History of St. Alphonsus Church

In 1860 a new parish was being formed and work was started on the building of a new catholic church in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

In the 1840's and the 1850's immigration from foreign countries greatly increased in the United States. A large number of immigrants came from Ireland - brought here by political discord and the Irish Famine in the native country.

Some of the immigrants came to Mount Pleasant drawn here by jobs both for the developing railroad and for work in quarries and with them they brought their Catholic Religion.

As the Catholic population grew in Mount Pleasant, most notably in the southwest part of town, called Irishtown, a movement was started to build a church. At this time Masses were being held in the homes of the parishioners.

Why Saint Alphonsus? Saint Alphonsus Liguori was born in Italy in 1696. He was known as a very practical man and was considered a master for his books of moral theology. It was thought that Father Slattery followed Saint Alphonsus' moral example. Both were Missionaries and both served rural communities and Saint Alphonsus' teachings were read widely in the seminaries of that time.

And so it was, in the early 1860's twenty eight years after Presley Saunders claimed land for the future site of Mount Pleasant and nineteen years before the Diocese of Davenport was to come into being a new church was established under the supervision of Father Slattery, the resident priest. Father Slattery purchased two lots on Jackson Street for $100.00, where the church stood and then two more lots for the rectory at the price of $68.00.

The Irish men physically erected the church using stone from the quarry and bricks made nearby.

And so it was...Saint Alphonsus parish was formed in an Irish community. The new church was built and on Christmas Eve in 1862 the first Mass was celebrated.

1872 - Rev. Norton became pastor and was succeeded soon after by Father Kearney, who also served a short term. The pastor for the following thirteen years was Father Francis Walsh.

1881 - Rev. J.J. O'Farrell was appointed. On June 17, 1882 a cyclone struck and toppled the church steeple and destroyed the rectory. Most parish and cemetery records were lost.  Repairs were made and the bell and belfry were added. The total cost was $6,027.00. A new cemetery was opened on Walnut Street.

1888 - The first Catholic School was started under the Rev. J.J. Bassler.  Sisters of the Humility of Mary order from Ottumwa staffed the school.  Through donations from parishioners, a new building was erected which served both as school and convent. Country children attending the school boarded with the sisters. The church was also redecorated during Fr. Bassler's twenty-four years in Mt. Pleasant. Following Fr. Bassler for short terms were Fr. McManus, Fr. McCarville, Fr. King and Fr. Dohman.

1911 - Fr. Kissane was appointed pastor. In 1912 he reopened the school, which had previously been closed. The sisters of St. Francis from Clinton taught for two years. Rev. M.M. O'Laughlin arrisved as pastor in late 1912. During his stay he had installed a pipe organ and a heating plant for the church and school. The Sisters of Mercy were in charge of the school at that time.

1920's - Fr. M.J. Gaffney added a high school and a commercial course. He was also responsible for construction of the brick rectory which was finished in 1927. Much credit is given him for organizing the Young Ladies Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Women's and Men's Welfare Councils.

1941 - Fr. James Welsh began a remodeling program in which a new sacristy was added to the church. The original Catholic cemetery at Irishtown was restored, honoring the memory of pioneer members and builders of the church who are buried there.

1950 - Rev. John Manning came to St. Alphonsus. Ten years later, groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the new school and convent. Formal dedication of the building was officiated by Bishop Ralph Hayes in April, 1961.  Fr. Manning, a native of Co. Kerry, Ireland died in 1966 and was buried in St. Alphonsus cemetery. The old school was torn down. Fr. Lawrence Vogel succeeded Fr. Manning. During this time, the elementary school was closed when the Religious Sisters of Mercy could no longer provide teachers.

1969-1982 - Fr. Paul Albers assumed charge of the parish. The church was extensively remodeled and redorated during this time. Manning School was rented to the public school system and the convent was converted into a CCD center.

1975 - The church basement was remodeled and named Loyola Hall in memory of Sister Mary Loyola, RSM who had taught at the Catholic School.  Following Fr. Albers retirement in 1982 Fr. Tom Spiegel came to St. Alphonsus.

1983 - The grotto in honor of the blessed Mother was built.

1987 - St. Alphonsus celebrated it's 125th Anniversary. Many past parishioners returned to celebrate including Bishop Leo Maher, Bishop of San Diego. The Reverend Bishop O'Keefe concelebrated the anniversary Mass.

1991-1996 - Rev. Greg Miller served as pastor. During this period the Future Planning Committee was formed and a feasibility study was conducted in preparation for a Capital Fund Raising Campaign. Phase I of the Campaign began to raise money to replace the Religious Education Center with a Gathering Space, Library, Reconcilation Room and Bridal room. Additional classrooms, staff offices and remodeling of Manning Hall and the kitchen were included in the project.

1996-2008 - Fr. Nick Adam was assigned as pastor. Phase I Building plan was completed and dedicated in September, 1998.

2002 - Phase II was introduced to the parish to build a new church and in August of 2005 a new church was a reality and dedicated by Bishop William E. Franklin.     "Preserving the Past...Preparing for the Future"

2008-2016 - Fr. Joseph Phung was assigned as pastor.

July 1, 2016 to Dec. 6, 2016 - Fr. Brian Shepley was assigned to St. Alphonsus until his passing 5 months later.  Bishop Thomas Zinkula appointed Fr. John Stack to finish out the year from Dec 12, 2016 to June 30, 2017.

July1, 2017 - Fr. Paul E. Connolly is now our current parish priest. 

2020 - The Manning Hall kitchen was remodeled. 

2022 - Updated the Gathering Space