St. Joseph Parish Wesley, Iowa

St. Joseph Parish

Wesley, Iowa

The history of St. Joseph parish of Wesley, Iowa, is somewhat extraordinary. Normally, in a territory of Catholics without a church, the Bishop would send a priest to organize and unite a congregation. This, however, did not happen in Wesley. These courageous men did not wait for the coming of a priest, but set about erecting a combination school and church at a cost of $10,000. Then the petitioned the bishop for a priest.

During the summer of 1891, while the new school was being built, Father Eckert, the parish priest from St. Benedict came to Wesley to celebrate mass in Ed Kunz's store. In December he was transferred to Wesley as its first parish priest. The first parish mass was said in December, 1891, in the school chapel.

In 1901 the present beautiful church was built at a cost of $17,000. Today it stands as one of the most beautiful frame churches in the Diocese of Sioux City.

Through most of its history, the Wesley school was served by various orders of Franciscan sisters. Many students boarded in a dormitory section of the school. In 1941 the school was renovated, with a hot water heating system replacing the stoves in the various rooms. New toilets were installed, and the classrooms were tiled.

Due to declining numbers of sisters, it was necessary to hire the first lay teacher in 1962. Within eight years all the sisters had left St. Joseph's, and the school was entirely staffed by lay teachers. In 1970, St. Joseph merged with the school in St. Benedict, with the merger enduring ten years. In the 1980s the disappearance of farm families and businesses led to declining enrollment, and the St. Benedict-St. Joseph school merged with St. Cecelia's in Algona and St. Joseph in Wesley to form a united Seton Grade School.

In 1986 the original school building in Wesley was torn down. The school bell was saved and has been erected near the church as a memorial to ninety years of Catholic education.

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