ST CASIMIR CATHOLIC CHURCH -- 1880
In the late 1870s the first settlers moved into the territory that is known as Wells, MN. The nearest Catholic Church was ten or twelve miles west at Wisner’s Grove where Mass was offered occasionally in a local home.
The first church construction began in 1881 after receiving permission from Most Rev. Bishop John Ireland of St. Paul. The construction of this 26’x60’ frame building was never fully completed (placing of the steeple) as it was quickly determined that the structure wouldn’t be large enough to house their rapidly growing congregation and a new structure would need to be built. During the construction of the new building, the first church was moved to the back of the grounds so worship could still take place during construction. The second church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1900, with the size greatly larger at 63’x100’.
In 1915, St. Casimir School, a long-standing wish and need of the congregation, was constructed. The school was staffed by The Sisters of the Order of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio, from 1929 until The School Sisters of Notre Dame assumed responsibility of the school in 1956. With the need for more classroom space, a new addition was constructed adjacent to the old gym building in 1962. Additional lots located west of the church and school was also purchased at this time. At present, the school is run by lay teachers and is a foundation in Catholic education for children in Preschool-Grade 6.
Construction of the new parish house began in the spring of 1924. This still stands today as home for our pastor as well as serves as office space for our administrative assistant, bookkeeper and faith formation staff.
August 17, 1946, Wells was hit by a destructive tornado at 7:50 p.m. At this time the church was inhabited by Fr. Leon Hazinski who was hearing confessions. He and approximately 20 people inside hid under pews in the rear of the church as the tornado wreaked havoc on the church and town. As Fr. Leon ventured outside, he saw extensive damage to the church, buildings, homes and many trees uprooted. The center of the roof of the church was caved in, with some of it being lifted form the building and set down again. All stained glass windows were broken. Fortunately, the pipe organ that had been donated in 1923, was undamaged. Sunday, July 2, 1950 marked the last service that was hosted in the old church basement which was razed and cleared away on July 5, 1950.
The Most Rev. Edward Fitzgerald, D. D., Bishop of the Diocese of Winona, conducted the rites of laying the cornerstone of the new church on May, 24, 1951. Fr. Hazinski celebrated the first Mass in the new church basement Wednesday, March 19, 1952, before his reassignment. Fr. Peter S. Fafinski was appointed pastor in August 1952 and saw through the completion of the building project. The new church was dedicated May 10, 1953, accommodating approximately 650 people, with the choir gallery to provide room for an additional 40-50 people.
In the early 1990s, the south entrance of the church was adapted for handicap accessibility under the direction of Fr. Eugene Stenzel. During the summer of 2012, Fr. Thomas Niehaus began the restoration of the baptistery that was completed in fall 2013. A new garage was constructed in 2014 to the southwest of the church with the project being finished in 2016 with the pouring of new concrete at the approach. Along with these updates, the generous, devoted people of St. Casimir installed a new striker system in the bell tower during the summer of 2016 which has allowed for the community to hear the 100+ year old bells ring again.
The seed that was planted by the faith of a few pioneers in 1880 has become a tree - the present progressive parish of Saint Casimir, Wells.