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St. Paul Church celebrates 150 years

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By Vince Luecke

Two men, the archbishop of Indianapolis and the next bishop of Cheyenne, Wyo., joined former pastors and native sons serving as priests in a church packed with parishioners Sunday in celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of St. Paul Catholic Church.

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Archbishop Daniel Buechlein OSB presided  at the 10 a.m. Mass with the Rev. Paul Etienne, the church's pastor, giving the homily.

Buechlein congratulated Etienne for his recent appointment as bishop of Cheyenne and said the archdiocese's personnel board was meeting this week to ponder a new pastor for St. Paul.

Etienne, who is a native of Tell City, will be ordained a bishop in December.

"We're giving one of our best to Cheyenne," Buechlein told the congregation.

In his address, Etienne reminded parishioners of those who had gone before them and generations of families. Sunday's Mass fell on All Saints Day and Etienne used the religious commemoration of holy people who have died as a reminder of those who have served parish and community over 150 years.

He also recalled the parish's patron, St. Paul, who was an apostle to Gentiles.

"I think there were lots of Gentiles living along the banks of the Ohio River," Etienne said.

An often-told story is that parish leaders wanted their parish named in honor of St. William, patron of William Tell, but a visiting bishop saw people in the new community doing physical labor on a Sunday. The bishop's suggestion of St. Paul stuck.

A parish history reports that there were 25 Catholic households in 1858, the year Tell City was founded. That fall, construction began on a 20-foot by 20-foot frame structure on the east side of Eighth Street in the 100 block between Schiller and Tell streets.

This first church cost $900 for the lot and building, and was finished by the spring of 1859.

In 1870, construction began on a large brick church located on the east side of the 800 block of Eighth Street. The parish later constructed a school, which was enlarged over the years.

Ground was broken for the current church in December 1952 and it was remodeled in the early 1980s. St. Paul School was demolished in 2006 to make room for a new parish center. It was dedicated later the same year.