The first Mass in Sparta was celebrated by Fr P. F. Montague in 1859. It was held in the shanty home of Mr and Mrs William Lennon for only five or six families. This was approximately nine years after the first house was built in Sparta. The first church was a small frame building, built in 1867, about a block west of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St Paul depot. It was on the south side of our present Walrath St. This church was dedicated on May 19, 1868, in honor of St Patrick. It did not have a spire or vestibule.
The church was served by visiting priests until a resident pastor was obtained in 1876. This was Fr J.B. Metzler and was his first appointment as a priest. Just before his arrival, a residence was acquired and transformed into a rectory. It was on the site of the present rectory so was about a mile from the church (near the depot). During his administration, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of LaCrosse came to Sparta. They started the building which became the present Franciscan-Skemp Hospital. A parochial school was conducted in it until 1919.
Fr Metzler was transferred in late summer of 1877. Fr Joseph Baur came in early November, 1877. One of Fr Baur’s first administrative acts was to relocate the church. The entire structure was moved to a position between the rectory and the hospital, facing Main St. Fr Baur was transferred nine months later and his successors were Fr J.M. Wicker (1878-1879) and Fr J.B. Wiedmann (1879-1881). During Fr Wiemann’s stay, a steeple and vestibule were added to the church and a new bell was purchased. The next priest was Fr Theophile Beau (1881-1887). He became seriously ill in 1885 and died in March, 1887.
On July 10, 1887, Fr Henry Flock came to Sparta. He was here until 1942…a span of fifty-five years. By 1903 the old church on W. Main St had become too small for the growing parish. On Sunday morning, Jan 22, 1905, the church was destroyed by fire, caused by an overheated furnace. The present site of St Patrick’s Church was owned by John Teasdale. It was purchased from him on April 11, 1905. On September 24, 1905 the cornerstone of the new church was blessed and laid by Bp. Schwebach in the presence of a huge congregation from Sparta. The new church was opened to divine services on November 18, 1906.
On the night of February 22, 1922, lightning struck the church steeple and caused a fire. The spire burned down to the brick work. In 1931 the beautiful windows of the transept were wrecked by a tornado. The windows have been replaced, but the spire was never rebuilt.
In 1932, the parish constructed a permanent school building that stood until 2010. In 1950 a second story was added, but the building was eventually torn down in 2010 after a new school was built to the west on South L Street. Currently the enrollment of our school (K-8) hovers around 150!
Fr Hugh Deeny succeeded Msgr Flock in 1942. He was here seven years, to 1949. During this time changes and improvements were made. His energetic administration was quite a change from Msgr Flock’s “fatherly” ways. Next, Fr L.B. Keegan was here (1949-1957). He was followed by Fr Frank Brickl (1957-1965), Fr Francis Wallace (1965-1966), Fr Bernard Kelley (1966-1981), and Fr Mark Walljasper (1981-1999). Fr Jim Leary, OFM Cap (1999 - 2010), Fr. Edward Shuttleworth (2010-2011), Fr. John Selva Manohar (2011-2014). Our current pastor is Fr. Jerome Patric here from India, and arrived at our parish in 2014.
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