Friday, June 24, 2016

St. Mary Catholic Church, Wymore, NE

The beginning of Saint Mary Catholic Church in Wymore, Nebraska is intimately bound up with the history of Wymore itself, which was platted on May 21, 1881.  Shortly thereafter, Wymore found itself at the junction of the Burlington and Missouri River Railroads, resulting in the rapid growth of the community.

Father A.C. Rausch of Table Rock paid a visit to the community in 1881 and was clearly impressed.  He requested to transfer his residence from Table Rock to the booming new community of Wymore.  Masses were celebrated in the homes of various parishioners until 1882, when the number of Catholics made such an arrangement unfeasible.  Even though the town was growing, Father Rausch acknowledged that these pioneer families were struggling to become established, so in 1882 he purchased 3 lots and constructed a combination church and rectory using his own funds.  At this time, the parish became known as Saint Mary's.

The exterior of the 1892 Saint Mary Church, Wymore as is appeared shortly after completion.
In 1885, the parish outgrew this small chapel and began construction on a larger, wood frame church which was completed in the fall of 1886.  Again, the parish continued to grow and new lots were purchased in 1891 for a new brick church which was dedicated on December 18, 1892.  

The exterior of 1892 Saint Mary's, circa 1940s.  The tower was likely shortened in the 1939 renovation.
The 1892 brick church would see many renovations over the years, particularly in 1939 and again in 1954.  Later, on June 15, 1957, a severe hail storm tore through the community, resulting in the complete destruction of many of the church's stained glass windows.  

The Holy Thursday Altar of Repose in the 1892 Saint Mary's Church.  Photo taken circa 1940s.
A new parish hall was completed and blessed on September 15, 1974.  By this time, the brick church had developed significant structural issues and was demolished on April 4, 1978.  The parish hall served as a temporary church until the parish's fourth and present church was completed.

Construction of the present church, designed by architect John Forman, began on October 24, 1980 and was dedicated by Bishop Glennon Flavin on July 26, 1981.  The steel, rectangular bell tower housing the bell from the previous church is reminiscent of the many grain elevator legs that dot the area landscape.

The interior of the present church building is very successful in its integration of old and new elements.  The slender gothic windows and plaster statuary of the previous church find a natural fit amongst the simple, clean lines of the interior.

Another outstanding feature of Saint Mary Church is its use of light.  A large clearstory floods the sanctuary with light, while the low-slung nave area dark and contemplative.  This feature gives visual prominence to the altar and an interior mood that changes dramatically depending on the weather and the time of year.

Perhaps the most notable thing about Saint Mary's is the feeling that the church simply belongs in the place where it's at.  It's not particularly ornate; its beauty comes from its subtlety, much like the landscape of the area.  The bricks of the interior echo the large clay deposits found to the west near Endicott and the wood is reminiscent of the cottonwood groves lining the Big Blue River just east of town.  It's a space that is at once holy and homey.  The fact that the interior has endured for 35 years without any significant alterations is significant.

The familiar faces of elaborately-clad stained glass saints stand as a proud and tangible connection to a past that continues to inspire new generators of parishioners.  The Apostles Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Peter stand on the right side of the sanctuary.

Christ the Good Shepherd and Saint Margaret of Antioch watch over the left side of the sanctuary.


Sister Loretta Gosen, S.PP.S,  History of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska 1887-1987.  Marceline, MO: Walsworth Publishing Company, 1986.

Wymore, Nebraska Diamond Jubilee Historical Album 1881-1956, p. 15-16


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