History of the Catholic Church in Mineral Point

The Early Church in Mineral Point…
In 1835, Father Samuel Mazzuchelli arrived in MIneral Point. He was a Dominican priest from Milan, Italy and was also the first priest to come to Mineral Point. He celebrated the first Mass in a log cabin in the booming mining town. After his first visit, Fr. Mazzuchelli continued to come to Mineral Point once a month to celebrate Mass in Catholic homes. Many people from the town came to him to ask him to baptize their children and anoint the sick. All of the early immigrants to Mineral Point did not have the opportunity to receive the sacraments regularly, so many Catholics eagerly awaited Fr. Mazzuchelli's visits. Eventually after a few years, Fr. Mazzuchelli left for northern Illinois to help the Catholic population there.

Saint Paul Parish...
In 1841, Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli was succeeded by Father James Causse, who picked up on Fr. Mazzuchelli's monthly visits. He was the priest at St. Thomas Parish in Potosi. Mineral Point served as the mission parish of St. Thomas. In 1842, four lots were purchased from parishioners to build the first church. A limestone church was built by the end of that year and was dedicated to Saint Paul. The new parish was mostly of Irish heritage. In 1842, the Milwaukee diocese was formed with John Henni named the first bishop. St. Paul’s was put into the Milwaukee diocese. In 1845, Bishop Henni made the long journey to Mineral Point to bless St. Paul’s. Bishop Henni then named Father Victor Jonneault as the first resident pastor of St. Paul’s. Fr. Jonneault bought two lots to build a rectory. He also built a small brick school building on the church property, which was the one of the first Catholic schools in Wisconsin. In 1849, there was a cholera outbreak in Mineral Point. The faithful Catholic parishioners of St. Paul’s prayed and consecrated themselves to the Perpetual Help of Mary. Not a single member of the parish died of the disease! In thanksgiving for this saving help, the parishioners formed a “Perpetual Help Society." In 1851, the growing parish needed a cemetery. The congregation decided to buy one acre of land near the church to form the cemetery. The original cemetery is adjacent to the current St. Paul cemetery. Many of the founding members are buried there. The parish continued to grow rapidly. The stone church was growing too small for Mass to be celebrated there. Father James McGowan became pastor of St. Paul’s and help to build the new St. Paul’s. This new church would be about double the size of the stone church. The congregation agreed to save the old stone church and place it under the title of “mission church.” Fr. McGowan left in 1857, after one year of his pastorate.  Father Francis McGann became pastor in 1857 and helped finish the church building project. It was formally dedicated on July 28, 1860.

In 1860, St. Paul’s was linked with St. Bridget in Ridgeway and St. Patrick in Waldwick. They were missions, which meant that Fr. McGann had less time to devote to St. Paul’s. In 1870, Fr. McGann died at St. Paul’s. He is buried in the old St. Paul cemetery. Father James O’Keefe became pastor after the death of Fr. McGann. He stayed in Mineral Point for 39 years. During that time, Ridgeway and Waldwick were elevated to a parish, not a mission, so St. Paul’s was once again it’s own parish. Father L. P. O’ Reilly followed Fr. O’Keefe. During his pastorate, St. Paul’s was demolished to get ready to build yet another larger church for the huge congregation. It was finished in 1911 at a cost of $20,000. This church is the current St. Paul’s Church. The ladies of the parish were in charge of decorating and painting the new church and the men of the parish purchased the first pipe organ for the church. Fr. O’Reilly died in 1925, right after his silver jubilee of priesthood. Father M. Morris and Father Ambrose McDonald succeeded Fr. O’Reilly. Many things were done during that time. The sanctuary was enlarged, a boiler system was put in the church, new altars were installed, and a new electronic pipe organ was bought. From 1961 to 1971, four different pastors were assigned to St. Paul’s. During this time, the sanctuary and church were remodeled to reflect the changes of Vatican II. Father Larry Clark was the last pastor of St. Paul’s as an individual parish before the merging of St. Mary's and St. Paul's.

