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 and Marie have both gone to their eternal reward, and are still missed.
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 said many Masses here. Fr. Martin also occasionally helps out, and we were blessed to have Fr. Leonard helping for many years.
Fr. Klaers was pastor for over 25 years. Fr. Ralph Huar was then our pastor for several months. He supervised the decorating of the gathering space. Then we had a parish administrator for ? years. Then Fr. Jay Kythe arrived, the youngest pastor we have had in recent memory. He was our pastor for 8 years. We were then sent Fr. Ortega, who was pastor for 2 years. Currently we are being served by Fr. Terry Beesen. Throughout these changes, the parish has thrived, due to our wonderful volunteers.
Our parish campus consists of our beautiful Gothic style church, and the adjoining gathering space which was dedicated December 22, 2002. While controversial at first, it has been put to good use. Many funeral dinners, fundraisers and family events have been held in the space. In addition, the parish office is downstairs, along with several classrooms used for Faith Formation. Dating back to our Catholic School years is the adjoining convent, which has been lovingly modernized. Finally we have the rectory, which has been somewhat modernized.
As is evident, this parish has always been a mixture of German and Irish, as it still is, with an occasional Scandinavian. 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.
We also have a large group of worshipers coming for our Mass in the Extraordinary form, otherwise known as the Latin Mass. We have had a variety of priests preside at this, and are currently blessed to have Fr. Kubista in residence to minister to these parishioners.