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St. Casimir Parish - Wells MN

A brief parish history from the 1953 Church Dedication Memories Book

This history of St. Casimir Parish began with a few scattered families, without a spiritual director. In 1881 and 1882 it could count only a few families. Later on many Polish families moved into this community directly from Prussian Silesia.

Some of the first Catholic settlers were: P. Forbes, Joseph Morris, Michael Hanlon, John A. Flynn, William Callahan, Thomas Hines, Ed Hayes, P. Downs, and some others.

In the '80's the need was felt for a new church rather than meeting in the homes, as was presently being done. These few families formed the nucleus of the new large St. Casimir congregation. Praying for Divine Guidance for the erection of a house of worship. God blessed the work.

This was only a modest frame building, measuring 60x26, and valued at $1,600.00.

The first priest who attended this mission in the early days was Father Theodore Venn. In 1883 Rev. H. Jazdzewski was sent to look after the spiritual interests of this mission. The following year Rev. Jazdzewski was transferred, at which time Rev. Theodore Venn had charge of this place until 1886, when Father John Hanak came here as the first resident priest.

The Rev. Father Hanak died in April, 1895, and the Rev. John Kopera succeeded him in the parish of St. Casimir. He also had charge of Minnesota Lake as resident pastor. Rev. Kopera resigned the St. Casimir Parish in July, 1898. In his place the Rt. Rev. J. B. Cotter, D. D., the Bishop of Winona Diocese, assigned the Rev. John H. Cieszynski to take charge of both Min- nesota Lake and Wells. He chose Minnesota Lake as his resident place, making Wells a mission to the former. However, late in 1899, the Rev. Cieszynski changed his residence to Wells, at which time plans were made to excavate for the second St. Casimir Church. Before winter set in, the foundation for the second church was completed.

Divine worship continued to be held in the old church until the new one was dedicated. Then the old frame church was sold, and thus the first church passed into history of St. Casimir.

The second church, a red, pressed brick building with Jasper granite trimming, was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, the year 1900, by the Rt. Rev. Cotter. The cost of this building was about $20,000.00.

After the death of Rev. Cieszynski on March 13, 1907, he was succeeded by Rev. John Mikolai, but due to ill health, he was obliged to leave in six months. Then in the same year the Rev. Joseph Cieminski became the pastor of St. Casimir Church. He took great interest in beautifying the grounds of the church and cemetery. He remained in the parish until 1910, when Rev. John Mikolai returned, and Bishop Heifron, D. D., assigned him as pastor of St. Casimir Church. The Rev. Mikolai, after a short illness, died on January 7, 1920, and is buried in the St. Casimir Cemetery among his own people.

The Bishop appointed the Rev. John Stapleton in charge of this parish. He served the parish in the year 1920, for about eight months.

His successor was the Rev. J. Orlowski, M. S. C., from the Sacred Heart Mission House, Srarta. Wisconsin. He came in 1920, and stayed until 1921, a time of about six months.

The Rev. Charles Cavanaugh succeeded Rev. Orlowski in 1921. He had charge of this parish, more or less, for about eight months.

In October, 1921, Rev. John Hurynowicz was appointed pastor of St. Casimir Parish. Tinder his administration the new rectory was built, in the year 1924. Also purchase of the Draper home was made at a cost of $7,700.00, in order to make residence for the Sisters.

Granted a "leave of absence," Rev. Hurynowicz was succeeded by the Rev. Leon K. Hazinski, on September 11, 1929.

April 13, 1923, was memorable for St. Casimir Parish, for on that day the Staloch families formally presented to the parish the beautiful pipe organ, which was also solemnly dedicated to the service of God on that day. Mr. and Mrs. John A. Staloch, $1400.00; Mr. and Mrs. John Staloch, Sr., $1000.00; Lawrence Staloch, in memory of his wife, $500.00.

On April 28, 1938, the steeple of St. Casimir Church was taken down, and was replaced by two domes in Romanesque architecture.

