Falls City Sacred Heart School   |   1820 Fulton St.   |   Falls City, NE 68355   |   Phone: 402.245.4151   |   Fax: 402.245.5217
Sacred Heart of Jesus

Sacred Heart Irish

MISSION STATEMENT

A family educating heart, mind, body
and spirit for this life and the next.

Falls City Sacred Heart Falls City Sacred Heart Falls City Sacred Heart Falls City Sacred Heart Falls City Sacred Heart Falls City Sacred Heart Falls City Sacred Heart Falls City Sacred Heart Falls City Sacred Heart Falls City Sacred Heart

Sacred Heart School History

(Taken from the Centennial History of Sacred Heart 1991)

It seems providential that in 1891, the Judge Elmer Dundee residence in Falls City was purchased for the Sisters of Precious Blood of O’Fallon, Missouri. Judge Dundee was the first federal judge in the Nebraska district and was the presiding judge in the famous Standing Bear trial that held that an Indian was a person within the meaning of Federal constitution. Thus Sacred Heart School had its start in the two story residence of the famous judge. Judge Dundee could be credited for many developments in Falls City and was a powerful political figure of his time. He came to the county in 1857 and was elected to the territorial legislature. He served until 1867 when Nebraska became a state. In 1869 he was appointed United States district judge. He had married in 1861 and had built a lovely two story brick Italianate structure, a rather common architecture for turn of the century houses. The judge moved to Omaha in 1884. He held a district judge office until death in 1896.

The Catholics of Falls City had talked about a place for a Catholic school in the late 1880’s. According to the diocesan records, they purchased the Dundee property in 1891. It was a ten acre tract of land located 14 blocks from the parish church, St. Frances Xavier at 12th and Harlan St. The cost was $6,000, half of which was raised at time and the other half was a troublesome mortgage of $3,000.

Father Denis Fitzgerald was pastor at the time. He was appointed on July 15, 1891. It was he who persuaded the Sisters of the Precious Blood from O’Fallon, Missouri to come and start an academy and boarding school in the old Dundee home. The school opened with an enrollment of 67 students, about one third who were non-Catholic.

The parishioners were plagued by a drought and depression. They could not make the payments left on the mortgage and the sisters were expected to take over the property for a private school and pay the entire cost of $6,000. In addition, they would have to pay for renovating the building to meet requirements of an approved educational institution. The sisters tried to do these things, but many of their most supportive families left because of the drought. In a letter to the Sacred Heart School, Sister Adele Maurer, a native of the St. Francis Xavier parish wrote the following account from her memory and the annals of Precious Blood Sister: “In 1891 at the request of the Rt. Rev. Bishop Bonacum of Lincoln, Nebraska, the mission at Falls City was accepted by our community. The Catholic Parish with the aid of some of the Protestant families had purchased the property of the U.S. Judge Dundee for the Parish School and Academy. There remained, however, a debt of $3,000.00 which Judge Dundee demanded, but which the Parish was unable to remit at the time. It was suggested that our community having to build a new addition to our ST. Elizabeth Academy in St. Louis at the time could not afford to do so. In order to avoid any embarrassment to the good people and allow the Catholics of Falls City free reign, Mother Armella, upon the advice of the Rev. Monsignor Hy Muihlsiepen of St. Louis (Spiritual Director of our Community) withdrew our Sisters in 1894.” Sister Adele was the former Lydia Mauer, a sister of Mrs. L.P. Wirth, a prominent banker’s wife. She left Falls City as a postulant with Precious Blood Sisters in 1894 and became Sister Adele in 1897.

The following roster of early Precious Blood nuns who served the Academy were listed by Sister Adele: Sister M. Constantia High School, Sister M. Fortunata Music Teacher, Sister M. Regina 5th - 8th grades, Sister M. Ida 1st - 4th grades, Sister M. Irene Cook and Sister M. Pia Helpers, and Sister Ramunda Drawing. Father James Conley became pastor in January 1893. After a meeting with the 51 remaining families, who were convinced they were not financially able to continue supporting the Catholic school, the sisters resigned their positions and closed the school in June 1894.

In a column about the opening of the public schools, the following was written in the Sept. 7, 1894, Falls City Journal. “The total enrollment was 388 Tuesday or 58 more than the first day last year. This is partly accounted for by the fact that those who were attending the convent last year are now attending the public schools on account of the non-running of the convent.” Bishop Bonacum was still intent of keeping the school in Falls City. He appointed Father Henry Bex pastor on Sept. 1, 1894 and he became responsible for the thorny issue. The people would only consent to have a school on condition that a religious order assumes full liability for it. Father Bex reopened the school on Sept. 1, 1895, when six Ursulines from York, NE arrived. Rather than pay the Ursulines a salary, the way the Precious Blood Sisters had been paid, the school was organized on a tuition plan and the Sisters were financially responsible. The original Ursuline community in the United States was at Peoria, Illinois. The nuns establishing their convent there, dated from the German Kulturkampf in the 1870’s, when Bismarck restricted the Catholic Church of Peoria and arrived there as school sisters in 1878. Sister Bernadette Reifert, OSU, to whom many of the students of the 1920’s and 30’s owe their love of history and literature, writes in her master’s thesis entitled ‘The History of Catholicism in Richardson County’: “Through the zeal for the mission work of their foundress Mother Clara Cornely, they opened in 1887, their first Nebraska mission in Crete. To concentrate forces in Nebraska, they purchased the present property in York and established themselves in June, 1890.” It was from their Motherhouse at York that they came to Falls City.

