St. Dominic Catholic Church

Frederic, Wisconsin

Our History


A brief note in early summer of 1904 began the life of St. Dominic Catholic Church.  Bishop Schwebach’s short letter to Messrs Terra, Matushalk and Langford gave the Catholic church a home in Frederic, Wisconsin.

With permission granted by the Bishop in LaCrosse and the donation of a site by William Starr, a Frederic pioneer, the construction was begun.  The church community was to pay one hundred dollars down and the balance on the completion of the church.  Area residents such as John Matushalk, George Hagberg, Maggie Murphy, C. A. Carlson, M. Beaulieu, John Anderson, Martin Fox, and Thomas Smith, gave contributions, or donations of money in the amount of seventy-five cents to fifty dollars.

The contractor, W. E. Weaver, made an agreement with the church community that called for him to erect a building at a cost of twenty-five cents per block, when he provided them, and twelve cents when they were provided by the congregation.

Father Louis Archambault, a Dominican from Farmington, helped in the construction of the church.

Among the church workers were Melbert Beaulieu and his sons Francis and Fred.  Melbert and Francis cleared all the trees from the wooded lot.  They helped make and lay cement blocks along with Father Archambault, who dressed in overalls and helped pour cement into molds right along with the parishioners.

Prior to the establishment of a Catholic Church, in Frederic, as a parish unit, Franciscan and Dominican missionaries visited the area twice a year.  The best known of these missionaries were: Father Cassimer Voght O.F.M., Chrysostom Werwyst O.F.M., and finally Father Odoric Derenthal, the priest, who said the first mass in Frederic, at the home of John Matushak, in 1902.

A Franciscan from Ashland, Father Odoric, was most highly remembered because of his work with the Chippewas.  Given the name “Kosslnsian” which meant “Little Father”, he traveled to their homes and ministered to their spiritual needs.

Gordon Holmes, a zealous Native American Catholic, from Trade Lake, was a special friend of Father Odoric.  Mr. Holmes taught his children and other Native Americans their catechism.

On a missionary trip to Stone Lake, Father Odoric was approached by Mrs. Pat McHale, a convert, who wanted him to build a church in Clam Falls.  “I was dumbfounded,” writes Father Odoric in his diary, “at hearing such a foolish idea.

He continued, “After a few weeks I received a letter from Mrs. McHale at Ashland and she said, Dear Father, We had a supper dance when the River Boys (the men delivering logs down river) passed here and we made eighty dollars.”  Again she wrote, “Father we had another social and made thirty dollars.  I would like the church.  What name do you purpose?”  Father Odoric concluded, “I sent her a pretty plan made by our brother Leonard and selected St. Michael the archangel, thinking we needed a valiant defender against the power of darkness, who was very busy in this part of the country.”

The foundation of St. Michael Church in Clam Falls was laid in 1902 and served the needs of the Catholics in the area.  Some families attending St. Michael were; Greeners, Malinovskys, McHales, Fahlands, Martins, Mrs. Warren Smith, Knights, Tyminskis, and Weinzierls.  Many of these families became members of the St. Dominic congregation in 1944 when St. Michael closed.

Dorothy Fahland, whose home contains the dresser used as an altar by the early missionaries, remembers that church was held every Sunday in Frederic but not at St. Michael. Some other things that she could recollect were that St. Michael church was smaller, that everyone dressed in his or her best to attend church, and that most people traveled by horse-drawn sleds or wagons to attend mass.

Thomas Malinovsky, also a member of St. Michael, recalls a cold, stormy winter when Father Bernard Fries came to Clam Falls to say mass.  Because the snow was so deep and drifted, his car got stuck, and he had to walk a quarter of a mile to the church.  He said mass for the parishioners.  A collection was taken up, and the total contribution was twenty-five cents.

In 1907 the women of the parish formed the Women’s under the patronage of St. Rose of Lima.  The guild was responsible for sponsoring bazaars and parties to help support the church.

The young parish soon grew old enough to need a cemetery.  In 1908 land was deeded to St. Dominic Church by the Maple Grove Cemetery Association for the sum of one dollar. This plot, adjacent to the municipal cemetery still serves the church community.

