Parish profile – St. Francis of Assisi, St. Francis

Categories: Around the Diocese


St. Francis of Assisi Parish, St. Francis

In 1914, the first church was built with no architect — the local farmers planned and constructed the building from their own knowledge and experience. When, in 1954, St. Francis of Assisi decided to build a new church, the old building was donated to the Catholics in Upsala and was moved there.

St. Francis Parish was founded in 1915. It currently has 218 households, with 350 parishioners.


St. Francis of Assisi Parish interior








St. Francis to celebrate centennial Sept. 20 St. Francis Parish will celebrate its 100th anniversary with Mass at 10 a.m., Sept. 20 with Bishop Donald Kettler presiding. A roast beef/hot dog dinner with all the fixings will be served following Mass until 1:30 p.m. A free will offering will be accepted for the dinner.

The celebration will include a large display of memorabilia from the history of St. Francis Parish and village. A history book, “St. Francis of Assisi: A Century of Faith,” will be available for purchase and signing by author Lois Thielen. The Backes Brothers will provide musical entertainment and there will be games for children and families.

The following questions were answered by the centennial committee.

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

A: The simplicity and beauty of the church is very interesting. It includes modern stained glass windows that we installed in 1985 to replace the plain colored glass windows.

Q: What is the most popular program or event at your parish?

A: We offer the play “Journey with Jesus” each year during Lent; the last performance is held on Palm Sunday. After the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Mass we also hand
out Easter eggs to all who attend. The men’s matching grant breakfast each year serves approximately 300 people, and the parish’s Fall Festival has served approximately 2,000 dinners and over 800 hamburgers.

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

A: To be incorporated, the group neededto select a name for their parish. Parishioners“thought it fitting” to name the new parishafter Frank Lange, one of the most dedicatedpromoters and first trustees. Bishop Joseph Busch agreed, providing that the formalversion of Frank — Francis — was usedand that it have St. Francis of Assisi as its namesake patron.

Meet the pastor

Fr. John Odero

Fr. John Odero

Father John Odero grew up in the small village of Tonga, Kenya, which is currently under the Diocese of Homa Bay, Kenya. He was ordained July 29, 1983; at that time the diocese had not yet been created. He served at the following Kenyan parishes: Our Lady of Victory in Kisii, St. Theresa in Gekano, St. Peter in Oyugis, St. Paul in Homa Bay and St. Theresa in Asumbi and also as vocations director or the Kisii Diocese.

In 1992, Father Odero was sent for further studies in Rome. From 1994 to 2004, he was a lecturer and rector at St. Matthias Mulumba Theological Seminary in Kenya; from 2004 to 2007, he served as lecturer and rector at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Kenya. He became the diocesan administrator of the Homa Bay Diocese from 2007 to 2011.

From 2011 to 2012, Father Odero was the parochial vicar at the cluster parishes of St. Stanislaus Kostka, Bowlus; St. Edward, Elmdale; St. Mary, Upsala; and St. Francis, St. Francis. Since 2012, he has served as the canonical administrator at those four parishes.

Q: What inspired you to become a priest?

A: When I was born I was named after our first missionary priest. My siblings would call me a priest and other people would also call me Father (since I was named after the priest). I enjoyed very much the way the Mass was being celebrated in Latin — the signs and movements of the priest and the servers at the sanctuary, the way the servers were responding in Latin, the vestments the priest wore. As a small boy, when Mass was over, I would go home and set a small table with lighted candles. I would invite my siblings to come as I was imitating the priest celebrating Mass. As a child these things already motivated me and I longed one day to be a priest.

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

A: What I enjoy most, of course, is the celebration of the Holy Mass and administration of the sacraments. As a person seeking my personal salvation, I enjoy those moments when I take off from pastoral ministry to have retreats and recollections. These are very enriching moments in my life as a priest — to see where I have come from, my present union with God and where I am heading to.

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

A: The theme of the favorite homily I preached was “Bring All to God.” On this occasion it happened that a family had lost three members of their family — their home was broken into by robbers who killed them. The day of their burial was really tense. With such tension and with many people even from other denominations, I decided to have the theme of “Bring All to God,” who is always compassionate and forgiving. He forgives all kinds of sins we commit. It touched the hearts of many people and they were consoled. I received many calls after that thanking me for the very moving homily.