18 Feb 2010 Historic St. Boniface ‘a special place’
“It’s become a landmark out here on Highway 60,” he said. “Often we have visitors during the day. We get a lot of requests for weddings, because of the uniqueness of the church. We have to charge a fee” for non-members or there would be a wedding every week, he added.
When the original building burned, parishioners saved the main altar, which they had brought from Germany. It sits in the church today. Oswald Miller, a member who was hired to design and build the new church, also designed two side altars to match the main altar, Davis noted.
According to a history of the church, parishioners provided the labor for the church building and finished it by fall, the same year the original structure burned.
“The lumber was cut from church property and milled by Fourche River Lumber Company in Bigelow,” according to the church history. “The Catholic Union of Arkansas had planned to hold its annual meeting at New Dixie that year, and by September 1906, the church was complete to offer the Holy Sacrifice for the first time after the opening of the meeting.”
The first priest of the church was a Benedictine priest who traveled down the Arkansas River from Subiaco, Davis said. In earlier days, there was a sisters’ house and a school at the church as well. When the school closed in 1969, the nuns went to teach in other schools, and the students enrolled in other schools in Bigelow, Conway and Morrilton.
Lee Nutt is a grandson of one of the immigrants who founded the church. He attended the school at St. Boniface from 1944 to 1950. He fondly remembers his time there – in particular, one of the nuns who was his teacher.
“It was a pleasant time, as I look back over it,” he said. “We boys got into it sometimes and would have to go clean the outhouses for our punishment.
“The nuns were very good to us. They were strict. They didn’t take no foolishness, either. They were good teachers. Around 1940, Sister Tarcisia came. She was my mentor. She was just a good, good person. She was a jack of all trades. It didn’t matter whether it was woodworking or playing the piano or singing. She was just a super, super good gal.
“After I got out of the eighth grade and went to Bigelow, I still came to visit her. After she went back to Fort Smith, and retired, we were good friends until she passed away.”
Cindy Mann also grew up in the New Dixie area and in St. Boniface Church.
“I was born here and grew up here. I received all my sacraments here. The church is a very big part of my life. It was very important to our family and my parents, and that kind of transferred down to the children. It’s a central point for us – the gathering and the worshipping.”
Mann serves as the Sacristan, the person who maintains the altars. She and her family also clean the church.
“Growing up, we had Christmas plays and Easter egg hunts there. My children enjoy the same things there. It’s an everyday part of our lives. We’re there just about every day. It’s been a blessing for us.
“Every year, the third Sunday of May, we have our annual church bazaar. That’s a fundraiser/homecoming for us. My family has kind of taken over the fish pond booth. It’s a way to give back to the church and share with the visitors that come,” she said.
Mann concluded, “It’s very peaceful for me when I walk through the doors. I know God is present in the tabernacle. All your troubles are not as important when you walk through the doors. I just find peace within the church.”