History of St Thomas Aquinas Church
The history of the Diocese of Fort Wayne records that the first priest to visit Knox was the Reverend Joseph Stephan of the Indian school at Rensselaer, Indiana. Later a priest at Monterey came to Knox a few times a year and offered Mass in a private home. The next two years the priest at North Judson came from time to time and then from 1899 until 1923 Father Joseph Abel from Walkerton came for Mass on occasional Sundays. There were four missions from Walkerton; Bremen, Hamlet, and Knox.
|1923 Church||Rev. John Lach|
In 1911 Father Abel purchased the Lutheran church for $1,500.00, thus enabling the people from Knox to attend Mass more frequently. Father Abel also purchased the rectory on Washington Street which later became the convent. In 1952 Father Conrad A. Stoll bought the house in the rear of the old church intending it to serve as a home for the Sisters who would teach in the Catholic school.
In Bishop Alerding's 1907 history of the diocese, he says: "The number of souls in Knox is 38. Despite this small number plans are being made for the building of a new church in the near future." This prophecy was not fulfilled until 47 years later, 1954.
St. Thomas Aquinas received its first resident pastor in 1923 and was then officially recognized as a parish, The new pastor was the Rev. John Lach who remained until 1926. The first Baptisms in the Church as a Parish were: Elizabeth Ann Pawlik and Joan Cecilia Falvey. It wasn't long until the first marriage took place in the new parish. The bride and groom were Carl Freel and Lucy Hale, followed shortly by Leo Shewski and his bride Mary Folenga . The first funeral recorded in the parish records was Theresa Patch and followed by Anna Merkert. These sacred events were recorded by Father Lach. Father Lach also formulated plans for a new church which were discarded when he left Knox for Whiting, Indiana. Rev. John Lach died of cancer at Mercy Hospital in Chicago, May 9, 1960.
Father Charles Malay became the second pastor in 1926 and remained until 1932. During his pastorate in 1927 an addition was built on the rear of the old church to form the sanctuary and the sacristies. This work cost about $10,000.00. From the records, it is evident that all buildings at St. Thomas were second hand until 1954.
Father Conrad A. Stoll was appointed pastor by Bishop John F. Noll D.D., February 4, 1932. That was the year Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president and the nation was in a deep depression. For several years the Sunday collections were very small. Things did not improve until the 2nd World War. For eighteen years Father Stoll also ministered to Holy Cross Church in Hamlet.
In 1941 Father Stoll started a building fund for a new church. He was able to begin this fund with a $500.00 donation for a founded High Mass from Mr. Joseph Starshak of Chicago. The $500.00 was invested in a diocesan note.
As the economy grew, so also did the parish, and the pastor by careful saving and the generous contributions of parishioners and summer visitors from Bass Lake who attended Mass at St. Thomas, were able to increase the building fund until it reached $54,381.63 in 1953. In August of 1953 pledges were solicited for the new church and by the end of 1953 $9,600.98 had been paid on them. The church was built in 1954 and the total cost was $165,000.00.
|Rev. Conrad Stoll||1955 Church|
In September of 1955 the new school opened with the Dominican Sisters and lay teachers. The following year, 1956, Father Stoll died. Father Stoll had been ill for nearly six months. He was born in Remington, Indiana, October 22, 1889, and he was 68 years old when he died. He spent 25 years in Knox missing his silver jubilee as pastor by two months. Father Stoll was succeeded by the Reverend Herman A. Schoudel in February of 1957.
|Rev. Anthony Suelzer||Rev. Casmir Senderak|
Father Schoudel remained only until mid-June, when he was replaced by Father Anthony J. Suelzer. Father Suelzer was ordained on May 30, 1942. He taught at Central Catholic High School in Fort Wayne and served as an assistant at St. Vincent, Elkhart, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Hammond. He was then named pastor of Knox June 13, 1957. Father Suelzer remained pastor until August of 1960, at which time Father Casimir Senderak came to St. Thomas Aquinas. Father Senderak and the Dominican Sisters both left St. Thomas in 1962.
|Rev. Stanley Milewski||Rev. William Vogt|
At that time Father Stanley J. Milewski became the new pastor, and under his guidance St. Thomas school remained open for two years staffed by lay teachers. The Principal was Mrs. Marie Martin, and the staff consisted of Mrs. Anne Hindle, Mrs. Mary Jo Kennedy, and Mrs. Emily Brown. These dedicated ladies maintained the school from September 1962 until June 1964 when the Sisters of St. Joseph arrived. Father Milewski left St. Thomas in August 1965, and his successor was Father William Vogt who was ordained in Fort Wayne June 15, 1946. He served as assistant in St. Joseph's in Mishawaka, St. Mary of the Lake, Gary, St. Thomas More, Munster and St. Patrick's, Chesterton.
|Rev. Emil Bloch||1970 Church|
In 1968 Father Emil Bloch came to St. Thomas as pastor and had the task of turning the altar around and beginning the liturgy reforms of the second Vatican Council. His task was a big one as the first changes in the church took place since the Council of Trent, centuries earlier. Father Bloch was assigned to Holy Cross in Hamlet in the summer of 1977 and died shortly there after.
|Rev. Anthony Ficko||1980 Church|
Father Anthony Ficko replaced Father Bloch and continued some of the changes in the sanctuary and had the sad duty of closing the school for lack of students. The Sisters of St. Joseph continued as teachers until the time the school closed in 1983.
|Monsignor Vincent Lengerich|
It was in 1983 that Monsignor Vincent Lengerich was appointed pastor at St. Thomas and he converted the baptistry into a room for Reconciliation and the Baptismal font was brought to the sanctuary of the church and a shrine to the Sacred Heart and our patron was created in the space of the old confessional. Monsignor retired on All Saints Day of 1993.
|Monsignor Richard Zollinger|
In 1993 Monsignor Richard Zollinger was appointed pastor. Under his leadership several improvemnets occurred for our church. A new rectory has been built at 406 E. Washington Street and the old rectory was sold. The entire santuary went under renewal. This entailed a complete cleaning of of the bricks in the church, replacing the light fixtures in the church, restoration of the church's statues and bringing out the main altar into the sanitary with a glass sculpture to form a Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Msgr. Zollinger retired July 1, 1999.
|Rev. John Scott|
On July 1, 1999 Father John Scott was appointed pastor. He oversaw numerous improvements in our parish. Significant among these was the addition of a new entrance on the church's east side that included a new elevator. Our Church Hall was also remodeled and decorated. A new Prayer Garden was also added leading to the new entrance.
|Rev. Rick Holy|
Father Rick Holy was appointed pastor on June 29, 2012. Father Holy helped vitalize our church through several projects. He helped organize the starting of a St Vincent De Paul Society Conference in our parish. He arranged for a Polish Mass to be celebrated on Saturday evenings. He also beautified the interior of our church through many projects including: new interior lights, new carpeting, and new pew padding.
On July 1, 2016 Father Stephen Loncar, OFMConv. was appointed pastor.
Installed as pastor on Sept 9th.