By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — Some 50 years ago overcrowding at Holy Family and St. Paul the Apostle parishes, coupled with growth in northwest Davenport, prompted Bishop Ralph Hayes to establish a new parish to serve that area.
Martin Gadient, who died in 1958, had left nine acres for the new church, but Bishop Hayes did not think the location was right. The land was sold and an option to purchase 10 acres off Division Street became available. The purchase was completed in 1961, according to parish history that Jan Tappa of the parish’s historical group shared with The Catholic Messenger.
On Sept. 13, 1962, Bishop Hayes established Our Lady of Victory Parish, which was named at the request of Gadient when he left land for a new parish. Bishop Hayes appointed Father Ken Martin as its pastor.
Religious education classes were held in the parishes that members formerly belonged to. Our Lady of Victory charter member Darlene Nolan remembers sitting in church at Holy Family that September when the pastor announced that everyone living north of Duck Creek should report to Assumption High School the following week for the first Mass of their new parish. “Back then you had to stay in your boundaries,” Nolan said.
Attendance was light that first Sunday, which led Nolan to ask Fr. Martin how a new parish could be built. He told her not to worry because about 250 families lived within the new boundaries.
Nolan recalls that first Christmas Eve midnight Mass as being special. A choir was formed from parishioners of the new parish and some choir members from St. Anthony Parish in Davenport who Fr. Martin had recruited for the special occasion. “We stood on risers and sang on the stage,” Nolan recalled. Masses continued to be celebrated in the Assumption auditorium for 18 months.
By January 1963 plans for a new school, temporary church and rectory were drawn up. Nolan said she was involved in that planning process as she was a public school teacher interested in contributing to educational choice. Groundbreaking was held July 11, 1963, and the project was completed in April 1964.
Don Childs, also a charter member, was appointed a trustee by Fr. Martin not long after the parish was established. He had a big hand in getting the school, rectory and eventually the church buildings under way.
Priests serving the parish had been living in a home the parish purchased in 1962 on Westerfield Road, Nolan said. Childs said they fixed up the home and converted the garage into a chapel for Fr. Martin. After the priests moved into the lower level of the school in a temporary rectory, three Sisters of Humility moved into the Westerfield home. Nolan recalled that the Sisters did not have transportation to get to the school, so parishioners collected green stamps and eventually bought the Sisters a new car.
The first Mass in the new John F. Kennedy Catholic School was celebrated Easter Sunday 1964. The cafeteria and gym were used for Sunday Masses.
Construction of Davenport’s first new church building since 1909 got underway in 1967. Childs said Our Lady of Victory’s church building committee looked at various churches in the Quad-City area and beyond for inspiration to design the new church. The basic plan is modeled after a church that was in Crystal Lake, Ill., he noted.
Masses were held in the new church beginning in April 1970. Bishop Gerald O’Keefe dedicated the building in June 1970. Childs said the new church was what he had expected it to be when it opened. “We had a goal and it got done.”
On April 15, 1978, parishioners celebrated the burning of the mortgage. It was time to build a new rectory and offices. That addition next to the church opened in July 1979.
Childs said the idea was to do one phase at a time, pay off the mortgage in full, then move onto the next step. “We wanted to pay as little interest as possible. In a 10-year period we were able to turn the parish over to Father (William) Meyer debt free. That is quite a feat,” Childs said.
In the late 1970s Nolan said she and Father Joe Sparks, an assistant at the parish, were called to a meeting by Fr. Martin. She and Fr. Sparks were to meet with then-Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Msgr. W. Robert Schmidt, about a new Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) program for Our Lady of Victory. “Prior to this we did a summer course for the public school students,” Nolan said.
She led the new program for two years as a volunteer before resigning to spend more time with her family, which she was raising while also teaching full-time in the public school system.
Growth in school enrollment resulted in the completion of a new addition with a new parish hall attached to the school in 1988.
In 1993 Nolan retired from teaching and received a phone call asking for ideas about paying off the debt for the new school addition. She proposed a cookie walk. Then she suggested a cookbook, but not a parish cookbook. She collaborated with various entities in the Quad-City area and produced the “Quad-City Cookin” cookbook. “We raised $250,000 and retired the debt,” she said proudly. Each section divider of the cookbook included pictures and stories on Quad-City history. Trivia tidbits appeared on the bottom of the pages. A parishioner offered warehouse space to store the cookbooks, which sold like hotcakes. Nolan even got a copyright for the cookbook.
The parish renovated the church’s interior in 1999 and in 2011 completed a new gathering space, meeting rooms and baptismal font and an addition to the school.
Nolan says volunteers in the parish from the very beginning to today make it possible to get things done.
Dick Froeschle and his family were at Holy Family when the announcement was made about the new parish being formed. He helped raise money for the the project.
When the new church was complete, Froeschle said he was “overwhelmed” by the new building. “It was well planned and had the best construction,” he said.
Eventually, Fr. Martin asked him why he wasn’t “in” the Church. He explained that he wasn’t Catholic and his wife had been married prior to their marriage. But they saw the importance of the Church and went every Sunday with their children — who attended Catholic schools.
“Fr. Martin talked with me and my wife. I told him I had been wanting to be in the Church. So Father instructed me and one Saturday I received the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and first communion. My daughters were my sponsors,” Froeschle said. That was in the 1970s.
The family remained members there until moving to the LeClaire area in 1976, “but I went back from time to time,” he said.
Parishioner Jen Van Speybroeck has been a member since 2003. She is a cantor usually at the 4:30 p.m. Mass on Saturdays and and currently teaches music to second-, fifth- and sixth- graders at John F. Kennedy Catholic School.
Her grandfather, Arthur Borgonjon, was a bricklayer who did some of the brick work on Our Lady of Victory Church. “My grandmother, Margaret Borgonjon, was very active in the parish as a ‘church lady.’” Van Speybroeck said her grandmother did a lot of cleaning and did decorating for the various seasons of the Church and holidays.
Van Speybroeck’s parents, Jerry and Connie Noel, were married in the school gym in September 1964.
Although she assists with music at other Quad-City area parishes, she said she and her family have been inspired by the humbleness and pastoral nature of Msgr. (James) Parizek, Father Bill Meyer and the deacons at the parish. “Our Lady of Victory is an active and vibrant parish in all aspects. There is never a lack of things to do.
“We are always busy with a faith formation activity, school activity or other parish event. I also believe that because of our patroness Mary, I have become closer to her through my church community.”
In its 50 years, Our Lady of Victory Parish has had only four pastors: Father Ken Martin, who served from 1962-81; Father William Meyer, who served from 1981-93; Father William Kaska, who served from 1981-2002; and current pastor, Msgr. James Parizek, who has served the parish since 2002.
Our Lady of Victory Parish will celebrate its 50th anniversary Sept. 29-30.
On Sept 29, a deluxe party and picnic will be held, beginning at 5 p.m. on the lawn behind JFK School. Entertainment, special food offerings and fireworks at dusk are planned.
On Sept. 30 at 2 p.m. a living rosary will take place in front of the church followed by meditation music at 2:30 p.m. in the church. Bishop Martin Amos will celebrate Mass at 3 p.m. in the church. All clergy who served the parish have been invited back for this celebration. A light reception will follow in the gathering space and in the green space between the church and rectory. Members of the youth ministry will serve.