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THE congregation of St. Mary, Help of Christians, at Loretto, formerly Illinois, Rush County, Kansas, is an offshoot of the Pfeifer parish. Holy Cross Church at Pfeifer had grown too small for the growing congregation, and in 1902, when it became evident that a new church had to be built, seventeen families decided to build at Illinois, about four and one-half miles south of Pfeifer. The founders of the new parish were: Peter Basgall, John W. Basgall, John K. Basgall, Casper Holzmeister, John P. Roth. Jacob Stremel, Leo Stremel, Anton J. Stremel, John R. Stremel, Adam Stremel, John P. Stegman, Adam S. Urban, George J. Urban, Joseph M. Urban, Adam Urban, Sr., Martin Urban and George G. Urban.
As members of the Pfeifer congregation these families had contributed liberally to the erection of the new Holy Cross Church, with the understanding that they should be reimbursed in case they should build a church of their own. When they finally separated they received $3,000.00.
In Illinois Adam S. Urban and Stephen S. Urban each donated five acres of land for a townsite; Martin Urban gave one acre for a graveyard and Joseph M. Urban gave five acres for the church, parsonage and school. On this plot a combination church and school measuring 6Ox28x2O feet was erected in the fall of 1912 at a cost of $3,387.33. Until separate church and schoolbuildings could be erected the upper story was to serve as a church, and the lower a school.
Having a church, the people were anxious to secure a resident pastor, and on November 22, 1912, Father Stutz was assigned to the parish. Divine services were held in the new edifice for the first time on the first Sunday of Advent, 1912. Owing to the lack of proper accommodations, it was decided to postpone the dedication until a priest house could be built.
Work on the new parsonage, which measures 40x28xl8 feet, was begun in January, 1913. The building was completed shortly after Easter. On the tenth of June, 1913, the church was dedicated by Rt. Rev. J. J. Hennessy, Bishop of Wichita. Toward the close of 1913 the ten acre townsite was divided into lots 50x15O feet, and these sold for the benefit of the church.
This same year, 1913, the name of the village was changed from Illinois to Marienfeld, and a short time later, to the present name, Loretto.
In 1914 the room under the church was furnished with desks and benches, and regular classes conducted. For four years laymen taught the children. In 1918, however, owing to the ever increasing number of pupils, Sisters had to be obtained to take charge of the school. In September two Precious Blood Sisters, Agnes and Servana of Wichita, arrived. In the absence of a convent, Mr. Anton J. Stremel offered his house as a temporary dwelling place for the teachers. In 1919 a convent measuring 28x26xl6 feet was erected at a cost of $5,000.00.
About this time a dispute arose concerning the boundary between the parishes of Loretto and Pfeifer. A number of people who had moved to Loretto after the town was founded still continued to attend Holy Cross Church at Pfeifer, and refused to help maintain the church at Loretto. After years of wrangling, the Bishops of Wichita and Concordia (Loretto being in the Wichita Diocese, and Pfeifer in the Concordia Diocese) called a conference at Hays to hear both sides of the question. Those concerned in the dispute assembled in the Capuchin Friary at Hays, December 28, 1923, and after thoroughly considering the matter the Bishops set the county line, which is at the same time the diocesan line, as the boundary. Even this measure failed to bring about peace, and the case was appealed to the Apostolic Delegate at Washington, and from him to Rome. However, both the Apostolic Delegate and Rome upheld the decision of the Bishops fixing the county line as the limit of the two parishes.
In the years immediately following the founding of the town, Loretto developed rapidly and in 1916 had a population of about sixty families. Continued crop failures between 1918 and 1924 greatly reduced the population, but since 1925 the number of inhabitants has been again increasing. At present about fifty families dwell in the little village.
Picture: Catholic Church and Parsonage, Loretto, Kans.
Picture: Group of Survivors of Loretto, Rush County, Kansas
Picture: Rev. Fr. Jos. Stutz, Pastor Loretto, Kans., Church
Picture: Sisters -
1. Sr. Callista (Urban); 2. Sr. Arsenius (Basgall); 3. Boniface (Urban); 4. Sr. Mary Clair (Stremel); 5. Sr. Thoretta (Stremel); 6. Sr. Caraletta (Eliz. Stroemel)
Picture: Loretto Deceased -
1. Joseph and Catharine Basgall; 2. Nicolaus and Anna Maria Bieker (Schoenchon); 3. Anton and Christina Stroemel; 4-5. Catharine and Jacob Urban
Transcribed from The Golden Jubilee of German-Russian Settlements of Ellis and Rush Counties, Kansas, August 31, September 1 and 2, 1926
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