History of St. Celestine Church

St. Celestine Church was established November 16, 1843, when the twenty acres was platted.  In 1859 Fr. Joseph Meister was sent to Celestine.  He began serving both Celestine and St. Anthony communities in 1862.   He wanted to build a new church downtown while the parishioners wanted it in the old place on the hill.  The Celestine hill was evidently covered with dense forest, and it was told that Fr. Meister was afraid of hills covered with trees.   The first building meeting was on August 16, 1863.  The contracts were signed in January 1864 with a priest.  The church was to be 80 feet long, 55 feet wide and 26 feet high.  Four thousand dollars would be the cost for the brick work.  Several years later , on February 25, 1868, death came to Fr. Meister, now new pastor of St. Anthony.  He was cutting down a tree near the church and was fatally struck.  Perhaps Fr. Meister had a premonition about meeting his untimely demise in such an accident.  This would explain his fear of “hills with trees on them” when debate arose about the location of Celestine’s new church.

In 1891 Fr. Charles “Karl” Bilger came to St. Celestine.  The year 1895 was an important one for Fr. Bilger.  He promised that if the parish paid off its debt, he would build a new church because the thirty-year-old church needed extensive repair.  The estimated cost of the new church was $20,000. On Sunday morning October 17, 1897, the new church was dedicated.

The present rectory was built in 1915, two years after Fr. Lawrence Fichter arrived and decided upon its need.

In August of 1957, Fr. John J. Finis arrived at St. Celestine.   In January, 1960, a fund was started to refurbish the old church or build a new one.  By 1964, $50,000 was saved to be put toward building a new church.  The cost of the structure was about $317,000.  The amount was paid in three different ways. One third of the cost had been saved in anticipation of a new church. Another one-third was pledged by the parishioners, with families asked to give $100 each for three years.  The last third was paid in three years after the church was built.  The parish paid off the architect before the construction of the church began, so the parish built the church without an architect on the job.  Otherwise, the total costs including the architect’s fee would have been over $550,000.  One year and five days after the old church had been completely dismantled, the fourth and present church was dedicated on Sunday, May 19, 1968.  During this summer of 1968, the parish celebrated its 125th anniversary. 

Built in the form of a Greek Cross, the present church has a capacity of 600.  The church doubled the size of the old church, which had also been designed in the form of a cross; thus the old was repeated with the new.  Three of the wings were designed to house the congregation.  The south wing, which also included a carport entrance, is ideal in inclement weather.  The fourth wing, which faces north, has two upstairs utility rooms with the organ pipe in the middle behind the Crucifixion scene.  On the main level there are two sacristies, and a small chapel area is framed with a stained glass window which is 27 feet high and ten feet wide.  The Risen Lord is pictured between two ten-ton columns.  In that glass are depictions of the local farm economy.  Beautiful stained glass windows also enhance the worship area of the church.  In the west wing is a picture of St. Peter with the keys of heaven.  On the east, the rectory side, is Christ, the Good Shepherd.  The south side has four saints.  On the top left is St. Agnes, and on the top right is St. Anne. On the bottom right is St. Elizabeth of Portugal.  All of these are patron saints of married women.   The bottom left window depicts St. Rose of Lima, the patron saint of young women.  All of the windows in the worship area are 18 feet high and nine and one-half feet wide and were saved from the old church built in 1896.  The Louisville Art Glass Company reworked each window before it was placed in the new church.  Certainly, this was tedious work.

Our parish center was dedicated on December 14, 2003.

All of these components comprise a sacred space for Masses and religious education classes that are well attended and spiritually uplifting.