As of 2023 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 villages with 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 1910, 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 1949, with ever changing demographics, Mullen replaced Seneca as the resident Parish. 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 1927, with St. Mary's as the resident Parish, she was assigned four missions; Seneca, Brownlee, Thedford, and Hyannis. Eventually, due to changing demographics, the Seneca Church closed followed by Brownlee 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. 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).
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. Originally , Priests traveled from Anselmo, but in 1924, St. Thomas became a mission of Seneca. When the Church in Seneca closed, Thedford became a Mission of St. Mary's in Mullen. From that time in 1949 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 Thedord lies the small community of Brownlee. From 1901 until its closure in 2002, St. Joan of Arc allowed area Catholics to gather for the Sacraments and fellowship. Brownlee was first under the care of clergy from Hyannis until 1918, when Priests from Anselmo made the Journey over. In 1924, St. Joan of Arc would join St. Thomas in becoming a mission of Senica. In 1949, Fr. Koprowski was transferred from Senica to Mullen, making St. Mary's the resident Parish. Brownlee was then cared for by the Pastors assigned to Mullen. In 2002 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!
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 Church in Hyannis. in 1895 a 16' by 20' wood Church was constructed and dedicated. Until 1914, Priests would travel 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 would eventually assume responsibility for Mullen, Brownlee, and Thedford. With rapidly changing demographics, Hyannis eventually became a mission of Seneca. From 1927 to 1949 Priests from Seneca traveled weekly to Hyannis for Sacraments and ministry. Continued demographic change eventually lead Fr. Koprowski to be moved to Mullen.
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.
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!
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