Sacred Heart Parish, Plainville Kansas
Little is known of the beginning of the Sacred Heart Parish. Irish Catholics who homesteaded south of Stockton on the open prairie in the 1880's were served by Father Frederick Schalk, C.P.P.S. Father Frederick and other missionary priests would offer Mass for the settlers in a sod home. The first recorded baptism took place at Twin Mounds. Anna Mary Pankau, daughter of Joseph Pankau and Katherine Klein, born August 12, 1879, was baptized on September 25, 1879, by Father Ferdinand Waiser.
During the 1890's the number of Catholic pioneers increased. Their needs were provided for by the French Missionary Priests of the Zurich Parish, Fathers Pujoz, Mainville, Molier, Fortier, Revier. Holding Mass there every other Sunday, soon a small frame church with four windows on each side was built at the direction of Father Pujoz.
Soon Father Mainville (who was the first resident pastor) was assigned to the little parish at Plainville and built the first rectory. In 1894 Father J.B. Vornholt took charge of the recently erected church, to which he administered until 1904. During these ten years, under his direction both the little frame church and the rectory were enlarged. Father Louis Wahlmeier continued Father Vornholt's hard work for about a year and a half beginning in 1904. During this time the little frame church was moved slightly to the north and was enlarged again. Father McConnell served the parish for a short time in early 1906 when the Very Reverend Perrier, Vicar General of the Concordia Diocese, became pastor of Sacred Heart. Father Perrier went to work enlarging the church whose original parts dated back to the early 1890's. He added the apse, transepts and towers, then faced the whole structure with brick. The interior of the church was painted a beautiful design and the altar was one of the finest in the western part of Kansas. An article in the Plainville Times dated April 19, 1906 states that "Rev. Perrier built a fine, large brick church which bespeaks the generosity and the Christian spirit of the town as well as of the Catholic congregation."
In November 1908, Father Henry Baumstimler was appointed pastor of the parish. He had a dream; that there would be a Catholic school at Plainville. Within two years (1910) a two-story brick school stood on the north part of the current school's site. The school had two large classrooms with a small entrance to the West for a cloakroom. The first floor was classrooms and the upper floor was the convent. Father Henry and Theresa McCormick were the only teachers for the 75 students during the first year. in 1911 Father Henry persuaded the Sisters of St. Joseph to come and teach the students. The first sisters to serve the parish and school were Carmel Deiss, Cortona Robben, DePazzi Wynn, and Felix McCarthy. By 1914, the school reached an enrollment of 105 students. Also, during this time, Father Baumstimler built the rectory that stood until 1970. Father Henry served the parish for 35 years and he is the only priest buried at Sacred Heart Cemetery.
appointed to follow Father henry was Father Daniel Mulvihill, who added to the parish's material structure by moving in a house to be used as a convent (which stood just off the south east corner of the current school - and stands today about a block from the school) and an army chapel from Walker Air Force Base to be used as a parish hall. With the old red brick church "precariously standing", Father Mulvihill began collection funds for a new church. However, Sacred Heart would not see a new Church until 1955.
Some sources mention that Plainville had a mission to Natoma, where sacraments were administered on a regular basis. Whether a Church Structure existed is unknown. However, such visitations ceased by the late 1920's or early 1930's.
Father Joseph Weimer arrived in Plainville in 1951 with orders from the Bishop to build a new church. Father Weimer began within a few weeks after he arrived, razing the old brick church. During that time, Mass was celebrated in Memorial Hall, the army chapel which Father Mulvihill had moved in. Wood and brick remnants of the old church were used to build a workshop which still stands today east of the Rectory and is used as a garage.
The Church cornerstone for the current church was laid in December of 1952. The building of the new church was largely done by volunteers over the next several years. The cost of the new structure was $200,000 and is built of native stone quarried and dressed in south Ellis County. The design of the Church is Old English and Gothic architecture and one of the finest in Western Kansas. The stone walls were carried through to the inside of the church providing a permanent finish requiring no upkeep. The church is 150 feet by 48 feet with a seating capacity of 650 people. Harley Bland was the general contractor and A. Schuckman of Hays sub-contractor for the stone work. For a brief period of time, construction was halted due to lack of funds. The church was completed in 1955 with the first Mass being celebrated on May 15, the Feast of the Ascension.
Father Weimer continued progress for the members of the parish. He not only replaced the church but was instrumental in having a new school and convent built. Sacred Heart School was condemned in during 1959. On November 20, 1959, ground was broken for both a new school and a new convent. The school was finished in March 1961. Both the school and convent were dedicated on October 12, 1961, by Bishop F.W. Freking, D.D. The first school council was formed in 1966. In 1968, Father. C. Kruse pastored the parish until Father John Moeder took over as the pastor in late 1968. He began work on the present-day rectory which was completed in the summer of 1971. In the spring of 1970, the Parish received the announcement that Sacred Heart Grade School would no longer include graces 7 and 8. Father James Grennan served as pastor during the next 13 years beginning in 1971. It was during that time that the Knights of Columbus Hall was built. Father Don Pfannenstiel served the parish from 1983 to 1986. In 1986, Father Emil Labbe C.P.P.S. was appointed pastor. Father Labbe worked hard to stabilize the parish and school finances to provide for the upkeep of the parish plant. From 1983 to 1991 there were various projects to improve and maintain the parish building. At this time, the stained-glass windows were restored, and the stone Church was sand-blasted and tuck-pointed. In the spring of 1990, St. Ann's Parish in Zurich lost their pastor, Father Ernest Gallagher to death. Due to the decreasing number of priests, St. Ann's became a mission of Sacred Heart in Plainville. Father Al. Brungardt became pastor in 1991.
In that same year, the first annual benefit auction took place, and began its tenure of the providing annual funds for the school and parish. 1996 saw the school receiving a new metal roof. In 1997, Father Joseph Popelka became the pastor of Sacred Heart as well as Saint Ann. During the summer of 1999, pitched roofs were added over the flat roofs of the church and new windows were placed in the school - all through volunteer labor.