St. Charles in Herman to celebrate 100 years of worship

Categories: Around the Diocese

June 21, 2013, edition
By Lynette Thelen

On Sunday, June 23, Bishop John Kinney will preside at the 10:30 a.m. Mass to celebrate the 100th anniversary of St. Charles Parish in Herman. A meal and centennial program will follow the Mass, and the public is invited to attend.

After elaborate renovations throughout the past year, Bishop Kinney will dedicate the new entry, as well as the elevator, that make the church handicapped accessible.


The addition was completed by Christmas 2012, and the new entry was decorated welcoming the congregation for Christmas Day Mass.

This final project included the enlarging of the worship space by moving the wall of the nave back to include the stairway to the balcony. The entryway was expanded and a ventilation system installed above the choir loft. Two bathrooms and a utility closet were added on the entry level as well as an elevator. The crying room and confessional were remodeled. Six stained glass windows from the church were also renovated and moved to the entry area to be prominently displayed.

As parishioner DeAnne Kennedy noted, “The church looks beautiful. One of the visiting pastors observed it was like a ‘little cathedral on the prairie.’ ”

Norcross beginnings

The history of the church in Herman has its roots not in Herman, but in Norcross. The 100-year history was detailed in a booklet, “History of St. Charles Borromeo Church,” by Kennedy and parishioner Sue Blume.

In the early 1900s, when Catholic families from Iowa and Illinois began to move into the area, they bought farms around Norcross. Early in 1904 Bishop Trobec of the St. Cloud Diocese directed Father Gans, pastor of St. Gall in Tintah, to look after the spiritual needs of the people. A mission parish was established at Norcross, served by the Tintah priest. Father Gans offered Mass in Norcross for the first time in June 1904 in the assembly hall above a hardware store.

A year later, when Father James Walcher succeeded Father Gans, the parish at Norcross was incorporated as St. Mary. Three lots were purchased, two were donated and a drive was undertaken to build a church. Parishioners donated labor and provided teams to haul rock and other building materials. The first Mass was offered in the completed church in October of 1905.

Regular services were held once or twice a month, depending on the weather and the roads. In 1913, the Tintah parish was relieved of the responsibility of the Norcross mission, and Donnelly was given this charge. By that year, the Catholic population had shifted from Norcross to the Herman area with the result that the church was no longer conveniently located for most people. The sentiment of the people was to transfer the parish to Herman.

Built another church

stcharlesoldA new parish was incorporated at Herman as St. Charles Borromeo July 25, 1913. The document was signed by Bishop Trobec, Vicar General Nigl, parish priest Father Charles Grunenwald (1913-1915), and trustees Jacob Olson and Edward Drexler. The first Mass was offered by Father Grunenwald in the Woodman Hall in Herman on July 17, 1913. Parishioners began planning a new church and conducted a drive to raise funds.

A beautiful church was erected and furnished at a cost of about $10,000. On Christmas Day 1913, the Catholic people of Herman and the surrounding area worshipped for the first time in the new church. The dedication took place the following summer, June 23, 1914.

One of the means of raising money for the new parish was a food stand at the Grant County Fair.

The congregation had the work of putting up and taking down a temporary stand each year, so the parishioners undertook the construction of a permanent dining hall at the fairgrounds. Everybody worked. A kerosene stove was used to heat water. Coffee was made in a boiler and horse-drawn carts transported supplies.

Mrs. F. William Schultz came early to cook for the fair workers while others churned cream for butter, made the pies, cleaned the chickens, baked the bread and cut wood for the wood stoves—which made for some uncomfortable working conditions.

Many priests served

Throughout the past 100 years 29 priests have served the parish in Herman, including: Father Charles Grunenwald, Father Bernard Wessling, Father Adalbert Wagner, Father Theodore Wrobel, Father Matthew Butala, Father Joseph Varley, Father Paul Kunkel, Father Sylvester Renner, Father Joseph Kirchner, Father Leo Revering, Father Victor Kinzer, Father William Furlan, Father Alto Butkowski, Father Alban Sauer, Father James Hahn, Father LeRoy Scholz, Father Vincent Lieser, Father Alban Sauer, Father Stanley Wieser, Father Arlie Sowada, Father Jerome Nordick, Father Nathan Packard, Father Tom Knoblach, Father LeRoy Schik, Father David Petron, Father Tim Baltes, Father Peter Vanderweyst and Father Ron Schmelzer.

Currently serving the new tri-parish of Herman, Tintah and Elbow Lake are Father Mike Kellogg and Deacon Joe Wood.

“Father Arlie Sowada was an avid outdoorsman—a hunter, runner and mountain climber,” noted Blume and Kennedy. “During his tenure in Herman (1983-1994) he appeared on the altar one Sunday morning with a very blackened nose, which, he explained, was frozen on his ascent of Mount Denali in Alaska while he was on vacation.”

In the spring of 1997 there was flooding in the area, the St. Charles Church basement being one victim. St. Charles had to cancel or postpone events, including First Communion and the area misson meeting. Ongoing water problems continued to plague the basement until a new floor was installed and a drainage system dug in around the church in 2002, during Father Nathan Packard’s tenure (1999-2004).

“September of 2004 brought a great shock and tragedy to St. Charles and to the whole area when Father Packard was killed in the crash of a small plane he was piloting near Morris. His funeral Mass was conducted at St. Mary Church in Chokio. The congregation was stunned by this loss,” Kennedy said.

Father Tom Knoblach came to the aid of the parish as an interim priest until he was replaced by Father LeRoy Schik who served from 2005 to 2007.

Everyone contributes

The current priest, Father Mike Kellogg, has been at the Herman parish since August 2012. He noted, “One of the things that first impressed me when I arrived 10 months ago was what a strong and vibrant community St. Charles had become. With the challenges they’ve had and the struggles they’ve faced, they have made a conscious choice to work together and to live as a community.

“One of the things that is so evident is the way they’ve banded together to be able to put the new gathering area on the church so everyone can attend, because it is handicapped accessible. Because everybody did contribute and not just financially, but with blood, sweat and tears,” he added.

Father Kellogg grew up on a farm in Iowa and can relate to the parishioners in rural Herman.

“They are just a wonderful little community. They have realized that it is up to the people to make the parish vibrant.”