During Father Henry Bex’s administration of sixteen years, he gave top priority to Catholic education. The Ursulines’ opened the school with 30 pupils. The economy of the area had improved. The drought was broken. So the parishioners assisted by other citizens of the area, paid off the remaining $3,300 debt and deeded the property to the Ursulines. There was a stipulation that the northwest corner--- a portion 150 x 350 feet--- was to be reserved for a future church and rectory.

In the March, 1963 Special Jubilee Edition of Spotlight Mother M. Anastasia, O.S.U., one of the first six Ursulines nuns who served Sacred Heart wrote of her memories of those early days: “Since there is no access to any records, you will kindly pardon this octogenarian for being inaccurate in one or other of the dates. As near as I can remember, the Ursulines opened Sacred Heart Academy in the fall of 1896 while Father Bex was pastor of St. Francis Church. The parish had acquired the Dundee residence on a ten-acre plot of ground on 1810 Fulton Street and now deeded it to the Ursulines with the stipulation that a sufficient portion of the ten acres be reserved for the parish to build the future Sacred Heart Church and rectory. Father Bex walked the fourteen blocks from the St. Francis Church each Sunday morning to have Mass. While the new church was in the process of being built, Father Bex was transferred to a smaller parish where the work was lighter. Father J.J. Hoffman was appointed his successor.”

As the twentieth century dawned, Falls City was only forty-three years old and Sacred Heart was a mere nine years old. The opening of the decade promised to be one of excitement and growth for both. In 1900, the school was still known as St. Francis Xavier School, because the parish was under the patronage of St. Xavier. Often it was referred to as the “Convent School”. During the early 1900’s, it was renamed Sacred Heart Academy-the Academy signifying that it was a boarding school. Enrollment had been steadily increasing. By 1900, it was necessary to add a third story to the convent building. The flat topped roof of the old mansion that had been the scene of ballroom dancing according to the late Edwin Towle. In a conversation with Richard Hall,’38, the late Mr. Towle reminisced of the days when his mother and father dressed in their Sunday best and went to the Dundee’s parties, where they danced on the roof.

The third floor addition was completed and ready for occupancy, when the classes resumed in September 1900. According to the late Frances Buthman Buchholz, who attended the Academy in the early 1900’s, the first floor was the classrooms, the second floor, the dormitory and the third floor was the nun’s home. Because of transportation difficulties during this time, there were many boarders, both boys and girls. Some stayed the entire school year except for the holidays and others stayed during the week and returned to their home on weekends.

The variety of subjects offered and the excellence of the Ursuline’s instruction brought more pupils, making it necessary to once again expand. A three story, frame building which a two-column portico to the south was erected just east of the convent. It provided additional classrooms and dormitories. The interior was finished in hard pine and it was steam heated. The building was in continuous use for over fifty years and was blessed by Bishop Thomas A. Bonacum in April 1903. At the end of 1903 the first senior class graduated from high school. They were: Ailene Gillespie, Lillian Moran and Bertha Zimber.

Keeping pace with the local educational systems, Falls City opened the present public library in 1902 with one thousand volumes. Over the years, this library has been a source of research and reading pleasure for all of the city’s pupils. A booklet called Manual of Reference, St. Francis Church issued to the parish by Father Bex in 1903 has this to say about regulations of the Ursuline Convent: “The school year commences the first Monday in September. It will be the aim of the teachers to give the pupils under their supervision and care, a solid and thorough education based upon moral and religious principles. “Religious instructions are given every day from 4 to 5 to all Catholic pupils, to which non-Catholic children are only admitted at the special request of their parents. “The course of studies embraces all branches taught in public high schools, and also common needle work. German is free of charge to all pupils. Particular attention is given to young ladies preparing themselves for teaching. “The Business course comprises practical Bookkeeping, Business, Correspondence, Shorthand, Typewriting, Music (vocal and instrumental) fine arts and all kinds of needle work are successfully taught. Tuition for common branches is $1.00. Tuition for Correspondence a month is $2.00. Shorthand (Pittman’s System) per month is $5.00. Typewriting (Remington) per month is $3.00. Music, per term of 24 lessons is $10.00. Two lessons a week with practice, per month is $4.00. Painting artificial flowers, fruit, etc. per term is $6.00. Artificial needle work, per term is $3.00. Board, per session is $45.00. Washing per session is $5.00. Entrance Fee is $5.00. Girls and boys aged five years and upwards are taken care of at $11.00 per month.”

Then requirements for attending from the same booklet: “Each boarder must be furnished with two everyday dresses, three changes of underwear, three pairs of shoes, a furnished dressing case and work box. “There is no special uniform prescribed but white dresses, skirts and aprons are only allowed when given in charge of an outside laundry. “In summer white waists are permitted on Sundays. During school hours black aprons are preferred, but while arranging their bed and dining rooms, or at play, the boarders wear work aprons and over sleeves. Every Saturday they mend their clothes under the direction of a Sister. “Boys may board at the Convent until the age of 12. They are strictly separated from the girls and under the surveillance of a Sister. “All mail is subject to the inspection of the Superioress. The boarders may receive visits from their parents once a month, and only under their guidance are allowed to go to town. “It is desirable, however, that parents should not request the frequent visits of the pupil to home as it greatly interferes with their studies and the order of the house. Pupils may enter the school at any time. “Day boarders may take their meals at the Convent for $3.50 per month.”

