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Old Sanctuary was previously the St. Thomas More Catholic Church. The church, built in 1952-53, is the second of two Catholic churches that sat at the corner of 4th Street and Medary Avenue. The first church was built in 1906, but as the parish grew, so did the need for additional space. In 1941, Pastor Francix X. Dooley, recognized the need for a larger building and started a building fund. In the early 1950s, he and some parish members began looking for building designs. One of their trips was to St. Anne's Parish in Wabasso, MN. The committee believed that a similar structure would serve the needs of the Brookings parish, so St. Anne's gave them a copy of the plans. Hasslen Construction of Ortonville, MN built the church.

Before construction of the new church began, the first church needed to be moved. Members of the parish removed the brick façade from the wooden structure before moving it from the site.

On August 31, 1952, Bishop William O. Brady of the Sioux Falls Diocese laid the cornerstone of the new church. The first mass in the new church was held on Easter Sunday, 1953.

In 1957, the parish added 12 panes of stained-glass windows at a cost of $5,000. Each of the windows told a story, half from the Old Testament and half from the New.

In 1959, Father Dooley left after more than 44 years at the parish and was followed by Boston-born John J. McEneaney. Father McEneaney's nine years at St. Thomas More were a time of enormous growth. The parish built both a new rectory and catechetical center. The rectory and the school were built by the Jilper brothers Construction of Mitchell and were completed in the summer of 1964.

The parish continued to grow, and during the late 1980s began discussion building a larger church. In 1999, St. Thomas More moved to its new location at the corner of 8th Street South and 17th Avenue. The second church remained empty until it was sold in November of 2002 and became known as Old Sanctuary.

Few modifications were needed on the sturdy building. New heating and air-conditioning units were added, and bathrooms were installed on the main floor. The catechetical center was converted to office spaces, and five additional offices were built in the church basement. The rectory now houses three large apartments.

The church itself, now known as Old Sanctuary Auditorium, began hosting receptions and public events in April of 2003.

(Thank you to Elly Kelzenberg for sharing her research into the history of Old Sanctuary.)

The Old Sanctuary


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