St. John the Baptist
ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, MINNESOTA LAKE – 1865
The first settlers that formed the nucleus of the present congregation settled in Danville Township. They came here about 1856. Their names are familiar: Kremer, Phillips, Sonnek, Eschbach, Moser, Schaller, and others. The nearest thing to a Christian heart is a church, and hence our Christian pioneers of this parish took measures to build their new church. In April 1865, the faith community in Danville Township brought lumber from Mankato and built a little church about three miles northeast from Minnesota Lake.
The little community was attended from Mankato by Fr. Sommereisen, who held services at their little church about once a month. After him, Fr. Theodore Venn from St. Mary’s, Wisner’s Grove ministered the spiritual wants of our pioneers. Fr. Bernard Baumann of Wisner’s Grove was the last priest who held regular services in the memorable little church on the plains of Danville. The Danville Catholics loved their little church and made the churchyard their last resting place. Thus, many of them were buried there. As the Catholic community began to increase, the need for a larger building was in order. Families with the name Evan, Troska, Bach, Cole, Schuster, Stencel, Staloch and others began to settle in or near the village of Minnesota Lake. In 1884 it was then decided to move the Catholic community to the nearby village of Minnesota Lake. The little pioneer church building of Danville was taken down around 1902. Early in the spring of 1884 Bishop Ireland sent to Minnesota Lake a young priest, Fr. Henry Jazdzenski to take charge of the Catholic community. Services then were held by him in the old frame school building. As soon as frost was out of the ground the foundation of a new building in town for the members of St. John the Baptist was laid. The contract of $4,000 was let and the church was ready for services in the fall of that same year. It was dedicated by Archbishop Ireland in July, 1886. The lots on which the present church stands were donated by Nicholas Kremer.
Father Thomas Duane, then of Mapleton, looked after the interest of the congregation for about a year until Fr. John Hanak of Wells got the charge of this parish in August 1886 and was in charge of it until he died in April, 1895. While he looked after the interests of this congregation he built the steeple of the church and also bought the church bell. It was during Fr. Charles Koeberl’s administration that the present cemetery grounds were purchased. In March 1898, Bishop Cotter then assigned Fr. Mattson to the parish of Minnesota Lake. Fr. Mattson was the first resident priest so the people built a parish house for him.
The Bishop sent Fr. John Ciezynski to Minnesota Lake January 1899. He gave up this place and Father Hieronimus Daszkowski was sent in August 1901 as pastor to Minnesota Lake until 1903 and then returning in 1916 through 1933. Since 1901 through the next 50 years St. John’s congregation made many improvements in and about the church which are due to the good will and generosity of the parishioners. Fathers John Mikolai, E.J. Van Hoenacker, M.J. Holper, Leo Gossmann, Clement Steger, John Hurynowicz, John Misiak were the priests who served the growing parish of Minnesota Lake. In November 1950, The Most Reverend Edward A. Fitzgerald, Bishop of the Diocese of Winona, sent Father Syxtus Burg to serve the parish of St. John’s. Together, Fr. Burg and dedicated members of St. John’s decided with the growing of the community a newer and larger church building was needed. On Sunday, March 5, 1951, Mass was celebrated for the last time in the 65 year old church. The old church was removed to make way for the new present day church which occupies the same site and on March 9, 1952 the new $155,661.00 church was completed. In 1957 a new convent was also constructed as a home for the School Sisters of Notre Dame and for those who served the catechetical school. Sisters Jerome, Vianney, Robertine, Kenneth, Aquin Svoboda, Helene Schmitz, Catherine, Helen, Medulpha and Sister Aloysia all have served the parish of St. John the Baptist.
St. John the Baptist parish is proud of our son and daughters who have joined the vocation of priesthood and sisterhood. Father Gregory Stenzel, son of Anton and Julia Stenzel, was ordained on December 17, 1949 at the Sacred Heart Seminary in Shelby, Ohio. Sisters of the Parish include Sister Mary Angelica Osdoba, Sister Theresa Mary Bach, Sister Mary Bernard Bach, Sister Mary Elise Evan, Sister Mary Magdalene Kapfer, Sister Carmen Sonnek and Sister Mary Patricia Volz.
To this day, Father Burg remains the longest serving priest at St. John the Baptist. Fathers Donald Loosbrock, Francis Ryan, Francis Glynn, Eugene Stenzel, William Kulas, John Wilmot, Mark McNea, Thomas Niehaus and Father Andrew Vogel have all served the faith community of St. John’s. Recently, 3 past priests of St. John the Baptist have been elevated to Monsignor; Monsignor Gerald Kosse, Monsignor Thomas Cook and Monsignor Richard Coletti. Since the early 1990’s, Minnesota Lake has been clustered with Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Easton. Then in 2005, St. Casimir’s Parish in Wells joined the cluster. Deacon Eugene Paul, a son of OLMC parish, has been the cluster’s spiritual and administrative assistant since then.
In 2008, dedicated members, spearheaded a vision of making the church building handicap accessible. Renovations were completed keeping the integrity and beauty of St. John the Baptist as our forefathers would have wanted. This was not only a beautiful gift for the parish family but also for the community at large.
God has abundantly blessed us here at St. John the Baptist and for this we are all humbly grateful.