AMELIA — St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Amelia will be celebrating its 100th Anniversary on Sunday, June 23.
The following history of the church was submitted by Michele Brase:
In the late 1800s, Pioneers began converging on the prairie land of Holt County. The village of Amelia, named for Pioneer Woman Amelia Bliss, was settled in the center of the flowing well belt. The many flowing wells in the area are to this day the town of Amelia's claim to fame.
The early settlers had their share of hardships, harsh winters, prairie fires and a lack of fuel for warmth and cooking to name a few.
The Catholics in the area had an additional hardship; little availability to a priest or the sacraments. Their options were Atkinson, 25 miles to the north; O'Neill, 35 miles northeast; or Erina, 20 miles south. Father Loecker came from Atkinson a few times and said mass in the homes of parishioners.
In the fall of 1918 the lumber for the new church was brought in and it was built in the spring of 1919. As the finished building resemble a barn, it was decided to add a tower. From that time on mass was celebrated about once a month usually on a Thursday.
When a priest was unable to be there on Sundays, the people would gather for the rosary. Twice a priest had been appointed pastor. One did not come and the other one could not reach Amelia on account of the terrible state of the roads so was given another appointment.
In June 1923 Rev. PJ Vandeerlaan was appointed pastor. The new pastor boarded in various homes until a rectory could be constructed. The rectory was completed in November 1923. It wasn't until December 1926 that the church was wired and lights were installed.
In 1933 Amelia lost its resident pastor and from 1933-38 was a mission of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Atkinson.
On Jan. 3, 1940 the parish rectory was sold to Duane Carson. The new location for the rectory was prepared 3 1/2 miles west of Chambers on the north side of the road where it is still being used as a home today. Due to the wet spring in 1940 it took six weeks to move the house. It was moved across pastures using horses and ropes.
In 1947 Amelia was once again a mission of Emmett. Fr. Joseph Lane at times would drive to the O'Neill airport and hop in his plane to fly to Amelia to say Mass.
In 1969 Emmett lost its resident pastor so Amelia once again became a mission of Atkinson.
On Jan. 1, 1971 Amelia became a mission of O'Neill. Plans were made at that time to build an addition to the west side of the church.
On June 23, St. Joseph's parish will celebrate its 100th anniversary. The little church that was built 100 years ago still stands.
But the church is not a building, but the people in the parish. The fact that the parish is still going strong after 100 years we owe to the generations of diligent hard-working Catholics that came before us.
They were determined to have a Catholic parish in Amelia and God willing we will continue to foster a community of strong faith for generations to come.