Sacred Heart Mission celebrates 125th anniversary

Bishop Edward M. Rice was joined by area clergy, religious, and many joyful parishioners as a Mass of Thanksgiving was offered June 18 for the 125th anniversary of Sacred Heart Mission Church, Thayer.


A visiting priest celebrated the first Mass in Thayer in 1885. In the early days, the liturgy was celebrated in a two-story hotel on the southeast corner of Front and Chestnut Streets. The hotel was operated by J.M. Brady, a Catholic.

From 1890 to 1891, various priests from Doniphan traveled to Thayer for Mass held in people’s homes. From 1892-1894, the priests came from Poplar Bluff. The first known, though unrecorded, baptism at Thayer was for Anna Mary Baertels of Mammoth Spring, AR, in March of 1892. She was the mother of Sacred Heart parishioner, Ethel Heger.

In 1893, construction of a church was started on South 6th street, between Ash and Locust streets. The property was donated by Henry and Molly Garwood. From 1894 to June 1897, Fr. John Waelterman, who was stationed at White Church, traveled to Thayer to celebrate Mass once a month. The first recorded baptism at Thayer was Mary Catherine Leonard. The first recorded marriage was Mr. and Mrs. John Wilson on April 26, 1897. The census of Catholic families in 1897 totaled 37 people (seven married families and three single households).

In 1902, Fr. Reker moved to Thayer and became the first resident pastor. In March of that year, two vacant lots on Walnut Street and 5th were purchased for a new church. The property was deeded to Abp. John J. Glennon of St. Louis on June 13, 1905. Sometime around 1903, the church building on 6th Street was moved to the newly-purchased vacant lots. A bell and bell tower were added and was built by the father of Mr. C. Henry Bauer along with Henry’s brothers. The concrete and rock were donated by Andy Shill.

From 1903-1908, the priests from Thayer also attended to the faithful in Birch Tree. Fr. John C. Condit became the first pastor and was the last resident pastor at Thayer. All future pastors resided at the rectory in West Plains.

Current church

On Aug. 24, 1956, the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau was created, and Charles H. Helmsing became the first bishop. In 1957, a new church building was erected on Best Circle Drive on 9.69 acres of land donated by parishioners Owen and Helen Best. The church was built under the direction of Fr. Sylvester (“Syl”) Bauer and Mr. Best.

On March 19, 1958, the first Mass was celebrated in the new church by associate pastor then-Fr. William J. Stanton. The first wedding in the new church was William Haas and Helen Jean Best. On July 17, 1958, the first baptisms in the new church were Stephen Watson and his sister, Peggy Watson. In the summer of 1966, the parish made the final mortgage payment. In 1983, classrooms and meeting rooms were added to the north side of the church building. On June 7, 1992, a Centennial Mass was held and celebration with Bp. John J. Leibrecht.

Pastors of Sacred Heart Church Since 1992: 1991-1994, Fr. Robert Suit; 1994-1999, Fr. Justin Monaghan; 1999-2002, Fr. Gary Carr, 2002-2005; Fr. John Brath; 2005-2008, Fr. James Reynolds; 2008-2015, Fr. Joe Weidenbenner; 2015-Present Fr. Shoby M. Chettiyath.

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