Handwritten entries in baptismal records testify to the number of priests who have served the people of St. Dominic.

One of the earliest was Father Joseph Fagan, a missionary from Superior, who came to say mass for the few Catholic families in Frederic.  Despite the poor roads and other handicaps, the congregation moved forward.

Father Fagan would sometimes pass the home of Henry VanLoo, where he would pick up Henry and his sister Alice.  Henry remembers that Father Fagan drove a Chevrolet coupe, with mohair upholstery, and that Father “Drove like crazy!”

According to Henry, most people came to church in wagons.  To keep warm, in winter, the wagons were filled with straw and warm rocks. The rocks had been heated in kitchen ovens, prior to the ride to church.  Henry remembers that many parishioners attended mass with pieces of straw stuck to their clothing.

Father Fagan recalled the first venture of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who came to work, as nurses, for the Frederic hospital for 1918-1919.  But, because of the lack of a daily mass in the community, they reluctantly had to leave after the short stay.

At this time Frederic was one mission church, among ten or twelve, being served by the Cathedral of Superior.  Missionaries sent from the cathedral were: Father Borucki, in 1918, Father Ignatius Kinney, from 1918-1920, Father M. A. Proch, from 1920-1921 and Father Henry Shaney, from 1920-1927,.

Father Joseph Annabring, who later became Bishop of the Superior Diocese, came in 1927.  He inaugurated vacation religious instructions; perhaps the first of its kind in the Superior Diocese.

Father Ludwig Bohl came to serve as a missionary in 1929.  Dorothy Fahland and other parishioners remember that he had a great singing voice.

Alice VanLoo, who once shared toe-curling rides with her brother in Father Fagan’s car, entered the Convent of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, in Lacrosse in 1929.  Her community gaver the name Sister Mary Pascaleen.  She was stationed in Iowa for many years, and is now retired.

Until 1934 priests would say mass at St. Dominic twice a month.  For the most part, they were stationed in either Superior or Webster and on their visits, they were offered the hospitality of the parishioners.

The last missionary priest assigned to Frederic was Father Constant Trimbos, who served here from 1931-1938.

The parish owes a special remembrance to Father Bernard Fries who during his pastorate in Webster took a deep interest in the welfare of St. Dominic.  He baptized many people during his visits from 1927-1938.

Being the first resident priest at St. Dominic was quite difficult for Father Henry Keil, when he was appointed here in 1934.  In a letter he wrote, “I almost froze to death,” while living in the church basement for two months.  A parishioner, Miss Sawyer, gave him a small stove and he “borrowed” a little wood from the church so that he had a little heat.

When Marge Ryan was a young girl, she stayed with her grandma Haumant in Frederic.  She recalls that it was the job of her two uncles, Don and Elmer, to build the fire in the wood furnace at church.  These uncles were “real, classy, dressers.”  One Sunday, Elmer went to start the fire, so the church would be warm for mass.  He was straightening up and he had a bunch of scraps, to burn, in his hand.  So, before he went home, he was going to throw them into the fire.  He opened the furnace door and threw in his new felt hat instead of the scraps.  Marge relates that he was “madder than heck.”  He still had the scraps in his hand when he came home.

While Father Wilfred Fries was assigned to St. Dominic in 1938, the first rectory was purchased.

In these early years, money was scarce.  Dinners were held, Kit Oeffler remembers, and everyone brought something.  Each family donated fifty cents for the meat.  All the church work was done by the parishioners, and not one person asked for pay.

Louis D’Jock remembers having “Sister School,” during the summer, in Frederic.  Someone from Siren would bring the kids to Frederic, and these kids would take the train back to Siren.  The train left between three-thirty and four o’clock, so the Siren kids got to leave early.

The original church was remodeled while Father Henry Schnitz was pastor at St. Dominic, from 1946-1950.  Father Schnitz presided over the organization of the Men’s Club in 1948, under the leadership of Louis St. Angelo.  It was dedicated to serve the needs of the church community.