Burning of $11,000.00 worth of paid notes was cause for celebrating at St. Casimir Parish. A banquet followed the program, the highlight of which was the burning of the $11,000.00 in paid-up notes, making St. Casimir Parish debtfree, the match being struck by Rev. Leon K. Hazinski. Father Hazinski stated that the event of "Out of the Red" was December, 1938, and celebrated the event May 21, 1939.

About this time Father Hazinski could see the time approaching when St. Casimir Parish would have to replace the present church with a new and larger one. So he started a building fund, so there would be some money on hand when that time came.The time came sooner than anyone would have thought. It was on Saturday evening, August 17, 1946, at 7:50 p. m. that Wells was visited by a violent tornado. About twenty persons were in St. Casimir Church where Rev. Hazinski was hearing confessions when the storm broke. They huddled in the rear of the church, and under the pews, and so escaped injury. Father Hazinski was trapped in the front of the church, where he was tossed about considerably, and was also struck by bricks, stones and glass. When he realized what had happened he removed the Blessed Sacrament to his home. The church was a total loss, the center of the roof caved in, and all of the memorial windows, which can never be replaced, were broken. The roof was lifted from the building and set down again. Extensive damage was done to the schoolhouse lso, as well as to the beautiful grounds of this property.

Sunday Masses were held in the public school auditorium. Weekday Masses were held in St. Casimir's school auditorium.

Immediately after the storm parishioners appeared with tractors, trucks and tools to clean away the tees and debris from the grounds in readiness for the work of repair and rebuilding. The school was ready for reopening of classes on Monday, September 16.

Plans for raising funds for a new church were made.

The basement of the old church was made ready for services, on November 1, 1946, and was used until construction was begun on the new church. At that time Father Hazinski was permitted to say three Masses each Sunday, and Mass was held in St. Casimir school auditorium until the new basement was ready for use.

On July 9, 1950, ground was broken for the new church, with Rev. Leon Hazinski turning the first spade full of ground, and Rev. J. Orlowski, M. S. C., of Sparta, Wisconsin, turning the second spade. Rev. Hazinski read a letter from Bishop Fitzgerald, in which he regretted not being able to be present due to a previous engagement. Sen. D. M. Carey auctioned off the spade for a total of $2,000.00. Alvin Stenzel, as final purchaser of the spade, turned it back to the parish to be kept as a remembrance. Ceremonies for the laying of the cornerstone of the new church of St. Casimir were held at 3:30 p. m. on May 24, 1951, with the Most Rev. Edward Fitzgerald, D. D., Bishop of the Diocese of Winona, conducting the rites. Assisting in the ceremonies were Rt. Rev. Msgr. J. Gregoire of Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, Winona; Very Rev. Msgr. Freking, Winona; Rev. Dittman of the Chancery Office, Winona; Rt. Rev. Msgr. J. Kiely, Albert Lea; Very Rev. Paul Britz, Easton; Rev. James Donovan, Mapleton; Rev. Syxtus Burg, Minnesota Lake; Rev. Sullivan, Lake Crystal; and Rev. Leon K. Hazinski, pastor of St. Casimir Church. A copper vault, donated by A. E. Jakobe, A. A. Schmanski, Francis J. Stenzel and Leo Stenzel, was anchored in the center of the cornerstone, and numerable souvenirs of the parishioners were placed
into it and sealed for posterity.

The first Mass celebrated in the new church basement was held Wednesday, March 19, 1952, by Rev. Leon Haziriski.

Due to ill health Rev. Leon Hazinski resigned his duties as pastor of St. Casimir Church, the latter part of July, 1952. Because the building project was mainly the dream of Rev. Hazinski, his parishioners wished to give him the privilege to say the first Mass in the uncompleted nave of the new church before his departure: therefore, this Mass was offered on Sunday, August 3, 1952.

Bishop Edward Fitzgerald, D. D., then appointed Rev. Peter S. Fafinski on August 5, 1952, as pastor of St. Casimir Parish.

On October 26, 1952, the first Mass was celebrated in the newly-completed St. Casimir
Church. At this time the parishioners again heard the organ and viewed the reconditioned altar, both of which had been in storage since the tornado of 1946.

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Last Updated on October 20, 2011