The courses of studies include German as an extra language. Some of the older Sisters were probably well qualified to teach German, having fled Germany and most of the younger nuns were of Germany heritage. One of the older Sisters, who had taught at Sacred Heart, wrote from York, NE that life was sometimes a little dangerous in Falls City. Their walks between the Convent and the Church to attend Mass were either without sidewalks or the sidewalks were made of wood. Often there were missing boards. Also, dogs along the way, not used to the Sisters’ religious habits, ran along beside the nuns, keeping up a chorus of howling and barking. Mother Anastasia Kleiss, O.S.U. (quoted previously) was a monumental figure in the early history of the school. She had joined the Ursulines at 14 and was one of the first groups that had come from York to Falls City. She served until the Ursulines departure. Much of this time she was Mother Superior, but just when she was appointed cannot be found. She was a very short lady, but her authority was in her voice even when she reprimanded her six-foot students. She taught Glee Club and gave many private voice lessons as well as private instruction in what at that time was called “elocution.” Her brown eyes twinkled a lot and she managed a good rapport with the adolescents she taught.

The first graduate of the new decade was Frances Kelly in 1904. She became a highly respected teacher and taught many years in the Falls City public schools. In 1905 there were two graduates: Bertha Deschner and Lucy Sheehan. Rose Knobbe graduated in 1906. The graduating classes in these years were quite small. Many adolescents never entered high school or even finished grade school, but were married young or went to work at 14 to support themselves. Boys often quit school at 12, to help their fathers, who were farmers, to do the fieldwork. The first male graduate from Sacred Heart and the only graduate in 1915 was William Murphy, who became a priest of the Lincoln Diocese and became a Monsignor later in his life.

Overseeing the school after his appointment as pastor in 1910 was Father John Hoffman. His influence on the school and its students can’t be measured. Father Hoffman was born in Luxembourg on Oct. 3, 1871. He attended the elementary schools there, his secondary schooling was in Belgium and after his family moved to Germany, he spent one year at the University of Treves. He came to America in 1889, spent a your becoming fluent in the English language and then entered the seminary at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn. where he was ordained in 1895. He began his priestly role as a pastor to Rulo, NE. where he spent five years. He was then moved to be pastor at Bellwood, NE. After a decade of service there he came to Falls City where he served for the next quarter of a century. Maurvaleen Davis Heller, ’37, remembers him: “I can still smell Father Hoffman’s cigars. We could always tell when he was around checking on the students in the classrooms, the smell of that cigar preceded him. How good they smelled. He loved golf and played pinochle for blood - Most of all he was our friend.” During Father Hoffman’s tenure, D.H. Weber, Richardson County Superintendent of Schools, wrote that in 1917 all county schools are on their way to progress and prosperity.

In 1917, Sacred Heart had eight teachers and an enrollment of about 150. It was one of three Richardson County schools to secure accreditation for Normal School training work. Bishop Charles O’Reilly in consultation with the superiors of the Ursuline order separated the Falls City Ursulines from the York group on Oct. 8, 1919. It was incorporated as the Ursuline convent of Divine Providence on March 2, 1920. The convent and school then served as a Motherhouse, novitiate, boarding school, elementary and secondary school. In order to help supply food for this large group, the sisters in addition to teaching and caring for the children, worked in the garden, canned the produce, cared for fruit trees and milked the cows. The sisters who directed the school programs and participated in all this work in the early years were: Rosa, Celestine, Bridget, Paula, Helen, Ignatius, Anastasia and Elizabeth.

In 1922, the enrollment climbed to 234 pupils. This necessitated the construction of an annex of the south side of the wooden school. The open two story portico was closed and the extra space converted to classrooms. A built-on entry way replaced to portico as an entrance. Still under the influence of Father Hoffman’s guidance, the first floor of the Sister’s home was enlarged and the interior of the house was remodeled to make room for the increased numbers of Ursulines in 1924. The convent kitchen was redone and enlarged the same year. There were eight nuns that entered the novitiate in the Falls City Motherhouse. They were: Sister Dolores, Murphy, Sr. Angela Zauner, Sister Teresa Kreifels, Sister Frances Mlinor, Sister Margaret Mare Zauner, Sister Catherine Goolsby, Sister Blaise Kennedy and Sister Mary Anne Frederick. During a time when many teachers taught with only six weeks of teacher training after high school, the Ursulines made tremendous effort to fully educate their nuns.

They attended Junior College either in Springfield, Illinois or York, Nebraska. Then they finished their Bachelor degrees at Creighton University. Sister Mary Ann Frederick, OSU, ’26 one of the Ursuline novices remembers that probably three of the older nuns had Master’s degrees and the others were working on advanced degrees. This meant that many of their summers they went by train to Omaha to attend Creighton’s summer school. James Mooney of Rulo built a beautiful addition to the school grounds, when he erected a grotto replica of Our Lady of Lourdes with Bernadette kneeling at her feet. A stream of water flowed out of the rock. This was in memory of his nephew John Ebert Mooney, son of J.W. Mooney. The dedication took place in Sept. 1923. This was the sight of the school’s May crowning for many years when the weather was favorable. The memory of all the students of that era is etched with the picture of the crowd of pupils, faculty, parents and friends gathered and singing, “O, Mary, we crown thee”.

