St. Andrew in Elysian powered by volunteers for 125 years 

| January 4, 2019 | 0 Comments

St. Andrew in Elysian built its second church in 1975. The parish, which celebrates its 125 anniversary, expanded the campus in 2007 to add a sole worship space. the pictured space now serves as a social hall. Courtesy St. Andrew in Elysian

Founding members of St. Andrew in Elysian were more than ready to create a parish: they built a church five years before the official founding of the parish in 1894.

Celebrating its 125th anniversary, St. Andrew hasn’t slowed down. Plans are in the works for marking the anniversary later this year. The rural parish of 110 households has been self-sustaining throughout its history, mainly relying on volunteers.

“Everybody knows each other. There’s a wonderful sense of volunteering,” said Father Michael Ince, parochial administrator of St. Andrew and pastor of Holy Trinity in Waterville. “They’re very much aware of each other – anybody’s sick, anybody needs help and anything like that.”

The community built a wooden church in 1889 for a visiting priest to celebrate Mass once a month, and later, on alternating Sundays. The growing faith interest came about when Father Valentin Sommereisen of Sts. Peter and Paul in Mankato, part of the Diocese of St. Paul at the time, began celebrating Masses in nearby communities including Elysian.

Because of its small size, St. Andrew has been a mission parish of Holy Trinity, founded in 1879, for most of its history. That meant St. Andrew didn’t have a resident priest, but the parishioners took care of many things.

Outgrowing their original church, parishioners built a new one in 1975. Father Clarence Zlotkowski, who served the parish at the time, had a background in construction and spearheaded the project. Parishioners worked with him on the church, and a committee worked on the funding.

Because that structure served as both a church and social hall, parishioners began work on expanding the campus in the late 1990s to have a sole worship space. After seven years of garnering financial support, St. Andrew got the go-ahead from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to begin construction. The church was completed in 2007 and dedicated by then-Auxiliary Bishop Richard Pates.

“There was always enough money … contributed month by month to make the payments,” Father Ince said about loans for the project. St. Andrew completed its mortgage on the new church in 2018.

In addition to its Sunday Mass, St. Andrew  offers various activities such as local chapters of the Council for Catholic Women and Catholic United Financial. Volunteers take care of day-to-day logistics of the parish from funeral luncheons to shoveling snow. The parish also has a combined faith formation program with Holy Trinity. Father Ince noted that St. Andrew has been independent in arranging for priests for weddings and funerals.

“Right now, basically, they area a free-standing parish,” Father Ince said of St. Andrew. “Everything is done there.”

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