St. Theresa Catholic Church
September 19, 1954 – With the dedication of a new rectory on that day 53 years ago, St Theresa Mission became St. Theresa Church. The parish celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2004 with a wonderful dinner/dance on Friday September 17th and an Anniversary Mass on Sunday, September 19th with Bishop Sartain as the main celebrant. Even though the parish has celebrated its 50th anniversary, its history goes back to the year 1947. In September of that year the founding members of the parish met with then Bishop Fletcher to discuss the possibility of establishing a Catholic Mission church in the Geyer Springs area of Little Rock. After a couple of meetings, ground donated by Mr. & Mrs. Paul DeLeuil was accepted by the bishop. Soon the founding members were busy raising funds to build their first Church at the newly designed St. Andrew Mission. Those founding members worked very hard for several years to raise the funds necessary to build the Church. In October 1950 ground was broken for the new Church which was dedicated in April of 1951. Fund raising drives continued because the Mission Church also needed a rectory, parish hall & school. At the time, the children were still attending St. Andrew’s school. The naming of the mission as St. Theresa is an interesting aspect of its history. Father Burke, mission chaplain during its early years and also its first pastor, tells of how while he was saying Mass for the Carmelite Sisters, he mentioned to the Mother Superior that the name of the new mission would probably be St. Henry since a large donation was made by a man named Henry. Mother simply said the only acceptable name would be St. Theresa. End of story! The big day of course was Sunday, September 19, 1954 when Bishop Fletcher dedicated the new rectory and renamed the mission St. Theresa Church with Father William Burke as its first pastor.
By the mid 60’s the parish was thriving. The parish now had a church, rectory, parish hall, and a school. The number of parishioners continued to increase from the original 14 families to nearly 100 families. The 60’s were a time of rapid growth for the parish. Under the leadership of Father Rudolph Maus, its third pastor, the parish continued to work together to meet it’s ever demanding needs. Mass was moved to the Parish Hall to house the growing congregation. A convent was built to house the Benedictine Sisters who came to staff the school in 1959. He pulled the people together to continue to work for the common good of this ever growing parish. This beloved pastor who spent 15 years at St. Theresa from 1960 to 1975 was responsible for the building of the present church building. Dedicated in 1973, its original cost of $500,000 was completely paid off before he was transferred in 1975. The parish grew in the 1980’s to about 600 families. During these years, the school was expanded to accommodate the ever increasing enrollment. Father Leo Riedmueller and Father Tom Keller followed in Father Maus’ footsteps to meet the demands of this Southwest Little Rock community . In the 90’s, the school addition was completed to allow 2 classes for every grade. The Church was remodeled and rededicated in 1996. The parish grew to about 750 families with 2000 members. The latest addition to St. Theresa Parish was a new Parish Center completed in 2001. It has been a blessing to its members and especially to our young visiting basketball teams who no longer have to worry about meeting a wall at the end of the court. It is one of those additions that make you wonder how you did without it for so many years. In 2004 the Men’s Club began work on our pavilion behind the school. It is a work in progress and continues to be a great place for our annual picnic. On September 19, 2004, we celebrated our 50th anniversary. The Theme of this anniversary year was ”We’ve just begun to bloom” featuring a rose significant to our patron saint. In many ways this is true. What started as a little country mission 57 years ago located in the Geyer Springs area of Little Rock has never stopped blooming. In the past 10 years, St Theresa has become a true multi-cultural and multi-racial parish. We now have 2 Masses in Spanish every weekend to benefit the ever increasing Hispanic population in southwest Little Rock. In 2008, not only did we add Masses in Spanish, but we have two sisters from Monterrey, Mexico (Missionary Catechists of the Poor, MCP) on staff who aid in identifying members, training leaders and offering sacramental preparation to our Spanish speakers. Father John went to Mexico in the summer of 2008 to learn Spanish so as to be pastor to both communities at St Theresa. Our school and religious education programs now reflect this changing demographic in our area. Our school is 51% non-white and there are 2 religious education programs; one in English, the other in Spanish. In late 2008, St Theresa received a part-time associate pastor; Padre José Jaime Andrade who helps Father John Connell with the Spanish Masses. In the spring of 2009, St Theresa will host the ordination of two transitional deacons; one who is Latino. Rubén Quinteros who is from Argentina was given St Theresa as his home parish in Arkansas. The parish is very happy and proud to have this young man to represent not only the diversity of St Theresa Church, but also the future of the Church in Arkansas. In the fall of 2009, we will add a bilingual associate director of religious education to aid in the every growing religious education programs. Also in the fall of 2009, our school will celebrate its 50th anniversary. We are planning year long events with the big event happing on the first Saturday in November with a Mass and homecoming of past and present alumni. In 2010 we will have nearly 60 candidates for Confirmation, but nearly a 100 plus for First Communion. Change has always been a part of St Theresa Parish and always will be; all working together for the good of the Church.
The history of St. Theresa Church is a rich one; rooted in the hearts of its founding members and in basic belief that with hard work anything can be accomplished. Hundreds of fundraisers later, 9 pastors, 11 associates, 3 vocations to the priesthood and thousands of members, we thank the Lord for the blessings of the past 50 years. Of the original 45 founding members we are fortunate to still have 3 living members; Casper Volpert and John & Edna Mattingly. We also have 24 members who have been with the parish for 50 years. For the past 15 years, Father John Connell has served as pastor and has been blessed to have witnessed so many changes.
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