Faith that Conquers: A History of Faith
by Kelly Mescher Collins | May 10, 2021
By Kelly Mescher Collins
“A few daring pioneers were the first Halbur Catholics to travel by foot and horseback to Mt. Carmel, the site of the only Catholic church in Carroll County.”
Those were the words written in the history book of my very small hometown of Halbur, Iowa.
I love thinking about these faith-filled people mounting horses or traveling by foot nearly 13 miles in the elements to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. A 26-mile round trip was much longer in those days, and I’m inspired by their dedication to the Catholic faith.
But it prompted me to wonder: how daring and bold are we Catholics today? How far are we willing to go for our faith – both literally and figuratively?
In 1875, a Catholic church was built in Hillsdale, situated amongst beautiful, hilly terrain about 3.5 miles east of Halbur – a closer travel option for Mass. Most families traveled by horse and buggy to Mass in Hillsdale (known my entire life as Roselle).
In 1901, the town of Halbur, now on railroad lines for both passenger and freight trains, sent a delegation to see Archbishop James J. Keane of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, bishop of the Halbur territory at that time. (Today Halbur is part of the Sioux City Diocese).
The people requested two things: a pastor and to have Halbur proclaimed a parish. The archbishop granted their requests and sent Father John Beaumler to town.
When Father Beaumler arrived the people “formed in procession on foot, horseback and carriages to welcome their first pastor” before escorting him to the school, which had been prepared for Holy Mass.
I love it.
The first St. Augustine Catholic Church in Halbur was built in 1904. In 1973, the original church was torn down and the new St. Augustine church that stands today neared completion. My older sister Jody was the first baby to be baptized there in 1973 – the pews weren’t even in yet.
Before the original church was demolished, the parish auctioned off items, including the nearly 7-foot tall crucifix. My uncle Jerry purchased and hung the crucifix in his machine shed, where he could see it every day on the family farm just outside Halbur.
After Jerry passed in 2015, my aunt Sharon prayed about what to do with the over 100-year old crucifix, now showing its age. She called our alma mater, Kuemper Catholic High School in Carroll, wondering if they could make good use of this piece.
“Jerry loved high school,” Sharon said. “That was some of the best days of his life, and I just felt like it needed to go to Kuemper.”
The crucifix was restored by another Kuemper alum with experience in this special work.
The cross returned to its original home, St. Augustine in Halbur, for viewing and reflection before moving it to Kuemper. It was blessed on March 25 by Kuemper’s chaplain, Father Patrick Behm, as it hung in its new location in the school gym.
The plaque hanging below it says: “Crucifix of Our Lord, St. Augustine Catholic Church, 1904-1973.”
It also reads: “Sharon asks that students, in viewing this crucifix, say a prayer for Jerry’s soul, and that they be reminded how much God loves us, for He gave us His only Son to atone for our sins and open the gates of heaven to us.”
It’s a reminder of how far Jesus went for us. All the way – unto a horrific death on the cross. May we each respond to Jesus’ giving of his very self by taking our faith “all the way” for him.