St. Henry History


Henry was born on May 6, 972, to Duke Henry of Bavaria and Princess Gisela of Burgundy. He was an intelligent and devout student of Wolfgang of Regensberg, a notably pious and charitable bishop who was later canonized a saint in the Catholic Church.

Young Henry followed his teacher’s example of piety and charity toward all when he succeeded his father as Duke of Bavaria in 995. At age 30, the Catholic Church supported him being appointed King of Germany in 1002. As king, Henry encouraged the German bishops to reform according to Canon Law. He negotiated a peaceful end to a revolt in his territory and mercifully pardoned the rebels. He took decisive, yet merciful, action against an Italian nobleman who subversively attempted to be a rival king. In 1014, he journeyed to Rome where he was crowned as head of the Holy Roman Empire. He was known for donating his personal wealth to churches and monasteries, along with being a generous patron of the poor. On July 13, 1024, King Henry died after years of illness. He was canonized in 1146.

St. Henry, pray for us!




            St. Henry Parish was founded in 1862 by Fr. Chrysostom Foffa, OSB, (1862-1863), the pastor of nearby St. Ferdinand Parish. The name, St. Henry, was given in honor of Abbot Henry of Einsiedeln Abbey in Switzerland from which Fr. Chrysostom originated. The Catholics living west of Ferdinand and north of Mariah Hill were organized into the new parish of 25 families. From 1862 until 1878, the new St. Henry Parish was staffed entirely by Benedictines from St. Meinrad Abbey and Mary, Help of Christians Parish at Mariah Hill.

            In 1863 the first church was built of local sandstone on a square of six acres of land. The land was donated to the new parish by Gerhardt Herman Bueltel and his wife, Catherine, who lived in Cincinnati, Ohio.

            In 1865, the women of St. Henry founded the St. Mary’s Altar Society. In 1887, during Fr. Wack’s tenure, the St. Mary’s Altar Society’s name was changed to the Christian Mothers Society.

            Fr. Bernard Kintrup, the first secular priest in charge of St. Henry for one year (November 1878-September 1879), began to make plans for the first rectory. The rectory, which cost $600.00, was completed and furnished while Fr. Pius Boehm, OSB, was pastor (September 1879-June 1885). Fr. Pius was the first resident pastor. The eight previous priests were commuters from St. Meinrad Abbey and Mary, Help of Christians Parish in Mariah Hill.

Fr. William Wack, pastor (June 1885-June 1890), was the first diocesan pastor at St. Henry. On September 11, 1886, he purchased two acres of land for $300.00 from Catherine Bueltel, from Hamilton County, Ohio. These acres adjoined the original six acres of church land on the west side.

In 1862 the first school house which was a one-room log school was located northwest of St. Henry. On August 5, 1872 John and Mary Bueltel gave property to Ferdinand Township, whose boundary included St. Henry at that time, to build a Common School House which was a small two-room building. Then on October 25, 1886, Fr. Wack sold an acre, west of the church, to the Trustee of Cass Township for $150.00 for the purpose of building a school for the children of the St. Henry area. This school also had two rooms. In the fall of 1911, a third room for the high school students was added to the school that was built in 1886. Years later, the third room was used as a library and band room. With the exception of three years, the Sisters of St. Benedict from Ferdinand taught at St. Henry from 1881 until the school was closed in 1973.

When Fr. Meinrad Toelle became pastor, (June 1909-1934) a parish census was taken which showed 80 families for a total of 450 men, women and children. The first church was too small for the growing congregation. At a meeting on August 15, 1909, a subscription (same as pledge) was taken up and the Building Committee was elected. The Committee members who decided to build another church were Michael Seidl, Nicholas Hohl, Bernard Oeding and Alphonse Krapf. The cornerstone of the second church (the present church), was laid on July 17, 1910, and dedicated on July 16, 1911. The final cost of the new church totaled $17,205.81. On June 15, 1911, the St. Henry statue on the outside of the church was put in place. It was paid for by members of the parish whose first names were Henry.

The four church bells hanging in the St. Henry Church tower arrived on July 14, 1911. The largest one, weighing 1500 pounds, was named in honor of Mary, Mother of God. The second one, weighing 600 pounds was named St. Henry. The third one, weighing 400 pounds, was named St. Joseph, and the smallest one, weighing 175 pounds, was named St. Meinrad.

On December 19, 1911, the Christmas stable and statues, at a cost of $58.00, arrived at the Johnsburg Train Station west of St. Henry. The stable scene was displayed for the first time that Christmas and every year thereafter. Also in 1911, a new confessional was placed in the church.

