We, the people of St. Agnes, strive to be a welcoming Eucharistic Community, founded upon our faith in Christ Jesus. Blessed by our Catholic tradition and the beauty of creation around us we choose to:
---- Grow in and share our knowledge and love of Christ, and
---------- Embrace all people as Christ, serving their spiritual and physical needs.
For 60 years St. Agnes has symbolized the presence of the Catholic community in Brown County. Growing from a few scattered parishioners we have become a parish of 300 families. The strength, warmth and beauty of our chapel represents the same qualities of our parish community.
TIMES OF MASS
MASS AT ST. AGNES CHURCH
Saturday Anticipation 5:00 PM
Sunday Morning 8:30 and 10:45 AM
Daily Prayer: Monday - Friday 8:00 AM
MASS AT BROWN COUNTY PARK
Saturday Beginning May 26,2001 at 06:30PM
IN THE BEGINNING...
It was in 1820 that Congress opened the hills of Brown County to settlers. The rugged, densely wooded hills and the lack of trails and rivers did not invite much penetration into the area. Records show that there were scarcely more than a hundred persons who came into this region. The country was thick with bear, panther, wolves, snakes and other beasts that discouraged much human habitation. The 320 square-mile area was greatly affected by the results of the glacier activity. Melting ice, particularly off Bean Blossom Ridge, cut big valleys and the water flowed to form creeks, which are still evident today.
Brown County was part of the "New Purchase" of 1818, a treaty in which the U.S. govern ment transferred the property from the Indians. Squatters came between 1821 and 1836, so that sufficient people had arrived to form a county. The county seat was Jacksonburg, which was renamed Nashville shortly thereafter. Population figures rose from 150 in 1830 to 2,364 in 1840 and 10,264 in 1850. There is no evidence of Catholicism in those early years. If there were Catholics present, they left no trace. However, by 1881 there were other faiths present in the county: Methodist, Christian, Baptist, Presbyterian, New Lights and United Brethren.
FIRST SIGNS OF CATHOLICISM...
First records of Catholics in the county came by way of the missionary. Father Vincent Bacquelin, a priest serving at St. Vincent de Paul church in Shelby County. Reports have it that Father Bacquelin met his parishioners in the farmhouse of a Joseph Fricker. Father Vincent travelled to the Catholics in the Columbus area and apparently came to minister to the needs of the few Catholics in Brown County. Records in Shelbyville show that Father Vincent Bacquelin did baptize an infant daughter of Michael and Marguerite Landrigan in Brown County in 1842. Other baptisms by Father Bacquelin were John Griffin and George Chapman, both in 1843. There is a baptismal record of Mary Catherine Cullen, a member of one of the original families of Brown County, performed by a Father Bogeman in 1891.
When this same Mary Catherine (Cullen) Robertson celebrated her 95th birthday in 1974, the Brown County Democrat interviewed her and asked about the status of the Catholics in her early childhood. She said her family, the Cullens, was the only Catholic family in Brown County while she was growing up. She remembers that many of the county's early residents were wary of her family because of their faith, but they never felt discriminated against. Being Catholic sort of set them apart. The other Cullen families moved to Bloomington where a Roman Catholic Church, St. Charles, was established.
Another family given as Catholic in the Brown County records is Burckhart. The original Burckhart was a widow who came to the states with her five daughters. On the boat with the Burckharts was a Henry Seitz. They, the widow and Mr. Seitz, later married in Brown County. In this family history there is reference made to a small Catholic Church just beyond the Burckhart cemetery. However, there is no trace of any re mains of that church.
The next written records available concerning Catholicism in Brown County comes through the pastor of St. Bartholomew in Columbus, Father Anthony Seger. Father Seger notes that he came monthly to say Mass for the Civil Conservation Corps workers in the State Park. In 1933 there were between 10 and 15 Catholics among the CCC workers, along with the few Catholic residents of the county.
There follows a lapse of information of Catholicism in Brown County for a few years. The next evidence is of Catholics gathering in the northern part of the county for Sunday worship. Priests from Martinsville began to celebrate Mass at a store front in Morgantown at the cost of $5.00 rent per month. Father Francis Kull was the first priest to come to Morgantown to serve these people. Often after Mass on Sunday, Father Kull would visit the adults while a Mr. Sheets instructed the children.
THE BIRTH OF A CHAPEL BEGINS...
It is with this scanty information of Catholicism in Brown County that one asks the questions, "So how does a chapel get built in Nashville, sponsored by a family in Bloomington and serving both residents and tourists?"
The need for a place to gather the resident Catholics for Sunday worship and instruction of the children is evident from the early history. There were also many Catholics among the tourists who visited the county.
The other ingredient to this story comes from a family in Bloomington who was searching for a way to memorialize their gratitude to God for their family.
Joseph and Agnes Marie Nurre moved from Cincinnati in 1912 when Joseph was asked to open a mirror manufacturing plant in Bloomington, Indiana, for the Pittsburg Plate Glass Company, the company for which he worked. Thus began the Nurre Mirror Plate Company. Business prospered and the Nurre family be- came involved with civic and church affairs. Joseph was active in the Knights of Columbus and in establishing the Gibault Home in Terre Haute. Mrs. Nurre was also involved in many community affairs.