The first priest and male graduate William Murphy from the school (mentioned earlier as a 1915 graduate) was ordained, May 24, 1924 at Falls City by the Rt. Rev. Francis J.L. Beckman, then Bishop of the Lincoln diocese. Father Murphy celebrated his first solemn Mass on June 1st and assumed the duties of assistant priest of St. Peter and Paul’s parish. Father Murphy laid the corner stone on Nov. 3, 1924 of a very important building in the Sacred Heart complex. A “gymtorium”, combination gym and auditorium was completed in 1925 at the cost of $35,000. Miss Catherine Tiehen, who proved to be Sacred Heart’s best friend and most prolific contributor, gave funds for the erection of the structure. The parish financed the completion of the interior. The new structure was dedicated by Father Hoffman to the memory of Mr. And Mrs. Herman Tiehen, parents of Miss Catherine and Agnes Tiehen, the donors. Agnes was the handicapped sister whom Catherine cared for in their home. (Catherine and Agnes’ life is in more detail in the memorial pages.)

In a 1988 issue of the Spotlight, NiNi Hall Frederick ’45 wrote the following memories of the Tiehen Gym’s activities during the late 20s and 30s: “…Back in the early thirties she (the gym) was not the grand old dame but the new kid on the block. “We had classrooms, sports and gymnastics, also bazaars, boxing and bingo. “The classrooms were in the upper rooms where you now have locker and weight rooms. Kindergarten, first, second and third grades were taught. The rooms had large windows that opened over the gym floor where the good Ursuline sisters were allowed to watch the basketball games. And what games they were. The Little Ten and later the Big Eight county teams gave us some real spirited games. It seemed as if the walls would burst as the crowds would pack the bleachers, the stage and every available space to cheer for their teams. No fancy scoreboard for us, the score was kept on a small blackboard on the wall at the north end. “Tiehen was a fully equipped gym, with mats, rings, trapeze, a balance beam and pommel horse. Gym classes with Dollie Hahn were not called a fancy name like aerobics but just plain and simple gymnastics. “Something else went on that you probably don’t have now, boxing. It was definitely a man’s sport, but once in a while we kids would sneak in just to watch. The gym was not what were used to in the daytime, but a smoke filled caldron with men cheering on their favorite boxer. The Golden Glove events were being held with many of the contenders going on to National Fame. “Dinners and bazaars were some of the many fund raising activities; we did have bingo in those days also. Who can forget the huge square apparatus in the center of the floor piled high with hams, sacks of sugar and flour and many other prizes if you got a bingo? And the many familiar faces that worked it week after week, Jack Murray, Paul Murphy, Jess Hall, Dan and Charles Chaney, Joe Morgan, Merv Meyers, John Wiezorek, Pat and Cecil McMahon and many more. The women were always in the kitchen cooking up a fabulous meal. “As I look back now, I realize that all of this was the life blood of our parish.” The first class to hold graduation exercises in the new gym was the class of 1925. Among its members was Martin Werner, who was the second priest graduate.

Father Werner was ordained for the Great Falls diocese, after his parents had moved to that area of Montana. He has spent well over fifty years serving various Montana communities. During the Korean conflict he served as an army chaplain. The tuition system that had been in place since the Ursulines had taken over the direction of the school, presented problems for the sisters, pupils and parents. Bishop Kucera directed that the status of the school should be changed from private to parochial. This new arrangement became effective in 1931. This provided salaries for the nuns and free tuition for all the children of the parish. The students from the surrounding parishes were assessed a monthly fee according to whether they were day students or boarding students. The Ursulines then referred to the high school as Sacred Heart Academy. The principals who served the Academy were: Sister Bernadette ‘32-36; Sister Miriam ‘36-38; Sister Bernadette /38-40 and Sister Berchmans ‘40-41. The “Annals of Usuline Nuns in Falls City” say that Sacred Heart High School was a member of the Richardson County Little Ten Association in April, 1933. This county wide organization promoted scholastic, athletic, speech and musical contests among their members. Sacred Heart students entered all of the competitions whole-heartedly. Mother Bernadette is a well-remembered teacher by any student who was fortunate enough to be enrolled in her classes. She had the ability to walk into the room and command the attention of the students immediately. Father Rawley Myers, ’42, writes about her, “. . . it was Sister Bernadette, who opened my eyes to the splendor of the faith. She did this by introducing our class to her friends, the great Catholic writers of this century, mostly British, mostly converts. “We had, as many remember, not a beautiful school building, but it was beautiful inside with the love and concern the Sisters had for each one of us. The library was small, but it had great books. “When I finished grade school at Sacred Heart I was pretty restless in regard to religion. We had studied the catechism for many years, and I was weary of questions and answers. I wanted something more. “I was delighted to go to high school that fall. I knew it would be a new experience, but I was not quite prepared for Sister Bernadette. The year our class were freshmen she returned to teach in Falls City after having spent a number of years as an instructor in a junior college in Illinois. Our class soon said she still thought she was teaching in college. Her classes were very confusing, but, as I recall we never opened our textbooks. We were always in the library reading books, and not just any books but those by her special friends, G.K. Chesterton, Ronald Knox, Sir Arnold Lunn, C.C. Martindale and many more. We read books and reported on them. I never understood half of what I read. (I always said we all read Chesterton, and only our classmate Melvin Ketter understood him.) But from these wonderful books, I knew these authors were great thinkers and most of them had thought their way into the Catholic Church, and the faith was not just a lot of questions and answers, but a most intelligent and reasonable way of life. It was just what I needed. And since then I have read most of these books again and again, and each time get more out of them. “How good of God to send us this inspiring teacher when we needed her the most.

