History of Sacred Heart Church

On February 16, 1916, twenty six year old Father Hubert Stehling called to order the organizational meeting of the members of Saint Johns Parish who would make up Marshfield’s second Catholic parish. The name Sacred Heart of Jesus was chosen.

It was decided to build what is now the school for use as a church, convent, school and auditorium with the rectory being a separate building. The cornerstone was laid August 27, 1916. The first Mass was held on Christmas Eve 1916 in what is now the gymnasium. Construction costs were approximately $48,000 on a lot bought for $1,500. The congregation listed 150 families. This grew to 229 families in 1917. The school opened in September 1917.

Father Stehling died on Christmas Eve 1922. Father Henry Toeller was named pastor on January 18, 1923. He immediately went forward with Father Stehling’s plan to build a new convent. This was urgent due to the school enrollment of 240 students. The house immediately south of the school was bought for $4,200. The nuns lived in it for one year. By September 1924 a new convent had been built and furnished at a cost of $35,000. This building served for 63 years. Due to prohibitive maintenance costs it was razed in 1987.

By January 1927 the parish was debt free. In 10 years this young parish had paid off approximately $90,000 in addition to its current operating costs, an amazing accomplishment for that period.

In 1927 Father Toeller spoke of the need for a new church in the coming years to replace the auditorium/church, which was becoming too small to accommodate the growing congregation. The school, with 310 students for the 1930-31 school year was crowded as well. In March 1931 the congregation voted to build a new church. However, due to the economic conditions at the time, the needed funds could not be raised so the project was postponed.

The crowded conditions continued. Contributions to a church building fund continued, growing to $14,000. The architect assured the group a suitable church and a 4-room addition to the school could be built for no more than $65,000. Parishioners were asked to voluntarily raise sufficient funds to start the project. Within one week $24,000 was pledged. All pledge cards were returned signed. Though many were unemployed they all returned their pledge cards promising to help when they found work.

The bid for the construction was $53,000 excluding plumbing, heating and electrical. Due to the Depression, prices were at an all time low. It was believed the project would have cost $100,000 in normal economic times.
The cornerstone was laid on June 19, 1932. During construction, less than a half workday was lost due to rain or bad weather. The dedication of the beautiful Tudor Gothic style church by Bishop Alexander McGavick took place November 11, 1932. It wasn’t until 1941 that the installation of stained glass windows was begun. In September 1932 school enrollment was 346.

Father Toeller, a monsignor since 1937 was reassigned in March 1942.

Sacred Heart was then served by priests in the following order:
Father Edmund Cramer 3-13-42 to 7-9-52
Father Edwin Knauf 7-9-52 to 11-7-54
Father Lavern Timmerman 11 -17-54 to 6-17-67
Father Peter Leketas 6-18-67 to 7-1-95
Father Robert Schaller 7-18-95 to 11-17-98
Father Jerome Gerum 11-17-98 to 7-6-99
Father Anthony Wolf 7-6-99 to 7-13-04

After Father Schaller was reassigned, Father Gerum served as parochial administrator until Fr Anthony Wolf was named pastor on July 6, 1999. After Father Wolf left in July 2004 Father Charles Stoetzel served as parochial administrator until the appointment of the present pastor Father Peter Manickam on January 9, 2005.

Though all the necessary buildings were in place when Monsignor Toeller left, his successors have had to face the challenge of preserving them. In addition to all the routine maintenance and repairs the church underwent major renovations in 1978 and 2003. The 2003 project involved new carpeting, refmishing of the pews, repainting the interior, and installation of ceramic tile in the sanctuary. The Parish Council of Christian Women donated a new sanctuary crucifix. In 2002 copper roofing was installed on the church at a cost of $128,000. The rectory underwent a complete interior renovation in 1999. Parishioners did almost all of the work on the rectory.

By 1950 the parish had grown to 480 families with 1750 members. Currently there are 632 families in the parish.
During World War I 86 members of the parish served their county. 5 of them made the supreme sacrifice. In World War II, 11 parishioners perished. We lost 1 parishioner in the Korean War and 1 in the Viet Nam War.

The organ for the new church was bought in 1932 for approximately $6,000. This same organ was refurbished in 2003 for $49,549. Helen (Martin) Brinkman became the parish organist in 1933 and served for the next 68 years. Father Toeller organized and directed the first adult choir. Another long term musical contributor, Rita (Armin) Walsh, a parishioner, became choir director in 1965 and continued to serve for the next 36 years.

The parish school opened September 4, 1917 with 152 students. This number grew to 240 in 1923, 310 in 1930, 346 in 1932 and 400 in 1938. Following World War II enrollment dropped to 260 by 1951 but then climbed steadily to 404 in 1958. Between 1958 and 1967 the count exceeded 400 every year with the peak of 488 in 1962. Enrollment declined steadily after 1967 to a low of 34 in the 2001-02 school year at which time the school was closed. Until the last 3 years of operation the school always had School Sisters of Notre Dame on the staff.

Sacred Heart Parish has produced 11 vocations to the priesthood and 32 women religious.

All photos Copyright © 2012-2017 Sacred Heart of Marshfield. Special thanks to Tom Brunette for providing photographic assistance.