In 1857, the first Mass was offered in the Sam Schmitt home, the father of Veronica Johnson and Barbara Born, on the site of the Adrian Rademacher residence, about two miles southeast of Waconia. The first church was built out of logs in 1859 on what is now the front lawn of the rectory.
Our ancestors quickly outgrew this log church and built a larger brick church in 1875 on the southeast corner of the same block, where the rectory driveway is today. Within twenty years it was outgrown, so a new church was planned and built on the present site in 1900. It remains today. What marvelous foresight our ancestors had in building the house of God we have today. This church can still accommodate our parishioners now, over a hundred years later.
Our church is Romanesque style, with beautiful classical lines, and remains much as it was when the Franciscans built it. The church is approximately 160 ft. long, and 72 ft. at the transepts (i.e. widest parts). The steeple is 150 feet high.
Engineers say the granite rock foundation can last at least two hundred more years. Cash outlay of the parish was less then $30,000.00 (1900 cash figures).
The interior of the church remains much as it was when the Franciscans built it. There was a slight renovation in 1989, when the hand carved Communion rail became a banister in the loft. The main altar of Romanesque style is of butternut wood. The Franciscan influence is present in many of the church objects and art. On the high altar are St. Francis Assisi and St. Anthony, both Franciscans. Our Church Patron, St. Joseph is high over the reredo or high altar.
On the Sacred Heart altar stands St. Louis, who is the patron of the Third Order Franciscans. St. Aloysius, patron of Catholic youth, is also present on this altar. Behind the glass window is the statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague.
On the Blessed Mother’s altar, the Immaculate Conception statue is prominent. To the left is St. Elizabeth of Hungary, patroness of women who are Franciscan Third Order of Tertiaries. Opposite her is St. Rose of Lima, patroness of the Americas. Behind the glass is an Icon of our Lady of Perpetual Help.
At the side door is the beautiful “Pieta,” that of the sorrowing Virgin Mary.
In 1989 when the church was redecorated, as the statues were renovated, we discovered that six of the statues were wood carved: St. Francis, St. Louis, St. Anthony, St. Aloysius, St. Elizabeth, and St. Rose. In 1989 the church received a slight alteration and repainting. That is, the Communion rail was moved to the choir loft, and two pews were added up front. The new pews of oak were installed, as were the carpet, and additional ceiling lights. The walls and ceiling were repainted, with new gold leaf to resemble the Baroque Romanesque era.
The wood Stations had arch tops added in keeping with the Romanesque style. The choir loft was opened up in the 1989 project, with the removal of side storage rooms. The 1927 Mission cross was suspended from the loft ceiling.
In 1994, a narthex, or gathering space, was added to the front of the church. There is now a spacious gathering area on the main level, elevator, and handicapped restrooms on the lower level. The $747,000 project was a most welcome addition and has proven to be a well utilized and necessary addition to our church.
The Narthex stained-glass windows were made by Fairmont Art Glass, located in Fairmont, Minnesota. The largest west window is that of the glorified Christ, flanked by St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary. In the tops of the window are symbols of St. Joseph, Universal Church, lilies, and carpenter’s tools. The north window is dedicated to our youth with the image of the Guardian Angel. The southeast window is from the Old Testament Joseph, about whom it was urged to “Go to Joseph.”
The church basement was made into our Parish Center and classrooms for our Faith Formation students in the early 1980’s. A more accessible nursery was installed in 1994. The “Brick Room” was a favorite – it is situated directly below the sanctuary. On April 2, 2005 it was dedicated to the Sisters of Christian Charity and renamed as the Charity Chapel. Morning Mass and Eucharistic Adoration are held in this chapel. The Sisters of Christian Charity served the parish from 1888 – 1982.
To meet the educational facility needs of our growing parish, the decision was made in the year 2000 to build a new Education Center on the same block as the 1908 school building. This education center replaced our 94 year-old school building and provides facility space for all our educational ministries.
The $5 million, 55,000 square foot Education Center accommodates our growing faith formation classes, parochial school, youth ministry, adult education, social events, sporting events, and administrative staff. The building offers a large gymnasium, cafeteria/commons, technology center, media center, art room, science room, preschool, and 19 classrooms. The parochial school has the ability to accommodate two sections of each grade kindergarten through eighth grade. This is over twice the capacity of the 1908 building. The Education Center was dedicated on September 22, 2002.
Over the years our parish has grown and flourished due to God’s blessings and the extraordinary sacrifices of our people. We have reaped the benefits from our ancestors’ vision and now have the responsibility to continue this vision to ensure the church’s presence in lives of our children and grandchildren.
Catholic Church began in 1857, and has served the spiritual needs of our parish family marking important milestones throughout our lives.