In the early 1900s several German Catholic families settled in the community of Mt. Vernon, Kansas. Among these early families were John Hess, Ben Lubbers, Joe Konecny and Frank Kalle. These families attended Mass at either St. Joseph’s, Ost, or St. Louis, Waterloo. In 1910, Bishop J.J. Hennessy located the site for the future church of St. Rose at Mount Vernon. The land was acquired in 1911 under the leadership of Fr. George Schneider. After Fr. Schneider was transferred to Pratt, Fr. Bernard Garmann was appointed to serve both St. Louis and the new St. Rose parish. The church was dedicated on October 28, 1911, and cost approximately $8,500.
Fr. Garmann resided at Waterloo and was brought to Mount Vernon by horse and buggy by Mount Vernon parishioners. The Mass schedule was 8am and 10am; these were alternated between Waterloo and Mount Vernon. Fr. Garmann would stay at the Frank Kalle home north of the parish and hold Mass on Monday and Tuesday mornings; he also gave religious instruction for the children on Monday mornings. Communion hosts were prepared at the Peter Halsig home with wheat flour obtained by Fr. Garmann.
By 1915, Fr. Garmann purchased the Methodist Church and two acres of land for $700. This building was later remodeled and used for a parochial school. The Modern Woodmen hall was also purchased that year and used as a residence for the Sisters of the Precious Blood. They conducted the parochial school from 1915 until 1918. It was then closed, and students attended Mount Vernon public school until 1921.
On June 25, 1920, the church belfry was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. Nearby parishioners were able to save most of the contents of the building, and a new church was constructed for the approximate cost of $12,000. It was dedicated by Bishop A.J. Schwertner on August 28, 1921.
The Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother from Marshfield, Wisconsin arrived in 1921 to run the school. The small parish had by this time grown to 38 families with an enrollment of 40 students in the school. Two acres of ground were donated in 1936, by a parishioner for use as the cemetery. Fr. Garmann retired on July 9, 1942, after serving 15 years as pastor. He was succeeded by Fr. Quintin Malone. In the fall of 1942, the parish purchased a large hall, known as the Mount Vernon Hall, with the half acre of land on which it was located. This hall was located across the road to the east of the other church property. It was purchased at a cost of $750 and used for parish entertainment and recreational activities. It had been owned by Louis Giefer, Pete Knoblauch, Herman Peitz, Casper Heimerman, Margaret Tenbarge and Henry Lubbers.
Also in 1942, the entire church was wired for electricity, which was made possible by the extension of the line from the Mount Vernon Hall, which had been wired at the time the Rural Electric Cooperative Association extended its service to Mount Vernon. The electric lights were used in the church for the first time on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
In 1947, the church interior was redecorated at an approximate cost of $1,000 under the direction of Fr. Edward Albers. At a parish meeting in 1949, it was decided to build a new school. It was constructed of Headite (Dodson) blocks at a cost of approximately $17,000. At the time there were 54 students enrolled and a hot lunch program was started with Mrs. John (Rena) Tiemeyer in charge. The hall was also remodeled during this time with an addition and a stage as well as new exterior siding and kitchen. The building committee was made up of Nick Smarsh, Joe Albers, Henry Bergkamp, and Ambrose Bomholt.
Daughters of Isabella St. Rose of Lima Circle #832 were founded at St. Rose, Mount Vernon on March 19, 1950. Charter members were Virginia Albers, Marie Ast, Bernice Bergkamp, LaFaune Breitenback, Virginia Breitenback, Agnes Clasen, Gudula Gros, Mariann Hampel, Juliana Landwehr, Mary Lou Smarsh, Carolyn Stuhlsatz, and Aquina Thimmesch. In 1963, the Sisters were recalled to their order. Fr. Charles Harvey became the first resident priest and taught the upper grades. He resided in what had been the Sisters’ house. Mrs. Martin (Pat) Hampel was hired to teach the lower grades. The school was closed after the 1963-1964 school year. The building served as a social hall along with the “big” hall across the road. The classrooms were used for weekly religious instruction taught by lay volunteers.
Under the direction of Fr. John Reinkymeyer, the church was remodeled in 1980. New carpeting and pews were installed for approximately $13,000. The stained glass windows were installed by Merrill Suter and his sons. The original altar was restored and a new altar was built by Eddie Albers. The school was also repaired during 1980. A new roof was done by Nick and Tom Smarsh, and Ralph Reida rewired the lights. The ceilings were lowered, walls painted, and floors carpeted. In 1982, the old hall was demolished, and in 1984 a new recreation center was built south of the church for approximately $125,000. Payment was complete by 1986. This new building included a kitchen and restrooms and was large enough for basketball and volleyball games. A new garage was built next to the rectory in 1982, for $3,900.
Through the years the Men’s Club has maintained the church and grounds at St. Rose Parish. Every year they host a clean-up day in the spring. The trees are trimmed, bushes pruned and other odd jobs, such as power spraying, painting, flower beds or cemetery cleanup, are done. In addition to this clean-up day, rock is spread on the driveway every three to four years, including the expansion east of the hall.
Individuals in the parish have gone above and beyond the routine maintenance, such as the school, which has received new floors and walls in the bathrooms and extensive painting throughout. In 1997, the basement of the school was partitioned into classrooms for CCD religious classes. The school has also recently had drainage added around the perimeter to remove surface water. A new line has been put in to run water to the front of the church flower gardens.
In 2008 a new sound system was installed in the Hall that is state of the art. The church received the gift of new front doors back in 2009 that have recently been complimented with a new paint on all the windows of the church. At that time, some minor foundation repair was performed under the confessional on the south side.
As a result of the dying pines that sheltered the north side of the rectory, these trees have been removed and the ground leveled. The cemetery project has been an ongoing expansion where the fence and trees have been removed on the west end and the ground leveled for future plots. Red cedars have been planted around the newly defined perimeter that extends to the borders of the property on the west and an additional 40 feet on the north. The copper crucifix was reworked and reinstalled back in 2008 and will be a continuous maintenance item in the future. Another project is running water and electricity lines to the center of the cemetery.
The latest project is a compliment to the sound system to include video/audio feed directly from the church to the hall. This will be used for overflow when necessary, such as funerals or other events when the church has reached capacity. In May 2011, the parish surprised Fr. Ivan Eck with a dinner in honor of his 60th year as a priest. More than 150 parishioners from both St. Rose and St. Louis attended.
In 2013, Fr. Aaron Spexarth was assigned to be the Administrator of St. Joe, Ost; St. Rose, Mount Vernon; and St. Louis, Waterloo. In 2015 Fr. Spexarth was officially assigned as the pastor of the three parishes. During Fr. Aaron’s time here at St. Rose, he began to make necessary changes in the parish to meet the needs of the time. However, Fr. Spexarth’s time as pastor was short lived. As he began to make plans for new necessities, he was transferred in spring of 2017.
Following in Fr. Spexarth’s footsteps is Fr. Daniel Duling, who was assigned in June of 2017 and serves as the current pastor of St. Joe, St. Rose, and St. Louis. While he has only been here for a short time, he has begun to make his mark on St. Rose. He has already succeeded in working with leadership from the parish to begin plans on renovating/rebuilding the buildings on St. Rose campus, and works to continue what Fr. Spexarth started to strengthen the future of the parish.