Parish History

The History of St. Peter's and St. Joseph's

The history of our parish dates back to 1866, when then Father (and future bishop of our archdiocese) John Ireland was hiking on foot through the Big Woods from Waverly Mills to Watertown, when he realized that he was lost. He listened and heard sounds coming through the woods, and found a newly erected church. Making his way to the door, he found a Catholic congregation gathered together without a priest, praying and singing hymns.

St. Peter's Catholic Church

The original parish of Saint Peter’s was built just after the Civil War in 1865, the site of which today is marked by the tombstones of the early pioneers. The first parish stood until 1901, when it had to be taken down. As early as 1874, some people wanted a new church to be built in the Village of Delano, and the cornerstone was laid on June 15, 1874 and this church remained in use until the third and present Church of Saint Peter was completed in 1913.

St. Joseph's Catholic Church

Saint Joseph’s history dates back to 1903. While it might seem strange to have two churches just a half mile apart, it makes sense when you look at history. People came from Europe and wanted a sense of home, which is experienced mostly through language and customs. In 1884, fifty Polish families built their own church in Franklin Township, four miles southwest of Delano. This parish was named Saint Mary of Czestochowa, which was a mission of Saint Peter’s, and then Saint Joseph’s before becoming an independent parish. In the town, the parish of Saint Joseph’s was built, which had its corner stone placed in July of 1903, and the church was completed on January 1, 1904.

United - St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Parish

For the last 85 years, the two parishes ran on their own until 1988, when the Archdiocese united the two parishes. Each retained its own separate corporate identity, but in practical terms became one parish with two sites. Effective July 1, 2014 our churches merged into one parish family, The Parish of St. Maximilian Kolbe.

While part of one family, each parish thrives as parish life is extremely vibrant. Masses are at 5 p.m. Saturday at Saint Joseph’s, and 8 and 10:30 a.m. on Sunday morning at Saint Peter’s. Beautiful music helps enhance our worship, and thanks to dedicated musicians, lectors, sacristans, servers and Eucharistic Ministers, the worship experience is extremely fulfilling. The Eucharist and Mass are at the core of our identity, but numerous other programs and ministries abound at our parish. Our parishes have active an active parish council, a Knights of Columbus Council, Eucharistic Adoration, vibrant youth ministry, an annual parish festival, and a host of other activities to help foster the faith. A dedicated parish staff works hard to meet the needs of all.

St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic School

After the merger, St. Peter’s Catholic School became St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic School. The school thrives as a place that forms young people to succeed academically and spiritually. With a caring and hard working staff, students receive attention and leave prepared not just for the seventh grade but better prepared for life as well. Class sizes are small, and the curriculum challenges students to grow academically, while their experience at St. Max’s helps them grow spiritually, intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically. On top of this, dedicated parent volunteers help throughout the year to help keep our school strong.

Who is St. Maximilian Kolbe?

Saint Maximilian Kolbe is an incredible model of love for others and Christian charity.

Born in Poland into a working class family, he joined the Conventual Franciscans in 1907. His original name was Raymond, and he was given the religious name Maximilian, making his final vows in 1914. That was the same year he lost his father, Julius, who was hanged by the Russians for fighting for Polish independence.

He was ordained a priest in 1918 after earning a doctorate in philosophy and theology. During his time as a student, he witnessed the hate that people could have toward the Church in a Freemason demonstration in Rome against the pope. This inspired him to organize the Army of Mary (Militia Immaculata) to work for the conversion of sinners, through the intercession of Mary. Fr. Kolbe and the Army of Mary distributed papers to promote the faith, and he was also active in speaking about our faith on amateur radio. Among his other patronages, he is the patron of amateur radio.

In the 1930s, Fr. Kolbe frequently visited Japan where he founded a monastery in Nagasaki (saved during the atomic bomb as the Monastery was on the other side of the mountain). It still stands to this day.

When World War II began and his country was invaded, Fr. Kolbe provided shelter to refugees from Poland, including 2,000 Jews. For this, he was arrested in February of 1941 by the Gestapo and transferred to Auschwitz. In July of 1941 when 3 prisoners disappeared and the deputy commander, Karl Fritzsch, ordered 10 to be starved to death in an underground bunker in order to deter further escape attempts, one of the men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out “My wife! My children!” Fr. Kolbe asked to take his place. He was placed in a cell with the others, and he had Mass daily and led them in prayer amidst a horrific and slow death of starvation over 2 weeks. At the end when Fr. Kolbe was the only one still living, he was given a lethal injection. He was cremated on August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption.

One of the things that strikes me with Fr. Kolbe is how as a Catholic he could have stayed out of harms way. But instead he helped others and spoke out against injustice. He once said to a person who worked with him, who asked if he should give Jews food if they came to him begging that “it was necessary to do this because all men are brothers.” To Fr. Kolbe, a person needed to be loved because they were created in God’s image.

As a parish family, one of the things we are striving for is unity – to see ourselves as part of the same family, supporting one another. Fr. Kolbe is such a great example of that, and a reminder of the great commandment to “love one another as I have loved you.” May we be inspired to grow in that love daily in our hearts for all by this hero of our faith.

There is no other parish with this name in the Archdiocese, so we will be the first. The school, as part of our parish, will also be taking this name. However, our two church campuses will still be known as the church of Saint Peter’s and the church of Saint Joseph’s. Saint Maximilian Kolbe will be the parish name, replacing the oft-used but never approved “Delano Catholic Community.”

As Father Kolbe reached out to others, may we strive daily to reach out to one another both in our parish family, and in the greater world.