Nebraska November 07, 2016
The Chapel In Nebraska That’s Located In The Most Unforgettable Setting
Every little country church in Nebraska has its own individual sense of charm, but St. Germanus in Arapahoe is a truly stunning example of a small-town church that everyone should make an effort to visit.
The church itself has a long history. The first church building to serve Arapahoe was a sod structure built in 1879, which was replaced in 1886 by the wood-frame St. Germanus Catholic Church. The simple little church has been serving the community for generations.
Next to the church, a rather surprising sight awaits. A large shrine filled with statues and beautiful flowering plants sits at the edge of the asphalt parking lot.
The shrine seems elaborate for such a small parish in such a small town. This is the type of display you would probably never expect to find in south-central Nebraska in a town of just over 1,000 people.
The Our Lady of Fatima Shrine was the work of Father Henry Denis and members of the community. Father Denis was a Polish priest who was held in a series of prisons and concentration camps, including Dachau, during World War II.
Father Denis remained faithful throughout his ordeal. After a particularly harrowing incident in which the priest narrowly escaped death, he vowed to build a shrine to the Blessed Mother should he leave the camp alive.
Father Denis was freed in 1945 and soon after immigrated to America, where he was assigned to St. Germanus Parish in Arapahoe in 1949. By 1956, his vow was fulfilled: he built a breathtaking shrine to Our Lady of Fatima. In addition to the large likeness of Mary are several statues of animals, praying children, and angels. The large stone in front of Mary reads: "To the immaculate Mother of God and our heavenly mother, Our Lady of Fatima, with hope and prayer for peace, Rev. Henry J. Denis and his friends of all faiths, 1956, E. Pluribus Unum."
Two memorial markers also stand in this space; one is dedicated from Father Denis to the soldiers who liberated the prisoners of Nazi concentration camps. The other is dedicated to historic Polish soldier Casimir Pulaski, one of the "fathers of the American cavalry."
Other statues and quiet places for reflection have been added to the shrine over the years, including a beautiful statue of Rachel weeping for her children. Everyone of every faith is welcome here, whether it is to pray or to simply walk the grounds and remember the sacrifice of those who made the shrine possible.
The grounds are lovingly cared for by the community, and every spring and summer the air is filled with the sweet smell of flowers and blooming trees and shrubs. The simple little church looks so peaceful sitting next to this exceptional shrine that was built with so much love.
It is impossible to wander these grounds without feeling an overwhelming sense of peace and gratitude. You can find the St. Germanus Church and Our Lady of Fatima Shrine at 912 Chestnut Street, Arapahoe, or four blocks west of the Highway 283 and Highway 6/34 intersection.
For more of Nebraska’s most beautiful churches, have a look at