The first Catholic services in the SW corner of Iowa were held in the early 1870’s. Prior to that time, Catholics living in this area made the two-day journey to Nebraska City, NE for services.
Father Bernard McMenomy
was born in August 1830 in County Donegal, Ireland. He came to the United States in 1849 and was ordained on February 24, 1854. He was the first resident priest in Council Bluffs. He came in 1869 from Georgetown, Monroe County, Iowa. He laid out the town of St. Marysville in NE Missouri and established the postoffice there naming it St.Patrick. While at Georgetown he was responsible for the erection of churches in Georgetown, Melrose, Chariton, Woodburn and one near Leon. These churches were erected for some 200 miles along the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. He erected St. Francis Xavier Church in Council Bluffs, St. Francis Academy, St. Joseph Academy and the rectory there. In the early 1870’s, Father McMenomy began celebrating Mass in the railroad section house in Shenandoah.
Father Fredrick William Pape
was born in Buern, Westphalia in Prussia on January 27, 1844. He was one of 8 brothers. He came to this country in 1851 and settled in New Vienna, IA where he helped on the farm and attended school during the winter months. He was a clerk in a store, did extensive traveling, and after the death of his mother following the good example of his half-brother Rev. Aloisius Meis, he began his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained on March 25, 1874 at Milwaukee, WI. He came to Hamburg that same year and was the first regular pastor in SW Iowa. He was assisted by Father Tierney. He took care of the spiritual needs of the Catholic settlers scattered throughout SW Iowa for six years. He had no home and he traveled with a satchel in his hand. He secured meals and lodging at private homes. He organized churches at Hamburg, Shenandoah, Red Oak, Villisca, Malvern, Sidney, Nodaway, Blumer Settlement, Glenwood, Neola, Mt. Carmel, Carroll, Rozell, Arcadia, Wall Lake, Odebolt and Ida Grove. He died on April 2, 1919 while serving his home parish of St. Boniface in New Vienna.
Father Gerald Stack
was born in 1847. Some records say Ireland and others say Chicago, IL. The records of his early years and seminary training and ordination were probably destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. He came to serve the spiritual needs of this area in 1876. In 1877, arrangements were made to hold services in Monroe Township in the Honey Creek schoolhouse. A more convenient location was needed, so services were moved about two years later to the Monroe Center schoolhouse. During this time he raised $2,000 to erect a church at Imogene. He organized the parish in June 1880. The final papers were signed on June 21, 1880. After the Imogene parish was founded as a mission of Shenandoah, the membership of the Shenandoah parish dropped from 150 to 30. That same year it was decided to build a white frame church for $1,800. Before the church building could be completed, Father Stack received a new assignment. He died at Foresthill, CA on November 30, 1906.
Father John L. Garner
took father Stack’s place and was followed by various other priests during the construction of the church.
Father James J. Ryan
was born on December 14, 1840 at Damerstown Castlecomer Kilkenny, Ireland. He was ordained in 1872. From 1879-1881 he was assigned to St. Patrick parish in the “Kerry Patch” section of northern St. Louis. Archbishop Kenrick of the Archdiocese of St. Louis allowed him to serve the needs of the faithful in Iowa. He came to serve Shenandoah/ Imogene in 1882. By then the church at Imogene was completed enough that he began to hold services in the church. He was a man of wealth and used his own money to purchase lots in Shenandoah where he moved St. Mary Church and built the parsonage.On December 3, 1883 he bought 4 acres of land south of Imogene for Mount Calvary Cemetery. He left the parsonage in Shenandoah on a sick call to Imogene in February 1884. He fell into the icy waters of the Nishnabotna River, but completed his call on the bitterly cold February night. He caught pneumonia and passed away a couple days later on February 17, 1884. He was one of the first to be buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery. Later his body was moved to a more desirable location in the cemetery.
Father Mary Theodore (M.T.) Schiffmacher
was born in Alsace-Lorainne France in August 1834. His father was a prominent French general-Phillipe Conrad Charles Schiffmacher. M.T. was educated in Paris and became a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. In 1861, he was sent to Dublin to construct the first building of Blackrock College. In 1863, he became a missionary priest and went to the diocese of Dubuque. He was assigned to Washington, IA and remained there until 1868. He then served at Bellevue for 14 years. Then he was assigned to Red Oak, Shenandoah, Imogene (6 months), Fairfield and finally to Neola in 1886. He died at Neola on January 24, 1901 and is buried there.
