For more than a century, St. Joseph’s Church in Pierz has stood tall, centered on the hill and overlooking the city.
In many ways, the church has become iconic in the sight of many. After all, it was there from the beginning, before Pierz even became Pierz.
“That church has been the center of the community for a long time,” said Dan Loscheider, chairman of the St. Joseph Church Parish Council.
The history of the church goes back to the early 1880s. Before construction began, Fr. Pancratius Maehren, who was a pastor from 1884-1893, moved the stakes to make the church larger, said Al Pekarek, past president and member of the St. Joseph’s Church Parish Council.
Pekarek also researched the history of St. Joseph’s Church and authored a book about it.
“When the builders realized how big the church was going to be, they had to put in 16 pillars to hold it all up,” Pekarek said.
The building of the church took about 25 years. In 1885, the original wood structure was built with about 300,000 feet of lumber.
“It was lumber made from trees in the area,” Pekarek said.
The foundation of the church was laid in 16 days by 11 men. It was made with stones that had been picked in the local fields and 207 loads were brought to the church site in wagons drawn by horses.
The brick on the outside of the wooden structure was laid in 1888. It wasn’t until 1902 that the steeple was added onto the building.
In 1909, an addition was added onto the east side of the church to make room for the new sacristy and sanctuary. The stain glassed windows that portray various saints were installed, as well.
“Someone said the original church cost about $15,000 to make,” Pekarek said.
Fr. Francis Xavier Pierz was the first pastor of St. Joseph’s Church. At this time, the city was called Rich Prairie and church was nicknamed “The cathedral on the prairie.”
The city was later renamed to Pierz in honor of Fr. Pierz, Aug. 15, 1894.
Since the church was built, countless Masses and other services have been held. Today, St. Joseph’s Church has about 500 people attending Mass on the weekends.
Mass is held a couple of days during the week, as well. The other weekdays it is held at St. Michael’s Church in Buckman.
The church holds a special place in Loscheider’s and Pekarek’s hearts. They know they are not alone in feeling so about the church. It is not uncommon for several generations of a family to have made it “their” church. It’s simply “home,” Loscheider said.
“We have a lot of young families that have made it their church,” Pekarek said.
Last summer, the roof of the church was reshingled. It was a project that cost about $350,000, but one that was necessary.
The church went about 81 years before it was re-shingled. We know that because our lifelong parishioner, Herb Stumpf, was about 10 years old when they laid the roof,” Pekarek said.
The church is need of several repairs and general maintenance within two years. Without knowing the exact amount that is needed, the church is now fundraising to help preserve the historic building that was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, Sept. 5, 1985.
“It’s a wonderful piece of history and heritage that defines the community of Pierz. As members of our parish, it is our responsibility to safeguard that history,” said.
One of the repairs needed is to re-frame the stained glass windows at the church.
In the 1990s, the windows themselves were removed one at a time and placed into a metal frame. The windows were then put back into its existing woodframe at the church. However, the wood has deteriorated to the point that something needs to be done.
The church still has its original wood floor, but needs to be refinished.
The church is hoping to raise enough money to get new front doors. The current ones are made of metal and provide no view to the outside.
“You can’t tell if anybody is out there in front of the door when you open it. You could end up hurting someone that way,” Loscheider said.
The parish hopes to raise enough funds to remove the older bus garage to make more room in the south parking lot and build a storage shed where snowblowers, lawn mowers, booths for the bazaar and more can be kept.
At this time, raffle tickets are sold for $100 each, for a chance to win $10,000 (first place), $5,000 (second and third place), $1,000 (fourth to eighth place) and $100 (ninth to 58th place). The drawing will be held Saturday, April 29, at St. Joseph’s Church, following its 4:30 p.m. Mass.
The tickets are being sold at most businesses in Pierz. They can also be purchased at the parish office or through any parish member.
Those who want to donate in a different manner, may call (320) 468-6033 or email [email protected]