traveling to his destination, Fr. DeSmet spent a night near Rawhide Butte blessing travelers and trappers camped there. He was the first Catholic priest known to have visited this area.

While traveling to the Douglas mission Fr. Patrick Brophy entered the area in 1887 and celebrated Mass in Lusk. For several years a priest from Douglas would come to celebrate Mass, using the Lusk Odd Fellows Hall. When confessions were heard, an American flag separated the penitent and priest.

Under the guidance of Fr. Ignatius Berna of Douglas, St. Leo’s Church of Lusk was erected in 1912 for a contract price of $1535.00 plus windows costing $165.00. It was dedicated in May of 1913. Several years later the beautiful stone arch in front of the original church was built by Carl Bruch, assisted by Bill Bredthauer.

Around the same time fifty dollars was raised to commence the work of St. Leo’s Altar Society. The members brought their needlework to the meetings, and their handiwork was sold at bazaars. Later the name was changed to Regina Club as the ladies felt freer to sponsor dances and bingo parties under the new name. Eventually the club was changed to St. Leo’s Altar and Rosary Society and finally to the Lusk Council of Catholic Women. St. Leo’s was served as a mission from Douglas until 1948 when Fr. Othmar Miller became the first resident priest. A rectory adjacent to the old church was completed in 1953 during the pastorate of Fr. Michael McBrien.

Under the supervision of Fr. Cornelius O’Connor a new church was built and dedicated in 1967 at the west end of 5th Street. In 1976 the current rectory was completed at the direction of Fr. Bartholomew Svete.

Since Fr. DeSmet’s first visit in 1851, a total of 50 priests have served the spiritual needs of the Catholics of Niobrara County including the present Pastor Fr. Ray Moss and Parochial Vicar Fr. Andrew Duncan.

For the complete article see the 09-26-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 09-26-2012 paper.

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