The History of
St. Columban Church
In 1857, Father John Hogan founded St. Columban Parish in Chillicothe, Missouri, with 12 families. The first permanent church building was dedicated on May 17, 1860. The current church was dedicated on November 23, 1879, the Feast Day of St. Columban. It was expanded to its current size in and re-dedicated on October 24, 1894.
The original St. Columban Church, a small, frame structure located in the southern part of the town and served the Catholics of Chillicothe for many years. When Fr. Francis Moenning, the first Franciscan Father to serve Chillicothe, arrived in 1878 to assume his parish duties, he quickly decided that the location of the little church was undesirable and that the building itself was too small to accommodate the growing number of Catholics. So, on December 23, 1878, he purchased all of Block 2 of Hammond's Addition from S. Fisher Johnson and his wife, Sara, for the sum of $550. This block lay just across Trenton Street from the Convent-Academy of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
The architecture of St. Columban was to be a combination of both old and new Gothic forms. Pointed arches, which lead the eyes upward to heaven, and high, vaulted ceilings were two characteristics of Gothic form used throughout the church. When the church was originally built in 1879, it was intended to serve the needs of the 150 families in the congregation at the time and was built for $12,000. The reddish-colored bricks were purchased from a local brick plant, and native stone for the foundation was hauled by horses and wagons from Utica, Missouri, by the Bonderer family. The cornerstone was laid May 25, 1879, by the Most Rev. John Joseph Hogan, Bishop of the Diocese of St. Joseph. The new church was dedicated on November 23, 1879.
Shortly after St. Columban was completed, a wooden frame rectory was built directly behind the church. In 1892, the present rectory was built, and the old rectory was torn down to make way for the needed addition to the church. By 1894, the parish had increased to 250 families, and the need for more space was evident. The transept, sanctuary, and sacristy were added. St. Columban was now considered one of the largest and most beautiful churches in northern Missouri.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the original dedication in 1904, a new main altar was added at a cost of $1625. The altar was custom-built by Mr. Henry Dreisoerner of Quincy, Illinois. The altar is 35 feet high and is adorned at the top with a custom statue of St. Columban carved by M. Schneiderhahn of St. Louis. The statue depicts St. Columban holding an accurate scale model of the church.
In 1913, Thomas Bush painted six murals. In the north transept is Christ healing the afflicted and the south has Christ with Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus. Cherubs were painted above the principal side altars and images of the Ascension and the Assumption were painted on either side of the main altar.
In 1914, after 36 years of service to the parish, the Franciscans departed and diocesan priests began to staff the parish again.
St. Columban continued to receive improvements after the Franciscans left. The streets in the vicinity of the church were in poor condition. To improve them, in 1927, the parish had many streets in the area paved. These street improvements were completed in time for the Golden Jubilee Celebration of St. Columban in 1929. A new floor for the sanctuary and new lights in the church in 1932 continued to add beauty to the church. However, the tall steeple on top of the bell tower received a damaging blow by lightning and had to be repaired. In 1937, lightning struck again, and the steeple had to be removed. In 2009, a new 25-foot tall copper-clad steeple was added to replace the original.
In 1971, Benedictines from Conception Abbey began to staff the parish and would do so until 1998 when the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph once again sent diocesan priests as pastors of St. Columban.
The interior of the church went through many stages of renovation and repair over the decades of the 20th century. In 2014, a new roof was added to the church and the rectory. In 2017, a grand restoration of the church took place which restored the majority of interior to how it appeared after the murals were added in 1913.