History of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face
by Theresa Kottwitz, OCDS
When reading the accounts of the patriotic deeds of French heroines, especially the Venerable JOAN OF ARC, I had a great desire to imitate them ... I considered that I was born for glory . . . [God] made me understand my own glory would not be evident to the eyes of mortals, that it would consist in becoming a great saint!" (Story of a Soul. p.72 - Unless otherwise noted, all page numbers refer to quotations taken from Story of a Soul, the autobiography of St. Therese). These most daring words come from the writings of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face (affectionately known as the Little Flower), a Discalced Carmelite nun in the Carmel of Lisieux, France. Born Marie-Francoise-Therese Martin on January 2, 73, the youngest of nine children (four of whom died in infancy or early childhood), St. Therese was raised in a devout and holy family whose parents' greatest desire was to see their children eternally united to Jesus in Heaven. Thus, at a very young age, St. Therese as placed on the Road to Perfection. "From the age of three, I began to refuse nothing of what God asked of me," exclaims St. Therese in her Story of a Soul. But St. Therese soon learned that the road to sanctity consisted not so much of consolations and inspiring thoughts and desires but rather in embracing trial and suffering. "I didn't think then that one had to suffer very much to reach sanctity, but God was not long in showing me this was so." (P.72) Suffering began for St. Therese at the death other mother on August 28, 1877. Although St. Therese's older sister, Pauline, became a "mother" to her, she still suffered emotionally and psychologically, causing her to be a hypersensitive child who easily cried. Then, in October 1882, Pauline entered the Carmel of Lisieux, leaving St. Therese again without a "mother." St. Therese was devastated by this second loss, and, in March 1883, she fell ill with nervous tremblings and hallucinations. Fearing her death was near, her father and sisters prayed for her cure; and on Pentecost, May 13, 1883, through the intercession of Our Lady of Victories, St. Therese was cured. She continued, however, to suffer from her sensitive nature and a scrupulous conscience brought on by the curiosity of others regarding her miraculous cure. Finally on December 25, 1886, after Midnight Mass, Therese was given what she calls her “Grace of Conversion”. After a harsh word from her father, St. Therese was able to hold back her tears, run to him with a smile and fill his heart with love, restoring his usual cheerfulness. "Therese had discovered once again the strength of soul, which she had lost at the age of four and a half." She says, "The work I had been unable to do in ten years was done by Jesus in one instant."(P.98)
With her strength of soul returned, St. Therese began to reach outside herself through a great desire to save souls by means of prayer and sacrifice. This charity other heart grew with her and led her to answer the call to the religious life. After a struggle to convince the authorities of the authenticity of her call, St. Therese received the much-awaited permission and entered the Lisieux Carmel on April 9, 1888, joining her two sisters, Pauline and Marie. (One more sister, Celine, would join them six years later.)
"Meeting with more thorns than roses," St. Therese found Carmel to be just as she had expected. "Suffering opened wide its arms to me and I threw myself into them with love . . . Jesus made me understand that it was through suffering that He wanted to give me souls and my attraction for suffering grew in proportion to its increase." (P. 149) Not having any illusions, then, about attaining sanctity, and well aware of her weaknesses, St. Therese sought perfection by pleasing God in all things. She performed many acts of kindness and love, offering even the smallest of sacrifices to God. She volunteered for the most unpopular chores and chose to spend her recreation time with those whose personalities were the most disagreeable to her. Always cheerful, giving to others despite the cost to herself, St. Therese of Lisieux, grew into union with Jesus. So united was she to Him that she was able to endure with love and a smile great and varied sufferings: an intense dryness in prayer; emotional sufferings at the sickness and death of her father; the temptation to doubt the existence of Heaven; and excruciating physical sufferings caused by her tuberculosis.
