Newspaper Archive of
Arkansas Catholic
Litlte Rock, Arkansas
June 30, 1991     Arkansas Catholic
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June 30, 1991

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CA1HOt 30, 1991 PAGE 5 70 IP IF rI L B By St. Eugenia Pellin, RSM Rip Van Wmkle's day in Polk county would have been quite unceremoniously disturbed when the Kansas City Railroad engineers found a weak point in the mountain fortress to the north, and the "iron horse" of progress began to intrude on the seclusion of Mena's hunter/ trapper population on Aug. 19, 1896. A thou- sand human beings in coaches, flat cars and box cars came in one day, and the city of Mena was born! These first residents of Mena lived in tents since there was only one log cabin, now known as Historical Hall, in the center of Jenssen Park. Along with the earnest home seeker had come the adven- turer and renegade, followed by murders, drunken brawls, shootings and robber- ies. Less than a month after Mena's birthday, Bishop Edward Fitzgerald of Little Rock, accompanied by Rev. Patrick Enright of Fayetteville, arrived to select a site on which to build a church, rec- tory and school. The bishop wasted little time in sending a pastor to begin work. When Rev. P. J. McCormack closed a contract with H. Shadel & Co. on Oce 7, 1896, work had already begun on the 26 by 40 foot church on Mena St, north of the Court House Square. York went forward rapidly. With a good force of hands at work on the church and parish house, both buildings were ready for the first service on All Saints' Day, Nov. 1, 1896. The first Su Agnes Church was a plain box structure, made of 12-inch boards with 44nch strips to cover the crocks. Its interior was celled, but the furnishings indicated absolute poverty. Split bottom chairs served as seats, and the congregation knelt on the floor. The parish house consisted of a three-room dwelling, made of the same material as the church. Itwas an airy abode in the winter time, with thin wails that only slowed down the racing cold wind. With a creek surrounding the property on two sides, it proved to be most unsuitable to build permanently. Mter a heavy shower, par- ents would not risk sending their children to St. Joseph's Academy, which was opened on Feb. 1, 1897. X~en the bishop realized that Mena needed a young pastor, with vitality and enthusiasm to meet the exacting demands of clerical life in this anti-Catholic comer of the Lord's vineyard, his choice fell on the newly ordained Rev. Au- gustine P. Gallagher, lovingly known as the "Old Man" in later years. Arriving on Oct. 16, 1897, Gallagher found the financial status of the parish discouraging. There were ten Catholic families, a very small, poorly constructed church and rectory, and a debt of $1,400. Missions demanding the atten- tion of this young pastor extended from Fort Smith to Texarkana, covering 10,000 square miles of rough mountainous country. Travel was either by wain, hand cars, mules or walking. Sick calls had to be made 100 miles to the north and to the south. As soon as the parish debt could be paid, Gallagher moved the original buildings four blocks to a desirable It> cation on 8th and Wag nut Sts. The Sisters of Mercy ,~ from Fort Smith had bought four lots across the s~eet from the new site where Joseph's Academy was later re- built of brick and con- crete to replace the frame building which had burned in Febru- ary, 1913. This school did much to dispel Mena's anti-Catholic bigotry during, its 63 years of educating young people. To accommodate St. Agnes' growing congre- gation, the old frame church had been added on to from year to year. But its dilapi- dated condition made it necessary to begin to plan for a new one. This was no problem to Gallagher, who had worked it out in his dream of 15 years to the last detail - Old Spanish mission style, with two massive towers on either side and a spacious basement underneath the church for parish meetings and entertainment. The new church and Msgr. Gallagher's sip verjubilee were both celebrated in 1922. At his celebration of a golden jubilee in 1947, Mena's beloved "Old Man" had set an unequaled record of 50 years as pastor of the same parish. Erection of this church had been an answer to prayer. Every man, woman, and child of the congregation said three "Hail Mary's" daily. Stained glass windows and statues were all do- nated by church organizations and by individu- al~ No more than six families were responsible for helping pay off the $20,000 debt Relatives and friends of Gallagher in Ohio and other states were generous with donations, but Mary Gallagher's loving care and support of her brother probably contributed most to his long fruitful pastorate, ending in 1950 with all parish debts cleared. Rev. William Moran, SJ, presently cares for the missions of Mt. Ida and WaMron in addg tion to the 183 Catholic families of St. Agnes parish. -- ,~ St. Agnes, Mena Preparatkms are new undenvay for the 199001Dimctob/for the Diocese of Little Rock. , Organizations with listings are asked to check information in this year's directory and P.O. Box 7417, Little Rock 72217-7417 Bishop recovering from surgery Alexandria, I.A- Bishop Lawrence P. Graves, retired bishop of the Alexandria- Shreveport diocese and former auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Little Rock, is in stable condition following surgery to re- move a part of his right leg. Doctors at St. Frances Cabrini Hospi- lal were pleased with the results of the operation, which was necessiataed by an infection in Groves' foot that had spread to his leg. Cards and letters for Graves can be sent to St. Frances Cabrini Hospital, 3330 Masonic Dr., Alexandria, LA 71306. "Hunthausen," from p~ge 1 said he derided to retire early because it was time for a new leader with a new vision to head the local Church. He will be succeeded by Coadjutor Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy of Seattle, 58, who was named to assist Hunthausen in 1987. Controversy has plagued the Seattle prelate since 1983, a month after he allowed Dignity, an o~nizafion of homosexual Catholics, to celebrate Mass at Seattle's St- James Cathedral, when the Vatican sent Archbishop James A_ Hickey of Washington to Seattle to investigate complaints about Hunthausen's leadership. Two years later, the Vatican cited problem areas in Seattle, induding failure to follow the sequence of first confession before first com- munion; unauthorized Catholic-Protestant eu- chatistic sharing;, me ofgeneral al~mlufion; lack ofclarity about Church mar_hing on h~ activity and contraceptive sterilization; selection and formation of seminarians; ongoing dergy formation; and undue leniency in treatment of resigned priests. Hunthansen responded that he was "firmly committed to dealing with each and every one ~ of the concerns expressed. In 1986, however, the Vatican ordered the archbishop to turn over authority in several areas of his ministry to Auxiliary Bishop Donald W. Wuerl, now head of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. After priests of the Seattle archdiocese and other supporters called for restoration of full authority to Hunthausen, the Vatican named a commission of three U~S. bishops to review the Seattle situation. On the commission's recommendation, the archbishop's faculties were restored in 1987, Wued was reassigned to Pittsburgh and Murphy was named coadjutor archbishop of Seaule with the automatic right to succeed Hunthausen. In a 1988 statement to the Holy See, Hunthausen said that the way the Vatican gave credibility to 'knean-spirited criticism, from a small cadre of people.., bent upon undoing the fabric of unity," in the Church. Despite his strong views, the archbishop is noted for his efforts to consult thoroughly with pastors and lay leaders on virtually every deci- sion. He has espoused stronger roles for laity in the Church, the exerdse of greater Church lead- ership by married couples and a greater role for women in the Church. In 1990 he chose not to continue the archdiocese's all-male diaconate uaining pro- gram until, he said, women's role in the Church is more adequately addressed.