St. Mary


The original members of St. Mary Parish numbered 11 families with names still familiar in the community of Lake Wilson yet today: the Mihins, Nett, Berreau, Hook, Manderscheid, Radermacher, Flannery and Goeppel. These families understood the importance of the Mass as the center of their faith. They wanted very much to organize a Catholic church and their wish came to fruition in 1916.

St. Mary Parish in Lake Wilson has the distinction of always being a mission parish. Fr. Michael O’Regan, from St. Ann Parish in Slayton, celebrated the first Mass in Lake Wilson in the home of E.W. Hook in 1916. In 1920, the people purchased land and a church building from the United Evangelical Church of Plymouth County, Iowa, and renovated the building for a grand total of $2000. The deed is dated June 4, 1920.

Mass time never varied in the beginning. A priest from either Avoca or Slayton would travel to Lake Wilson for an 8:00 am Sunday morning Mass. In later years, priests from Woodstock and Pipestone filled in as the priest for the parish.

In September 1949, a building committee was formed to plan for a new church—a basement church. With new families moving into the town and surrounding area of Lake Wilson, the tiny church that was purchased in 1920 was becoming too small. Many methods were used to help fund the construction of the basement church. The most memorable was a boxing bout held at the Lake Wilson park. Jackie Graves and an opponent from Luverne were the contestants. The history books tell us a good sum of money was raised for the construction project!

The basement church was completed in the Fall of 1950. In January 1952, the sidewalks were poured. Whatever could be salvaged from the old wooden structure was used in the new basement church. The Catholic community, with help from their friends of other denominations, started work on the “superstructure” of the church in 1958. While construction was taking place, Mass was celebrated in the basement gym of the old high school in Lake Wilson. The first Mass in the new church was the Funeral Mass for one of the founding fathers of St. Mary’s: Fred Berreau, in 1959.

Through the years, until present, continued improvements and aditions took place—classrooms were built, confessionals remodeled, kitchen improvement in the basement, a new organ, and air conditions was installed.

The priests who have faithfully served this parish include: Frs. O’Regan, Lawrence Gavin, Patrick Kearney, Alan McShane, Paul Sainsbury, John McShane, William Anderson, Bernel DesLauriers, Joseph Frisch, Kenneth Clinton, Edmund Guerber, Bernard Kerrigan, Harold Gavin, Joseph Mountain, Leland Smith, Sylvester Brown, James Hennessy, James Dandelet, Andrew Olsem, Donald Olson, Eugene Egan, Hilary Brixious, John Oxbun, Jim Berning, Matthew Vanissery, Mark McNea, Patrick Arens, James Seitz, Gregory Parrott and Thien Van Nguyen.