It was a life of suffering that helped St. Therese to formulate her Little Way of Spiritual Childhood. "I am too weak," says St. Therese, "to climb the rough stairway of perfection." (P.207) So Therese prayed and searched the Scriptures and therein found her Little Way: to remain small and humble of heart that she may be carried to Heaven in the arms of Jesus. She would remain as a little child, trusting completely in the infinite love and mercy of Jesus. On His merits alone would she reach sanctity. Two months prior to her death, Pauline recorded St. Therese as saying, "Sanctity does not consist in this or that practice; it consists in a disposition of heart which makes us humble and little in the arms of God, conscious of our weakness, and confident to the point of audacity in the goodness of our Father." (St. Therese of Lisieux: Her Last Conversations, P.I 19) "For this I had no need to grow up, but rather I had to remain little and become this more and more." (P.208)
And so was born the Doctrine of St. Therese's Little Way of Spiritual Childhood, a doctrine of doing small, ordinary things in extraordinary ways with great love. Her Way is a way of love. "Neither do I desire any longer suffering or death, and still I love them both; it is to love alone that attracts me... Now abandonment alone guides me... I can no longer ask for anything with fervor except the accomplishment of God's will in my soul. (P. 178) Suffering, then became sweet for St. Therese, since she saw in it the fulfillment of God's will. This Little Way of suffering climaxed on September 30, 1897. At the age of 24, as Therese was carried in the arms of Jesus into Heaven, she was able to exclaim her last words with all her heart and will, "Oh! I love Him! ... My God, 1 love You!" (P.271)
Before her death, St. Therese promised "I feel that my mission is about to begin, my mission of making others love God as I love Him, my mission of teaching my little way to souls. If God answers my requests, my heaven will be spent on earth up until the end of the world. Yes, I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth." (P. 263) God has answered her prayers and she remains with us today, guiding us along her way of Spiritual Childhood - "a way confidence and abandonment to [the will of] God" and a free choice "to love Jesus unto folly ."(P. 178)
Popes Benedict XV, Pius XI and Pius XII each recommended that we all should follow "the Way of Spiritual Childhood." Recognizing the importance of St. Therese's doctrine, Pope John Paul II declared St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face Doctor of the Church on October 19, 1997. The Holy Father has strongly encouraged all to strive for sanctity no matter one's vocation in life. It is important, then, to remember the words of St. Therese: "My God, ‘I choose all!’ I don't want to be a saint by halves, I'm not afraid to suffer for You. I fear only one thing: to keep my own will; so take it, for "I choose all’ that You will." (P. 27)
History and Memories of St. Teresa Church's Seventy-Five Years
by Connie Fauts
"St. Teresa Parish has been a very important part of my life for over fifty-five years and I was asked to write its history. The years have passed so swiftly. Memories flooded back as I read old secretary books, talked to long-time parishioners like Margaret Carter and Thelma Imlay, and poured over scrapbook articles."
The Early Years
On February 3, 1926 due to the rapid growth of Lincoln, the Diocesan Consultors approved a proposal for a parish to be erected in East Lincoln with boundaries of O St. on the north, Garfield and Normal on the south, 27th on the west, and the city limits and territory adjacent to the city limits on the east.
On April 24, 1926 Bishop Francis Beckman appointed his Vicar General Msgr. Albert Petrasch as temporary administrator of the new parish. It was one year after St. Therese of Lisieux had been canonized so it was called St. Therese of the Child Jesus or The Little Flower Parish. Until a basement church could be completed in the spring of 1927,a private home at 636 S. 36 St. was used for Mass. The parish numbered 20 families. The Oblates agreed to take over the parish and Father William Healy, O.M.I. succeeded Father Petrasch in May of 1927.
The debt on the new, unfinished building was $41,500 and the total income for 1927 was $3,500. The building consisted of a church in the basement, with plans for classrooms and living quarters for the sisters above. The top floor was to be used as a lunch and meeting room. Oblate Father Daniel McCullough came in 1928 and served until 1933.
Through bazaars and other parish projects of the Altar Society led by Mrs. Gus Sobott, Father McCullough and parishioners were successful in paying the $1,500 interest plus $1,000 on the principal. The "h" was gradually dropped and the parish became known as St. Teresa, perhaps because the first Catholic church in Lincoln built in 1868 at 15th & M streets was known as St. Therese Pro-Cathedral. A pipe organ from St. Francis DeSales on 18th and J was moved to the basement church to replace the reed organ in 1932.
Another mortgage of $39,000 was arranged and work began on the school above the church basement. Two south rooms were completed so school could begin in September 1930. Two Dominican Sisters from St. Catharine's in Kentucky, Sister Theona and Sister Martha, were the first teachers and occupied the rest of that floor (all of these rooms are now the Thrift Shop).
Kay Harding remembers starting school that first year in 4th grade with kindergarten to 3rd grade in one room and 4th to 7th grades in the other. One night when the sisters went down to pray in the church, they were frightened by a tramp and Father was called to evict him. That was Kay's memory! Her sister, Genevieve Huerstel, remembered that punishment for misdeeds was memorizing poetry, and she still remembers the poems she learned.
