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    This brief history of St. Agnes Parish is a compilation

of  excerpts from the Centennial Celebration booklet, the book  A Walk Through The History of

the Diocese of Marquette, and our own memories.  It began  with the discovery and mining of

iron ore  and the subsequent settlement of the area. 

     1883, Father Anatole Pelisson was given charge of the area with neither church or rectory.

He resided in the homes of parishioners and said Mass in school buildings. In 1885,

the first church was built to provide for the young and growing community. He was 

the first in a succession of priests to serve the spiritual needs of the Catholic communities.

     On September 1, 1898, Rev. James Lenhardt began his long pastorate and

continued until his untimely death in 1934, murdered by a mentally unbalanced

man outside of the rectory. 

    In 1900, St. Agnes Parish, the mother church of the entire west side of Iron county,

totaled 125 families and served the villages and settlements of Iron River, Stambaugh,

Saunders, Pentoga, Watersmeet, Atkinson Interior, and later Caspian and Gaastra.

    St. Agnes Parish continued to grow in membership and prosperity under

Father Lenhart's leadership.  

    In the midst of the Great Depression, the parish was in debt, church and

rectory were in need of repair, and the parish in a state of decline. During that

time Fr. George Dingfelder began the ardous task of restoring the well-being

of St. Agnes .  His partorate co-insided with the 

Second World War and the parish began to be

re-established, physically and spiritually. 

    After the fire, in 1954, which destroyed the first St. Agnes

Church, a new church was built and dedicated in 1956.

St Agnes School opened its doors in September, 1948

to over 100 children, the Convent completed 

in 1961 and a new Rectory in 1965. 

    A widespread closing of the local iron mines

in the 60's and a subsequent decline in the 

economy of the area, together with the marked

reduction of priests, had unfortunate affects and

in 1970, St. Agnes School had to close its doors. 

    With the closing of Assumption Church, 

Blessed Sacrament in Stambaugh, and St. Mary's

in Gaastra; there remains only St. Agnes in Iron

River and St. Cecilia's in Caspian. Father Norman

Clisch was named Pastor of both churches.

    Many repairs and improvements were made

during the pastorate of Father Norman Clisch 

from 2000 to 2011 until his retirement.

    The improvements have  continued with

the installation of Father Gregory Veneklase

who was named as Pastor/Administrator of

St. Agnes and St. Cecilia on July 1, 2011.  In addition, he was then given charge of the

Sister Parish of  Immaculate Conception in Watersmeet  on July 1, 2019.


History of St. Agnes church

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Good Friday14
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Good Friday at St. Agnes
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