Father Peter Clarke
served the parish from 1884-1885.
Father John Alphonse Cook
was born on July 2,1855 at Philadelphia, PA and was one of thirteen children, four of whom entered religious life. He was ordained in 1884. Father Cook served at Imogene from 1885 until August 1888. He had charge of missions in Shenandoah, Imogene, Red Oak, Villisca and all Catholics in Mills County, IA. He died in Council Bluffs on December 3, 1932 and is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery there.
Father Edmund (Edmond) Hayes
was born in Youghal County Cork Ireland in 1852. He was one of eight children. His siblings were Joseph(Southampton, England), David, John, Patrick, William (Ely, Nevada), Katharine (a nun in Belgium) and Ellen (Ely, Nevada) Hayes.He studied at the Christian Brothers School until the age of 15. He graduated from St.Mary College in San Francisco, CA in 1871 with an AM and studied theology at the Grand Seminary in Montreal Canada. He was ordained in 1878. When the Imogene parish was detached from Shenandoah in August of 1888, Father Hayes came from Melrose, IA to become the first permanent pastor of St. Patrick parish. He passed away on February 8, 1928 at St. Joseph Hospital in Omaha, NE where he had been for almost two years. He is buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery.
Father Francis William Doyle
was born at Plato, IA on September 23, 1893. He was one of seven children. Two of his sisters entered the Franciscan Order in Dubuque. In early childhood, his family moved to Cedar Rapids He attended St. Patrick Grade School and St. Joseph. High School in Cedar Rapids, Loras College in Dubuque and St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, MN. He was ordained in Des Moines, IA on May 14, 1921 by Bishop Drumm. He came to Imogene in 1926 and served as administrator until the death of Father Hayes in 1928. He then served as pastor until his death on September 30, 1966. He is buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery at Imogene.
Father John Eugene Cunningham
was born on May 9, 1927 in Des Moines, IA. He attended Dowling High School, Loras College in Dubuque and Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis. He was ordained in Des Moines on May 22, 1951. He taught at Dowling High School and served at several parishes before coming to Imogene on January 2, 1967. He left Imogene on September 2, 1970 to serve in Council Bluffs. He passed away on November 3, 2010.
Father James Stessman
was born in Panama, IA in 1934 and grew up in Missouri Valley, IA. He attended Loras College and Mt. St. Bernard College in Dubuque. He was ordained in 1961. He taught at Dowling High School in Des Moines. In 1965 he joined the Society of St. James of the Apostle and served as a missionary in Bolivia for five years. He became pastor in Imogene on September 10, 1970 and left on August 18, 1971.
Father Gordon Gittens
was born in Earling, IA . He attended Conception Seminary and Mt. St Bernard in Dubuque. He was ordained in 1968 and was associate pastor of St. Joseph parish in Des Moines for three years before becoming pastor at Imogene on August 18, 1971. He left to teach at St. Albert’s in January 1973.
Father Daniel Delehant
was born on September 26, 1924 at Beatrice, NE. He graduated from St. Francis high School in Council Bluffs and attended Creighton University before transferring to Conception Seminary in 194. He was ordained on June 4, 1953. He taught at Dowling High School before his appointment as Chaplain at Mercy Hospital in Council Bluffs in 1954. He received an MS in education from Creighton University in 1955. He returned to Dowling until establishing St. Albert High School and was superintendent there from 1963-1972. He served at Woodbine and Pisgah before becoming pastor at Imogene early in 1973. He passed away on August 10, 1978 while serving Imogene and is buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery in Imogene.
Father James McIlhon
was born on January 28, 1932 at Des Moines. He was one of five children and attended All Saint’s School and Dowling High School . He studied at Conception Seminary in MO and Mt.St. Bernard in Dubuque and Creighton University in Omaha. He was ordained at St.Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines. He was appointed administrator of our parish on April 10, 1979 and served until September 1980. He passed away in the rectory at Massena on August 14, 1989.
