History of St. Bernard

Ellsworth was part of the mission field covered by the early pioneer priests from Junction City and further east. They came about once a month to say Mass either at the Larkin home,  or in an old stone  schoolhouse that stood on the southwest corner of the present grade school. The first Mass in Ellsworth was held in 1869.

The first real estate bought by the Catholic Church in Ellsworth was acquired April 5, 1873. Fr. John Fogerty paid $25 for the site at Lincoln Avenue and Second Street, where the Robbins Memorial Library now stands. The congregation chose the name St. Bernard for the 20 foot by 30 foot frame building which was completed in 1873. The rectory was directly across the street where Parsons Funeral Home is now located.

The original church site was sold for $250. The money was used by Rev. A. J. Luckey to buy the present one-half block at 10th and Kansas Streets for $500 on May 10, 1905. The new rectory was built first with the new church dedicated by Bishop Francis Cunningham on October 2, 1911. The church was constructed of red pressed brick with white trim at the cost of $10,000. The spire is 75 feet in height topped by a large gilded cross. All windows are stained glass.

St. Bernard’s of Ellsworth was Fr. Luckey’s first parish. He was in charge for eight years and was respected and held in highest esteem by the people of Ellsworth. Sometime between 1913 and 1927, modern improvements were added to the rectory, such as furnace, bathroom, hardwood floors and plumbing. The parish hall was dedicated January 29, 1955. It was built at a cost of $40,000.

The next renovation and refurbishing of St. Bernard’s was completed in April, 1958 under the direction of Fr. Thomas Lonergan. The work consisted of cleaning the brick and stone, new roof, new steps, railings, pews, altars, lights and Stations of the Cross set into the side walls.

On December 4, 1960, during Fr. Emmett Coler’s term, the 87 carillon bells were dedicated as a memorial to Fr. Teahan. The citizens of Ellsworth donated the money for the bells in memory of Fr. Teahan. It’s said that the carillon bells can be heard for 20 miles.

The rectory was completed in 1971 when Fr. James Hoover was pastor. In July 1983 during Fr. Merlin Kieffer’s term the parishioners voted to develop the existing rectory basement for additional classrooms for CCD, including an outside entrance.

The most recent renovation of St. Bernard’s Church began in November 1989 when Fr. Charles Steier was pastor. This extensive project included an addition to the church with seating for 80. The interior of the church was completely refurbished and a gathering space was added which included a large baptismal font. The dedication of the newly renovated church took place April 7, 1991.

In 1997 the parish hall was repainted and the rectory was completely renovated in 1999 during the tenure of Fr. Daniel Scheetz.

On October 18th, 2009, the parish celebrated the 100th Anniversary of St. Bernard’s church.

Currently serving as pastor is Fr. Joshua A. Werth and the parish secretary is Jeanette Soukup.

pdf 100 Year Celebration (536 KB)