THE IRISH IN IOWA

HOLY NAME CATHOLIC CHURCH OF MARCUS, CHEROKEE CO, IA

Harlan, Edgar Rubey. A Narrative History of the People of Iowa.
Vol III. Chicago: American Historical Society,  1931

     p. 303

     THE HOLY NAME CATHOLIC CHURCH OF MARCUS. The first members of the Catholic faith to settle at Marcus, Cherokee County, in 1872, were of Irish and German descent, and for five years were obliged to worship individually or in one or another private residence sufficiently large to accommodate a gathering. In 1877 the comparatively few Catholics at this settlement built the first church structure of that denomination, a small frame building, very modestly furnished. Father Meis, of Le Mars, was the first priest to say mass in this humble place of worship, which later, from 1878 until 1883, was attended as a mission from Storm Lake by Fathers Gaffney and Slattery.
     In 1882 the second church structure was built, and this building still stands, being located two blocks north of the present brick church, erected in 1915. The rectory, which still stands but not now owned or used by the church, was built while Father Gilchrist was pastor in 1885, and in 1890 the first convent school was built, on the site of the present rectory, by Father Hennessy, who was pastor at that time, although the school was opened by Father John O'Reilly, who succeeded Father Hennessy. This school building was sold in 1914 and moved to the business district and is now used as the Marcus Hotel. The present fine new school building was then built.. Father O'Reilly secured the Sisters, B.V.M., to conduct the school, which was named Loretto Convent. At that time the congregation was scarcely prepared for this innovation and the Sisters suffered with patience and humility during that winter because of poor accommodations and inadequate heating. By their forebearance the Sisters won the love and respect of the parish and the names of Mother Superior Alexandra and Sisters Ingratia (music), Lomne and Louanna will long be remembered with affection. In 1915 the new church and new school were built by Father Edward O'Reilly, the work being all planned and completed within the space of two years. The church has a membership of 150 families, while Holy Name School has 175 pupils, with nine Sisters in charge. The names of the priests who have served this parish regularly are: Father Gilchrist, 1884-1886; Father Michael Hennessy, 1888-1891; Father John O'Reilly, 1891-1903; Father John Phelan, 1903-1906; Father Edward O'Reilly, 1906-1919; and Father George Cooke, 1920 to the present.
     Father Edward O'Reilly was appointed pastor of Holy Name Church of Marcus in 1906 and here accomplished a work that established the church firmly and made him one of the most beloved citizens of the community. The church, parochial school house, costing $100,000, were dedicated in September, 1916, and at the time of Father O'Reilly's death the property was entirely free from indebtedness.
     Father O'Reilly was born at Ballemacaugh, County Cavan, Ireland, in 1870, a member of a well-to-do and prominent Irish family, and after attending a seminary entered, in 1889, All Hallows College, Dublin. He was ordained to the priesthood June 24, 1894, and in September of that year came to the United States and was appointed assistant to Monsignor Ryan, pastor of Saint Patrick's Church, Dubuque, Iowa, later being assistant to Archbishop Hennessy. He was appointed pastor at West Bend, Iowa, where his parishioners were all German people, which necessitated Father O'Reilly's learning the German language. This he did and was able to speak German fluently. Later he was assigned to Sibley, Iowa, where he served eight years, during which he built a new parish house and improved the church. His work at Marcus has already been touched upon, and when he died, October, 17, 1919, the entire community was plunged into mourning, his funeral, the largest ever held at Marcus, being attended by more than 1,000 persons, including Catholic priests from all over the state.
     Father George Cooke, the present pastor, was born in Ireland, May 30, 1870. He received his early education at Dublin, where he was prepared for the priesthood at All Hallows College, and on coming to the United States was assistant priest at Sioux City, Iowa. Subsequently he was in charge at Larchmond, Iowa, for twelve years, and at Anthon for ten years, and in July, 1920, was assigned to his present charge. He has carried on the good work started by his predecessor, and is a man who has the universal confidence, esteem and friendship of the people of his community.

 

 


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2001 Cathy Joynt Labath