Parish profile – St. Joseph Parish, Pierz

Categories: Around the Diocese

German settlers arrived in the Pierz area in the fall of 1865. Though there are no records of St. Joseph’s inception date, it began with one family of nine children. As of 2014, parish membership includes approximately 1,718 baptized members and 750 families.

150th anniversary celebration

St. Joseph Parish will celebrate its 150th anniversary with an outdoor Mass at 4:30 p.m. June 27, in the south side parking lot, with Bishop Donald Kettler presiding and Father Ken Popp and previous pastors concelebrating. Following Mass, the parish will have brats and kraut, desserts and beverages, including beer and lemonade. Old-time music will add to the German theme. There will be directed tours of the church and house where Father Francis Xavier Pierz said his first Mass.

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

A: The Pierz church is known for its exceptional artwork that includes stained glass windows, many statues on delicately-carved wooden altars, large paintings and sculptured Stations of the Cross.

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

A: We are the home of Holy Trinity School, a Catholic grade school that is supported by three adjacent parishes in Buckman, Lastrup and Harding. Similarly, the Father Pierz School of Religion provides religious instruction for approximately 500 public school students from the same four parishes plus students from additional surrounding parishes.

We have four choirs: adult, folk, youth and children’s. We have several active adult education programs, a Knights of Columbus Council, a Christian Women’s group and a Hearts of Faith group.

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

A: The city of Pierz, where St. Joseph’s is located, was named after Father Francis Xavier Pierz, a well-known early missionary who traveled through upper and central Minnesota in the mid-1800s, teaching the Native Americans and early settlers of the existence and graces of God.

The present church is the third church of St. Joseph’s. According to our parish history book, “Pierzana II,” the building was staked by the local farmers but was smaller than the pastor wanted. Later that evening, as the story goes, the pastor moved the stakes to form a larger church and in doing so changed the orientation of the church. That is why our church now “sets crooked.”

Meet the pastor
Father Ken Popp


Father Ken Popp

Father Ken Popp, who grew up in Rice, was ordained May 28, 1983. He served successively in these parishes: St. Joseph in Waite Park, St. Henry in Perham, St. John in Meire Grove, St. Andrew in Greenwald and St. Mary of the Presentation in Breckenridge. Father Popp currently serves the parishes of St. Joseph in Pierz and St. Michael in Buckman, where he has been the pastor for the past three years.

Q: What inspired you to become a priest?

A: When I was a young boy, my friends and I would always play in what was called at the time “the church woods” across from the church in Rice. While at play, I would every once in a while see Father Richard Hied wearing his black cassock saying his Divine Office as we walked up and down the driveway. I desired his prayerful actions.

And when I served Mass as a boy I remember how Father Hied would go to place the covered chalice on the altar at the beginning of Mass and come down to say the prayers at the foot of the altar. As I knelt next to him as he came down, I saw the one black shiny shoe come down and spin around. I noticed the carpet was worn out in that spot where the shoe spun around. At that moment I said to myself, “I want to be a priest.”

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

A: I enjoy saying Mass every day. I also enjoy having a cup of coffee with parishioners uptown and being with children at our school and at the Father Pierz School of Religion. I enjoy visiting the sick and visiting homes in the parish. I enjoy photography, keeping a journal and traveling. I especially enjoy my quiet time for prayer.

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

A: The universality of the church and how I enjoyed my opportunity of shaking the hand of the pope, St. John Paul II, at the Vatican. The pope was calling us all to spread the Gospel during his audience.