The altar on the left side of the sanctuary was dedicated to Mary, Mother of God and the large painting above the altar is of St. Benedict. The altar on the right side of the sanctuary has a large painting of St. Henry.

The Pieta statue below the Mission cross was placed in the church on September 12, 1914. The St. Henry branch of the Catholic Knights of America, (CK of A), was organized on October 11, 1914. The Catholic Knights of America Organization is now known as Catholic Financial Life.

The main cross on the church steeple and the four smaller crosses were replaced with new copper crosses in July of 1923.

Fr. Meinrad Toelle was succeeded in June of 1934 by Fr. Matthias Schmitz, (June 1934-September 1957). Fr. Schmitz was instrumental a year later in getting the Huntingburg Power Line extended to the town of St. Henry. This electrical line replaced the coal oil lamps with electric lights in all the parish buildings and the St. Henry School. During the 1940’s, the original pump organ was also powered by electricity. A new cemetery monument with a cross was also built during the tenure of Fr. Schmitz. In 1955 the St. Henry 4-H Club was organized.  Between 1988 and 1989 the name was changed to the St. Henry Saints.

When Fr. Schmitz retired as active pastor in 1957, Fr. Linus Hopf was assigned to St. Henry as Administrator, (September 1957-January 1962). In those years, many improvements were made inside the church and on the church property: the church steeple was repaired and recovered; storm windows were added to the church windows; pads were installed on the kneeling benches; and the St. Henry St. Vincent de Paul Society was founded. After an Organ Fund Drive was completed, Fr. Hopf and some Choir members toured the Wicks Pipe Organ Factory in Highland, Illinois, and purchased a new, state-of-the-art, pipe organ. It was installed at the end of August in 1962. Trumpet sounds were added in 1984 and a set of chimes in 1985. This organ continues to be used weekly, and also for funerals, weddings, and other special occasions.

In 1962, Fr. Hopf received a new assignment as Chaplain in the United States Army. Fr. Lawrence Moll, (January 1962-August 1968), was then appointed Administrator. Fr. Moll was very active in the work of the Centennial Celebration and is the author of the St. Henry Parish and Town Centennial History Book, (1862-1962). In 1963, the St. Henry Community Club was organized. The club’s main purpose was to pay for the town’s first street lights.

The first English liturgy Mass was celebrated by Fr. Moll on January 7, 1965. The first English High Mass was celebrated on April 1, 1965. On March 27, 1966, the first all English Mass was read. These Masses were read in English because of the ruling from the Second Vatican Council. Previously, Masses were entirely in Latin throughout the world. A new Baptismal Font, made of oak was purchased on January 10, 1966 and is presently used. On October 17, 1966, the United States and Papal flags were placed in the sanctuary where they remain today. In December of 1967, five oaken sanctuary seats were purchased and are in use today, though they have been re-upholstered. In the summer of 1966, some members of the St. Henry community studied the possibility of having water distributed to St. Henry. From August 20 through December 23, 1969, the work for the water lines in St. Henry was completed.

In 1968, Bishop Leibold, then Bishop of the Diocese of Evansville, with a new assignment in mind for Fr. Moll, asked if the monks of St. Meinrad Archabbey would serve the St. Henry Parish for about a year. It was then that Fr. Raphael Hirsch, OSB, (August 1968-August 1977), was assigned to St. Henry Parish. With the approval of Bishop Leibold, the one year extended until 1977. Fr. Raphael organized the first Parish Council and lay men began lectoring during Mass. In 1969, some men of the parish decided that the old rectory was beyond repair and should be replaced with a new one. A subscription (same as pledge) was taken up and the new rectory was commissioned to be built and a Building Committee was elected. The Committee members were Wilfred Schwinghamer, Leo Hohl and Robert Childress. While the rectory was being built, Fr. Raphael lived in the former convent which had been occupied by Benedictine sisters who taught at St. Henry School. In February of 1972, Fr. Raphael moved into the new rectory which cost $29,000. In 1976 the St. Henry Cemetery was enlarged. The hedges were reset and the boundaries were extended. In 1977 a new confessional was constructed and carpet was installed in the sanctuary of the church.

