On August 15, Father Francis Hurth celebrated the first Mass for 54 people at the home of Peter Donnelly and the parish community of The Church of St. Stephen was created.
On October 20, parishioners purchased their first building from another denomination, the Congregational Society, in order to establish the first Catholic church in the Anoka area.
The first Confirmation class of 17 young people received the sacrament from Bishop Grace. Father Prosper Mauer was the administrator here as well as the Cedar Creek Mission in Dayton.
Father John McDermott was appointed the first resident pastor and, shortly after his arrival, he obtained a two-story dwelling for use as a rectory.
Father William Nolan served as interim pastor until the arrival of Father William McGolrick.
Father Daniel Hayes assumed the pastorate.
The parish constructed a minor addition to the existing church in an effort to keep pace with growth. Plans were developed for a more permanent new church; however, these were put on hold with the untimely death of Father Hayes.
Under the direction of the new pastor, Father Michael Bruton, the parish welcomed the Sisters of Mercy as teachers and caregivers for the sick of the community. The John McDonnel home was given to the parish and converted to a convent and school. St. Anne School was dedicated in September, 1881. A Mr. Vader was so enthusiastic about the sisters’ work that he supplied the convent with milk for 21 years.
Father Daniel Reilly and Father Martin Connolly were successive pastors, and Father William Brennan arrived in 1883.
St. Anne School continued to develop a well-respected curriculum and charged day students $3.25 every six weeks (approximately $20 for the entire year). Meanwhile, boarding students paid a more tidy sum of $15 per month (approximately $135 for the entire year).
A new church was needed. Although there was a depression, Father Brennan sought donations of building materials, and construction began on a new church that was dedicated by Archbishop Ireland on July 21, 1889. It was officially named “St. Stephen” after the first martyr.
Father Thomas Duane came to St. Stephen’s when the community had fallen on hard times as the local flour mills were phasing out of existence. Crops were poor and prices low. Parishioners rallied their support behind a number of festivals and fund raisers, gradually wiping out a $10,000 debt and providing three altars, stone steps, church decorations, and the bell.
Father Oliver Dolphin was appointed.
Father Daniel McCarthy provided pastoral leadership for the next 21 years, including weathering the years following the financial crash in 1929.
Father E.S. deCoursy was pastor, and a Crosier priest from Onamia, Father James Ballemons, O.S.C. served as his assistant. This was our parish’s first contact with the Crosiers.
Father William Hart was appointed pastor, and three years later Father William Murphy was appointed pastor.
The new Church of St. Stephen School building opened and welcomed students in September.
On June 1, the Archbishop appointed Father Karl Wittman as the new pastor and charged him with the responsibility for building a new church to meet the growing community needs.
Ground was broken in the spring, and one year later the cornerstone was set in our present church.
After 12 years of service, Father Wittman was transferred to St. Francis de Sales parish in St. Paul and Father Greg Esty followed as temporary administrator.
Due to the growing shortage of diocesan priests, Archbishop Roach invited the Crosier Fathers and Brothers to take over the administration and direction of the parish. In March, Father Joseph Hennen, O.S.C. assumed the responsibilities as the first Crosier pastor of the Church of St. Stephen.
Father James Vedro, O.S.C. succeeded Father Hennen and served for ten years. New growth to the area doubled the size of the parish between 1980 and 1990. Lay ministers and lay leadership played an ever-increasing role in the parish.
Crosier Father Mike Paquet, O.S.C. succeeded Father Vedro as pastor.
By 1993, the parish had a population of more than 4,000 families representing over 13,000 Catholics.
Construction began in March on a $6 million project that was completed in January 1999.
Father Michael A. Van Sloun succeeded Father Mike Paquet as Pastor.
On July 1, 2004 the leadership of the parish transferred from the Crosier Fathers and Brothers to the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis. Fr. Michael Van Sloun remained as pastor.
On August 15, St. Stephen’s Church marked its 150th Anniversary. Our parish celebrated the occasion Sunday, August 20. The celebration began with Archbishop Harry Flynn presiding at the 11:15 a.m. Mass, followed by a family picnic at George Green Park.
On the weekend of June 9/10, the $7.6M (principal and interest) promissory note for the building debt was burned in a special ceremony during all Masses. The note was paid off many years earlier than expected due to the generous contributions of our parishioners.
On July 1, Fr. Jack Long succeeds Fr. Michael Van Sloun as Pastor.
Please >click here for the church history document compiled in 1999-2000 by Robert Whitney III. He chose the task of compiling information about the history of our parish as his Eagle Scout project. We thank him for the tremendous amount of time and effort he put into this document.
Peter Donnelly home
St. Stephen's Church
St. Stephen's Church