Saint Patrick’s Church
In The Beginning
In 1869, the Burlington Railroad was being built westward through Nebraska territory and many Catholic men were on the construction crews. Utica was one of the towns established along this route. Although the first residence in Utica was 1872, the village was not established until August 1877, after which it grew rapidly. A few Catholic families had settled in the vicinity by 1876 and were served irregularly by missionaries or priests from Lincoln and Seward who traveled by railroad by railroad or horseback. By 1877, sixteen Irish and German Catholic families were living in the area the firs Mass was celebrated in 1880 in the old section house.
The First Church
On April 10, 1882, about 22 Catholic families purchased an acre lot from George Wright for $35 to build a church. He had purchased it from the Burlington and Missouri Railroad. Reverend C.F. Quinn, resident pastor of the Seward Catholic Church, oversaw the building of a wood framed church by James Fallon, A Catholic man who built hundreds of early building in the country. The contract was for $852. The site of the church was directly west of the present church. The church was finished in late 1882 and dedicated in honor of St. Patrick by Bishop of the Omaha Diocese. Founding fathers were Florian Geiger, Mathias Noel, Wendelin Buller, William Leif, Frederich Rohren, James O’Donnell, and Thomas McNiff.
The Second Church
When the old frame church was about 31 years old, the decision was made by 35 families to build a new brick church. Reverend John J. Murphy with P.R. Wolff, Peter Hubertus, Anthony L. Buller and J.W. Gagan drew up a contract with Monsieur Green of Manhattan, Kansas, and HW Brinkman, Architect of Emporia, Kansas. Construction began in March of 1915. The windows, installed, cost $348. The butternut Gothic main alter and side alters, communion rail, confessional, 30 white oak pews, and kneelers were installed for $1,210. The total cost was $10,201.95, was completed in November 1915 and paid in full by 1916. The old church was auctioned to William Leif, Jr. for $300 and moved 5 and half block south to be used as a garage until it burned two years later.
Three acres of burial ground were purchased in 1884 by Bishop James O’Conner for $150 from George Wright. The land is located one mile east and one half mile south of Utica. Burials were not recorded until 1904. A grotto with a statue of the Blessed Virgin was built in 1958 and replaced in 1972. The old flag pole from Utica Public Schools was added in 1989 and a sun dial was added in memory of Mike Slawnyk. New decorative wrought iron gates replaces old ones in 1993 with memorials from Donna Tomes, Mildred Buller, Jim and Doris Geiger and Harry and Jane Slawnyk. An out-door granite alter was installed in May 2002 and the grotto was landscaped by former parishioner Brian Tomes in 2003. Harry and Jane Slawynk, serving as sextons have helped plant trees donated by the parish and install 10 underground flag pole holders that they donated. Mass is said on Memorial Day as it was established in 1994 by Father Patrick Murphy for memorial Day and also is said for Veterans’ funerals.