A BRIEF HISTORY OF HOLY ROSARY PARISH
Early Catholic settlers in the Monroe City area came to Missouri primarily from the Catholic settlements in Maryland by way of Kentucky. By 1884, the number of Catholics in Monroe City had increased to the point that Father Denis Kennedy of Indian Creek came to the home of Daniel Archdeacon on South Main Street (more recently the home of the Ira Davis family) to offer Mass.
A little later, Father E.A. Casey of Shelbina was appointed to serve Monroe City and Hunnewell as missions of his parish. Father Casey and his people purchased the old First Baptist Church on the corner of Oak and Dover for $600. The first service was held there on Sunday, August 31, 1884. The first baptism in the parish was on October 15 of that year and was a child from the family of James Conley. Because of an increasing Catholic population, a cornerstone for a new church was laid on October 14, 1888, by the Rev. D.S. Phelan.
In 1889, Father Sullivan moved to Monroe City as the first resident pastor. During his 15 years here, he opened a parochial school under the guidance of the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill, New York, in September of 1901. There were 91 students enrolled the first year in the school, which was located in the old south side public school building.
In 1902, a residence on East Cleveland was purchased for a convent and used until the present residence was constructed. In 1904, Father Lyons of Indian Creek was appointed to succeed Father Sullivan. Father Thomas Mullens took his place, and during his 4 years here, he built a new rectory and was instrumental in establishing the Knights of Columbus organization at Holy Rosary Catholic Church. The Knights of Columbus was started in 1906 with 38 charter members, and Elbert Yates was the first grand knight. Father John Ryan succeeded Father Mullens and remained at Holy Rosary until his death on May 15, 1919. He is buried in the Holy Rosary Cemetery.
Father J.J. Jermain served the parish for a few months and was succeeded by Father Edward Connolly, a young priest from County Meath, Ireland, who had earlier served as Father Ryan's assistant. Father Connolly returned to Holy Rosary in 1919 as pastor, a position he held until retiring in August of 1965. His life could well draw a parallel with the place he loved so well, the little mission church of St. Peter at Brush Creek, Missouri, where he continued to serve as mission priest long after he retired as pastor at Holy Rosary. He remained in Monroe City as pastor emeritus and beloved citizen until his death on December 16, 1973.
Father Connolly's first task was to build a new school, and ground for this project was broken on May 1, 1920. Older members can recall that Father Connolly did much of the manual labor himself, particularly helping to dig the basement with a horse-drawn scraper. The school was dedicated in January of 1921. The complete cost of the school building and equipment was $56,000. In the 65 years the high school operated, 668 young people graduated from there. The high school closed in 1966, and since then, approximately 160 students, grades K-8, have attended Holy Rosary each year.
The Daughters of Isabella Circle 105 was granted its charter on October 12, 1919, with 52 charter members. Alma Welch was the first regent. One of the organization's chief works is to provide a funeral dinner for the family of the deceased, which it still does to this day.
In 1954, the local Knights of Columbus constructed a gymnasium and meeting room and honored the man who had served them for many years by naming it the Msgr. Connolly Gymnasium.
In 1965, Father William Ludwig was named pastor of Holy Rosary and took upon himself the building of a new convent, church, and rectory. Ground for the convent was broken in July of 1966 and in the fall of 1966 the Sisters of St. Dominic moved into the new building.
Groundbreaking ceremonies for the church and rectory were held on Sunday, September 17, 1967. The first services were held in the new church on March 2, 1969, and the church was officially dedicated on May 18, 1969. That same year, the deed to the old church was transferred to the Lutheran congregation. In 1956, a parent-teacher organization (PTO) was formed to assist with the funding and maintenance of Holy Rosary School.
After the high school closed in 1966, a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) program was started for students enrolled in the public school. Since that time, many dedicated individuals have given their time and talent to lead others in their faith development.
In April of 1970, Father Richard Hunkins replaced Father William Ludwig as pastor, and he, in turn, was followed in July of 1978 by Father John Groner. Father Henry Reichert became pastor in July of 1984.
Father Bill Flanagan was appointed pastor in November 1990. During his tenure, the Knights of Columbus built a new nearly 12,000-square-foot hall, which serves Holy Rosary for funeral dinners, wedding receptions, and various activities of the Knights of Columbus, our church, and the community.
Father Donald Antweiler came in July of 2002 and was followed on July 1, 2010 by Rev. Michael W. Penn. Father Greg Oligschlaeger, who is the current pastor of Holy Rosary and St. Stephen Parish in Indian Creek, Missouri, came July 1, 2018.
In 1984, Sister Frances Wessel served as pastoral associate. Mrs. Daniella Kendrick then completed the required education courses to be certified as a director of religious education, and in 1986, she was hired as the first lay director of religious education for Holy Rosary. She was followed by Sister Eileen Friel in 1992. Sr. Eileen retired in 2013, and Deacon Mike Long currently serves in this capacity.
The Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA) program for those wanting to become a Catholic began in 1994, and 9 new members were received into our parish at the Holy Saturday Night Vigil ceremonies.
Holy Rosary School expanded in 1994 to include kindergarten and before-school childcare. In 2009, the school purchased the former Buckman Superette building across the street and remodeled it for the purpose of a preschool program. In March of 2012, a committee met to begin the process of looking into building a new school, and on Thursday, August 18, 2016, the first day of school was held in the new building. The new school is located west of the Knights of Columbus Hall at 415 S. Locust St. Holy Rosary School houses preschool through eighth grade. The last wall of the former school building came tumbling down in March, 2019.
Holy Rosary has had a long and rich history, a time for constructing buildings, developing organizations, and above all, developing one's faith. The faith is very family-centered, and down through the years, it has been very important to be able to share this faith. Various renewal movements have been instrumental in renewing faith, such as Cursillo, Marriage Encounter, TEC, and diocesan programs like Journey in Faith, Christ Renews His Parish, and Why Catholic? Much of Holy Rosary's spiritual vitality is drawn from our Adoration Chapel which operates 24/7 and is shared by our friends in the neighboring church, St. Stephen. The Adoration Chapel is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with someone wanting to spend that time with God.
We are most thankful to God for the many gifts he has bestowed upon our parish over the years and pray that each of us as members of the family of God and Holy Rosary may continue to do our part to build up the City of God.