The History of Sacred Heart

Between 1860-70, there were Bohemians moving into the Oxford Junction community from Czechoslovakia and English speaking people from Canada and the Eastern States, primarily Irish. As there was no church here, the Bohemians went to Baldwin where Mass was celebrated once a month, and the others attended Mass in Toronto where there was a resident priest. At times Mass was held in the homes. 

In 1881, it was decided by the two groups to build a church. It was located in the Northeastern part of town on land donated by the J. Quirk family. The church, called St. Mary's, was dedicated in September and Rev. Peter McNamara of Toronto presided for the first Mass. This church served all nationalities. Rev. McNamara of Toronto held services at St. Mary's once a month for a few years and was followed by Rev. Laffan from Marion who served the English speaking Catholics. Bohemian services were also held once a month by Rev. F. Chmelar until 1889; Rev. John Broz from 1889-1891 and Rev. F. Kopecky from 1891-1896.

The Bohemian Catholics in Oxford Junction desired to be served permanently by priests of their own native tongue and so Sacred Heart Church was built under the direction of Rev. Jos. Dostal. The church was completed and dedicated in 1897. A rectory followed the next year and later a chapel was added to the church.

At this time St. Mary's and Sacred Heart had their own pastors. After the railroad shops were removed to Marion in 1889, St. Mary's lost many of its parishioners. The Sacred Heart pastor cared for the mission at Prairieburg, while St. Mary's took charge of the missions at Baldwin and Hughes Settlement. Rev. Thomas Vopatek, 1916-17, was sent to be pastor of both parishes. They were later joined as one, Sacred Heart. In about 1920 the St. Mary's parsonage burned and the church was later sold and dismantled. 

In 1962 a new modern brick rectory was completed during the residency for Rev. Joseph Kissling, who was also the pastor to initiate the building of the new church.

The new Sacred Heart Church was completed and dedicated on May 12, 1968 by Rev. James J. Byrne, Archbishop of Dubuque. This is the chuch building currently being used today. The old church was then called Gregor Hall in honor of Msgr. Gregor who served the parish for 29 years. The hall was converted to a catechetical and entertainment center until it was demolished in 2003. The bell from the 1897 church was removed from the tower, was saved and restored and now sits in front of the current church building. 

Rev. August Vojacek, who served Sacred Heart from 1911-1916 was very musically inclined and worked up one of the best choirs in the country. They received many out of town calls to come and perform. Rev. Kissling also advanced the music ministry with 2 choirs, adult and young adult and an electronic organ was purchased through donations. Today the choir is small but mighty and gets many praises from parishioners and from many surrounding area churches and is even called the Eastern Iowa choir by our pastor, Fr. Francis Odoom. Sacred Heart has been a part of the Diocese of Dubuque since its beginning. In 1996 Sacred Heart of Oxford Junction, Sacred Heart of Lost Nation and St. James of Toronto joined together and became a Tri-Parish community and later SS Philip & James of Grand Mound joined the cluster. The current pastor of our cluster community is Fr. Francis V. Odoom.

The longest standing tradition of Sacred Heart is the Annual Fall Festival. Part of the fellowship of the church is when men and women gather together to freeze corn and when the women spend a day baking kolaches for the festival. This fellowship continues on the day of the festival which starts with a Polka Mass which is then followed by the dinner, games and music. Often times almost 1000 diners from near and far, enjoy the deep fried chicken, kolaches, delicious Bohemian chicken dressing and all of the trimmings.