Our Place in His Story
The Parish of St. Ann was founded in the late 1800's amid the growing line of railroad towns from St. Cloud to Fargo. In the beginning, Wadena was a trading post on the old Otter Tail trail. Its name is derived from a Chippewa word meaning "a little round hill," in reference to the Crow Wing River bluffs at Wadena Ferry. In 1884, the first Church of St. Ann was built in town, near the cemetery. In 1886, the Wadena mission was canonically established as a parish and Father Tomazin was named the first resident pastor. The following year the church was moved to its present location. It was enlarged in 1890. A fire completely destroyed the church on March 19, 1895, but the community rallied together to build the impressive structure that stands today. Bishop James Trobec consecrated the church on May 21, 1908. At the crossroads of highways 10 & 71, the city of Wadena has been a hub for travelers and business in the region. Today, St. Ann's parish is about 650 families strong (and growing), making it the largest Christian denomination in the city.
The Parish of St. John the Baptist was founded in 1902, along the scenic bluffs between Wadena and New York Mills, MN, after Bishop James Trobec asked Father John Stiegler, then pastor of St. Ann's Church to look after the needs of the Catholic settlers in and near the village of Bluffton. Twenty-some families came together to build the first church in 1902. In 1906, a parish house was added to the campus, and as the population steadily increased a need for a school was evident. By 1916, the school was built and the Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict began to teach. In 1922, a severe fire burned down both the church and parish house. A basement church was completed in 1924, and two years later the parish house was rebuilt. The upper structure of the church was begun in the early 1950's, but a storm forestalled the progress until its final completion in 1959. A convent was added in 1964. Over the years, the parish has had over a dozen pastors who have helped guide the community through many trials. It has been clustered together with other nearby parishes of Butler, Menhaga, and now Wadena. Today, the parish is comprised of about 150 families.
Pastors of Saint Ann: Fr. Ignatius Tomazin 1886-1893, Fr. Charles Dussel 1893-1894, Fr. John J. Mayer 1894, Fr. James Weysters 1895, Fr. John Stiegler 1895-1903, Fr. Hubert Gundermann 1903-1908, Fr. John Wernich 1908-1910, Fr. Francis Lenger 1910-1943, Fr. Vincent Huebsch (administrator) 1943-1944, Msgr. August Plachta 1944-1952, Msgr. Edward Mahowald 1952-1965, Fr. Al J. Kraemer 1965-1977, Fr. Thomas Meyer 1977-1987, Fr. James Hahn 1987-1993, Fr. Thomas Knoblach 1993-2004, Fr. Al Holmes 2004-2006, Fr. Donald Wagner 2006-2013, Fr. Aaron Kuhn 2013-present.
Pastors of St. John: Fr. John Stiegler 1902, Fr. Matthias Billmayr 1902-1905, Fr. Frederick Weichmann 1905-1925, Fr. John Wilkes 1925-1930, Fr. Nicholas Junker 1930-1945, Fr. Charles Haupt 1945-1950, Fr. Robert Voight 1950-1952, Fr. Ray Schulzetenberg 1952-1958, Fr. William Tarman 1958-1968, Fr. Robert Landsberger 1968-1971, Fr. Lauren Virnig 1971-81, Fr. Frank Tomasiewicz 1981-1983, Fr. Andrew Nolan 1983-1984, Fr. Allan Speiser 1984-1986, Fr. William Garding 1986-1989, Fr. Robert Voight 1989-1990, Fr. Donald Wagner 1990-1996, Fr. Kevin Schwartz 1996-2002, Fr. Ronald Schmelzer 2002-2004, Fr. Al Holmes & Fr. Michael Kellogg 2004-2006, Fr. Donald Wagner 2006-2013, and Fr. Aaron Kuhn 2013-present.
Central Minnesota has been blessed by the presence of Christ in his Catholic Church since before 1889, especially by the missionary activities of Father Pierz and the Order of St. Benedict.