LOMA, Neb. — The words jubilantly floated upward, “Jezisi, krali nebe a zeme.”
The people stuffed into St. Luke Catholic Czech Shrine sang “Jesus, King of Heaven and Earth” in the Czech tongue as the celebratory Mass began.
Lincoln Diocese Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz was the principal celebrant of the Mass, which noted the 100th anniversary of the church building. The event drew a crowd that filled the church in Loma and spilled outside into the morning’s sunshine.
Shrine Administrator Monsignor Myron Pleskac could not have been more pleased.
“It was overwhelming,” he said.
There were all the usual supporters, and there were also many “old-timers” who came back for the event. Pleskac said he saw many people who once lived in the area but had moved away. They had come back for the Mass and the lunch and fellowship that followed in a tent across the street.
“It was beyond my expectation,” he added.
That pleased Pleskac, who is more than just the administrator of the shrine dedicated to Czech Catholic immigrants to the area of Butler and Saunders Counties. Pleskac grew up in Loma and is one of two priests to have claimed St. Luke as their home parish.
He said it was wonderful to see all of the support for the church.
Prior to the founding of St. Luke, Catholic settlers had to travel to Brainard, Dwight or Touhy to attend church.
That was not always easy in those days, especially in wintertime, Bruskewitz said.
In 1910, then-Bishop Thomas Bonacom granted permission for the people in the Loma area to build a church.
Bruskewitz said it took a lot of dedication and effort to gather a building fund and hire an architect. But the task was done, and the church was completed and blessed on Aug. 12, 1912.
In the early years, St. Luke was a mission parish, with priests coming from Brainard, Dwight and Touhy to serve the members.
In 1925, St. Luke got its own priest and a parish rectory was built. But the number of parishioners dwindled over the years. By 1992, St. Luke parish ceased to exist.
Several former parishioners approached Bruskewitz when he became the bishop of the Lincoln Diocese about re-opening the church.
The bishop, who reported in his homily that he had fond childhood memories about the Czech heritage shared by his mother, appointed a commission to see what could be done.
The recommendation was to renovate the church and rename the church a shrine honoring the area’s Czech immigrants of the faith.
Substantial support of the project came from a project far away from the Loma area. Universal Studio’s decision to film a movie in the small village brought attention to the project and the studio used the church building as a communication center during the 1994 filming.
On Oct. 1, 1995, Bruskewitz dedicated the renovated shrine.
Mass is still said at the shrine on a regular basis. Pleskac said it is held every other month, on the last Sunday of that month.
Attendance at the Mass varies during the year. He said 50 to 70 people can usually be expected at the Masses.
“And they are always very generous,” he said. “We survive on their contributions.”
The next Mass is scheduled for the last Sunday in October. St. Luke Mass is open to the public.
“Tisickrat pozdravujeme teb,” or “a thousand times we welcome you,” was the hymn that closed the anniversary celebration.