The Nineteen Hundreds


  • Families decide to erect their own church in the town of Smithfield. They named it Saint John after Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist. Joe Fox, Jim Glenn, and Jim Newell served as trustees assisted during construction by Charles Murphy and Bernard Glenn.
  • November-Contractor M. O. Crawford staked out the 36’ x 50’ foundation.
  • David Majors and Emory Rosecrans put in the foundation.
  • Assisting Crawford were carpenters: E. Brown; John Cramer; Frank Crawford; Otto Curtice; George Forster; Sam C. Howard; Otto H. Rosenberg; and I.M. Spurgin.
  • Gus Renker did the plastering.


  • Saint John Catholic Church was completed!
  • The first pews were planks over nail kegs.
  • John Coppam made the first confessional with material donated by Ed Lauby.


  • Lightning struck catching the Church on fire. The Church was saved from complete destruction by heroic efforts of the Smithfield bucket brigade.
  • Parishioners gave generous donations to restore the damage.
  • A beautiful hammered ceiling was installed.
  • Priests brought a portable altar until the Matt Lauby family donated one.
  • A communion rail was donated by the Charles Murphy family.
  • The R. P. Larson family donated a pump organ.
  • The stove was given by the John Fox family.
  • Edward & Mary Lauby donated a Blessed Mary statue as did the Joe Fox family.
  • Father Blacha gave the Sacred Heart statue.
  • The St. John and St. Joseph statues came from the church at Stamford.


  • November 3rd, George & Mary (Fox) Hanson became the first couple to marry in St. John Church.


  • Bishop Charles J. O’Reilly made St. John Catholic Church a mission of Holdrege.


  • Father Ivo Weis, C.P.P.S. came to serve.


  • August 5th, the church was damaged by severe wind and hail.


  • Father A. A. Gerhardstein, C.P.P.S. came to serve.


  • Father Andrew R. Brunswick, C.P.P.S. came to serve.


  • Father E. M. Gengler, C.P.P.S. came to serve.


  • Father H. Wibbles came to serve February through May.
  • Father Stanley J. Buczkiewicz, came to serve on May 25th.


  • A beautiful four-part-harmony choir was formed.
  • The interior walls were painted for the first time.


  • Sister Charlotte Clayton, sister of Shirley Ebmeier,daughter of Claude & Lizzie Clayton, granddaughter of Charles Murphy,entered religious life. She now resides at the mother house in St. Catharine, Kentucky.


  • The church was wired for electricity by Charles Larson, Robert Glenn, and Joe Glenn, Jr.


  • Father Peter Naughton came to serve.
  • The Church was redecorated, the roof shingled, a stoker furnace installed, and a basement was built under it. The men of the church dug the basement. Frank Schwarz did the concrete work.


  • Father S. J. Siegienski came to serve.
  • The choir loft was built as extra seating was needed. The Altar Society had many chicken dinners at the Smithfield School to help pay for the new loft.


  • Father Benedict E. Kalin came to serve.
  • Leo Fox and Lawrence Hanson were appointed to the church board.


  • A Wurlitzer organ was presented in memory of Joe & Mary Fox by their children Mary Hanson, John, Ed, William, Leo, and Ralph Fox.
  • The organ was blessed on Sunday, May 23rd, by Father Kalin. Father Thomas Mercier of Roseland gave a talk on music of the Catholic Church. Father Frank Shuman of Benkleman, Diocesan Director of Music, gave an organ concert. Charleen Hoxmeier of Holdrege was the soloist.


  • The parish refurbished the interior of the church with carpet, tile paint, varnish, and padded kneelers. Amethyst-colored glass was installed in the windows.


  • The parish purchased two lots west of the church for parking space.
  • The new St. Ann’s Catholic Church was erected in Lexington. Mike Lauby received their confessional, baptismal fount, light fixtures, and their main altar to use at St. John Catholic Church. The altar was divided to make the side altars.


  • Father Howe came to serve.


