Friday, 03 June 2011 08:39
By Ana Rumback
HUTCHINSON – The St. Teresa Catholic Church building at 211 E. Fifth Avenue in Hutchinson marked its centennial on May 21. One needs only to look at the intricate domed ceiling, majestic high altar, and European-style stained-glass windows to know the building holds rich history. Although it is known as the Mother Church of Reno County, St. Teresa Catholic Church emerged from humble beginnings.
Father Paul Ponziglione, a Jesuit missionary priest, traveled along the Arkansas River in the Reno County area in the late 1870s. Credited with having said the first Mass in Reno County, Father Ponziglione spent his days ministering to the poor, hard-working, and deeply faithful Irish Catholics who inhabited the area.
At that point, masses were said in various families’ homes and even in the courthouse in Hutchinson. It was Father Felix Swemberg, who came to the area in the fall of 1872, who appealed to then-Bishop Louis Mary Fink to build a Catholic church in Hutchinson. His eager request was granted in 1878.
Work began in earnest and, with funds gathered from Catholic and non-Catholic residents of the area, Hutchinson’s first Catholic church was completed in 1882. Standing at the southwest corner of 2nd and Maple Streets, the small, wooden church was the first in Hutchinson to have electric lighting.
The church attracted large numbers, and it soon became evident that it was far too small for its growing congregation. Since there was no room for expansion at the corner of 2nd and Maple, several lots were purchased at the current location of 5th Avenue and Poplar, and the small church was moved to that location in 1897.
But challenges were far from over. In June of 1898, after an expansion and remodel, the little church was struck by lightning, which destroyed the steeple and the front of the church. Then in July of 1902, an altar candle was to blame for a fire that burned out the sanctuary of the church. It was becoming evident that God had plans for a bigger church! Under the direction of Father M.J. O’Farrell and continuing with Father William Farrell, planning began for a new church.
Plans for a beautiful, new cathedral in Hutchinson were drawn up by French-born architect Emmanuel Masqueray, who was also the architect for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. One of the leading designers of parish churches for the Catholic Church in the Midwest, Masqueray was on hand for the ground-breaking ceremony for St. Teresa Catholic Church on March 10, 1910.
The cornerstone of the church was laid two months later. And on May 21, 1911, the new church was dedicated by Bishop John J. Hennessey with 1,500 people inside the church for the service and 1,000 more waiting outside, unable to get in. The original church building was purchased by the Calvary United Brethren Church and moved to 502 West Avenue A in Hutchinson.
Over the years, St. Teresa Catholic Church has undergone various updates and renovations. The most notable include: the addition of the marble Del Prado altar in 1917; the addition of the south parking lot in the 1960s; the coincidental acquisition of the smaller, matching Del Prado altar in 1976; the $314,000 renovation also in 1976 (more than six times the original construction cost); the restoration in the mid-1990s done mainly by parishioners alongside Father Richard Stuchlik; and the addition of the Adoration Chapel in 2000. Our current pastor, Father Nicholas Voelker, is in the process of raising funds to repair the tuckpointing of the church.
Added to the local, state, and national Registry of Historic Landmarks in 1994, St. Teresa Catholic Church is a testimony of the faith, hard work, and determination of the Catholic forefathers of Hutchinson and the surrounding area, and of its pastors and parishioners throughout the past century.
Celebration set for next weekend
St. Teresa parish will celebrate the 100-year dedication anniversary of its beloved church the weekend of June 10-12 with a parish dance, a celebration Mass and reception with Bishop Michael O. Jackels, and a parish picnic.