As of 2020 our three Parishes comprise one Sandhills Catholic Family that encompasses 5,000+ square miles of the sprawling majestic Sandhills in Nebraska. Currently we serve the Counties of Thomas, Hooker, Grant, part of Sheridan, and a large portion of Cherry. Although a number of small communities comprise our Parish family, we have 3 main village Churches. These are: Mullen with St. Mary's; Thedford with St. Thomas of Canterbury; and Hyannis with All Saints. In the past, the Sandhills Catholic Family also had Churches located in Brownlee and Seneca; with a worship site in Ashby. Changing demographics eventually required the merging of Brownlee with Thedford and Seneca with Mullen; while Ashby merged with Hyannis. Below you will find short bios on the three main Parish towns.
"Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul."
Be watchful, stand firm in your Faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all you do be done in love.
As early as 1895, area Catholics received spiritual care from Fr. Donnelly, who traveled from Alliance. The first St. Mary's Church was built in 1914 and stood along Hwy. 2 where the current Co-op building is located. In 1917, Priests came from Hyannis to celebrate the Sacraments in Mullen. Then in 1918, Mullen became a mission of Seneca.
In 1927, with ever changing demographics, Seneca (Sts. Peter & Paul Church) also took charge of Hyannis. Thus, Seneca served as the resident Parish with four missions, Mullen, Brownlee, Thedford, and Hyannis. In 1949 a population shift caused Mullen to become the resident Parish of the Sandhills Catholic Family. That same year, under Fr. Koprowski, the wooden St. Mary's Church moved to its present location. By 1964 St. Mary's Parish reconstructed and dedicated a brick Church. Appointments of the original Church are still present in the current building. They include the Stations of the Cross, the organ, a few pews in the choir loft, and the first Parish Baptism Stole.
In 1949, with St. Mary's as the resident Parish, she was assigned four missions; Seneca, Brownlee, Thedford, and Hyannis. Following population shifts the Church in Seneca closed in 1979, while Brownlee had to close in 2002.
St. Mary's, however, continues to stand as a vibrant Parish with her two missions, Hyannis and Thedford. Together as one Sandhills Catholic Family, these Parish towns serve a greater Parish territory of 5,000+ square miles. No earthly distance stops Parishioners from deepening their love of God and neighbor.
And Mary said, "My Soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!"
St. Thomas Becket, or St. Thomas of Canterbury; was a strong man who discovered freedom in the Church. St. Thomas learned that one cannot compromise with evil, but must live the truth of Jesus. By the age of 36, Thomas had become a successful politician in the court of King Henry II, England. Serving as chancellor, St. Thomas was pressured to accept an appointment as the Archbishop of Canterbury. St. Thomas warned Henry that he would defend the Church at all costs. Henry ignored his friend, helping him assume the Miter. Troubles arose as Henry sought to usurp Church rights. Resisted by St. Thomas, the King asked, "will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?" Four of his Knights rushed to Canterbury Cathedral and martyred St. Thomas on December 29, 1170 as he prayed Vespers (Evening Prayer).
In 1908 Priests from Broken Bow and Anselmo traveled to the Thedford area for Sacramental care. In 1918 the Thedford/Brownlee territory was put under the care of Seneca. During this time, prior to 1922, Catholics in the Thedford area attended Holy Mass in the court room of the Thomas County Court House. On January 9th, 1922, the Evans family donated the current St. Thomas of Canterbury property. In just a short time, the Church of St. Thomas stood to welcome parishioners home. In 1949, due to population shifts Mullen became the resident Parish. Thus, Thedford became a Mission of St. Mary's in Mullen. From that time to the present day, St. Thomas has been ministered to by the resident Pastor in Mullen. Since then, Thedford has continued to thrive. In 1992 a much needed Parish Hall was built. In 1996, new siding covered the older cement blocks. Today Parishioners continue to care for their little, but devout Community of Faith.
