St. Peter's Catholic Church in Buffalo is one of the original churches in Scott County, dating back more than 150 years.

St. Peter's is going strong in 2017 and will celebrate its sesquicentennial on June 29, the Feast Day of Sts. Peter and Paul. The new head of the Diocese of Davenport, Bishop Thomas Zinkula, will attend.

More than 100 people had reserved space for the event by mid-June. Plans are for an anniversary Mass at 6 p.m. June 29, followed by a catered supper at the Buffalo Community Center.

Parish members such as Mary Beth Hansen have fond memories to share: It was, for example, the site of a church social where lights would be put up outdoors, and there would be children's games and lots of good food to eat.

"When I got older, I had to start working at the festival," she said.

Hansen is part of the reunion committee, which includes Gary Ammeter, Larry Cawiezell, Deacon Larry Dankert and his son, Dan Dankert and Carol Mosier. The committee has met twice each month since April, and members said the number of reservations show it will be a memorable event.

Much the same

St. Peter's holds space for about 110 worshipers, and the layout is much the same as when it was built in 1867. Updates include electricity, air conditioning, new light fixtures, paint and carpet. 

A gathering room was added in 2004; this space was to provide St. Peter's with running water and a bathroom, Mosier said.

The parish was founded in 1859, and it was part of the Archdiocese of Dubuque until the Diocese of Davenport formed in 1881.

Earliest Masses were said in the home of Henry Springmeier, and his residence still exists. The church was built on city lots owned by the Kautz family, who also donated land next door to it for Calvary Lutheran Church.

The first resident pastor was the Rev. Nicholas Peiffer. The pastor occupied a rented house until the congregation built a rectory in 1909. The church then had a resident minister until 1986.

St. Peter's was grouped with other Catholic churches to share priestly duties after that time, in towns such as Blue Grass and Wilton, Iowa, and in western Davenport.

Today, the Rev. Paul Appel of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, Davenport, is in charge, and he serves in partnership with two others, including the Revs. Guillermo Trevino and Chris Young.

The compact church in Buffalo is built of brick and has eight stained glass windows. Figures to represent the Stations of the Cross are featured on each long side; they were recently restored and painted by Larry Dankert.

Dankert also pointed out the unique church balcony, which is attached to the roof system. That's the only free-standing balcony in a church in Iowa, he said. The balcony holds the church organ and two pews and kneeler from the old days.

There is a bell tower, with a bell added in 1890. The tower was refurbished in 2005 with aluminum siding.

The 2004 addition includes a new entrance to St. Peter's, with double doors of leaded, beveled glass. The entire church area was subsequently landscaped professionally with river rock, plants and shrubs.

The rectory, which dates to 1909, now is used for religious education. It has a new furnace, air conditioning, a roof and aluminum siding, with a new porch and entrance door. A restroom was added last year.

Active volunteers

Mosier married into a family that has been part of St. Peter's for generations. The church is really run by volunteers, she said.

There are only two paid positions; one, to mow the church cemetery, located north on Jefferson Street in Buffalo, and one is a shared youth minister with St. Alphonsus and St. Mary parishes, Davenport.

The official membership is 92 families, but there are plenty of children in that mix: 35 at the latest count.

Mosier describes the congregation as "close-knit," as everyone knows everyone else.

This is helped by the fact there is only one weekly Mass, at 9 a.m. Sundays. Larry Cawiezell, Blue Grass, joined the church 10 years ago with his wife.

"We got to know everyone by going to the one Mass," he said. "We've felt welcomed since we started on day 1."

Good eats, strong finances

St. Peter's is known in the diocese for its good food, Mosier said, including Mexican food from a family of Mexican heritage. 

"When we ask, we have more than enough food prepared and donated to us," Hansen said.

It's also a financially secure congregation, Mosier said; when the gathering space was built 13 years ago, the residents were asked to raise half the construction costs. Instead, they raised $90,000, or the total cost for the space.

"We are financially solvent," said Ammeter, who converted to Catholicism years ago.

The congregation has worried about being closed over the years, but passionate volunteers, such as those on the sesquicentennial committee, work hard to keep up the activity level and their historic worship space, to be celebrated this month.