Copied from Our Story: The People of the Diocese of Jefferson City 1956-1984
Canton - St. Joseph Church
Mission: LaGrange - Notre Dame
A new church facility for members of Notre Dame parish, LaGrange was bult during the summer of 1983 and on Nov. 23, 1983, the parishoners met in the old church to pray, to share memories and to process to the new church for the celebration of the first Mass there. The CCD students also participated in the celebration, which concluded with the sharing of supper after the Mass.
The old church had been damaged by flooding of the Mississippi River in 1973. Since then plans have progressed for the building of a new multipurpose facility on higher ground.
The history of the parish dates to February 10, 1865, when land for the first church building was purchased from Cinderella Konosh. The new Immaculate Conception Church was blessed by Fr. Francis Kielty on July 7, 1867.
In the early years, Fr. Thomas Manning, Frs. Kussman and Quinnlan were traveling priests who celebrated Mass in LaGrange.
The parish has always been a mission of St. Joseph parish, Canton. Fr. Patrick J. Gleason became the first pastor in 1871, succeeded by Fr. J. Mackin in 1875.
Fr. John O'Shea, who came in 1883, is remembered as the priest who worked so hard to carve a Catholic congregation at LaGrange. "Make ye way marks in the wilderness," he wrote inthe first register, and added, "The poet who rote those words knew what he was talkingabout." Fr. O'Shea wrote of riding for long hours between parishes.
In 1893, Fr. John Cosgrove was instrumental in having the church sold for $250, stating that there was no congregation left in LaGrange and that the church was in ruins.
The building was sold by Archbishop Peter Kenrick of St. Louis to Horace P. Tate and wife on April 17, 1893. When it was learned that there was a congregation of 23 families there, the property was deeded back to the archbishop in June 1893 for $395. Fr. P. J. Cooney became the pastor in August, 1894.
Services were discontinued again in the 1920s and the Catholics in LaGrange rode the train to attend St. Joseph Church in Canton. Later on, services were reinstated and the oral history of that period refers to the priest who came to celebrate Mass as staying overnight in a small room in the loft of the church.
The present church was build in the pastorate of Fr. M. J. O'Rourke. Brick from the old church was used as the inside wall of the new building and the widows from the old church were installed in the new church. The building was completed in May, 1949 and given the title of Notre Dame Church.
The land on which the old church stood was sold to John H. Fleer.
Recent pastors at Notre Dame include Frs. Edwin Sturm, John Buchanan, Thomas Gray, and Stephen Sandknop.
Fr. Gerald Kaimann is the present pastor and Sr. Roberta Westrick, S.C. is serving as pastoral minister.
The parish that has has so many struggles in its earlier history now numbers 44 families. Many of the people are farmers and workers at Cooper Industries in LaGrange.
Today the Notre Dame Parish Council functions jointly with that of St. Joseph's in Canton and both men and women of the parish are active in the religious education program. The ladies of St. Mary's Altar Society help sponsor an ecumenical retreat each year and take care of all parish social activities. They sponsor a number of residents at the local nursing home by remembering them on special feast and other occasions. The ladies also take care of the church and sponsor a Spring and Fall Bazaar.
The parishoners are pleased with the new church facility. The multipurpose aspect of it accomodates well to parish activities. Members of the community also recognize the advantage of th facility and several groups have asked to use it.
Dedication ceremonies were held Aug. 19, 1984. [end of article]
Additional History 1984 to Present