Lawrence Theis, O. S. B., pastor of Saints Peter and Paul's Church, Seneca, Kan., is a native of Belgium, where he was born Aug. 20, 1871. When a lad of six years he accompanied his parents from their native land to America, locating on a farm near Wathena, Doniphan county, Kansas. There Reverend Theis spent his boyhood and youth, securing his primary education in the district and parochial schools. He then entered St. Benedict's College at Atchison, Kan., and after graduating, in 1898, he was ordained to the priesthood by the Rt. Rev. Louis M. Fink, O. S. B., in the Abbey Church at Atchison. His first charge was as assistant pastor of the Abbey Church, but he was soon transferred to Burlington, Iowa, where he became assistant pastor of St. John's German Church and remained there four years. In September, 1906, he took charge of Saints Peter and Paul's Church at Seneca, and under his able pastorate it has become one of the most flourishing parishes in the state. Saints Peter and Paul's Church was established in 1869, and the honor and credit for founding it is mainly due to ten men who, as heads of families, desired to rear their children under the directing care of the Benedictine Fathers. They were: P. J. Assenmacher, Fred Fischer, Anton Koblitz, P. J. Lierz, John Lueb, Peter McQuaid, Thomas Morgan, John Spielman, John Stahl and Mathias Stein, each of whom contributed a sum of money toward the purchase of a suitable church property. Of the original founders all have passed to their eternal reward except P. J. Assenmacher and Fred Fischer. They purchased a block of ground from the Seneca school district for $1,000 and, on July 11, 1869, celebrated the dedication of their first church, which was of frame construction. It was dedicated by the Very Rev. Louis M. Fink, O. S. B., who at that time was prior of St. Benedict's College, Atchison, Kan., to the apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, and has since been known as Saints Peter and Paul's Church. The Rev. Pirmin Koumly, O. S. B., was the first pastor in charge, and did effective work in perfecting the organization. The old frame church was used until 1886, when the membership under the pastorate of the Rev. Suitbert De Marteau, who took charge Dec. 2, 1885, resolved to erect a fine brick structure as a place of worship. Work was begun on the new church, in 1886, and it was completed in about two years. By 1890 the church was fully furnished and the number of families had increased to 130, mostly Germans of the Oldenburger type. To the Reverend De Marteau more than to any of his predecessors is due the credit and honor of the growth and development of this church. He remained in charge until 1892, when he was transferred to St. Benedict's College, where he remained until his death on Jan. 11, 1901. Thus ended the life of a noble man, and one who might be rightly termed the father of Saints Peter and Paul's parish. The following pastors, all of the O. S. B., have had charge, in the order noted, since the founding of the church: Pirmin Koumly, Timothy Luber, Thomas Bartle, Suitbert De Marteau, Pirmin Koumly, Boniface Verhegen, Winfried Schmidt, Charles Stoeckle and Thomas Burk, who was succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. Lawrence Theis. Soon after the church was founded the Benedictine Sisters from Mount St. Scholastica's Academy of Atchison founded a parochial school, which has grown apace with the church, and with over 300 pupils, is the largest parochial school in Nemaha county. Five large and substantial buildings adorn the church and school grounds, which have an area of two city blocksthe church, the school, the pastor's residence, the sisters' residence, and a fine auditorium, built by the Reverend Theis, O. S. B., in 1910. It will seat about 1,000 and is provided with a spacious gallery and a fine stage. Father Theis is a tireless worker and is building up one of the strongest parishes in the state.Pages 1415-1416 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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