It must have been an exciting time for the students, when Sister Rita Butell, OSU, at her request was commissioned to Manchuria in 1932. She had received permission to transfer to the Orthodox Rite of the Church that was practiced there. Sister Rita was a high school teacher at the time and it must have been a most unlikely assignment for this mid-western nun. According to Sister Mary Anne Frederick, OSU, she was from a missionary-minded family with four nuns, the other three being members of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Mother Catherine Drexel’s order, who were home missionaries among the Negroes and Indians. Mauvaleen Davis Heller, `37, remembers that all the students went to the train station to see her off, with a large basket of fruit for a going away gift. Sister Rita corresponded with many of her former students. She was finally brought back to the United States after Manchuria was invaded by the Communists.

Julia Frederick was part and parcel of Sacred Heart and remains in the memories for any one attending Sacred Heart during the 38 years she lived at Sacred Heart. She was ever-present, teaching music and acting as accompanist for the grade and high school glee clubs and musicals. She lived in a room on the third floor of the school building adjacent to the boarder’s dormitory. She kept watch over the building and was at the beck and call of anyone who needed her. Francis Casey, `38, recalls his memories of Julia during his twelve years at Sacred Heart: “Julia died December 23, 1959 having served Sacred Heart schools and Sts. Peter and Paul parish for 38 years. For several years she taught music in the school and also gave private instruction in piano after school and on Saturdays. Of all the changes that took place in the teaching staff and student enrollment, one thing was constant- the presence of Julia at the piano playing accompaniment for all the school programs and graduations. Added to this busy schedule, she also found time to be sacristan and organist for religious services in the church. “The last two years of her life were spent in a nursing home. It isn’t too difficult to imagine that many times her fingers played “Pomp and Circumstance" on the arm of her chair, while in her mind, she saw the current graduation class march into Tiehen Gym to receive their diplomas.”

Another constant figure in the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s was Gussie Schawang, the janitor and handy man for many years. Gussie lived in a little two-room stucco house to the east of the wooden school building. He was Julia Frederick’s uncle, so dedication to their work seemed to be a family trait. Francis Casey also remembers Gussie: “You will not find his name on the church’s roster of recognized saints. But looking deep into the hearts of former students of Sacred Heart during the years 1921 to 1950 you will find it. After all, who of us could forget Gussie Schawang, Sacred Heart’s and Sts. Peter and Paul’s own hermit saint? “Born in a log cabin northeast of Falls City on January 24, 1871, he lived a life of humility for 82 years. Twenty-nine of those years, he served at Sacred Heart School. He took up residence in the “little house on the school grounds in 1921 and for the next twenty-nine years was the ever faithful sexton. If anyone was late for the school mass, it wasn’t because the church bells hadn’t been rung on time. At the appointed time Gussie was pulling the ropes, ringing the bells that ringing the bells that easily outweighed him.

“There were times when unthinking children teased him. Even adults cast knowing glances when he made his rapid, consecutive signs of the cross. Taking all these thoughtless practices in stride, he served his God to the best of his ability. In poor health, he retired in 1950. He lived three years longer, dying at a local nursing home on February 27, 1953. As the 30th decade turned into the 40th, there were many changes taking place. In the late 30s, the last of the boarders were grade schoolers, the ones in the 30s were high school students.

Transportation had undergone big changes. No longer did students come to school via horseback or in buggies, which had necessitated an early arrival, so that they could feed and stable their horses in the neighborhood barns of relatives or friends. Roads were in better condition and cars had replaced the horse. Many of the families came to school, with the eldest driving the family vehicle. If the family members did not fill the car, they picked up neighborhood children. Today’s environmentalists would be proud of their car pooling efforts. Those who lived in town walked to school even from the farthest edges of town.

A major development occurred in June, 1941, when the Ursuline Mother General in Rome, at the suggestion of the Holy Father decided to close some of the schools that they staffed in the Central Province. Falls City fell within that province. At the time, they lacked sufficient number of teachers to adequately staff all of their schools. It was thought best to close all of the Nebraska schools. With disappointment and regret the Sisters had to leave Sacred Heart that they had staffed since 1895. They sold the convent and school property to the Sts. Peter and Paul parish.

The Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth assumed the administration in the fall of 1941. They had already taken charge of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Hospital in Fall City the year before, so they were asked by the Bishop to staff the school and they agreed to do so. The Sisters of Charity headed by their founder Mother Xavier Ross came to Leavenworth, Kansas in 1858 to care for the orphans and children of the west ward bound settlers. Since that time the community has grown to include missions in the states of Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico, California, Colorado, Wyoming, Illinois and Montana. They also have two foundations in South America. With the change of religious staff came a change of names. Sacred Heart Academy became Sacred Heart Memorial School. Sister Mary Zoe was principal until 1947. Other principal from the Sisters of Charity were as follows: Sister Patricia, 1947-49; Mary Eugene, 1949-51, 1956-63; Mary Columba, 1952-55; Mary Ellenice, 155-56; Ann Teresa, 1963-69; Marie Carmel, 1969-72; Mary Hilaria, 1972-81 and Mary Denise, 1981-85.

