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Fort Dodge - Corpus Christi

FORT DODGE - While Corpus Christi Parish was formally founded in 1856, the first religious service was held on the "Lizard" in the Michael Collins home sometime during the year 1855. It was the first parish formed in the Diocese of Sioux City.

According to the Webster County Court House, the first piece of real estate purchased by Corpus Christi in January of 1857 cost $200.

Father John Vahey was sent to Fort Dodge in 1856 and served as the first pastor. Father Vahey acquired the first property and built the first church, which began construction in the fall of 1857. A four-room house for the priest, on the location of the present rectory was built in 1857.

The first Catholic school was built in 1859 and was constructed on what is the site of what would become "The Academy." But before this building was completed, the first Catholic school in this community had been opened with classes being held temporarily in the church. The first school was a two-story frame structure with a cupola. Enrollment reached 200 by 1877.

Father H. D. McCullough (1857), Father John Aylward (1857-1859), and Father Marsh (1859-1865) all served Corpus Christi. Father Marsh constructed the first school soon after his arrival.

The current church was a masterpiece in the world of liturgical architecture and construction for the year 1881. The quarrying of stone was started in 1879 and construction started in 1880. Total cost for the church was $37,892.59. The population of Fort Dodge at the time of construction was in excess of 2,500 people.

In December of 1900, Mother Mary Catherine discovered a fire that completely destroyed the school. "The Academy" of Corpus Christi Parish was built in 1901 and ready for classes by 1902. The cost of the new school was $20,000.

"The Academy" was later torn down in 1975. High school classes ended there in 1956 and the students went to St. Edmond High School.

The first sisters to come to Fort Dodge were Sisters of Charity, BVM. They arrived in July of 1862. The sisters were recalled to Dubuque after the death of Father Marsh. From 1865 to 1873, the school was directed by lay teachers. The Sisters of Mercy came to Fort Dodge in 1873 and took over the school for the next 27 years.

The Sisters of Charity, BVM, returned to Corpus Christi and took charge of Corpus Christi Academy in September of 1902. For the next 100 years, they taught the youth of Corpus Christi Parish.

During the period between 1909 and 1932, the convent, rectory and central heating plant were built. Many improvements were added to the church structure and the school. During this period, church membership greatly increased and was estimated to be at 2,200 members.

In July of 2000, Corpus Christi became part of a "team ministry" consisting of five parishes in Webster County. These parishes include Sacred Heart and Holy Rosary in Fort Dodge, St. Matthew's, Clare, and St. Joseph's, Barnum. Four pastors serve these 5 parishes. Currently, there are 1204 registered families at Corpus Christi.

Father Patrick M. Delany (1865-1869), Father Joseph Butler (1869-1870), Father T. M. Lenihan (1870-1897), Father Patrick J. Burke (1897-1903), Msgr. B. C. Lenihan (1903-1909), Msgr. James T. Saunders (1910-1918), Msgr. James A. Griffin (1918-1931), Father Edward Masterson (1931-1937) and Msge. T. J. Davern (1937-1951) all served Corpus Christi Parish over the years.

Others to serve their pastorate in Fort Dodge, Corpus Christi were: Msgr. E. L. McEvovy (1951-1972), Father Louis J. Lynch (1972-1974), Father J. L. Bauer (1974-1978), Father Armand J. Elbert, Father Albert Grendler, Father Donald Ries and Father Christian Van Oosbree.

There were 23 men to answer the call to vocations from Corpus Christi. There were 35 women from the parish who went on to become women religious.