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St Joseph / St Olaf

Serving the Catholic Community

 

History

St Olaf

History - St Olaf, DeForest

In 1948, 28 families gathered together with Father Nicholas Schneider (organizer and first pastor) to give their support to the establishing of a church in De Forest. A portable altar was set up on the stage of the Norway Theatre, and the first Mass was offered on July 11, 1948.

The congregation moved to the Opera House Building on June 18, 1950. After much cleaning and renovating, this facility became the temporary home of the growing parish. Donations of the altar, confessional, and stations of the cross, were made by several diocesan parishes.

Fr. Schneider was replaced by Fr. Ziegler in June 1952, and a site for a permanent parish center became a reality with the purchase of land parcels from the Willard Schumann estate. During these years, Bishop O’Connor was in close contact and St. Olaf became the first newly established parish of his episcopate over the Madison Diocese. In 1956, Fr. William De Bock became the first resident pastor and a rectory was built on Holum Street in 1957.

The parish was growing. It soon became obvious that better facilities had to be provided. Believing they could meet a goal of approximately $155,000, the parishioners voted to build a Parish Center. With the Bishop’s consent and approval, the present Parish Center was constructed. The Bishop’s personal gift of a hand-carved statue of St. Olaf was presented to the congregation.

The Parish Center facilities included four classrooms; an all-purpose room used for liturgical, social, and athletic functions; a kitchen and a chapel; so that later the structure could be used as a parochial school. The first Mass in the new building was said on Easter Sunday of 1963.

In September of 1967, Fr. August Buenzli replaced Father De Bock. Over the past few years, it had become evident that a parochial school was not likely. During his four years at St. Olaf, Father Buenzli worked with the people on their ultimate dream of a church.

Fr. James Mattucci replaced Father Buenzli in June of 1971. The following year, Father Donald Murray was appointed the new pastor. Each played an important part in the history, growth, and development of the parish.

In 1972, a building committee was formed to begin the biggest project of all. The whole parish enthusiastically cooperated, and a very generous contribution in February 1973 enabled the parish to move ahead ever earlier with its plans. The overwhelming backing of the more than 300 families gave the “go-ahead” for the building of a new church and rectory at an approximate cost of $450,000. After months of planning, ground was broken on Easter Sunday, April 14, 1974. Thanksgiving Day of that year was set as the goal for the first Mass in the new church. That goal was met.

For the first time since its beginning, St. Olaf Parish found itself with a pastor and associate pastor. In 1975, Father John Collins joined the growing church community. In his honor and as a reminder of all he brought to the parish, the chapel in the new church was renamed the Chapel of St. Theresa, the Little Flower.

June 1978 found Father John Urban guiding the still growing parish family. The cemetery in back of the church was given additional landscaping via “family tree planting” project on Arbor Day in 1980. Families donated trees and shrubs and came together that day to plant them as living memorials. A statue of the risen Christ in the middle of the cemetery is a reminder to all Christians of our ultimate goal. Later the parish sought additional ways to fulfill the God-given mission of parish. Although the vision of a parochial school did not come to fruition, the parish began to send $500 a month to a mission in Brazil in 1982. At the end of Father Urban’s time as pastor, the parish mortgage was fully paid off.

In 1985, Fathers Raymond Maier and Clarence Koch came to the parish. They continued to augment the prevailing high spiritual and cooperative values of the parishioners. In June of 1989, Father Daniel Finnane replaced Father Maier as pastor. He reorganized the pastoral council which opened avenues of fuller participation for the whole parish. A Strategic Planning Task Force was established to guide the parishioners in their spiritual as well as material needs of the future. It was during Fr. Finnane’s service that St. Olaf celebrated its Golden Jubilee Year.

The Golden Jubilee Year also marked the beginning of another pastorate, that of Father Gary Wankerl. During his leadership, Fr. Wankerl remodeled the interior of the parish church and also guided the parish in the construction of the addition to the parish center that created more office space for a growing staff and growing community. It was also during his time that the resident pastor was to serve another parish – St. Joseph in East Bristol.

St. Olaf Parish, as of July 2015, is presently guided by Father Vince Brewer. The parish today consists of a membership of over 800 families.