The history of Most Sacred Heart Parish traces itself back to the establishment of the Christian Brothers at La Salle Institute in Glencoe. The chaplain from La Salle served the Catholics of the Eureka area. The Parish was formally founded in 1889, but in 1897, under the guidance of Fr. Michael Walsh, a little white frame church was built on Central Avenue on land donated by Mr. Peter Brown. The organizational details at this time are somewhat hazy.
The list of Pastors begins with Fr. Daniel Dowling, who served area Catholics as Pastor until 1947. Fr. Dowling lived at La Salle Institute and commuted to and from Eureka to serve the spiritual needs of our Parishioners.
In 1947, upon Fr. Dowling’s retirement, Archbishop Joseph Ritter, then Archbishop of St. Louis, invited the Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart to take over the priestly leadership of the parish. There were 120 families covering 175 square miles. The Parish contained two missions, St. Vincent’s Chapel at Deicke and another chapel in Jedburg or Sherman.
Fr. Walfrid Boesche, O.F.M. became the first Franciscan pastor and, upon consultation with his parishioners, arrangements were made to purchase the Claffey estate, some 204 acres just outside of town, for the sum of $30,000. The large eight room farm house was converted into a school and a convent for the School Sisters of Notre Dame. A smaller house on the property was adapted for use as a rectory. The excess acreage of the estate was sold. The school opened its doors for the first time on September 6, 1948. Enrollment was 70. The Sisters also taught catechism to those children attending public school.
In May, 1950, the cornerstone was laid for the new Parish buildings which would house a Church, four classrooms, and a gymnasium. A separate rectory was built. The first Mass was held in the Church on the eve of the feast of the Epiphany, January 5, 1951. On January 8, three days later, classes were held in the new school building. Enrollment was now at 87. Week-end roller-skating was held in the gym and, during the summer months, the parking lot became a drive-in movie theater with the wall of the barn serving as a screen.
During the 60’s and the early 70’s, the Parish grew slowly. Route 66 became I-44. Six Flags opened. The Block House was built and the bus shed was enclosed to provide storage space. The annual Church bazaar became the Fall Turkey Shoot and, in 1978, almost 100 new families were added to the parish rosters. In 1982-83, extensive renovation was done to the Church and school and a bell tower was added. This was all done while Fr. Ignatius Eckelkamp, O.F.M. was pastor.
In 1985 the provincial of the Franciscan Friars announced that the community no longer has sufficient priests to staff Most Sacred Heart Parish. Consequently, responsibility for the pastoral care was returned to the priests of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and Fr. Lawrence Schieber was named pastor. During his years as Pastor, Most Sacred Heart Parish celebrated its centennial year in 1989 with many special events to mark the occasion. Father Vincent Stolzer succeeded Fr. Schieber in 1990 and in 1992 Father Alexander Anderson was named pastor of Most Sacred Heart Parish.
Guided by the vision of Father Anderson the Parish embarked on a Master Plan to expand the facilities of the parish. Phase I of the Plan added eight classrooms, a dining room, kitchen, gymnasium, offices, meeting spaces and an entrance foyer to the school. Phase II was the construction of our new Parish church. Its dedication by Archbishop Justin Rigali on July 22, 2000 was the culmination of many hopes and dreams made possible by the generosity and talents of many parishioners working together. Our former parish church was renovated into Fr. Dowling Hall, named for our first resident pastor of 38 years – Fr. Daniel Dowling.
At the beginning of 2005 Phase III of the master plan was implemented with the building of additional classrooms and the Pope John Paul II Library at a cost of just over $1 million. The 6,500 s/f addition allowed us to bring the pre-school program and the kindergarten class from Claffey House into the school building proper. Claffey House was then given to the Most Sacred Heart Youth Group for youth ministry activities.
After nearly sixteen years as pastor Father Anderson was reassigned and Father Richard Schilli was named pastor in June, 2008.
The history of any Parish does not stop with the present, but continues with our hopes and dreams for the future.
All that has gone before us enables us to be what we are today, and what Most Sacred Heart is today will influence what our Parish looks like and does and will be in the future.
Our greatest responsibility is to pass on the Catholic Faith to those who come after us. This is done not only in Most Sacred Heart School and in our Parish School of Religion, but in the way we live and trust each other. Harmony, charity and love for the Eucharist are not only our Parish motto, but the means we use to accomplish future goals while living as Christ taught us.MostSacred Heart must become a haven for believers who want to live their lives in Christ, raise their families in a Christian environment and practice the Catholic Faith in its fullness. We should not only hope and pray this happens; we should positively contribute to accomplishing this dream.