Caruthersville parish 125 years strong

BLESSING—Bishop Edward M. Rice blessed a child as he greeted the faithful after the Mass of Thanksgiving marking the 125th anniversary of Sacred Heart Parish, Caruthersville, June 25. (Photo by Lynette Fowler)
BLESSING—Bishop Edward M. Rice blessed a child as he greeted the faithful after the Mass of Thanksgiving marking the 125th anniversary of Sacred Heart Parish, Caruthersville, June 25. A photo gallery of this event may be found HERE. (Photo by Lynette Fowler)

Anniversary marked June 25

Bishop Edward M. Rice celebrated the 125th anniversary of Sacred Heart Parish, Caruthersville, with pastor, Fr. Jaroslaw Z. Skrzypek, Deacon James D. Darter, Sr. Darlene Presley, GHMS, and a packed church on June 25. The Mass of Thanksgiving included a Papal Blessing from Pope Francis and a renewed commitment and consecration of the community to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and a reception.

History: Sacred Heart, Caruthersville

The first Catholic prayer offered in Pemiscot County, MO, is attributed to the Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto, reputedly the first white man to set foot in Missouri. With an expedition of some 720 men, which he personally financed, De Soto moved inland from the western coast of Florida in 1539 in search of riches in the new country. When he reached the Great River two years later, he claimed the entire Mississippi Valley for Catholic Spain. The exact spot where De Soto planted a cross and led a prayer in 1542 is uncertain, but it is thought to have been near the present site of Caruthersville.

In 1793, Fr. Pierre Gibault assumed his duties as pastor of New Madrid and its dependencies, which included the village of La Petite Prairie (Little Prairie), a settlement a short distance down river from present-day Caruthersville. By 1799, the French Catholic population had reached 78; however, the village of Little Prairie was completely destroyed in the New Madrid Earthquake of 1811. By 1870, the population of Caruthersville was 80. In 1876, the first Mass was celebrated in the home of a Dr. Palmer. Clement and Sally Nanson, non-Catholics, donated the land for a Catholic church in 1877.

The first Catholic Church in Pemiscot County, a 24’ x 40’ frame structure with a 48’ belfry tower, was built in 1892 and dedicated to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. After parishioners assured the Archdiocese of St. Louis that they could and would support a permanent pastor, Fr. William Schulte was appointed in 1797 the first pastor by The Most Rev. John Joseph Kain, Archbishop of St. Louis.

The first two decades of the 20th century saw the construction of the first rectory (1900), Sacred Heart Catholic School (1905), the present church (1913), and the present rectory (1925). Ursuline sisters from Crystal City taught at the school until 1937. They were replaced by Sisters of the Most Precious Blood.

The school was built in 1956, the year the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau was established. Both religious and lay teachers continued to educate children there until 1971, when the school closed.

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