SAINT BONIFACE CHURCH

 

 

     Since there was no Catholic parish in Stuart during the early years of its growth, those who wished to go to Mass and receive the sacraments probably had to travel to O’Neill, NE, where Father John T. Smith was the pastor, or Father John would visit the surrounding areas and minister to them.

 

     It wasn’t until 1890 that the Catholic settlers purchased their first real estate, an old District #44 public school building, which served as a place of worship for several years.  With the help of Father Emil Klemenz of Atkinson, the Stuart Catholics built their first frame church in 1896.  It had a seating capacity of 168 and cost approximately $2,400.  It was located near the present pastor’s garage.  St. Boniface officially became a mission of St. Joseph’s in Atkinson.

 

     Three years later, in 1899, Bishop Scannell of the Omaha Archdiocese announced that St. Boniface of Stuart was an independent parish and Father Anthony Birnback became the first pastor.

 

     As the parish continued to grow, a small school was organized in 1904 under the direction of Father Brietkopf and a group of Catholic families.  It became established as a parochial school, supported by the entire parish in 1907, and has remained as such to this very day.

 

     Father Julies Heffwer was appointed as the third parish priest and began an ambitious expansion program.  Under his guidance, the rectory was remodeled and the building of the present day church was begun in 1911.

 

     Bishop Tihen of Lincoln, NE, preformed the dedication ceremony of St. Boniface Church on July 9, 1912.  It was a high celebration acknowledging the sacrifice and hard work of the Stuart parishioners for a tremendous achievement.

 

     When completed, St. Boniface Church became the tallest building in Stuart which included a clock tower, church bells, beautiful stained glass windows and a large pipe organ.  It was truly a place of worship dedicated to Almighty God.

 

     Throughout the years, the parishioners have continued to make the necessary repairs to keep St. Boniface a beautiful edifice.  2001 was no exception.  The church interior was completely refurbished and finished by August.  The vestibule project began in September of 2001 which included an enclosed entryway with handicap facilities. This project was completed in August of 2002.

 

  In June 2004, it was announced that St. Boniface and St. Joseph’s of Atkinson would share a priest.  This is due largely to the clergy shortage at this time.  Fr. Luke Steffes presently serves both parishes.

  

   St. Boniface Church has been blessed with many dedicated parishioners and parish priests.  St. Boniface has been a place of worship since 1896 and continues to serve the spiritual needs of over 200 families and households.

 

  Because the enrollment went down, St. Boniface School closed in May 2008.  This, of course, was a sad day for the parish.

 

  From 2008 – 2009 Little Sprouts Preschool was held at the school, taught by Jan Kunz.

 

  In the fall of 2009 the Stuart Public School rented a room in the St. Boniface School and now has a pre-school for 3 and 4 year old children at the facility.   Thus, the building is still being used as a school for children as our parish founders intended.

 

  Also during 2009, a number of smaller repairs were done to the parish building to keep our buildings in good repair.

 

  Renovation of the choir loft was completed in 2011.

 

  In August of 2011 – we held our 100 year Celebration of the dedication of St. Boniface Church. In honor of this occasion we sold t-shirts/polo’s, coasters, and had a parish directory made. We held monthly basket raffles to help with the fundraising. Archbishop George J. Lucas celebrated Mass that day followed by a parish dinner. Former pastors attending were Rev. Francis Kubart and Rev. Doug Scheinost. Many enjoyed reminiscing and looking at old photographs.

 

  The parish continues to serve the people of Stuart and also invites the St. Joseph members to attend services in Stuart if the time frame fits their schedules.