St. Augustine

The history of St. Augustine Parish, Fidelity, KS. The 1850’s saw the increase of Catholic immigrants to the area and the arrival of Benedictine monks.  Soon monks began going out of the monastery to care for these immigrant Catholics.  Father Augustine Wirth, OSB developed a circuit on horseback out of Atchison caring for missions along the Missouri River, to those along Fort Kearny road (included St. Augustine settlement in Capioma/Fidelity), to St. Mary’s on Wildcat Creek (St. Benedict), and St. Bridget’s near the Kansas-Nebraska state line.  In 1860, Father Wirth baptized nine children from the St. Augustine settlement alone, probably the first priest to come along for some time.  In 1861, Father Severin Rotter, OSB took up residence at Wildcat and came to Fidelity on the third Sunday of every month.

On May 13, 1862, Bishop Miege acquired for the purposes of a church five acres in Capioma township, Nemaha County, from Matt Achten for the price of $1.  During those early day before the building of a church, Mass was celebrated in the home of Hugo Fox.  The Catholics residing in the area at the time were the families of Silas Clark, Hugo Fox, Thomas Laughlin, Pat McGinty, George Levings, the Dunigan’s, Goodman’s, Hughes’, joined later by the families of O’Kane, Draney, Rooney, and others.

In 1865, the first wooden church was built (16’ x 26’).  Monks continued to care for it on their circuit rides, until 1870 when Father Pirmin Koumly, OSB took up residence in Seneca, and in 1871, Father Suitbert Demarteau, OSB came to join him to take care of the area’s mission stations.  At that time they went to St. Augustine’s on horseback twice a month.  It was in 1869 that Sacraments began to be recorded in St. Augustine’s own Sacramental register instead of elsewhere. Because new Catholic families kept coming to the area (now 20 Irish and 14 German families) a larger church was needed, so one twice the size was built in 1873.  

In 1883 a residence was built on one acre of land in Brown County for St. Augustine. In 1894, a third church was built and dedicated after 2 years of fundraising.  In 1920, a school and convent were built on the site where the earlier churches had stood.  In 1922, tragedy struck, and the church burned in a fire.  Many of the contents inside were saved, but the church was destroyed. The fourth and current church was constructed in 1923 upon the site of the old church.  The church has served the people well.  

In 1959, the school closed.  In 1962, repairs and redecoration were done on the church.  In 1972, the rectory was torn down In as it was unlikely with a decline in vocations and less priests that a priest would ever reside there again.  In 1984, the school too was torn down. Despite ups and downs, the church of St. Augustine stands strong and faith is vibrant.  The seeds of faith and hope carried here by Irish and German immigrants, nurtured by Benedictine monks and a long list of priests, have produced one hundred fold, and continue to bear fruit in a parish deeply rooted in tradition."

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