Saint Mary’s Parish...
St. Mary’s Parish was established in 1870. The German residents of Mineral Point wanted a church for themselves. The parishioners erected the first church in 1870 and was dedicated to St. Mary of the Nativity. Father F. X. Weinhart was named the first pastor of the new church. In 1871, the Dominican Sisters of Racine helped to start St. Mary’s school. It had 75 students in 1871 with two sisters as teachers. A parish cemetery was established on the road to Madison- it is still in use today. Between 1878 and 1900, St. Mary’s had 5 priests. Each had their own ideas about how to run the German church. At this time, the Mass was celebrated in German and Latin. At Christmastime in 1900, Father Nicholas Weyer became pastor at St. Mary’s. He was a strong leader for the parish. During his pastorate, he headed a massive building project: rebuilding St. Mary’s Church, St. Mary’s School, Saint Mary's Convent and a new Rectory. He was assisted by several men from the parish. The new church was finished in 1901. The church is very large for churches of the time. The mansion-like rectory was finished soon after. The school was finished in 1904. The top floor was used as a temporary convent and the other floors were occupied by the school children during the school day. In 1914, a clock was installed in the church steeple. It is four-faced and the bells could be heard throughout the city every hour when the clock was working. After the new church was built, the German language was used less and less as the German immigrants began to die.  Fr. Weyer died at St. Mary’s in 1927. From 1928 to 1970, nine pastors were assigned to St. Mary’s. In 1935, St. Paul’s school merged with St. Mary’s school. The Sisters moved out of the third floor convent and into a nearby house to make more room for the school children. In 1959, the enrollment increased due to the closing of several rural schools. In 1961, Bishop William P. O’Connor helped the St. Mary and St. Paul Merged School with renovations. Classrooms were added; lighting, heat, and plumbing were installed. They put a new addition on the west end which is now the gym, lunch room, meeting room and restrooms with showers. There was enough room in the school to hold 350 students. In the mid-1960’s the last of the School Sisters resigned from the school and it was forced to close. Over 99 years of Catholic education in Mineral Point had come to an end. In 1969, Father N. J. Feyereisen was named pastor. He would be the last pastor of St. Mary’s as an individual parish.

Ss. Mary and Paul Parish…
In 1978, St. Paul and St. Mary were joined into one parish. Father Jerold Fitzpatrick was named the first pastor of the merged parishes. Fr. Fitzpatrick decided to live in the rectory at St. Mary’s, so the St. Paul rectory was sold. Father Archie Adams succeeded Fr. Fitzpatrick, and remained here until 1993. Father Thomas Segerson was named our new pastor in 1994. As soon as he arrived, he discussed the possibility of redecorating St. Mary's church. Many parish members donated to the project which turned out very beautiful and a great testimony to the faith in Mineral Point. Fr. Segerson retired in 1998 and Father James W. Hinnen was assigned to the parish. During his pastorate, the altars and woodwork were redone in the church. Also during that time, it was decided that St. Paul’s would be put up for sale because of maintenance issues. This was a sad time for many parishioners because they lost their beloved church building. In years since, St. Mary’s had many updates including air conditioning, concrete around the church, new landscaping, cleaning of our beautiful stained glass, a new nativity scene, and a new church roof. Fr. Hinnen retired in 2011. Father Monte E. Robinson took over as pastor. During this time, Ss. Mary and Paul Parish was linked with St. Philomena Parish in Belmont due to the priest shortage. We currently share a Mass schedule. In 2015, due to the ill health of Father Robinson, Father James Leeser was assigned to our parish. In late-2015, Father Robinson was awarded a papal honor and named a Monsignor. On December 28, 2015, Msgr. Monte passed away into eternal life. Fr. Leeser served as pastor until July 2018. Father Michael Tarigopula was assigned to our parish in July 2018 and is our current pastor.

 

Parishioners continue to take pride in what they and their ancestors have accomplished for God in Mineral Point.

 

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