  • A gas furnace was installed. The parking lots were graveled. Permanent siding and paint were applied to the exterior. The interior was painted and wall paneling added. Maroon drapes were hung in back of all three altars.


  • February 27th, A Day of Prayer for World Peace and Christian Unity was held.


  • Central air conditioning was added. Carpet in the altar area and aisles was laid.
  • New seats for the priest and altar boys were acquired. New storm windows were installed.


  • Vatican II Councilbrought about many changes. The large altar and communion rail were replaced with a small altar facing the people.
  • The Marian Sisters from the Pauline Centerin Holdrege came to Smithfield once a week for catechism classes. The Sisters that were assigned were: Sister Carol K.; Sister Cecilia; Sister Clare; Sister Deanna; Sister Elizabeth; Sister Loretta; Sister Margaret; Sister Michaelene; Sister Patricia S.; and Sister Veronica. Lay teachers were Peg Hart Fecht, Johnita Fox, Loretta Kubik, Denise Kuck, Sharon Leibhart, and Dan Wells.


  • Father Frederick Schmidt and his sister, Mrs. Eva Hotsinger, presented the Church with two white marble altars.


  • Father Dennis Hanneman was ordained for the Omaha Archdiocese.


  • Harry Gardine, Don Hanson, Jim Leibhart, Ron Mroczek, and Dan Wells complete lector training.


  • Father John Howe celebrates his Silver Jubilee. He had completed 25 years as pastor of St. John Parish and 44 years in the priesthood.


  • Father Paul Rutten came to serve in July.


  • Father John Zastrow came to serve in September.


  • The interior and exterior trim were painted, interior paneling cleaned, woodwork and pews varnished, Formica applied to the countertop in the sacristy, and confessional repaired. New fans, light fixtures, and new outlets were installed by Paul Brooks through Hock Electric.
  • Kneelers were upholstered by a donation from the Home Bank.


  • February 12th, World Marriage Day was celebrated. Phyllis Hanson facilitated.


  • St John’s had a parade float and food booth at the Smithfield Centennial celebration in May.


  • Donald Hanson and Dan Wells were appointed trustees upon the resignation of Leo Fox and Lawrence Hanson.
  • Trees were removed from the grounds.


  • Larry Bennett widened the front vestibule. The 8’ x 36’ expansion included a restroom, changes to the confessional, and a ramp.
  • Smithfield completed a running water system.


  • Oct. 24th, The Orleans Deanery Council of Catholic Women held their open Fall Meeting at St. John’s.


  • Landscaping efforts were started.
  • Baptismal font was donated to the Phelps County Museum.
  • Confessional was moved from the sanctuary to the west end of the vestibule.


  • Lightning Struck Again! Our Church Is On Fire! It was a total loss!
  • The Crucifix, the stations of the cross, some statues, and some vestments were rescued!
  • Most Reverend Fabian W. Bruskewitz wrote to the parishioners, “We know that the Chinese word for challenge is exactly the same as their word for opportunity. It seems the Lord in His providence, allows distressing things occasionally to happen so that good might derive from evil. It is in this context that we must place our trust in Him and under the patronage of your St. John, ask God to assist us with wisdom and strength as we go forth to face the future filled with promise and hope.”
  • An insurance policy allowed for rebuilding.
  • Groundbreaking ceremonies were held for a new church in October.
  • Mass and meetings held in city building.
  • Art’s Building and Supply built the new church.
  • Oak pews, altar and furnishings were from Rattigan in Beatrice.


  • Sunday, May 25th, the first Mass was celebrated in the new Church.
  • Tuesday, May 27th, pews and furniture were installed.
  • The Crucifix welcoming people to Mass was donated by Don & Phyllis Hanson in loving memory of their daughter, Lois.
  • Colored Windows were donated by the Phyllis Maaske family, the Baum family, the Roger & Shirley Ebmeier family, and Lawrence & Ruth Hanson family. Ralph & Gertie Fox donated the octagonal window above the altar.
  • Ruth Hanson donated the new vestments.
  • Sunday, July 20th, the new structure was blessed and dedicated by Lincoln Diocesan Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz.