from 1919 to present
1919 - In the beginning…
15th of September, 1929
After 1919, the chapel was moved to the Butler Building, where the only window was a skylight, which was never weather-tight, and later moved to the Cannon Building. The next move was to the beautiful little chapel of Saint Rose, the magnificent gift of Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman of New York, which was dedicated on the 15th of September, 1929.
That was a very happy day for the Catholics of Murfreesboro, for it marked the cumulation of years of hope and prayer that someday they might have a real church of their own. The beautiful little chapel was built in mission style, of brick painted white. The interior was finished in deep cream with dark wood paneling. The altar, sanctuary rail and pews were of the same wood. The stations of the cross, altar vessels and statues were also most generously supplied by donors. The beautiful vestments were imported from Belgium and were themselves a work of art. Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman came from New York for the dedication ceremonies, bringing with them their pastor, Father H. E. Riley. Bishop Smith presided and was attended by Father Leppert and Father Albert Sier who delivered the address. The Paulist Fathers were represented by Father Robert and Father Malone who said Mass.
1929 - 1951
During most of the years of its existence the mission was served from Winchester by the Paulist Fathers, they came also to Murfreesboro. Of the many priests from there, perhaps the best known and loved was Father Swift, who died during the first influenza epidemic in 1918. Others who came were Fathers Miller, McMahon, Morris and Malone, and Father Devery who had charge of Saint Rose until the mission was taken over by the priest from Nashville. Rev. John A. Elliott served as pastor of Saint Rose from 1939 through 1945 while he was professor and principal at Father Ryan High School in Nashville. Father Francis Shea, principal of Father Ryan also served for a short time as pastor. On Jan. 31, 1946, Father Francis Reilly was appointed pastor of Saint Rose and served the parish well until he re-enlisted into the U.S. Air Force as chaplain. He was succeeded by Father Edgar S. Ballentine. It fell to the lot of Father Ballentine to set the final stages for a new church and school located on North Tennessee Boulevard, our present site.
1951 - 1953
The Rev. Edgar S Ballentine was appointed the administrator of Saint Rose in August 1951.. Immediately upon his arrival in Murfreesboro, Father Ballentine undertook the planning of a new church and school. In a short time, the beautiful Spanish style chapel on Lytle and University streets that had been our home since 1929 had been sold and the present 12 acres was acquired.
What a shock when the parishioners found themselves going to Mass in a quonset hut (a building with a curved roof) set up behind the rectory. The rectory was located on Greenland Drive and Fairview. But this was just the beginning! Before the year was out, Father sold the rectory and property. Thanks to Mr. John Woodfin (father of John Benton Woodfin, “Bubba”), we were invited to use the facilities of Woodfin Memorial Chapel (which at that time was located at the corner of Greenland Drive and North Tennessee Boulevard) for use as a temporary Saint Rose Church.
In September 1953, the first Catholic school in Murfreesboro was opened. Father Ballentine had arranged for the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood to come from O’Fallon, Mo., to take over and run the school.
Due to illness, Father Ballentine had to be relieved of his duties as pastor of Saint Rose Church just as the final touches were being applied. The Most Reverend Bishop appointed Father James Kemper pastor on Dec. 15, 1953. With the zeal and spirit of the true priest of God, Father Kemper took over the duties of pastor. Father Kemper was also pastor of Saint Williams Church in Shelbyville and Catholic chaplain for the Veteran’s Hospital here in Murfreesboro.
1953 - 1969
In September 1963, the church-school combination building was not yet completed when the first teachers arrived from St. Louis. The three sisters of the Most Precious Blood were Sr. M. Alvera, principal, Sr. Ruth Cecilia and Sr. Miriam Francis.
Many of the Catholic families in Murfreesboro and at the Sewart Air Base had looked forward for a number of years to the opening of the school, to which they might send their youngsters for a sound Catholic education.
With thoughts to the future, the school was built with an arrangement of four classrooms. The enrollment on opening day, Sept. 15, 1953, was 81 students., and thus warranted the use of only three of the rooms. After the first year, the fourth classroom was opened to include a kindergarten. Father James Kemper, then pastor, secured a qualified lady of Saint Rose parish to teach the little ones. With the increase in the enrollment during the next two years, it was necessary to discontinue the kindergarten in order to care for the regular grades, one through eight.
In the fall of 1958, Father Philip Thoni, who had been appointed pastor, undertook the building of an additional temporary classroom in one section of the cafeteria. By September 1960, the enrollment had grown to 252. This was the peak year in the history of the original school. The new rectory was built and opened for occupancy in October 1960.
Opening day, Sept. 3, 1963, showed an enrollment of 200, with 35 on a waiting list. Two qualified lay teachers aided the sisters in carrying out the work of education, since it had been impossible to obtain more religious teachers. The teachers now at Saint Rose were Sr. Catherine Marie, principal, Sr. M. Dominica and Sr. Mary Edgar, Mrs. Helen Palmer and Mrs. Katherine Wallace. October 1963, marked a new epoch for Saint Rose when construction began on a new auditorium and gymnasium building. The new addition included a cafeteria, which replaced the old cafeteria making room for additional classrooms.
In 1969, the Sisters of Precious Blood, who had come to Saint Rose with the opening of the school, were replaced by the Dominican Sisters from St. Cecilia from Nashville. While tightening economic atmosphere of the late 60’s and early 70’s brought hardships to Catholic education around the country, Saint Rose school was no exception. With the closing of Sewart Air Base in Smyrna, Saint Rose was faced with a severe loss of students and financial support needed for the maintenance of the educational program. Although the faithful of Saint Rose had worked to maintain the school, economic pressures along with the growing shortage of clerical educators caused the closing of the school in 1970.
