Fr. Martin McDonnell was instrumental to both the community of Iona and St. Columba Parish as the two, church and town, developed together. It was Fr. McDonnell who platted and planned Iona, naming it in member of the Isle of Iona in Scotland. St. Columba was a missionary in Scotland. Iona-St. Columba was also home to an orphanage, the Sacred Heart Home, built before the church. The first St. Columba Church was really no more than a barn that also served as shelter for Fr. McDonnell’s mule and his residence. St. Columba Parish was in existence before the Diocese of Winona was created and was included in the Diocese of St. Paul. the cornerstone for the first Church of St. Columba was set on July 14, 1891, by Bishop Joseph Cotter.
Education was important to the parishioners and it didn’t take long for a school to be built. The school was started shortly aftewr the church was established and opened in 1901. TGhe Sisters of St. Joseph taught until 1912 when the Sisters of ST. Francis, Rochester, became the teachers at St. Coilubma School The first class graduated in 1921. The last high school class to graduate was in 1964. In 1948, the church hall was built and is used today for church and community events. A new church was built and dedicated on July 11, 1971, with Fr. Donald Olson as pastor.
It was with much pride that St. Columba nurtured vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Fr. Aloysius Wermerskirchen was the first St. Columba was teh first St. Columba son to enter the priesthood. The Frs. Edward Scheuring, Louis Scheuring, Raymond Lieser, Joseph Galour, Francis Galles, and Tim Biren followed. William Culbert died while in the seminary. As a particular blessing to the parish, Fr. Edward Scheuring retired to St. Columba Parish and thus enabled the parish to continue to have a full-time priest to celebrate daily Mass for another 20 years.
Twenty-five young women entered the religious life from St. Columba. The Sisters of St. Francis, Rochester, received 12; four joined the St. Francis Convent in Dubuque, Iowa; two joined the St. Elizabeth Convent in Alleghany, New York; three joined the St. Rose Convent in LaCrosse, Wisconsin; two joined the St. Joseph Convent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and two joined the St. Joseph Convent in St. Paul.
Many fine priests have served the parish. After Fr. McDonnell, St. Columba Parish became a mission of Fulda and Fr. Mathias Borresch was the pastor. In 1900, Fr. Francis Freckman became the first resident pastor with Frs. Mathias Jostock, Joseph Schneider, John Dolle, Anthony Hennekes, Paul Britz, Stephan Majerus, Malley, George Smith, James Fasnacht, Edward Klein, Harold Gavin, Clayton Haberman, Harry Jewison, Don Olson, Charles Quinn, and Don Lovas as resident pastors. In 1978, St. Columba became a mission of St. Ann Parish in Slayton, and Fr. Donald Zenk became the pastor. The priests that followed were: Frs. Donald Halloran and Hilary Brixius. Both parishes then became a mission of St. Gabriel in Fulda, served by Frs. Greg Leif and Eugene Egan. St. Columba then and finally has become a mission of St. Ann in Slayton, served by Frs. Mark McNea, Patrick Arens, James Seitz, Gregory Parrott and Thien Van Nguyen.
(Information garnered from the writings of Leona Scully Kremer.)