Father Alex Anton, pastor from 1950-1962, traveled between churches in all kinds of weather.  Jim Ryan remembers it being so cold, during the winter that Father Anton said he kept the holy water in his pocket so that it wouldn’t freeze.

Cecelia Meyer went to confirmation classes at Father Anton’s house.  They were often given popcorn as a special treat.  One specific event, she recalls, was a trip to St. Angelo’s cabin on Silver Lake.

Father Anton received an unusual present for one Christmas according to Delores Duncan.  In 1953, the children had a program in the old church basement.  A stage was set up near the furnace, and the rest of the area was filled with chairs.  People donated silver dollars that had been attached to a bell.  The children came in singing, “Silver Bells”, while carrying bells.  It was a presented to Father Anton as a gift.  The ladies served a lunch to a packed audience.

Before Father Anton was reassigned, plans for the new church were well underway.  In 1963, while Father Philip Stack was pastor at St. Dominic, the new church construction was completed.

John Donlin recalled a time, in 1963, when Father Stack called a meeting.  He showed the church checkbook with a balance of between two and three hundred dollars; not enough to make it through the winter.  He was concerned that the church would have to close its doors.  Rose D’Jock, took over the meeting, and plans were made for the first parish festival.  It was a pig roast at the home of Verne Engels.

After the first festival, it was decided to serve grilled chicken, so plans were made to get the necessary equipment.  Jim Ryan and Gordan Rogers borrowed a pick-up to go to Dresser stone quarry and get some old scrap metal screens.  They dug through to find what they wanted and took them to the Murphy brothers, in Luck, who made them into the grilling screens  still used at p arish festivals today.

Father Stack brought some buddies, from Rice Lake, to teach the cooks how to do the chicken.  Evidentially, the visitors spent too much time getting ready to be of any help to those men trying to learn.

Danuta (“Doody”) Williamson began playing the organ at St. Dominic in 1964, and continued to provide this ministry until her death in 1998.  During  more than 34 years she brought music to our parish as a solo performer, with leaders of song, and with the choir.  Her faithfulness and talent added immensely to the worship of our parish..  Only weather or health would prevent her on occasion from sharing her gifts.  Doody’s love for music, dedication and commitment provided many joyous and inspirational liturgies.

Father Aloysius Gostomski, pastor from 1965-1969, made many home visits.  He often celebrated mass in parishioners’ homes, and blessed homes in both parishes.

A new bell tower was constructed while Father Marion Scheutz was pastor in 1972.  Louis St. Angelo raised the money for the purchase, and the installation of the bell.  In the same year Roman Weinzierl recalls the privilege was given by the bishop for a lay person to touch the host and distribute communion.

1972 also saw the chartering of the Knights of Columbus.  The membership included the parishes of Frederic, Grantsburg, Balsam Lake, and Centuria.  It is known as Council Number 6370, and is called the Philip Gordon Council.  Roman Weinzierl was installed as the First Grand Knight.  The members have spent hours helping the mentally disabled, in their Tootsie Roll Campaign.  Recently, the Knights have branched out to help a local dentist raise money for orphans in Russia.  The goal of the dentist was to give dental help for the children by training adults to use the equipment that he was taking over there.

Father Hugh Roches was assigned to Frederic, from 1972-74, followed by Father Andrew Berthold , who was a chaplain in Viet Nam before coming to St. Dominic in 1973.  While here, Father Berthold helped increase the church membership by one-third.  He had prayer services for the sick, instituted release time from the school for religious education, and he also held home masses.

For a brief time, in 1976, no priest was assigned to St. Dominic Church.  During this time Father James Horath and Father Thomas Keilin were acting administrators while Sister Jean Benzchawel was parish coordinator.

In July of 1976, Father Jim Kraker became thew pastor of St. Dominic, in Frederic, and Immaculate Conception, in Grantsburg.  Under the guidance of Father Jim, the church experienced the Spirit of Renewal rooted in Vatican 2.  Sister Mary Clare Wartner, former Mother of Superior of the Order of the Sorrowful Mother, joined Father Jim as pastoral assistant.  Her ministry lasted until 1978, when she was forced to retire due to a health condition.