It was during Sister Mary Eugene’s tutelage that the students began to publish the SPOTLIGHT. It is one of the longest on going and significant activities at Sacred Heart. It came into existence in September, 1949 and continues to be published each year. It is a communicating tool with the alumni and the community.

A new school had been the dream of several pastors, according to Sister Loretta Gosen’s HISTORY OF THE DIOCESE OF LINCOLN. It started with Father John Hoffman, who had been thinking in terms of a new school building in 1935. But Father Hoffman was transferred in 1935 and replaced by Rev. James Gilroy. Father Gilroy pastorate was short and had little time to adjust to the parish, as Msgr. P.J. Healey replaced him in 1939. The idea of a new school became Msgr. Healey’s problem. At the time it just wasn’t financially possible. He remained ten years and he left with the new school still a dream. Father Joseph Murphy replaced him, but in three months he became ill and on September 30, 1949. Then the Rev. Lawrence Obrist, a former army chaplain came to Falls City as the new pastor. As time passed, financial difficulties of the parish improved and the much needed school was again considered. An intensive fund raising project began March 1, 1952. Catherine Tiehen, whose donation had erected the Tiehen Gym, came forward with a gift of $65,000. The parish was to match this sum and collect an additional $50,000 for the $185,000 structure. Plans for the new building were to be a long range $390,000 project with the first phase being a one story $185,000 structure of contemporary design. It was a secondary teacher, who had died at the convent very suddenly on April 9, 1951.

The Sacred Heart statue was a gift of the students in memory of their teacher and the Blessed Virgin statue was a memento by Sister Mary Evelyn’s brothers. On February 28, 1957, Sacred Heart’s patron, Catherine Tiehen died. In death, she remembered the school that was built with her generous gifts. From her home she could watch the children and she must have been pleased with the results of her gifts. When her will was probated she left to the church another $50,000 for the building she wanted for the school she loved. Monsignor Obrist blessed and broke the ground for the second phase on May 20, 1962. The new unit was built north from the structure that was built in 1953. It consisted of four additional classrooms plus offices, work rooms and auxiliary facilities. Construction and design matched the existing building and was of beige brick over steel. This time because of Catherine’s generous bequest the parish only had to raise $39,000. Henry Krumme owner of the Krumme Construction Company was again employed by Monsignor and his advisors. Mr. Krumme’s personal interest in the project, coupled with his professional ability made the Sacred Heart School, one of the most modern up-to-date buildings in the state at that time. Mr. Krumme later had grandchildren who attended the school. Open House for the new grade school was held April 5, 1963. The new addition had 163 grade school children, one through eight. Grades five and six remained in the older part of the building.

At the end of 1963, with the larger school facility in Falls City, it was announced that St. Mary’s school in Dawson would consolidate with Sacred Heart School. The enrollment at St. Mary’s at the time was 27 children. The Sisters of Christ, who staffed both schools, thought that the three sisters serving St. Mary’s could reach a larger number of students by consolidation. St. Mary’s was to provide the transportation for the students. Transportation for children from outlying parishes was forever a problem. On August 3, 1963 the articles of incorporation of the Sacred Heart Bus, Inc. was signed and it became possible for the corporation to provide transportation for students of Sacred Heart from Sts. Peter and Paul’s Church of Falls City, St. Mary’s Church of Arago, St. Mary’s Church of Dawson, St. Anne’s Church of Shubert and Immaculate Conception Church of Rulo. Since Nebraska law still forbade parochial students from riding on the public school bus, the parishes as an entity proceeded to purchase and run their own buses. This continued until 1968 when the cost became prohibitive. Rulo, Arago, and Shubert abandoned the buses and the families again furnished their own transportation. Dawson continued their own bus service for a number of years.

It was LB 522 that approved by the Nebraska legislature, required public school buses to pick up parochial and private students on their regular bus routes. The bill was designed to conserve energy during the nationwide oil crisis of the 1970’s and to safeguard the students. The SPOTLIGHT, September, 1975 said it eliminated about fifteen cars in the parking lot and saved about 320 miles a day on the road.

The Sacred Heart Lunch program began in the 1940’s. Pat McMahon, who served as coach and athletic director at that time, explained the new federal program to a group of parishioners on Sept. 11, 1940. It was a project in connection with the Works Progress Administration of the Franklin Roosevelt presidency and a program of the “New Deal.” Sacred Heart was the sixth school in Richardson County to adopt the plan and lunches were served in the basement of the Tiehen Gym. They continued to be served there until the Sts. Peter and Paul Parish hall was built. A much larger and more modern cafeteria was installed on the second level of the hall. The parish hall was built across the street from the original church property in 1982. It is on the lot where the former Ida Baker home stood. The home had been donated to Sts. Peter and Paul parish by the Baker family upon her death. Since the school has a closed lunch hour, most students take advantage of the lunchroom. The program provides a hot nutritious meal and eating together adds to the camaraderie of the students.

From 1944 to 1972 a familiar face and constant presence at Sacred Heart was Herman Niemeyer, who was janitor and jack-of-all trades for 28 years. Linda Faller Sanders, ’69, Herman’s granddaughter, recorded the changes in the school during this period in an article about her grandfather in the SOUTHERN NEBRASKA REGISTER: “The garden from which he produced a variety of vegetables and berries in 1944 is now a football field to be mowed in summer and occasionally reseeded. “

When asked what his outstanding job was on one occasion, Mr. Niemeyer said, “I believe cleaning the boy’s locker room after a muddy game. You should see that place. Even at that, I enjoy my work and like it here.” Sister Ann Teresa Conroy, principal of Sacred Heart for ten years, said, “What would we ever do without Mr. Niemeyer?” (SPOTLIGHT, May 1956).

