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Evansville, Indiana
November 20, 1987     The Message
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November 20, 1987
 

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Father Francis R. Allega, rlght, is a Vincennes native, ordained in 1945, appointed pastor in 1978. Among his earlier assignments were churches in Washington, Loogootee, Linton, St. Wendel, Evansville, Schnellville and Dubois. Father Allega says the relatively small number of St. Thomas families have produced a relatively large number of vocations; parish sons Abbot Gilbert- Hess, O.S.B., and Msgr. Charles Kaiser were honored at a 1982 celebration. The church interior, below, " accomodates 300 parishioners. 1843 is listed as the year St. Thomas was established, with the first log church built "soon thereafter." 1873 saw construction of the "new" church, center right. The church tower was added in 1917. St. Thomas may have been named to honor a certain Benjamin Thomas, the lawyer of Bishop de la Hailandiere who had unsuccessfully defended Father Roman Weinzoepfel from trumped up criminal charges. St. Thomas and St. Rose were mission parishes without a resident priest, except perhaps during unrecorded years in the 1840s. They were served by priests who resided at Vincennes or Highland. Father John Francis Stanton is considered to be the first resident pastor, assigned to the area in the 1890s. He built the rectory, bottom left, in 1896. Construction of the rectory indicated the commitment to St. Thomas; St. Rose was closed, the church torn down, and the property was sold in 1909 for $100. St. Thomas Church, Turn of the century buildings symbolize parish strength, serenity The setting is peaceful at St. Thomas. Strength of faith is quietly proclaimed Well-maintained buildings bear witness to the care and commitment offered willi,ngly y generations of parishioners. Church, school, rectory and convenTare the outwardgn., of the dedication of the parish, to proclaim a Catholic Christian presence. To speak of St. Thomas is to evoke memories of early settlers along the Wabash. Many of the other names are no longer spoken: Queret's Prairie where St. Thomas Church was built. Faux Chanel Where the church of Ste. Genevieve was built by a priest from Riviere du Chat. Ste. Genevieve became St. Rose, but more than 80 years have passed since Catholics gathered there for the Eucharist. St. Thomas remains. In 1844, Ste. Genevieve Church was re-named to honor St. Rose of Lima, a saint of the Americas, not one of France. In 1904, the mission church at Faux Chanel was torn down, and all the material was taken to St. Thomas. The church at St. Thomas was built in 1843 or 1844, according to Father Robert Gorman at St. Mary of the Woods, Ind. He had plunged into the history of the people along the Wabash and its tributaries -- the Embarrass River in inois and the Deoe River District in Indiana. Along the Indiana side of the Wabasli' the river district Was divided, he writes, "by a deep ravine or slough, called Faux Chanel (False Channel) ap- parently because the water of the Wabash at times flowed through it." The historian believes that St. Thomas Church was built by either Father John Baptist Chasse or Father Toussaint Courjault. Father Chasse was a priest of the Eudist order, an assistant at the cathedral in Vincennes, and a teacher at St. Gabriel College. Father Courjault had served at the cathedral, and returned to the Deshee River missions after serving as pastor at St. Peter, Montgomery. In 1843, the Diocese of Chicago was erected; St. Rose in Indiana could no longer be attended by priests from Illinois. St. Thomas and St. Rose were served as mission parishes. In 1873, the present church was built, but the greatest developments were still a score of years in the future. Father John F. Stanton is considered the first resident pastor at St. Thomas, arriv- ing in 1895. The parish blossomed rapidly in the 25 years following his arrival. Father Stanton built the rectory in 1896. In 1900, when Father Joseph Sefeld was pr, a two-story combination convent and school was built. Father John Hass, who arrived in 1913, added the tower to the church in 1917 and built the new school in 1918. A history of the school, written by Lorene Spaetti, chronicles the 1900 arrival of Sisters Florentine, Armella and Salome, who came from Ferdinand. According to the history, the 1902 student enrollment of 130 was typical of the first 30 years. In 1933, with 146 students, St. Thomas was made part of the Decker Consolidated School System; teachers' salaries were paid by Johnson Township. In 1968, when Father John Shaughnessy was pastor, the school returned to its original parish status; the newly formed South Knox School Corporation had planned for its closing. When South Knox Junior High attracted many students, St. Thomas con- tinued with a program for grades 1-5. Enrollment in 1972 was 55nd when d came See ST. TItOMA page 11 St. Thomas Catholic Church, Knox County Rural Route 5 Vincennes, Indiana 47591 Pastor ............................. Father Francis R. Allega In residence ....................... Father Johr.haugssy DRE ...................... Sister Theophane Woehler, O.S.B. Mass Schedule Saturdays ...................................... 5:30 p.m. Sundays .................................. 8:00, 10:00 a.m.