Holy Family Catholic Church in Hannibal, Missouri

Holy Family Catholic Church celebrated 175 years of Catholic

Faith in 2020.  Our parish developed from a small group of Catholics

in Hannibal who were visited by the pioneer missionary Father Cusack

in 1845, the same year that Hannibal was incorporated. Though the

first cross of Schist was planted in 1680 by Father Louis Hennepin, a

French monk of the order of St. Francis, while exploring the Bay de Charles.

  The first Catholic priest to reside in Hannibal, Father John O’Hanlon, came

in 1848.  Father John O’Hanlon, in his book, Life and Scenery in Missouri

spoke of his appointment: “I took leave of St. Louis on the 8th of May, 1848,

and I went aboard a steamer, bound for the upper Mississippi, towards evening.

It was the St. Louis and Keokuk packet.  The morning after leaving St. Louis

and as the steamer neared the landing at Hannibal, I was greeted by

Mr. Harrison and Mr. Dowling, then strangers to me – while both took care

to have my luggage effects and my horse conveyed to their respective

destinations.  The vast extent of missionary district then assigned to my

care was almost limitless, although exactly defined, so far as I had charge

of Catholic Centres and the Catholics immediately surrounding them.”1

  Catholics in Hannibal celebrated Mass only once a week and shared a

priest with Catholic congregations in Ralls County (St. Paul’s) and in

Marion County (Palmyra).  Outside of St. Paul’s masses, these masses

were celebrated in homes and log cabins.  The priest would travel by

horseback to reach each assignment in his care.  Our first actual brick

church was built in 1854 at Church and Sixth Streets and dedicated on

April 24, 1855.2  This church still stands, though no longer belongs to Holy Family.

  In 1880 we purchased the large church at Sixth and Lyon Streets from the

Congregationalists.  This church was called Immaculate Conception.  The

smaller brick church was then call Immaculate Conception Chapel.

  In 1919, Fr. TC Fox had the vision and foresight to see the need for

a second Catholic church for the growing Catholic population.  A new

Catholic church was built at 2100 Broadway, called Incarnate Word and

later renamed, Blessed Sacrament.  This parish would service the needs

of 125 Catholic families that lived on the west end of town.  The cornerstone

on Blessed Sacrament church was printed with the dedication words “in service of

God and country.”

  In 1954, a new Catholic church was built at 1111 Broadway and was

named St. Mary’s. St. Mary’s Church was dedicated to the service of the

“everlasting glory of God.” Eventually the parishes of Blessed Sacrament and

St. Mary’s were merged into one church called Catholic Church of Hannibal

and then, Hannibal Catholic Church.  Our name was later changed to

Holy Family Catholic Church to more accurately reflect the joining

together of the parishes of Immaculate Conception, Blessed Sacrament

and St. Mary’s Catholic Churches. Parishioners at Holy Family also

include those who previously attended the closed parishes of St. Joseph

in New London, Missouri, south of Hannibal on highway 61 and Holy

Cross Catholic Church in Ilasco, Missouri, on highway 79.  Holy Cross

maintains a chapel and a historical preservation society and was founded in 1915.

  Descendants of the families who were members of St. Joseph, Immaculate

Conception, Blessed Sacrament, St. Mary’s and Holy Cross are all represented

within Holy Family today.  Though many of the buildings of our parishes are gone,

the memories we have are of the times and people who shared our vision for

celebrating our Catholic faith.  Our faith continues to sustain us!

1 O’Hanlin, Very Rev. John Canon, Life and Scenery in Missouri, Dublin, 1890

   pp.164-65, reprinted from History of St. Mary’s Parish by Rev. Louis McCorkle

2  McCorkle, Rev Louis, History of St. Mary’s Parish fromthe book of Dedication

Diocesan Shepherds