St. Mary's Catholic Church at 1215 7th Ave, Worthington, MN 56187-2297 US - Our ChurchOur Church
Fifty years ago (1959) the membership of St. Mary’s parish was between 2500-2700 “souls.” Msgr. J. Stanley Hale was pastor and Fr. Donald Halloran was the associate. The school, K-8, was full of students who were taught by 8 School Sisters of Notre Dame and two lay teachers under the guidance of Sister Ancilla Noxbush, the principal.
Nineteen Fifty-nine began with the startling news that Pope John XXIII was calling for a General Council of the Church, Msgr. Hale wrote in our centennial book – 1886-1986. The he added, “At that time the parish was most concerned about building a church and bids for the structure were let out on March 13th.” The bids for construction, mechanical and electrical work came to $158,328.00. Work began on Easter Monday, and the church was ready for use on January 24, 1960. It has served our parish marvelously well.
Fifty years later our society has changed, the city of Worthington has changed and our parish has changed. The membership of St. Mary’s Parish is now between 3300-3500, with a third of these being Hispanic, plus a growing number of Asian and African families. Fr. Don Lovas was followed by Fr. Andy Olsem, then Fr. Kevin Connelly, and now Fr. Larry Brixius. Most of these years were without a priest associate. So the lay staff has increased to carry on the Catholic ministry here.
St. Mary’s School continues to be a strong academic and Catholic institution. The students, K-6, are taught mostly by lay teachers, who have done excellent and dedicated work over the years, now under the leadership of Barb Daly, the principal. In addition we have a large Faith Formation program, presently coordinated by Barb Denno. Dave Kinsman has just finished four years of lively youth ministry.
In the 90’s Jesús Murrietta and Juan Valencia were working with the Hispanic people, and were supported by Sister Roseann Ficker, SSND from the diocese office. Priests came occasionally to celebrate Mass and the sacraments in Spanish. When Fr. Connelly came in 1997, he began to celebrate a Mass in Spanish once a month, and later every Sunday at 1:00 PM. In 1999 Fr. Brixius came to St. Mary’s, and Sister Karen Thein, SSND came as parish minister, with an emphasis on ministry with the Hispanic people. She coordinated sacramental classes in Spanish and started a Spanish choir.
We can be sure that God will lead the people of St. Mary’s Parish through many more changes as the Church in Southwestern Minnesota continues to journey in the Catholic Tradition that has taken root out here in the fertile prairies and bears fruit.
Our pastor, Father James Callahan, grew up in Waltham, Massachusetts - just outside of Boston. He entered the Society of African Mission Fathers in 1970 and studied at Queen of Apostles Seminary in Dedham, Massachusetts, and then to the Washington Theological Union in Washington, D.C. and Maryknoll Seminary in Ossining, New York.
He was ordained on April 26, 1975 and served overseas and at home serving in parishes and refugee resettlement programs in Africa, Haiti, and Central America. He joined the Diocese of Winona in 2005 and for the last ten years lecture the Spirituality Program at Guest House, a treatment facility for impaired Catholic Clergy.