The Oblates, who saw no hope of paying the large debt in those days of depression, drought and crop failures, left in 1933. Father Maurice Helmann came for three months and arranged for the sisters, who now numbered five, to move to 717 South 36th, a dwelling which had served as the rectory. Father moved to St. Francis DeSales rectory.
In September 1933 he was succeeded by Rev. Adolph Mosler, who organized a finance committee consisting of E.A.Becker, T.M. Blockwitz, E.J. Fogerty, and John McCullough. Next, the Dominican Order operated the parish from June 1934 to January 1935 with Father Ralph D. Goggins, O.P. as administrator. There was a charge of $1.00 per child per month to attend school. Then came Father Andrew DeMuth who contracted tuberculosis and had to leave in March of 1936.
Father Mitchell Kaczmarek was ordained on April 30, 1935. He was appointed administrator of St. Teresa Parish in late 1936 and was named pastor on September 10, 1938 taking charge of a small parish with a huge debt. With youthful energy, enthusiasm, and good rapport with the congregation, the pastor and parishioners gradually rescued the parish from the verge of bankruptcy: Twenty of the 39 families pledged their personal property to make sure payment would be made on the debt.
Soon, two Masses could not accommodate the parish, and Father received permission to offer three. In 1948 the first assistant arrived: Father Daniel Kealy.
Father Kaczmarek had been living in the church/school building until 1942 when he moved into a little house next to the convent. (Both houses were on the site of the present church. In 1949 the parish bought the Kilb house at 635 S. 36 St. to be the rectory, where the Roy Loudons now live. From 1942-1949 the rectory had been where Bud Imlay later raised his family on 37th St.)
St. Teresa School
The school was staffed by the Dominican Order for 58 years. It opened in 1930 with 23 children and two sisters, much like a rural school. By 1934 the school had grown to 100 students with five sisters. There were four rooms, each with two grades and a music sister.
In an old financial statement book, I found the sisters' collective salary to be $100 a month, no matter how many were in residence. Father Kaczmarek's salary started at $125 a month but in September of 1937 was reduced to $100 and the sisters to $75 a month. The janitor's pay was dropped from $50 to $37 a month. The gas and electric bill for the one building for January 1938 was $37.13.
In 1940 there were 110 children attending the school. The parish almost doubled in size between 1942 and 1945 with war industry and the rapid growth of the city in an easterly direction.
In 1947 a new room was finished on the third floor of the church/school building and 9th grade was begun, making St. Teresa School an accredited junior high. The following year another room was finished and the 7th and 8th grades were moved to that floor.
By 1951 the year our first child, Susan, started kindergarten, the entire third floor consisted of classrooms for the 250 children enrolled. Tuition was $11 a year for kindergarten and $20 for others. The 46 kindergartners went to Mass each morning under the watchful eye of Sister Hildegarde, until she broke her leg and found it too difficult to teach while on crutches and went home to St. Catharine's. For the rest of the year the children were seated around the edge of the first grade room and courageous Sister Columba taught both classes.
The kindergarten children graduated in white cap and gown in the 40's as well as from 1961-1963. In 1963 the kindergarten was closed for seven years and the Altar Society members made altar boy surplices from the kindergarten gowns.
In the late 60's we had 700 students at St. Teresa School. In 1967 the ninth graders moved to Pius X. In 1976 when St. Joseph Parish was founded, we lost nearly half of our membership. Also, families grew smaller. In 1999 there were 220 children in our school.
On May 22, 1987 the School Sisters of Christ the King 1935 with Father Ralph D. Goggins, O.P. as administrator. There was a charge of $1.00 per child per month to attend school. Then came Father Andrew DeMuth who contracted tuberculosis and had to leave in March of 1936.
Father Mitchell Kaczmarek was ordained on April 30, 1935. He was appointed administrator of St. Teresa Parish in late 1936 and was named pastor on September 10, 1938 taking charge of a small parish with a huge debt.
With youthful energy and enthusiasm and good rapport with the congregation, the pastor and parishioners gradually rescued the parish from the verge of bankruptcy: Twenty of the 39 families pledged their personal property to make sure payment would be made on the debt. Soon, two Masses could not accommodate the parish, and Father received permission to offer three.
In 1948 the first assistant arrived. Father Daniel Kealy. Father Kaczmarek had been living in the church/school building until 1942 when he moved into a little house next to the convent. (Both houses were on the site of the present church.