It was in Bloomington that the five children (Joseph Jr., John, Tom, Ruth and Mary Agnes) were born. Family life was very important to the Nurres. They enjoyed music, gardening, walks and holidays together.
The Nurres were members of St. Charles Parish in Bloomington. They were close friends of the priests in their parish, especially Father Paul Deery, Father Francis Kull and Father Thomas Kilfoil. When they were planning to move to New Jersey in 1937, the Nurres approached their pastor. Father Kilfoil, and asked to build a memorial of thanksgiving for their children. Their thought was to build a chapel in Bloomington.
Father Kilfoil sent the Nurres with their request to Bishop Joseph Ritter of Indianapolis (later Joseph Cardinal Ritter). The Bishop was aware of the needs of the Catholics in neighboring Brown County. Father Francis Kull had already requested help for those Catholics he was serving in the northern part of the county. In his foresight. Bishop Ritter felt that a chapel should be built near Nashville for the increased number of tourists and also as a Catholic presence in the county. Thus the dream of the Nurres could become a reality, and the needs expressed by Father Kull would be met. This combination of events led to the birth of St. Agnes Chapel.
THE BUILDING OF A LOG CABIN...
Bishop Ritter purchased eight lots from Edward K. Williams and his wife in June of 1940. The site was less than a mile north of the town of Nashville on State Road 135. Here was to be built the chapel requested by the Nurres.
Work on the chapel began with the design of the architect, William J. Strain from Bloomington. To fit the decor of rustic Brown County, a log cabin style was chosen. Native timber and native stone were used. Oak logs were stained dark brown and connected with white mortar. The roof was made of cedar shingles and there was a gable front with a rose window placed centrally above the entrance. The porch floor and steps were made of native sandstone. Steel casement windows with stained glass in diamond patterns were installed. A limestone crucifix was carved and placed in the niche of the chimney. The structure truly fit the environment in which it was set. Contractors were McDaniels and McDaniels.
Inside the chapel, the walls, floor, pews and other pieces of furniture were made of oak. The ceiling was beamed. Wrought iron was used for votive stands, holy water fonts and credence table supports. A large wooden crucifix, designed by Dom Gregory DeWitt from St. Meinrad, was suspended against a red velour dossal. The stone altar had the St. Agnes lamb carved in front.
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In niches in the front walls on either side of the sanctuary were statues of St. Joseph and of the Blessed Virgin holding the Divine Infant. These statues along with one of St. Agnes in the rear of the chapel were carved of Carara stone of Bloomington. The votive stands still have their place before the statues.
An organ and confessionals were located in the rear of the chapel. Along the side walls were stations of the cross. The capacity of the chapel was seating for 108 people.
This quaint log cabin chapel was put under the patronage of St. Agnes, a youthful martyr of the fourth century. At first the name, "Holy Family," was suggested. However, St. Agnes was cho- sen because she was the patron of Mrs. Agnes Nurre.
And so St. Agnes Chapel came to be a meeting of the needs of Father Kull to have a place to gather his people for liturgy, and of the Nurre family to memorialize their gratitude to God for their children. Though the Extension Office had offered to pay for half of the price of the chapel (which was the mission of the Extension), Mr. Nurre told them to return the money and he would take care of the entire cost. The final bill came to $8,800.
St. Agnes Chapel would become a mission of St. Martin's Parish in Martinsville. It became the only Catholic Church in Brown County, and it remains that yet today.
ON THE DAY OF DEDICATION...
Dedication of the new St. Agnes Chapel took place on Friday, October 11, 1940 at 9:00. Bishop Joseph Ritter blessed the building and consecrated the altar. Very Rev. Romuald Mollaun, OFM of Oldenburg, blessed the stations. Assisting the Bishop were Rev. Frances Kull, Rev. Bernard Nurre of Covington, Kentrucky, (cousin of the Nurres), Rev. Paul Deery of Vincennes, Rev. Thomas Kilfoil and Rev. John Walsh of Bloomington. Other visiting clergy were present. Music for the occasion was provided by the Clergy Choir of Indianapolis, with Rev. Edwin Sahm at the organ. Among other guests were Commanding Officers of the C.C.C. camps at the State Park. Business friends of the Nurre family also attended the dedication. A luncheon for 60 guests was served at the Abe Martin Lodge in the Brown County State Park after the ceremony.
AND GROWTH CONTINUED...
The Sunday after the dedication, October 13 at 9:45 a.m.. Father Francis Kull, the assigned pastor, celebrated a High Mass for the convenience of those unable to attend the Friday dedication. The Saint Thomas Gregorian Choir of Indianapolis, with George Smith directing and Miss Martha Holmes at the organ, provided the music. Each Sunday thereafter for many years people gathered for liturgy at this same time on Sunday morning. We continue to connect local businesses to local customers with the help of coreywilley.com and their personal approach.
Thus was the beginning of a mustard seed that has grown into a healthy tree known to many and enjoyed by great numbers over the past 50 years. The chapel is visited often during the day by people who seek a quiet place for reflection. Liturgies have been celebrated in the little chapel through the years. Many recall people standing outside the chapel looking through the windows because of the crowds. In the hearts of all parishioners and visitors there rests a gratitude for the generosity of the Joseph Nurre family that made this dream come true.
Love and respect for the little log cabin will always be present.