Fr. Marcellus Fisher, OSB (August 1977-December 1988), replaced Fr. Raphael. While Fr. Marcellus was pastor, the following projects were undertaken: 1979 - church road sign stating times of Masses was installed; 1980 - a Parish Auction was held as a fund-raiser for the remodeling of the church and new lights and a gas furnace were installed; 1981 - the interior of the church was painted, a new Resurrection picture was placed in the center of the high altar and the Communion railing was removed; the Statue of the Body of Christ, which was inside the altar of Mary, Mother of God and opened for Adoration on Good Friday, was removed; the parking lot on the west side was expanded and new lights were installed.

In early 1981, Fr. Marcellus suggested that the community try to organize a volunteer fire department. After numerous meetings and fund raisers, on October 1, 1983, an Open House was held to announce that the St. Henry Fire Department was operational. In 1982 a wheelchair ramp was installed on the west side of the church; 1984 - additional pipes were added to the organ and men and women were appointed as Extra Ordinary Eucharistic Ministers; 1986 - women were installed as lectors and the present Religious Education Building was built; 1987 – the St. Henry Quasquicentennial was celebrated with a special Mass on Sunday, August 16. The Community Celebration was held from August 27-30.

In January of 1989, Fr. Gregory Chamberlin, OSB, (January 1989-August 1991), was appointed Administrator of St. Henry Parish. During Fr. Gregory’s tenure, the church was air-conditioned, a new roof was put on the rectory and the administrative aspects of the parish were beginning to be computerized. On July 13, 1989 on the Feast of St. Henry, the first outdoor Mass was celebrated followed by a family picnic. On July 10, 1993, after the outdoor Mass, a Kinderfest was added. This tradition continues today.

In 1991, Fr. Camillus Ellspermann, OSB, (August 1991-July 2001), became pastor. He hired a part-time secretary, part-time bookkeeper, and installed the Parish Data System. Improvements were made to the church cemetery, and a new sound system was installed in church. Some new landscaping of the parish grounds was undertaken in 1993, and new outdoor church lighting was installed in 1994. During the reading of the Passion on Good Friday, Fr. Camillus allowed the students to enhance the scripture reading by bringing forth numerous items mentioned in the Gospel. This tradition continues today.

In 1998, the first annual outdoor Live Nativity was presented by the St. Henry Youth Group and Religious Education students. The students of all ages portrayed Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, shepherds, (the lead shepherd was the pastor of the parish), angels and three kings. In keeping with the rural setting, Mary rode a docile donkey with St. Joseph by her side. Also present were a cow, multiple sheep, a mouse, (yes, a mouse that Fr. Camillus caught in the rectory), and a crowing rooster! Interspersed with the scripture readings of the birth of Christ, spectators with flashlights joined in singing Christmas carols. This traditional re-enactment occurs every December. The stable and manger were created from storm-damaged cedar trees which had lined the path to St. Henry’s first church. After the final performance every year, white plywood handcrafted figures of the manger scene are placed in and around the stable.

In 2001, Fr. Damian Schmelz, OSB, (July 2001-September 2015), was named pastor. Under the leadership of Fr. Damian, for the first time in 90 years, the church windows were restored and cleaned. The heating and cooling system in church and the rectory were updated. Landscaping was improved with many trees being planted and a Pieta Prayer Garden in memory of loved ones was established next to the cemetery. The full length enlargement of the cemetery was completed on the south side. In 2008, the Feasts of the Holy Family and Epiphany were celebrated in a unique way with the first St. Henry Candlelight Mass. Over one hundred large red votive candles, purchased by parishioners in memory of their loved ones, are lit and placed throughout the Church and on the three altars. This tradition continues during the Christmas season.

In 2015, Fr. Jack Durchholz, (September 1, 2015-July 31, 2018), a diocesan priest and pastor at St. Ferdinand Parish, was named pastor. On March 1, 2017, the parishes of St. Henry and St. Ferdinand merged. The new parish was named Christ the King with a campus at St. Henry Church and St. Ferdinand Church.

On August 1, 2018, Fr. Anthony Govind became the current pastor of Christ the King Parish.

Four former pastors are buried in St. Henry Cemetery: Fr. Francis Seegmuller, Fr. Peter Hommes, Fr. Joseph Schweigmann and Fr. Matthias Schmitz. Three priests, one brother, and twenty sisters called St. Henry Parish their home.

This history was compiled by Janet Ann Werne of St. Henry, Indiana, on May 31, 2020.


Documentation was taken from the following sources:

St. Henry Parish and Town Centennial History, 1862-1962

St. Henry Catholic Church, 1973

St. Henry, 1862-1987 Quasquicentennial Book

St. Henry Parish, 1987

St. Henry Parish, 1994

St. Henry Parish, 2008

St. Henry Parish, 2015