The Parish of St. Patrick is the oldest Irish Catholic parish in Rice County and the second oldest Irish Catholic parish in the State of Minnesota. General James Shields founded the settlement of Shieldsville in the 1850’s and worked very hard to get Irish immigrants to move into the Shieldsville area. Land could be purchased for $2 per acre. In 1856 Bishop Cretin sent word to build a church on Dodd Road. Each man in the parish hauled his allotted amount of logs to the saw mill on Lake Mazaska. Carpenters from St. Paul build the church for $800.
St. Patrick depended upon missionary priests until 1870 when Father Charles Robert was assigned as parish priest. Soon the church was too small for the ever-increasing congregation so he planned for a new stone church. The church, with a seating capacity of 620 people was completed in 1880 at a cost of $16,000. The walls were adorned with elaborate art work on the walls and ceiling. During this time the statues of Christ, the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph and St. Patrick were donated by parishioners along with the stained glass windows, which cost $100 each. The parsonage, built at the same time, cost $1,000. In April 1888 the church was struck by lightning and severely damaged. Damage was repaired and the congregation was able to celebrate Mass in the church again beginning Christmas Day 1888.
The church and parish hall were remodeled and redecorated in the 1960’s under the direction of Father John Molloy, who served the parish for 53 years. Father John Joyce worked with Father Molloy during this time and took over Pastoral duties in 1962 and served the parish for another 20 years.
A new parish house was built in 1982, during the 1981 – 1992 term of Father Joseph Pinkosh. The house was funded in part by new parish celebrations such as the Fall Festival (celebrated the 1st Sunday in October) and the Grand Party (celebrated in May). These and other now traditional events grew from work by newly formed parish organizations as the Parish Council, Council of Catholic Women and Men’s Club.
On July 29, 2002 lightning struck for the second time in our history, totally destroying the church. Planning and rebuilding continued for two years and our
new facility was dedicated on August 1, 2004 with over 900 people in
attendance. Our new facility includes the new church which holds 450,
social hall which holds up to 400, six classrooms and two offices. St.
Patrick still holds the Fall Festival, Grand Party and has added to our
annual events: a St. Patrick’s Day Celebration, Ladies Choir Summer
Concert and Holiday Open House.
Following Father Pinkosh’s administration, St. Patrick shared priests with the Faribault churches. Father Tim Dornfeld served 1992-1993 followed by Father Dave Kohner in 1994-1995. St. Patrick then clustered with Most Holy Redeemer in Montgomery, with Father George Grafsky as pastor, until 2003. Father Barry Schneider, retired OFM priest moved into the parish house and served the parish alone as pastor for only 7 months until hospitalized with a stroke.
In June 2004 St. Patrick clustered with Divine Mercy in Faribault and St. Canice in Kilkenny, with Father Kevin Finnegan serving as the cluster pastor. In 2005, the St. Patrick/Divine Mercy cluster continued under Father Finnegan, but St. Canice was replaced by St. Michael’s in Kenyon. These 3 parishes continued together from 2005 until 2012.
On July 1, 2012 St. Patrick again clustered with Most Holy Redeemer in Montgomery and St. Canice, Kilkenny, welcoming Father George Kallumkalkudy as pastor. Father Marvin Klaers, retired priest, came to live in our parish house in January 2012, helping out by celebrating Mass, being present at Faith Formation classes, and visiting the sick, homebound and parish families.
In August 2014, Father Victor Valencia began as pastor of the St. Patrick/Most Holy Redeemer/St. Canice cluster. Father Victor is from the Phillipines, a country that is nearly 90% Catholic. He grew up in a vibrant church community life, and says that "having been part of a generation that
struggled to liberate ourselves from the Marcos dictatorship, faith in a God
that redeems his people has been a great source of strength and hope for all of
us". Father Victor was with us for five years, until July 1, 2019 when he was appointed pastor of the Church of Saint Jerome in Maplewood.
Father Tom Niehaus became our pastor in July 2019 from the Diocese of Winona. He is one of six children, of whom three are priests and one is a Sister. He is associated with Companions of Christ and lives with two other Companions of Christ priests in Le Center.