By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
BUFFALO – One of the smallest parishes in the Diocese of Davenport and the smallest in Scott County, St. Peter Parish, is ready for a big celebration. On June 29 the parish will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the current church building. Bishop Thomas Zinkula will celebrate the Mass.
The parish was founded in 1859 by Bishop Clement Smyth of the Dubuque Diocese. It became part of the newly formed Diocese of Davenport in 1881. Masses were held in the home of Henry Springmeier on Fourth Street, said Carol Mosier of the anniversary committee. The existing church was built in 1867. It was built on a lot donated by the Kautz family, which also donated land next door for Calvary Lutheran Church. The couple who donated the land had ties to both churches; one spouse was Catholic and the other Lutheran.
Committee members said no early records of the parish or church building are available, so they do not know the cost to build the church or how many families belonged to St. Peter’s. Mosier said in the early days the parish had no resident pastor. Father Anton Nierman of St. Kunigunda (later St. Joseph) in Davenport and Father Maurice Flavin of St. Mary in Davenport served the parish. The first resident pastor, Father Nicholas Peiffer, did not arrive until 1908. The rectory was built in 1909. Gary Ammeter of the committee said the church building has been well maintained over the past 150 years.
Upgrades include electricity to the building, restoration of the stained glass windows, the addition of air conditioning in the 1980s, new flooring (the original is still intact underneath), renovations to the bell tower and typical maintenance.
Deacon Larry Dankert said it is believed that the choir loft is one of the only lofts in Iowa to be supported through the rafters and attic instead of columns leading down to the floor. “There are some big beams up there to hold it in,” Ammeter added.
One of the biggest accomplishments in recent times was the addition built in the early 2000s. “We jumped two centuries,” Ammeter laughed. The church did not have running water until the gathering space was completed. It serves as the entrance, with restrooms and a kitchenette. Bishop William Franklin dedicated the addition in 2004.
Ammeter said if someone needed to use the restroom, they had to walk over to the rectory and go upstairs. With the addition, water spigots were installed so that the lawn could be watered. That came in handy in early June as new sod had been laid and needed watering. Cost of the addition was about $90,000. “We had half the money in hand in one week before we even brought it before the parish,” he said. Within three weeks, all the money for the addition was raised, Mosier added.
The original bell remains in the bell tower. Committee members said it was rung every Sunday for a long time, but is not used very often. “Maybe we should ring it for the celebration,” Mosier said.
The parish’s last resident priest was Father Frank Martinez in 1986. The parish has shared a pastor in different combinations over the years. It is currently served by Father Paul Appel, Father Chris Young and Father Guillermo Trevino, who also serve St. Alphonsus and St. Mary parishes in Davenport.
The former rectory does not sit idle: it is used for religious education, offices and as a meeting spot, said committee member Larry Cawiezell. Another committee member, Jerry Mosier, recalled that the rectory once had a chapel. “I remember an ornate altar. And we found a door when renovating a few years ago.” It had been covered over at some point.
St. Peter Parish has been growing in size and in the number of younger families, with 92 families at present and 35 students in religious education. Youth ministry is shared with St. Alphonsus, St. Mary and Holy Family parishes. Volunteerism is also strong, Carol Mosier said.
Fr. Appel said St. Peter’s is very active in social action and outreach. Parishioners oversee the food pantry in Buffalo four months of the year in addition to collecting food throughout the year. Volunteers make the trip to Riverbend Food Bank in Davenport to bring food to the local pantry. They serve meals at the Salvation Army in Davenport with St. Andrew Parish in Blue Grass. They adopt two or more families at Christmas for gift-giving. Parishioners also collect non-food items such as toilet paper, deodorant, soap and toothbrushes for persons in need. They reach out to senior citizens in the community and donate financially to social action-oriented organizations. The parish’s prayer chain is still done by phone.
“We are a very close, caring family,” Carol Mosier said of St. Peter parishioners.