Father Jim Radde, S.J.
was born in Wapheton, ND on November 24, 1938. He graduated from Notre Dame University in 1960, obtained a MA from St. Louis University in 1966 and a Master of Divinity degree from the same university in 1974. He was ordained in his hometown on June 3, 1972. He taught for two years at Campion High School in WI and was a chaplain-supervisor-director of pastoral care at St. Joseph Hospital in Kirkwood, MO for five years. He was a retreat director since 1971. He served our parish from September 22-November 30, 1980.
Father Louis Meyer, O.S.B.
was born on September 12, 1906 at Dedham, IA.He was one of eight children. One brother became a diocesan priest and three sisters joined the Franciscans of LaCrosse, WI. Father Louie was ordained on June 5, 1932. He earned several degrees and was a professor of Canon Law, moral theology and pastoral theology for many years. He also served as seminary rector, treasurer, chaplain to the students, director of Oblates, and porter for the Abbey guests. He served as pastor at various parishes in MO and chaplain to the sisters at Clyde, Mo and Yankton, SD. In 1981, he came to serve our parish on weekends until a permanent pastor came in June of that year. He passed away at Conception Abbey on February 25, 1993.
Father John Clarke
was born in Davenport, IA on February 25, 1921. He was one of three brothers. He graduated from Dowling High School and attended Dowling College.He graduated from St. Paul College in St. Paul, MN and completed theological studies at St. Paul Seminary in 1945. He was ordained at St. Augustine Church in Des Moines on November 11. 1945. He served at many parishes in the Des Moines diocese before being assigned to Imogene on June 10, 1981. He retired there on July 13, 2000 and lived in Atlantic, IA until his death on October 23, 2009.
Father James Kleffman
was born on June 3, 1934 near Portsmouth, IA the youngest of ten children. The family later moved to Council Bluffs and he graduated from St. Francis Grade and High Schools. He graduated from Loras College in 1956 and then Mount St. Bernard Seminary in Dubuque. He was ordained on June 5, 1960. He served various parishes and taught at Dowling High School before becoming an Army chaplain. He retired from the Army Chaplaincy in 1995. He then served at Missouri Valley before coming to Imogene on July 13, 2000. He was our first pastor after we became a mission of Red Oak. He retired on July 10, 2003 and moved to Council Bluffs, IA.
Father Kenneth Gross
was born on April 7, 1945 near Westphalia, IA. He attended St. Boniface School Grades 1-12. He went to Conception Seminary for college and then to St. Bernard Seminary in Dubuque and St. Paul Seminary in MN. He was ordained on May 29, 1971 at Veteran’s Auditorium in Harlan. He was one of three priests who organized SWIPU (Southwest Iowa Parishes United) in 1981. He served at many parishes in the diocese and last served at Holy Family in Council Bluffs for 10 1/2 years before coming to Imogene on July 10, 2003. He became pastor at Greenfield/Massena on July 14, 2011.
Father Tom Kunnel
was born on October 31, 1960 at Kottayam, India. At age 15 he traveled 4K miles to Ranchi to enter the seminary. He was ordained a priest in the Third Order Regular Franciscans, headquartered in Rome, on December 26, 1988. Father belongs to the Province of St. Francis, India. He served in six areas throughout India and had to learn six languages to serve the people in each area he was assigned while completing studies for three Masters degrees. He gave retreats for Mother Teresa and her nuns in Calcutta and was secretary to the Archbishop of Ranchi. In December 2001, Father was ministering to the people of the Munda tribe and was taking care of the pastoral needs and youth ministry of the diocese of Khunti. It was then that his superior in Rome came to India and told him he had been picked to go as a missionary to the United States. By then he knew 7 languages and had to learn another-English. He served as associate pastor of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in New Brighton, Associate pastor of the Church of the Epiphany in Coon Rapids, and pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Columbia Heights, MN. He became the pastor of our parish and St. Mary in Red Oak on July 14, 2011. He was incardinated into the Diocese of Des Moines in 2015.
Father Lazarus Kirigia
was born on August 20, 1970 at Moru, Kenya. the middle of five boys. He started his seminary training in Kenya and finished at the Chicago Mundelein Seminary for the Diocese of Des Moines. He was ordained by Bishop Emeritus Joseph Charron on June 8, 2007. He served as parochial vicar at Corpus Christi parish in Council Bluffs for two years and Sacred Heart in West Des Moines for two years. He spent six years at St. Patrick in Corning and Lenox before becoming pastor of St. Patrick-Imogene on July 13, 2017.