Parish profile – St. Francis de Sales, Belgrade

Categories: Around the Diocese


St. Francis de Sales Parish, Belgrade

St. Francis de Sales Parish was founded in 1890, with 11 families attending Mass. Bishop Otto Zardetti, the first bishop of the Diocese of St. Cloud, blessed the new church in September; it was the first he dedicated in the newly established diocese. He chose the name of St. Francis de Sales as the patron, a favorite saint in his native Switzerland, and he presented a statue of the saint to the parish. The parish currently has 422 members. The parish profile questions were answered by Kim Derichs, parish secretary.

Q: What is the most interesting facet of your church building?

A: One of the most interesting facets is the hand-carved altar. It was built of white oak in the late 1930s in a studio in Austria and took up the entire width of the small sanctuary in the old church. It was moved from the first church into the present one, which was built in 1957. Visitors should step close to see its beautiful work. With the revisions of the Second Vatican Council, the altar was moved from the back wall so the celebrant would face the congregation during Mass. The original altar was too long, so it was trimmed and the remaining portion was made into the tabernacle stand. Above the sanctuary and altar is a beautiful painting of Jesus Christ that was installed in 1968.


St. Francis de Sales interior

Q: What is the most popular tradition of your parish?

A: The most popular traditions of our parish are our spring and fall sausage suppers, which were started in 1955 and continue to this day. Great crowds gather for good food and fellowship, including many out-of-towners coming from great distances to enjoy the meal. As many as 1,430 people have been served on one day. The Spring Sausage Supper is always the evening of Palm Sunday and the Fall Supper is the last Saturday in October.

Q: What is an interesting historical fact or anecdote about your parish?

A: In the early years of the parish, before a church and parish house were built, Mass was held on a Wednesday on the second floor of the bank building, celebrated by a priest from a nearby village. When a priest finally was assigned here, the priest stayed in one of the rooms of the bank building.
A few years later, a house was purchased for the priest across from the church. Years later these buildings needed much repair, so the Christian Mothers stepped in to raise funds to do the repairs and fund other church expenses. With increasing number of families in the parish, plans were started to build a new church with a rectory.

A new church was built in 1956 featuring Cold Spring granite pillars set in Indian limestone. This façade provides a setting for a central stained glass window depicting the conversion of St. Francis de Sales and 14 smaller stained glass windows, seven on each side, which feature symbols of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the liberal arts. Six windows of angels bearing symbols of the Blessed Sacrament were placed in the sanctuary. The Mothers Room windows depict family virtues and entrance windows featuring Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance. To support all this expense, a fundraiser — the spring and fall sausage suppers — were set up.


Father Peter Kirchner

Meet the pastor

Father Peter Kirchner was born and raised in St. Cloud. He was ordained in 1993. Father Kirchner served as an associate pastor in Alexandria, pastor at Blue Grass and Verndale; pastor at Staples and Motley; pastor at Glenwood and Villard; pastor at Breckenridge and Kent; and chaplain of St. Clare’s Monastery in Sauk Rapids. He became pastor of the parishes of St. Francis de Sales, St. Donatus in Brooten and SS. Peter and Paul in Elrosa in July 2015.

Q: What inspired you to become a priest?

A: For five years I thought about being a priest, but I thought it was a whim or I was going through a phase in my life. After five years I decided to apply to the seminary. The Lord is really the “hound of heaven.”

Q: What do you enjoy most about your daily life as a priest?

A: What I enjoy most about being a priest is that I have a deep devotion to St. John Vianney, who is the patron saint of priests. St. Vianney could read hearts in the confessional and would spend many hours hearing confessions.

Q: What was the theme of a favorite homily that you preached?

A: My favorite theme for a homily is to stress God’s mercy and forgiveness — especially through the sacrament of reconciliation.