Members of the Sisters of Charity on the faculty at Sacred Heart were responsible for the beginning of the Headstart Program in Richardson County. Sister Mary Cleophas Brost, who taught from 1966-68 as first grade teacher, initiated the new program in the summer of ’67. Sister Ann Teresa was Mother Superior and principal at that time. Operation Headstart developed from President Lyndon Johnson’s “war on poverty” and was provided for under the Education Act of 1965. The first Richardson County classes were taught at Sacred Heart. Later, because of more rigid restrictions concerning separation of Church and state, it could not continue the program for the diocese.

In 1970, the Diocesan Development Program (DDP) was initiated which provided for a revolving fund from which parishes could borrow at low interest rates for repairing or buildings. If the parishes maintain a grade and high school, eighty percent of what is contributed is returned to the parish. In 1990, the amount returned to Sts. Peter and Paul’s parish was $25,310 with a commensurate amount sent back to the four smaller parishes involved.

The new church that was being built at this time was to stand on the ground occupied by the nun’s convent, the Dundee house. In order for the construction to start, the inside fixtures were sold at an auction in the summer of 1971 and the Ankrom Moving and Demolition Company proceeded to pull down the 100 year old house. Since a rectory was to be built connected to the new church, the nuns on the faculty in 1971 moved into the old rectory. This rectory had been built in 1910, and was the home for the two Sisters of Charity serving the school during the Centennial year.

There have been several organizations that have lent support and material aid to the school. The Sacred Heart Alumni has been in existence since the early Clara Mooney Stone, ’30, Marie Timothy Hinds, ’31, Betty Babb Ralston, ’31, Tom Mandeville, ’31, and Verna Gerweck Harrison ’29, were the prime movers for this organization. Since the first meeting there has been a biennial gathering to celebrate the golden anniversary classes. All alumni, who have been graduated more than 50 years, are invited to come to the reunion. The Centennial year was the fifth such celebration.

Two alumni, who could truly be names Mr. and Mrs. Sacred Heart, because of their involvement in school during the past 25 to 30 years, are Dick and NiNi Frederick (classes ’42 and ’45 respectively). Dick began driving the bus and running the clock and chains at games 30 years ago and is still continuing his service today. NiNi had been the school secretary for 25 years, but service for the two of them began with the Alumni and the Home and School. Much of the history of the school in documents and pictures was preserved and kept by NiNi as she worked in the school office. NiNi and retired the Centennial year, but expect to see her at every Irish game and tournament and Dick may well haul another generation of Sacred Heart Students.

The present Home and School organization probably came into existence in the late’ 30’s as a Mother’s club. They lend their hands to the menial tasks around the school. Each summer they paint and do needed repaint in the school buildings. They run the concessions at all the home games. They are responsible for the Christmas Formal, the Awards banquet and other extracurricular activities. Over the years the school library has been especially enhanced and kept up-to-date bye their contributions.

Father James O’Connor, who had given 19 years to the pastorate in Falls City, moved in 1988. Father Robert Roh came from St. Peter’s, Bellwood, NE, where he had been a teacher and track coach at Aquinas High School in David City. After a year’s time, Father Roh found a pressing need for two new classrooms, because of an increased enrollment in the grade school. It was decided to build onto the “grand old dame”, the Tiehen Gym. The parishes shared the work with Dawson and Shubert furnishing the architect, Tony Ahern, ’70 who collaborated with Chris Rathman, ’83 Lincoln, on the plans for the addition. Rulo and Arago parishioners put up the steel frame with their farm equipment under the direction of Tim Pfister.

The seventh and eighth grades were the first two occupants of the light and airy rooms that were built onto the south end of the gym. New Locker and showers rooms for both the boys and the girls are between the old gym stage and the new rooms. An almost identical brick matches the old portion of the building and the old and the new is blended into a fine and useful building.

In 1985, the Sacred Heart Endowment Fund for the high school began with the encouragement of Bishop Flavin and the help of Jim Luensmann, Diocesan Director of Endowments. By December, 1986, the endowment was solidly in place and the amount raised was only a few hundred dollars from the three year goal of $200,000. The entire principal is to be invested and all of the interest goes directly to the general budget of the school. Father Benton, Principal of the high school from 1985-88, challenged alumni to donate to the fund so it would continue to grow. A telethon conducted by local alumni brought gifts from many areas. During this time Jane Buchholz Schroff, ’34, donated a family home she had inherited to the Endowment Fund. During the years 1985-87 the home was used for the Chapter I Remedial Program and the last two years it has been rented to Coach Doug Goltz and his family.

The parishes have initiated many things over the years to make their share of school expense. Sts. Peter and Paul sponsor bingo twice a week. offering an evening’s entertainment and serving an evening lunch to the players. The Falls City and Shubert parishes were given land in the will of Lawrence Parchen, a long time farmer and parishioner. The alumni, who live in St. Anne’s, Shubert and St. Mary’s Arago, furnish their equipment and labor, with the proceeds going to the school. Rulo has a summer barbecue and the ladies often serve farm sales while Dawson runs a three day concession stand at the Humboldt Fair.

