St. Joan of Arc History Overview 1922-2008
St. Joan of Arc emerged as a mission from St. Patrick’s Parish. Erected as a church/school in 1922, it served the Catholic community on the south side of Kokomo. In 1927, Rev. John Dapp was appointed resident pastor, at which time St. Joan of Arc became a separate parish. Italians, Romanians, and Belgians formed the major ethnic groups during the early years of the parish.
The Catholic school at St. Joan of Arc has been an integral aspect of the parish from its beginning. The “Red Brick Building”, which housed the first school and chapel, was opened on November 10, 1922. One hundred twenty-one children transferred from St. Patrick’s and entered St. Joan of Arc School, under the direction of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Tipton.
The priests who served as pastors during the early history of St. Joan of Arc were: Father John Dapp (July 1927-April 1929), Father Nicholas Huemmer (April 1929-1935), and Father Leo J. Franz (1935-1946). In July 1946, Father Francis Niesen was appointed pastor; his pastorate extended until June 1970. It was during his long tenure that many changes took place at St. Joan of Arc.
The major population influx that affected Kokomo, with the expansion of the automotive industry, resulted in a new church facility being built and dedicated in 1950. The changes that affected the church as a result of the Second Vatican Council (1962 – 1965) brought new excitement to the parish. Many currently active diocesan priests got their start under Father Niesen’s guidance. In the 1950’s, the school had its peak enrollment of approximately 500 students. Parish membership rose from 500 to 1300. Father Niesen is remembered as speaking his mind on issues and even letting civic officials know what needed attention.
Succeeding Father Niesen on June 17, 1970 was Rev. Thomas Zimmer, whose mission was to eliminate a $216,000 debt. By the fall of 1973, he had accomplished this task and was then transferred to Frankfort in May, 1974.
An experiment in a new style of leadership was begun in 1974, when Bishop Raymond Gallagher named a Pastoral Team to steer St. Joan of Arc. The three-man pastoral team was composed of Revs. Melvin Bennett, Leroy Kinnaman, and Edward Dhont. On June 23, 1 973, Father Kenneth Bohlinger replaced Father Dhont as team member. Fire destroyed the rectory, meeting rooms, and school library in 1976. The Golden Jubilee of St. Joan of Arc Church was celebrated in 1977, the same year that the new rectory and education center were completed. Additions of two classrooms, a library, and multi-purpose room/gymnasium to the school building at the corner of Purdum and Harrison Streets were completed in 1978.
The pastoral team was replaced in 1980 when Father Bennett was named pastor. Father Robert Moran was named pastor in June 1982 and served until June 1988. Under his direction, the parish purchased the Palmer School Building at the corner of Webster and Markland streets in July 1985. The historic “Red Brick Building” was torn down in the summer of 1986.
Father David Hellmann was appointed pastor in June of 1988, and served here until June, 1998. A ramp to the church basement was constructed in 1990 to assist the elderly and handicapped parishioners. In 1994, St. Joan of Arc school and St. Patrick school merged into one Catholic school under the effective leadership of principal Mrs. Cecilia Smith, Fr. Dave Hellmann and Fr. Francis Kilcline. Pre-school through third grade were housed at St. Patrick’s school building and grades four through seven were at St. Joan of Arc.
Pastor Rev. Dennis J. O’Keeffe was appointed in 1998 when our parish was outgrowing the 1950 Purdum Street church. Rev. O’Keeffe working with the Parish Planning Council developed the “Case for Action” which gave birth to the Vision to Reality-2010 Project leading our parish to purchase the Conseco property in 2002. Our associate pastors were Rev. Paternoster and Rev. Michael Onyekwere. Rev. Paul Cochran was an associate pastor until July 1999 when he moved to St. Mary’s in Alexandria, Indiana and Rev. Brian Doerr was at St. Joan until early 2000 when he became the Vocations Director for the diocese.
In 2006 we welcomed the new Pastoral Team which would preside over both St. Joan of Arc and St. Patrick parishes. This concept was a sign of the times, they are a changing. With the local economy suffering the financial burdens for the new church were a heavy burden. The original team was made up of Reverands Ted Dudzinski (Moderator), Andrew Dudzinski, Thomas Obiatuegwu, Raymond Alaneme and Eric C. Underwood. In 2007, Reverands Alaneme and Underwood were reassigned and Rev. David Hasser joined the team.
The parish has committed itself to assisting others. We have over 75 ministries. The Ladies of Charity, who fostered the Good Samaritan store and then the St. Vincent de Paul store serve many people in the community, when other agencies are unable to help. A strong ministry to migrant farm workers, especially working with area farmers to improve housing for workers, has been an important part of parish life. St. Joan of Arc also sponsors a Catholic parish in Haiti.
Spiritual growth is encouraged in the parish through the Christ Renews His Parish program, Scripture study, prayer groups, parish missions and the Annual Catholic Family Conference.
As a Catholic faith community, the people of St. Joan of Arc parish are committed to active concern for all people. The aim of St. Joan of Arc parish is to be a source of life, love, and healing to the greater community through our union with Christ.
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