modern church

St. Joseph Parish: The Early Years

History of the Church



          The early permanent settlers of Burt County included among their friends two Catholic missionary priests who laid the foundation for St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Lyons. In 1874 Father Uhling and Father Freeman were riding through the territory, offering Mass in the homes and conferring the Sacraments of the church.

        Pat Gleason’s home south of Lyons was often selected as the home for the services, as was Michael Doran’s home east of Lyons. The Doran home was a dugout with steps leading to a sod house on top. In this sod house, Mass was held for those pioneers who came for many miles, walking, some on horseback and some families riding in farm wagons with extra boards across for seats. A seat in one of these wagons was an enviable one.

        The pioneers were known to walk to Mass carrying their shoes and stockings to save the wear on them, putting them on when they reached their destination. They returned to their homes the same way.

        Under the direction of Father Nicholas Horn, the first pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church at West Point, a church was erected at the present location in Lyons.

        The church was dedicated in 1884 and became known as St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. The earnest efforts of sturdy men and women of that day made this church possible. Material was hauled for many miles.

        The first resident priest was Father Moriarty who was beloved by all. His many duties in the different missions made it necessary to hold only monthly meetings for several years. The following known towns were included in this mission: Bancroft, Wayne, Decatur, Tekamah, Emerson, Pender and Hubbard.

        Father D.W. Moriarty recorded the first baptism in the church on August 17, 1884 when he baptized the son of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Dolan. Many years later in April 1968, the first infant to be baptized at a Holy Saturday Mass was William John Smith, son of Mr. And Mrs. James T. Smith and grandson of present parishioners, John and Grace Smith. The late Father Wolpert, administered the baptism.

        The first wedding was solemnized January 27,1884. Andrew Renard and Miss Agnes Evans of Oakland were the participants.

        As the population increased, parishes were established in the various communities until one pastor served St. Joseph’s of Lyons and Holy Cross of Bancroft. From 1884 to 1917 the pastors in charge of St. Joseph’s resided at Bancroft. These pastors included Father Moriarty, J. Barry, J.R. McGrath, M. St. Lawerence, P.J. Grant, J.J. Crowley and M. O’Donaghue.

        In 1907, while Father O’Donoghue was pastor, the original church was inadequate for its members and the size was doubled with an addition by moving the sacristy back.

        In 1917, Father Gately took up residence in Lyons. During his pastorate a beautiful rectory was erected at a cost of $10,000. Father John O’Flynn, Father Dennis Teahan, and Father P.R. Kelly succeeded him. Due to the untiring efforts of Father Kelly and his parishioners the church property was entirely free of debt in 1934.

        The rapid growth of the Catholic population in Nebraska in the late 1920’s demanded the withdrawal of the priest from Lyons for other areas. In 1929 Msgr. Michael Quinn (now deceased) was requested to assume the care of the Lyons Parish. He was followed by Msgr. Burns (deceased), Msgr. E.G. Graham (deceased). Father Irschek (deceased), Father Krejci, and Father Leo Wolpert (deceased).

        While Monsignor Graham was pastor of St. Joseph’s, the church was completely renovated. Everything in the sanctuary was replaced. The new altar was an open table top with a golden tabernacle. The candlesticks and the large crucifix with its Celtic cross were hand carved. The altar, communion rail and other appointments were made from white bleached oak trimmed with black walnut.

        Bill Hulsebush, Bill Grangenberg, Mick Orr and Larry Kjeldgaard served Msgr. Graham at the first Mass celebrated on the new Altar. Another sizeable increase in the number of parishioners was experienced in the late 1940’s so the church could no longer contain its faithful at Sunday services. Father Krejci then began to offer Holy Mass twice on Sunday at Lyons in addition to saying a Mass at Bancroft.

        The decision to again locate the pastor in Lyons in 1952 brought about the remodeling of the rectory and also a gradual improvement in the church edifice. A noteworthy improvement was the purchase of a new electric organ to replace the old type which had for years been played by Mrs. Dr. Robbins and Mrs. Nell Eckleen.

        The two parishes of Lyons and Holy Cross have shared the same pastors. They also shared a common cemetery, where many of the first members of the churches were buried. 

        In 1958, a beautiful outdoor shrine featuring a life size statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was erected.

Father Wolpert (deceased) served the parish from 1954-1981 and it was under his direction and guidance and the arduous labor of his parishioners that the present spacious church was built. It was completed in 1965 and dedicated June 26, 1966.



By the late 1950's it was obvious we were outgrowing our small church and a more spacious building would be needed. Under the direction & guidance of Father Wolpert and the arduous labor of parishioners the present church was built and dedicated June 26, 1966.







Our present church. Click on the picture to learn more about our present parish.