To answer the continuing need in Murfreesboro for a Catholic educational program, the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (C.C.D.) program was expanded to serve approximately 300 students from preschool through high school with religious education.
While the parochial school had closed, the needs of students at the expanding Middle Tennessee State University were continuing to grow. In 1968, under the pastorship of Rev. J. A. Rudisill, Saint Rose worked closely with the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Nashville to establish the Newman Apostolic Center on North Tennessee Boulevard. The Newman Center, in conjunction with Saint Rose has been serving Middle Tennessee State University students ever since.
March 1975 marked the passing of one of Saint Rose’s most distinguished and beloved members, Dr. Lois Kennedy, widely known for her work and compassionate service to her fellow Christians. Dr. Kennedy’s achievements were numerous. One that she called “most satisfying ” was the work that she and Dr. John Cason did in establishing and operating the Charity Prenatal Clinic at Rutherford Hospital. Her charity work in the clinic and work with organizations such as the Nashville Council of Catholic Women, Board of Directors of the Tennessee League of Women Voters, and various medical associations long will be remembered. Under the pastorship of Father Joseph Breen, Saint Rose paid a special tribute to Dr. Kennedy. Shortly after her death, work was begun on the upper room at the end of the gymnasium to make it a meeting place and recreation room available to all members of the parish. The Lois Kennedy Room, named in Dr. Kennedy’s honor and memory, now serves as a focal point for numerous activities conducted by the members of Saint Rose parish. In 1976, Saint Rose began to feel the growing pains of the expanding population in Murfreesboro. From the parish of 167 families in 1959, Saint Rose had grown to more than 300 families. Father Joseph Breen and the Parish Council had recognized the need for a new and larger church. Plans for expansion were laid with many hours of difficult work by the council, administrative and the building committees. It was decided to demolish the existing church built in 1953 and build a larger structure in its place.
Sunday, Nov. 14, 1976, the last Mass was celebrated in the church built in 1953, which had served Saint Rose for 23 years.
The fruits of hard labor soon began to take shape with groundbreaking ceremonies on Feb. 20, 1977, to get the construction of the new church under way. The building was designed by James M. Wilson from Nashville. The unusual stained glass creation was designed by Laukhuss Stained Glass in Memphis.
Nine months in the making, the new $375,000 facility was designed to seat 500. Completion of the new building was made official with the celebration of the 1977 Christmas Eve and Midnight Masses in the new building. (The building committee consisted of Charles Knowles, chairman; Paul LeMay, Emily Sant Amour, Albert Walton, Ava Miller and Ken Pilkerton.)
In 1984, our current pastor, Father Wiatt Funk, arrived and replaced Father Joseph Breen, who became pastor at St. Edwards Church in Nashville.
One year later Bob Carney made Saint Rose his home as Director of Religious Education and Total Youth Ministry. He has served Saint Rose 20 years with a great rapport with the children and teens in their religious search for true faith and the understanding of the Catholic beliefs and doctrines.
In 1988, the “Renewal Experience” was administered to the parish-enriching the sense of community already thriving among parishioners. The same year our preschool program began on a shoestring and a prayer. It has flourished into a program that has served the entire Murfreesboro community with its creative and compassionate attitude for the wee ones.
Also in 1988, our pipe organ was renovated and enlarged with Julian Festival trumpets also being installed.
In 1990, the plans were laid for the construction of the new Jo Call Room (named after an outstanding parishioner who established the Murfreesboro Food Bank and The Community Helpers Program). This room has been used extensively as a meeting room, activity room and event facility … having adjoining access to the kitchen and gymnasium.
Along with the Jo Call Room, 12 classrooms would also be constructed for a new school. On Aug. 20, 1992, Bishop Niedergeses and former pastors, Fathers Thoni and Breen along with Father Wiatt dedicated the new building and the remodeled school buildings. The total cost for the entire project was $1,100,000.
In 1997, Bishop Kmiec inaugurated an in-depth study, which included a dedicated group of parishioners from Saint Rose concerning the reopening of a new Saint Rose School. After working a whole year, plans were moved forward to reopen the Saint Rose School. At the same time, construction was approved to enlarge the church with a new baptistry, chapel and sacristy along with additional seating for 300. This same year, the building debt from 1990 was paid.
In 1999, our new building program “The Church in Full Bloom” was inaugurated. The parish pledged $1.5 million dollars. Through the hard work of a large number of volunteer workers and a total parish effort, this goal was met. This same year Saint Rose School reopened with 80 students, grades K-6. With the grace of God on our side, the former principal of the old school in 1967, Sister Ann Marie, became the new principal for our new school. We now had 10,100 sq. ft. addition of eight classrooms, along with a music room, computer labs, art room and library. In 2001 Bishop Kmiec blessed our new baptistry and chapel.
In 2002, seventh grade was added and in 2003, eighth grade was also added — with a total of 228 students enrolled during the 2003-2004 school year.
“The Church in Full Bloom” continues to increase and grow. Jan Luscinski retires after 17 years of service as “the church lady.” We’ll miss her.
Who knows what the future holds for our ever growing parish … but we do know that we are family, and being family, our Saint Rose of Lima Church will thrive on love, faith and charity. We’ve been blessed through the years with loving pastors, excellent teachers for our children, and above all, a loving and caring God!
God Bless Saint Rose of Lima