Our Lady of the Black Hills celebrates 100 years of history

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The new church, circa 1979, was 40 by 84 feet, all steel with triple glass windows, a social center in the basement, and a wing that included the entry and rectory. (Diocesan archives)


Settlers and homesteaders came to the area along Elk Creek east of what is now Piedmont in the 1880s. A traveling priest would say Mass in a local home where Catholic neighbors would congregate.

The first written record of Catholic services being held in Piedmont is documented in the November 25, 1904, Rapid City Daily Journal, “Catholic services were held at the school house in the French District Monday. Five boys and girls were confirmed.”

In early 1916 local Catholics were seriously considering building a church. An Elkton farmer had promised $500 towards the building of a chapel in memory of his wife, Mary. The Catholic Church Extension Society contacted Bishop John Lawler knowing the Catholics in Piedmont wanted to build a new church.

At the corner of Park and Second the church was built on donated land. Volunteers helped with the work and, soon, St. Mary Catholic Church became a reality.

In late 1959 the congregation size had increased to the point where a remodel and update of the church and rectory was needed. Volunteers completed the project.

In the 1970s, Piedmont’s population had grown to the extent that there was a need for a social center for the purpose of fellowship gatherings and fund raising events. One suggestion, though met with opposition, was to build onto the existing rectory and church — it was considered a short-term solution. Another option was to build a new church a few miles south of town. Richard and Heloisa Burns had donated a large parcel of land, in memory of Richard’s mother. A building committee began plans to work on a more desirable new facility. Meetings were held with Bishop Harold Dimmerling to discuss design, budget, finance, and planning, and in April 1979, the bishop gave the approval for construction.

On April 22, 1979, groundbreaking commenced and excavation began the following morning. The budget was $160,000, and again, volunteers completed much of the work.

When the old church property was sold in August 1979, parishioners had to bring their own chairs to Mass on Sundays at the new facility. The first Mass in the new church was celebrated September 16 and the priest was able to move into the rectory on October 10.

Most decisions — colors, carpet, and finish — were voted on by the parishioners, including the name of the new church, Our Lady of the Black Hills. Several items were brought to the new church from the old, namely, two small stained glass windows, the church bell, statues, and a small number of pews.

The next ten years would prove to be a time of significant growth. In 1981 the church still had a limited number of pews and the altar and some fixtures were temporary. An altar and sanctuary lamp, were both donated by Blessed Sacrament Church, Rapid City, a Rapid City family gifted an organ, and the Convent of St. Therese donated a tabernacle.

The generosity and dedication of parishioners continued throughout the 1980s, allowing the church to be debt-free by 1985 despite completion of numerous projects and updates. Work on the church included installing ceiling fans, adding classrooms, purchasing pews, and various projects on the outside of the property. Almost all the materials and labor were donated, saving the church from having to borrow money.

The growth of the parish continued as people enjoyed the activities, events, fellowship, and services provided. It was predicted by the end of the decade that a larger church might be necessary, and in 1996 classrooms, office space, and worship space expansion began. Again, the project was completed by the work of volunteers, and the weekend before Christmas, Mass was celebrated in the new church.

In 2005, the interior of the church was updated with a new altar, ambo and baptismal font created from brass and Crazy Horse granite. The Blessed Sacrament chapel was designed in the space that previously was the cry room. A holy family shrine room and confessional were built.

A prayer garden and patio were added in 2010, along with outdoor Stations of the Cross and a grotto for the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In 2011 the church grew again with the purchase of the home behind the church. The house became the new rectory and the old rectory was named St. Joseph Hall.


(History adapted from “1916-1990 Our Lady of the Black Hills, Formerly St. Mary’s of Piedmont,” by J.R. Honerkamp; “Our Lady of the Black Hills Leadership Booklet,” by Fr. Steve Biegler; and diocesan archives.)


Our Lady of the Black Hills, Piedmont, Centennial Celebration 
Saturday, September 10, 2016, 5 p.m. Mass, with Bishop Robert Gruss and Fr. Andrzej Wyrostek.
Dinner and dance to follow.