As our country’s sacrifice and suffering of the Civil War came to an end in 1865, along with Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, Saint Mary Church of Crown Point, Indiana was organized under the leadership of Bishop Luers.
A combination church and priests’ residence was built on South Main Street by Father Wehrle, the first officiating pastor. The birth of the parish, along with its first Baptism occurred on December 31, 1865. Anne M. Huber was the infant welcomed into the church’s community. The first couple of St. Mary’s to be united in Holy Matrimony was Mathias Schmidt and Catherine Scherer, on February 8, 1866. The first administration of Extreme Unction took place on May 27, 1867.
The first church of St. Mary’s was built in 1868. The day of the dedication also witnessed the first Confirmation in the parish. In 1868, Father Weiser succeeded Father Wehrle as pastor and was succeeded by Father Meissner in 1871.
In 1872, the parish continued to grow and so it became necessary to provide some means of educating the children. Because no funds for building were available or even obtainable at the time, the sacristy of the church was used as a schoolroom during the day. A Miss Miller was engaged as the first teacher, succeeded shortly afterwards by Adam Gerlach.
Father Zunbuilte became pastor from 1875 to 1876, at which time the Bishop turned the parish over to the Benedictine Fathers, (hoping to establish a young men’s college). However in 1889, a period of thirteen years had elapsed and the college was still only a fond hope. The Bishop returned a secular priest to the pastorate, Rev. Phillip Guethoff.
While the Benedictine Fathers were in charge of St. Mary’s, the sacristy was used for religious instruction. Father Meissner erected the first school and the Benedictine Sisters were the teachers. The Sisters remained for only a short time because financial reasons closed the school. Later it was reopened and the Sisters of St. Agnes were placed in charge.
In 1890, Father Guethoff found the church too small to accommodate his parishioners and so a new brick and stone structure, 50x113 feet, was constructed and remains as the church today. The Sisters moved into the old school where they remained until 1911, at which time they moved to a house across from the school on Joliet Street. Father Guethoff used the old school as a rectory while the present rectory and convent were under construction. They were completed and fully serviceable by 1911.
Perhaps one of Father Guethoff’s most outstanding virtues was the courageous and persevering fight he had waged for Catholic education. In order to further this cause so dear to his heart and, at the same time, offer our Catholic children at least the same conveniences of a modern school as those offered by the Public School System, it was necessary to build. In 1916, Father Guethoff received permission from the Right Reverend Bishop to oversee the building of a new school.
Faced with the country’s entrance into World War I and an existing debt of $5,000.00 on the church, Father Guethoff assumed the responsibility of constructing a new school. With the same spirit of faith and confidence actuated by the Apostles, Father undertook this great task. He appealed to the ever ready and willing generosity of his people. Once again with their steadfast enthusiasm to meet spiritual needs, the members of St. Mary’s congregation made their sacrifices cheerfully and as a lasting monument and silent testimony to their generosity.
It is of no wonder that St. Mary Catholic Community School and St. Mary Church remain strong, spiritual institutions of Crown Point, Indiana. Today’s members of the St. Mary family continue to carry on that steadfast enthusiasm and willing generosity of its founding members. Today, Crown Point boasts that beautiful structure of brick, St. Mary’s school, one of the largest and best equipped in Lake county.
God has showered His blessings on St. Mary’s parish during her years of existence, for which we thank Him and pray that He will continue to bless us.
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