St. Bridget Catholic Church
Mission: We are the church, the vital catholic family
of St. Bridget's, loving, faith-filled members, striving
to radiate the goodness, wholeness, and
attractiveness of Christian life. We are united
to serve God, one another, and the world.
In 2011, Hemingford, Nebraska celebrates its 125th anniversary. In its early years, Hemingford was a thriving rural community with more than one Catholic church in the area. Early church communities -- at least three -- met in parishioners’ homes and were served by priests from the Holy Rosary Mission in South Dakota, Chadron, Crawford and Alliance.
Recorded notices of religious services started in 1887 and a simple frame church (St. Bridget’s) was built in 1888 at Nonpareil, just south of Hemingford. The first mass was Christmas Day 1888. The early pastors of St. Bridget’s also served St. Wenceslaus Church at Lawn, 12 miles west of Hemingford. That church is no longer in existence.
When the county seat was moved to Hemingford in 1890, the little church was moved, too. It sat all winter on a farm, midway in its journey, because weather made it impossible to finish the trip. In 1914, Father Charles Keyser came to Hemingford to live and a two-story residence was built just north of the church. Now, Hemingford is again a mission for Holy Rosary Church in Alliance.
Plans for a new church in Hemingford begin in the 1920s, but were interrupted by financial conditions, World War II and the drought. The cornerstone for the present church was blessed in July 1947 and the village celebrated groundbreaking ceremonies. The new structure seated 400 people, at a cost of $120,000. It was dedicated April 27, 1949 by Bishop Edward Hunkler.
A new rectory was built in the 1960s. Up until 2001, St. Bridget’s pastor also served the Mirage Flats Sacred Heart Parish as a mission, with a priest driving north to say mass every Sunday morning. Sacred Heart Parish closed in 2001 and is now administered through St. Patrick’s Parish in Chadron.
Sr. Sarah Manchester is the full time pastoral minister at St. Bridget’s, living in Hemingford since 2001. In the absence of a resident priest, the parish remains a vital home for 133 parish families, with trained lay parish members leading prayer and offering communion twice each week. The prayer leaders are trained to offer Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest, Stations of the Cross, Ash Wednesday and All Soul’s Day services.
Sr. Sarah is also active in the Hemingford Ministerial Association, which operates a food pantry. The church’s faith formation program has added Generations of Faith and youth ministry to the traditional CCD and CYO programs.
Pastors who have served St. Bridget’s Parish over the years include:
- Father Charles Keyser — 1914 - 1917
- Father A.M. Steder — 1917 - 1918
- Father Daniel Manning — 1918 - 1944
- Father Robert O’Neill — 1944 - 1950
- Father Robert Foster — 1950
- Father Andrew McDonald — 1950 - 1961
- Father Daniel Devine — 1961 - 1967
- Father Constantine Shumski — 1967 - 1974
- Father Andrew Gonda — 1974 - 1978
- Father Ray Kosmicki — 1978 - 1986
- Father Walter Phillips — 1986 - 1991
- Father Hugh Spanel — 1991 - 2001
- Father Bryan Ernest — 2001 – 2005
- Father James Heithoff — 2005 – 2011
- Father Lou Nollette — 2011 – present
Hemingford was the first home of late Grand Island Bishop John L. Pashcang, born five miles east of the village. John Pashcang, infant son of Mrs. and Mrs. Casper Pashcang, was baptized in St. Bridget’s in 1890 with Mrs. and Mrs. John Gasseling as his godparents.