In 1856, J. Joseph Fox walked to St. Paul to ask Bishop Cretin for a Catholic Priest to baptize area children, hear confessions and distribute Holy Communion. People had to walk or ride horses to New Trier for Mass at that time. St. Joseph’s Church of Douglas was founded in the spring of 1873 as a mission of St. Boniface Parish in Hastings by Bishop Grace. The Rev. George Scherer, OSB was the first pastor. He came to Miesville every second Sunday. In 1882 the parish was incorporated, Priests continued to come from Hastings, then the presiding pastors came from New Trier. The original church, built in 1873, was torn down in 1908.
The present church was erected in 1907, but struck by lightning on August 27, 1913. All that remained from the resulting fire were the brick walls. The church was rebuilt, and dedicated October 25, 1914.
We have also had the benefit of many priests who were not pastors helping in our parish over the years. When Father Duhr was dying of cancer in 1946, a just ordained priest was sent to us. His name was Father James Shannon, who later would become an auxiliary Bishop in this Archdiocese. In his autobiography he mentioned how happy he was here. Unfortunately, he was not told to refrain from drinking the water from the cistern, and became ill almost until unto death. We also had Fr. Chester Cappuci from the Red Wing Training School helping before Fr. Klaers came. Bishop Ham lived in the rectory with his delightful housekeeper Maria Elena from 1984 until 1990. He often said Mass here, and both were important members of our community.
In July of 1991, Fr. Mike O’Connor arrived with his housekeeper Marie Lorenz, to fill the hole in our hearts left by the departure of Bishop Ham and Maria Elena. Fr. Mike became our priest in residence, as we had been sharing Fr. Klaers with New Trier, where he resided. Where ever two or more were gathered, there was Fr. Mike. Few parties, graduations, First Communion dinners or any other important event was held for the next 14 years without Fr. Mike, and Marie when she could manage to get away from her work. Fr. Mike was taken from us in December of 2005 to go to his eternal reward and is greatly missed. Marie is still among us, quietly going amout her many jobs, the most important being sacristan.
We have also been blessed by having the Siebenaler priests to help out. They grew up on a farm outside New Trier, so are related or know many in this community. Fr. John lived in an apartment in the convent before moving to Hastings, and has said many Masses here. Fr. Martin also occasionally helps out. Fr. Leonard alternates saying Masses every other weekend with Fr. Jay, as we must share Fr. Jay with Cannon Falls. Without these wonderful men to help, we would not have the ready access to the sacraments that we now have.
Other then the change in pastors after having Fr. Klaers for over 25 years, the arrival of Fr. Jay, the youngest pastor we have had in recent memory, and the passing of Fr. Mike of happy memory, the most noteworthy event in the last 5 years has been the construction of the new parish hall. The idea started with the acknowledged need for accessible restrooms, and grew from there. Meetings, sometimes acrimonious, took place over 2 1/2 years. We did not want to change the inside of our Gothic church. A big sticking point was the kitchen. A finance committee was formed, and pledges were solicited. On March 25, 2002, excavation finally started.
The new space was dedicated December 22, 2002. Fr. Ralph Huar had finished the decorating of the new space, and had a vision for extensive landscaping around the church, so the beautiful gardens were planted. The Parish Hall has been used for wedding receptions, Boy Scout Court of Honor, anniversary dinners, birthday parties, many pancake breakfasts, St. Patrick’s Day dinners, Cana Dinners, vacation bible school events, visitations and funeral dinners. We wonder how we ever got along without the hall.
As is evident, this parish has always been a mixture of German and Irish, as it still is, with an occasional Scandinavian, usually a convert allowed in. The parish historical boundaries are roughly the Mississippi and the Welch township boundary to the east, 220th street to the north, Lillehei to the west, and 280th street to the south. We have drawn people outside those boundaries for many years, people drawn here for our conservative liturgies, small town atmosphere, and beautiful church building.