In 1949 the parish bought the Kilbhouse at 635 S. 36 St. to be the rectory, where the Roy Loudons now live. From 1942-1949 the rectory had been where Bud Imlay later raised his family on 37th St.)
Christ the King were assigned to Saint Teresa School. Sister Joan Paul was to be an intern principal and Sister Maura Therese was to teach fourth grade.
Serious illness caused the Dominican Sisters to return to their Mother house in Kentucky and, in the summer of 1988, the transition to the School Sisters of Christ the King took place. Christ the King Sisters moved into the convent in July and four sisters were assigned to administer or teach during that year.
My architect husband was with M. W. Anderson, the company that built the classrooms on the top floor of the old school building and also the new convent and rectory.
In August 1951 Bishop Louis B. Kucera blessed the $45,000 debt-free convent which accommodated the ten sisters. Plans for the church were begun before the convent was completed.
Fritz Craig was the architect for the building that was 146 feet by 79 feet with a copper tower 45 feet in height. The men on the building committee were Edward Becker, T.M. Blockwitz, Joe Carter, Harold Hoppe, John Lawlor, Leon Michal, John Origer, and W.J. Rice. The $240,000 structure was dedicated by Bishop Kucera on November 19,1952.
Next came a 12-classroom addition to the school plus a kindergarten room, faculty room, library, and a gymnasium (which was attached to the original church/school structure on the south side). It was blessed November 17, 1956 and cost $250,000.
The parish plan was completed in 1962 when the new rectory was constructed at a cost of $80,000. As construction was complete, all debt was retired. In 25 years, the parish had built a school, convent, rectory, and church.
On November 14, 1992, after forty years, St. Teresa Church was re-dedicated after undergoing an extensive renovation of painting, carpeting, new light fixtures, and general updating under Msgr. Pleskac's direction at a cost of $178,500.
As with construction in the 50's, the debt was retired when the renovation was complete. As of June 1999 the parish has 858 registered families and individuals.
Pastors, Parish Life and Vocations
Father Mitchell Kaczmarek came in late 1936. He became Msgr. Kaczmarek in April,1955. After serving St. Teresa's Parish 45 years,Msgr. Kaczmarek retired June 18, 1980. He returned to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of his ordination on April 21, 1985. Msgr. Kaczmarek died on July 14, 1993. In 1980 Father Myron Pleskac succeeded Msgr. Kaczmarek. He became a Monsignor in 1991 and served at this parish until 1993. In 1993 Father Joseph Nemec became the pastor for St. Teresa Parish Family. Parish Life
A first priority for pastor and parishioners is development of spiritual life. Limited Eucharistic Adoration, by the Legion of Mary under the leadership of assistant pastor, Father Stanley Redmerski, was extended to Perpetual Adoration by Msgr. Pleskac in May 1985. The first Marian Mass, Rosary and Candlelight Procession at the Catholic Center in Waverly was sponsored by St. Teresa Church on August 14, 1988. Now an annual event, it was inspired by a parish pilgrimage led by Father Pleskac to Lourdes, France and Fatima, Portugal.
Father Joseph Nemec has led parish pilgrimages to the Rue de Bac, Nevers, Lisieux,and Lourdes in France and Fatima, Portugal as well as to the Holy Land. The rosary is said before the 8:15 a.m. daily Mass and all Sunday Masses. Marian Devotions are on Thursday night, and Eucharisitc Adoration and St. Teresa Devotions are on Tuesday night.
Seven young men from the parish have become priests. They are Father Robert Wirth, C.S.S.R., Father Patrick Powers, Father Patrick Murphy, Father Paul Witt, Father Stephen A.Cooney, and Father Albert Pettinger. Lothar Gilde was ordained in 2006. Father Christopher Stoley was ordained in 2015.
Three women from the parish have joined the Dominican Sisters of St. Catharine in Kentucky. They are Sister Teresa Wolfe, Sister Clarellen McGinley, and Sister Karen Flaherty.
In 75 years St. Teresa Parish has grown from a small, financially challenged congregation to one well equipped to serve the spiritual, educational and social needs of its closely knit parish family. It required a great deal of effort, sacrifice and teamwork by clergy, religious, and lay people throughout the years to make those early dreams reach fulfillment.
When young Father Kaczmarek arrived in 1935, he and his struggling parishioners began novenas to St. Therese asking for her intercession. The memory of St. Therese is honored and she continues to bless her namesake church. God has been good to us!