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St Mary Denton History

Beginning when four families from  Ireland settled in an area of Lancaster County known as “Sullivan’s Settlement.” It was appropriately named inasmuch as all four families were named “Sullivan.” Yet, they were not related to each other. They had been forced to leave Ireland because of the potato famine and worked in coal and copper mines in Massachusetts and Michigan before coming to Nebraska. Each family bought a quarter section of land at $4.95 per acre. To save costs, they dug one well which was used by all four families for many years.

In 1884, Father Kennedy came from St. Theresa’s Church in Lincoln (not the present St. Teresa’s) to Sullivan’s settlement and celebrated Mass in the home of the Lockwood’s. Later, Mass was offered in the District 66 schoolhouse by Father Kennedy. This continued for four years until the Sullivan Settlement was assigned to the priests at St. Francis de Sales Church in Lincoln.

During the pastorate (1901-07) of Father Casimir Dietrich, O.F.M., Eugene Sullivan donated one acre of ground for a church. A frame building measuring 28X42 feet was constructed at a cost of $2000. It was not given a saint’s name, but was simply referred to as “The Church in Sullivan Settlement.”

The Franciscans continued to pastor the church until 1912, when Father Moran, a diocesan priest, was given the assignment. A decision was made to build a new church in the town of Denton. Mr. Gilbert, a non-Catholic, donated two lots of land for the church. The adjoining lot was purchased by the parish. The town businessmen contributed $1000 toward the construction cost of $3500. The 32X58-foot building was dedicated under the title of St. Mary’s by Bishop J. Henry Tihen on  August 7, 1912. He confirmed 29 parishioners that day as well.

Subsequent pastors between 1922 and 1945 were Fathers Felix Bronnenkant, Timothy Corcoran, Timothy O’Sullivan, Louis Jansen, Clement Siwinski and Frank Flicek. Father Flicek helped the parishioners liquidate the long-standing parish debt by introducing the “God’s Acre” plan. Father Joseph Keany, the next pastor, led a renovation of the church interior. His successors from 1948 through 1961 were Fathers Henry Denis, Raphael Collins, James Dillon, and Luke Mandeville.

On a very windy May 10, 1961, the church and nearby rectory caught fire and were reduced to ashes within fifteen minutes. Monsignor Max DeWitt was appointed the administrator of the parish. He and the parishioners studied the feasibility of building a new church. The response was positive, so a fund-raising effort was begun, with parishioners and former parishioners contributing. Instead of building on the same site, it was decided to use land south of the former building. Monsignor DeWitt was replaced by Father James Dawson in 1963. He was also the diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools. He celebrated the first Mass in the new church on  December 15, 1963. The church and rectory were dedicated by Bishop James V. Casey on  May 10, 1964. In 1981, a spacious narthex was added to the front of the church. Several years later, a chapel was built which continues to be used for weekday Masses and overflow for weekend Masses.  

Father Dawson was transferred to St. Mary’s Church in Lincoln in June, 1981. He was succeeded by Father Liam Barr who served as pastor and superintendent of Pius X High School in Lincoln. In 1995, Monsignor Thomas Holoman was named pastor. Under his pastorate several major improvements were made on the parish buildings. He also instituted the Godparent program for the religious education of the junior and senior high students. He retired in the fall of 2003 and was replaced by Monsignor Myron J. Pleskac, who introduced the Light of the World retreat and communities to St. Mary’s and served until transferred to the Christ the King Convent in June 2006 when he was succeeded by Father Mark Huber.

God has favored the parish with three religious vocations in its history: Father Eugene J. Sullivan, C.S.V., grandson of Timothy Sullivan; Father  Gary Coulter, son of Robert and Mary Coulter; and Sister Anne Joelle, C.K., daughter of Merlyn and Darnelle Braunsroth.

Currently, there are over 170 households in St. Mary’s Parish.

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Our Mission

  • Empower Catholics to pray for one another and discover the healing power of Christ in their lives.
  • Seek to be open to the workings of the Holy Spirit.
  • Help people respond to the good news of the gospel and apply the truth.
  • Grow in the forgiveness of oneself and others.