The Cecil Murphy Scholarship program was also started in 1985 by Father Rawley Myers, ’42, and Dr. Jim Myers, ’40. Cecil Murphy, ’42, son of the late Paul and Florence Murphy died in a plane crash on July 10, 1944. He was one of the crewmen on a B-17 bomber that went down in a storm over Marine enroute to England. His bomber was one of the famous “flying fortresses” of World War II. The Myers brothers were two of his closest friends. Cecil’s mother, Florence, died in 1985 at the age of 91. It was her wish that the Cecil Murphy scholarship continue. So her heirs, Maryetta Parchen Lyman, Alliance, NE; William Parchen, Littleton, CO; Art Parchen, Kansas City, KS; and Marjorie Morsman Carlstrom, Morton, IL, are continuing to fund the scholarship.

The Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, who have staffed the school for 50 years have been funding scholarships for worthy students for many years. Many students have benefitted from their generosity. Other scholarships that were given for a limited time were the Evelyn Kanaly Nusbaum Scholarship, the Msgr. Clarence J. Riordan Memorial Scholarship (a traveling scholarship sponsored by the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women), the Orscheln Brothers and the local Knights of Columbus. During the years from 1975 to 1987 a matching funds gift from Firestone Foundation was very active. Tom McGinnis, an employee of Firestone, supervised this program that brought needed dollars into the Sacred Heart school system.

For 94 years a woman religious had been the principal of Sacred Heart. A nun from one of the three religious orders that had served the school during these many years was assigned as principal. The Sisters of Charity often had separate principals for the grade and high school. The number of nuns at the school declined, until there are now only two, Sister Mary Virginia, the first grade teacher and Sister Mary Eugenia, the fifth grade teacher. The diocesan priest, serving as pastor of Rulo and Arago, Father James Benton, became the first male principal in 1985-1986 and served three years. Father Benton left as a diocesan missionary to Barquismeto, Venzuela and Father James Reinert replaced him in his pastorates and principal position in 1988-1989 school year and is still serving in that position.

There have been many caring and dedicated teachers, who have served Sacred Heart over the years and have left indelible marks on their student’s minds. Two of them, Sisters Mary Eugene and Sister Mary Hilaria, are vividly remembered by two alumni. Josephine Ryan, ’60, writes about Sister Mary Eugene, who served as principal from 1949-52 and again from 1956-63 and taught science. “Sacred Heart School has been blessed with excellent teachers. One of the finest was Sister Mary Eugene. She expected the best from each student and it was a given that you did your best in her science classes. A saying of hers that I recall, ‘Either you control the situation controls you,’ may explain why she had on discipline problems. I think all the students knew this lady expected us to control ourselves. “I am most grateful for the sound foundation Sister gave me in the study of science. Her lessons were also about being a Christian in today’s world.”

Mary Beth Frederick, ’66, gives her impressions of Sister Mary Hilaria Phipps, who served Sacred Heart longer than any other Sister of Charity. She was on the grade school faculty from 1954-58, a high school teacher from 63-71, and as a principal of the high school from 72-80. Mary Beth writes the following: “What stands out in my mind about Sister Hilaria after all these years was her utter straightforwardness. This realization has come only after working in the corporate environment where much time and energy are spent in the quest to figure out the other person’s hidden agenda. We students never had to do that with Sister Hilaria. Looking back, it seems that she very much knew who she was, what she wanted to accomplish, and was secure in that knowledge. She expected the best from her students and would expend many more than the required hours and much more than the required energy to help us achieve it. She expected, also, a return of the same integrity she possessed - not necessarily to know exactly who we were or everything that we wanted, for these were some of the things we were in school to discover - but she did expect us to acknowledge when we weren’t sure of some concept she was trying to convey, to wrestle with it, and to ask and wrestle repeatedly until we did understand it. The only times she was angered was when we either didn’t “use our heads or tried to excuse our poor performance on a test or in a project report by saying that we hadn’t really understood when she taught the subject. She tempered her expectations of excellence and honesty with true excitement and joy in the experience of learning; I always felt that, although she had the superior knowledge, she was learning alongside us as she was teaching us. This enthusiasm for subjects as diverse as physics, journalism, and drama (and the latest Documentary series on the education station) mad her seem not old in that way that teenagers consider anyone over 21 and in a position of authority. I do not have any direct knowledge of her teaching style today, but I have been privileged to remain her friend and to know that her personal hallmarks are still straightforwardness and enthusiasm.”

Sacred Heart approached the Centennial year as a vital and progressing school. The total enrollment is 271 students. The grade school has 210 pupils and the high school has 61. The enrollment has varied through the years, but it still remains a small school by 1990 standards. Lay teachers are in the majority now, with the count of 17. Two Sisters of Charity taught in the grade school with the four priests from the combined parishes rounding out the number of teachers at 22. With the increased number of teachers has come an expanded curriculum that adequately prepares students for college or gives them sufficient educational background to make their way in non-professional pursuits.

Reflecting on the hundred years, brings us to the realization that the word of God is prolifically spread and the students’ lives enhanced by their Catholic sanctification, but it fixes direction and moral values that help people live lives of purpose and service. It is the spark that ignites faith. Sacred Heart is what the name implies, the heart of southeastern Nebraska’s Catholicism.