Just north of Thedford lies the small community of Brownlee. From 1901 until its closure in 2002, St. Joan of Arc Church allowed area Catholics to gather for the Sacraments and fellowship. Brownlee was first under the care of clergy from Hyannis until 1908, when Priests from Anselmo made the Journey over. In 1918, St. Joan of Arc would join St. Thomas in becoming a mission of Seneca. In 1949, the Rectory was transferred from Seneca to Mullen, making St. Mary's the resident Parish. Brownlee was then cared for by the Pastors assigned to Mullen. In 2002, with changing demographics, the Parish was closed. The faithful began making the journey to Thedford for Sacraments, which continues to this day. In 2009 the Church and lot were sold, but the hearts of Parishioners remain dedicated to Jesus.
Remember the sufferings of Christ, the storms that were weathered ... the crown that came form those sufferings which gave new radiance to the faith ... All Saints give testimony to the truth that without real effort, no one ever wins the crown!
I have said this to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation;
but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!
Seeking to provide a Parish home for Catholics in and around Hyannis, Fr. W. McNamara, assigned to Holy Rosary Church in Alliance, constructed the first Catholic Church. In 1895 a 16' by 20' wood Church was constructed and dedicated. Until 1914, Priests traveled by train from Alliance to celebrate the Sacraments at All Saints Parish. In 1914, however, All Saints was assigned its first resident Pastor. With the house across from the current Church purchased, Fr. E. Hynes moved in as Pastor with Pastoral care over Parishes as far as Brownlee.
In 1918 Seneca received a resident Pastor and assumed responsibility for Mullen, Brownlee, and Thedford.In 1927, With rapidly changing demographics, Hyannis became a mission of Seneca. Continued demographic change in 1949 caused Mullen to become the resident Parish with care over Hyannis, Seneca, Thedford, and Brownlee.
Since October 1949 Hyannis has faithfully worshiped Jesus under the Pastoral care of her resident Pastor in Mullen. On June 14th, 1954, All Saints Parish rejoiced as Most Reverend Paschang, the Bishop of Grand Island, dedicated the current brick Church. By 1994 a brick hall was added to the Church, granting it the capacity to host various functions and Holy Mass overflow. Preserving its history, one can see the original stain glass windows, which adorn the southern wall, lit in their respective places on the south wall of the Parish Hall. To this day All Saints Parishioners faithfully gather from near and quite far to celebrate the life of Faith.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our Faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
St. Thomas of Canterbury in Thedford and St. Joan of Arc in Brownlee were always mission Parishes. Originally, in 1901, Pastoral care traveled from Broken Bow & Anselmo. Until 1917 Rev. Thomas Minogue & Rev. Paul Moser served the area via train. In 1917 Pastoral care traveled from Hyannis. In 1918 Pastoral care was transferred to Seneca. Then in 1949 Thedford and Brownlee joined Seneca and Hyannis in receiving care out of Mullen.
1895-1914: Rev. W.L. McNamara
1914-1917: Rev. Edward Hynes
1917-1920: Rev. M. L. Ballou
1920-1921: Rev. Thomas Murray
1921-1922: Rev. O'Keef
1922-1924: Rev. M. L. Daly
1924-1974: Rev. Patrick Moriarity
In 1927 Hyannis became a Mission of Seneca
In 1949 Hyannis became a Mission of Mullen
1985-1917: Sts. Peter & Paul in Seneca and St. Mary's in Mullen were Missions of Hyannis
In 1917 Seneca became a resident Parish with Mullen, Thedford, and Brownlee as Missions.
1917-1930 Rev. Albert Abel
In 1927 Seneca assumed Pastoral care for Hyannis
1930-1931: Rev. Patrick Burke
1931-1932: Rev. J. O'Farrell
1932-1935: Rev. Joseph Muldoon
1935-1943: Rev. Robert Maron
1943-1947: Rev. William Grace
1947-1987: Rev. Mitchell Koprowski
In 1949 Mullen became the resident Parish with Seneca, Thedford, Brownlee, & Hyannis as Missions.
1987-1993: Rev. Bryan Ernest
1993-2001: Rev. Louis Nollette
2001-2008: Rev. James Warner
2008-2011: Rev. Loren Pohlmeier
2011-2014: Rev. Joseph Kadaprayil
2014-2018: Rev. Louis Sallem
2018-2020: Pastoral care traveled from St. Patrick's in North Platte
2020-current: Rev. Matthew Nash
For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is bound to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. And one does not take the honor upon himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was.