Sister Lucy Ann Wasinzer became pastoral assistant to the Frederic and Grantsburg parishes, in 1979.  Before coming to Frederic,she lived at St. Agnes Convent.  While here, she helped develop our faith community by involving members of the church.  She was reassigned in 1981.

While Father Kraker was pastor, a new rectory and religious center was planned and built.  This building, which was constructed in the spring and summer of 1979, had six education rooms, a two-car garage, and pastoral offices.  It was built at a cost of $114,000.  Bishop Hammes blessed the rectory on October 21st, 1979; the same day St. Dominic celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary.

Bill Heffner, a member of St. Dominic, was accepted as an applicant for permanent deconcate, in 1981, by the Diocese of Superior.  He was later ordained by the Bishop Fliss and held this position until he later moved to Webster and Webb Lake.

On July 4, 1982 Father Kraker, to most parishioners unhappiness, was reassigned.  Father James Dluge, former pastor of St. Louis Church in Superior, succeeded Father Kraker on July 26th, 1982.

One of the first things that Father Dluge accomplished was the re-activation of the Women’s Guild.  Another top priority was to get the parish out of debt, and on June 15th, 1986, the debt was paid in full.

Many other improvements have been made in the years following.  In the summer of 1988, stained glass windows adorned the church.  Completed in October of 1988, the windows depict the seven Sacraments, and the five Christian Virtues.  Other improvements included air-conditioning in 1991, along with new pew cushions the same year.

A new pavilion was built on the church grounds in 1992.  This building is used for summer festival and houses the hamburger stand and the country store.

Because the old organ began to fall apart, and parts were no longer available, the parish decided to purchase an Allen Digital Computer organ from the Schmit Music Company in Minneapolis.  It was blessed and dedicated by Father Dluge on Sunday, February 16th, 1992, with Garret William Lamain giving a concert on the new organ.

Father Dluge remained in Frederic and Grantsburg until 1997, when he was forced to resign due to ill health.

Father David Lusson was appointed to the two parishes on February 11th, 1997, and on Ash Wednesday, he said his first mass.

Before coming, Father Lusson served in the United States Navy from 1965-1972.

He was ordained on June 14th, 1980 after attending St. John’s School of Theology in Collegeville, Minnesota.

Before coming to Frederic, he was pastor of Saint Anne Church, Somerset and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Parish at East Farmington.

In addition to St. Dominic Father Dave serves the parish of Immaculate Conception in Grantsburg.  A popular innovation has been “neighborhood masses.”  The combination of informal liturgy and pot luck dinner is held each week during the summer months at a parishioner’s residence.

Father Dave has something in common with Father Fagan, one of missionary priests.  He does not like to spend a lot of time traveling slowly on the roads.

Faith in God, the parishioners, and himself even led to the printing of a parish Christmas card.  One year it was decided that a Christmas tree, given by Irene Anderson, and as tall as the ceiling, was to be used for decoration.  Few though it could be done, but Father said that all we needed was a little faith.  With a lot of help, and a lot of faith it was accomplished.  The Liturgy Committee was so impressed they had a photograph taken and made into a Christmas card.

Father Dave’s energy and enthusiasm has generated a new spirit for this church community.

Joel Cycenas, son of Joe and Nancy Cycenas of St. Dominic church

was ordained to the priesthood on May 27th, 2000.  He received his degree from Magdalen College in New Hampshire, and then joined the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  He was sent to Rome and began the theology program.  His first assignment will be at St. Peters in Mendota Heights, Minnesota.

Al Schommer reminisces about the changes in the church.  He remembers that everyone dressed up for church and went to confession at least once a month.  Kids didn’t miss CCD unless they were really sick.  He wonders if these many changes that have taken place are, “For the better or the worse.”

Fifty years ago, Father Anton said, “Cement blocks do not make a church.  Our church is neat and compact, and inspires a prayerful spirit.  Our rectory is comfortable, and our parish membership is increasing from year to year.  But this is not the real wealth of our parish.  The real wealth is the deep faith of its people.”

That same faith carries St. Dominic Parish to new goals and achievements today as we celebrate the Jubilee year 2000 and prepare to celebrate our first century as a parish family.