BISMARCK – The
Church of St. Thomas the Apostle
in Tioga, N.D. is celebrating its centennial on June 15, 2014, with Mass at 3:00 p.m. and festivities to follow.
The church also recently launched a newly designed website:
The Church of St. Thomas the Apostle was named for one of the twelve Apostles, who preached the good news to the Far East in India.
“We have been fortunate to have four priests from India, including our current priest, Fr. Benny Putharayil,” explained Jenny Norgaard, the parish secretary. “We are blessed to be enjoying the fruits of the seeds first planted in India by St. Thomas the Apostle.”
Tioga was served by visiting priests from 1901 to 1907. In 1907, Fr. S. J. Arsenault was named the first resident pastor in Williston, and Tioga became a part of this territory. In 1913 a small church was built in Tioga. Several men of the parish donated work and time to build the church. On March 12, 1914, Bishop Wehrle, the first Bishop of Bismarck, established St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Tioga and made it a mission of Ray, N.D. It remained a mission until 1958.
During the difficult time of the thirties, the Tioga parish nearly closed but struggled to continue on with a small number of parishioners and monthly Mass. Things changed in the fifties with the discovery of oil and migration of people to the area. Fr. James Clarke, the priest at that time, arranged to have Mass celebrated every week and made extensive repairs and upgrades to the old church to accommodate the influx of new parishioners.
By 1958, St. Thomas had its first resident pastor, Fr. Joseph Adkins, and a rectory was built when he came.
Fr. Joseph LaManna was here from 1962-1965 and organized a building committee and laid plans for a large church. Fr. Albert Leary replaced Fr. LaManna and, along with the building committee and trustees, directed the construction of the new church. The architect designed the church with two wings, a high wooden beam ceiling, a rectory and catechetical center. Ground was broken on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, 1966, and actual construction began on August 15, 1966. The bells for the new church were consecrated by Bishop Hacker on September 24, 1967. The first Mass was held in the new church on Holy Thursday, April 11, 1968. The new and spacious church continues to stand as a beacon of faith to the Catholic people of Tioga.
The United Cemetery in south Tioga was donated to the parish by the James Cannon family. The land was part of the original Cannon family homestead and continues to serve the needs of the parish to this day.
The St. Thomas Ladies Aid was organized on November 7, 1923. The name was changed to The Rosary Society of St. Thomas on October 15, 1925. The Altar Society continues to be an active part of the parish. The Parish Council was organized in 1984 under the guidance of Fr. Roman Bede. Since that time, the Parish Council continues to meet and serve the needs of the parish.
The current pastor is Fr. Benny Putharayil. Past priests, starting from the earliest, include: Fr. Hugh Mullen, Fr. Joseph Ambauen, Fr. Bernard Van Gils, Fr. E.P. O’Neill, Fr. Victor Sommer, Fr. John Halloran, Fr. Robert Feehan, Fr. Wilfred Fischer, Fr. James Clarke, Fr. Joseph Adkins, Fr. Thomas Chambers, Fr. Joseph LaManna, Fr. Albert Leary, Fr. Henry Schneider, Fr. Leonard Eckroth, Fr. Ed Korte, Fr. Roman Bede, Fr. Sebastian Ettolill, Fr. Tom Dignan, Fr. Johnson Kriappilly, Fr. Jacob Kayalaparambil, and Fr. Sebastian Gregory Kadappurathveettil.
Present members of the Parish Council are Fr. Benny, David Grubb, Danny McGinnity, Tim Joyce, Cary Longie, Kathy Neset, Judy Odegaard, Pat Branesky, and Jenny Norgaard. Cary Longie, Danny McGinnity, and Tim Joyce are trustees. Recent undertakings by the council include renovations to the exterior of the church in 2013 and the paving of the parking lot in time for our centennial celebration on June 15, 2014.
“We are grateful for all our past priests and for all the members of our parish who so generously serve the needs of our church,” said Fr. Benny. “St. Thomas the Apostle has a rich faith heritage and looks forward to serving the future needs of its parishioners.”
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