December 18, 2014

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Guardian Angels Church History

Guardian Angels Church History

Our history dates back to 1842 when the explorer J.B. Faribault invited Father Ravoux to establish a mission among the Sioux Indians in what would become the town of Chaska. He built a small log chapel, but dismantled it three years later when the Indians threatened to burn it down. The chapel was sold to the Catholics of Wabasha and floated down the river to it’s new home.

In the 1850s the Benedictine Fathers made frequent visits to our area, mostly to the German communities along the Minnesota River, to determine when a community was large enough to support a church.

Minnesota achieved statehood in 1858 and during that year the Benedictines decided that Chaska was able to support a church. The congregation had difficulty choosing a name for the new church so they decided to have Michael Guenser’s two-year-old daughter looked at pictures of saints and select one. She chose the picture of the Guardian Angel, and so the church was named Guardian Angels Catholic Church.

Since the first log chapel in 1842, three churches were built. The first was built between the years of 1858 and 1860. It was a simple, small brick building with planks on wooded blocks that served as pews.

By 1864, rapid growth in the area saw the need for a larger church and in 1868 work began on a second church. This church served the community’s needs until 1885 when construction began on the present church. This church was an imposing structure on the landscape, constructed of brick with a steeple towering 162 feet above the street. The interior ceiling rose 39 feet above the floor. It was described as one of the most adorned structures in the area.

On October 7, 1902 disaster struck! An early morning fire destroyed the church exterior, toppling the steeple onto a neighboring house destroying it. By 5 o’clock that afternoon all that remained were the four charred walls and the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, blessed by Pope Pius IX in 1871. Showing resiliency, within one year the parish reconstructed what is today’s church.

Through the years changes took place inside the church most notably after Vatican II – changes to meet the needs of a different congregation in a different era. The changes did not compromise the architecture of the church, or the tradition of its people.

Our community has undergone many changes in its 158 years. Most notably in 1995 the Franciscan Fathers and Brothers left Guardian Angels after serving 117 years to pursue other challenges with their limited number of priests. Their history was long and interesting with many accomplishments to their credit.

That same year our parish warmly welcomed our second Diocesan priest, Father Tim Rudolphi. Together we faced many challenges as we moved into the twenty first century and the next period of our church’s history.

In 1999, the “Resolve to Restore” Renovation Committee, Pastoral Council, Finance Board and Father Tim accepted the challenge to renew and redecorate the church without destroying the integrity of this beautiful structure that our forefathers entrusted to our care.

Father Tim left Guardian Angels in 2000 and that same year, Father Lawrence R. Johnson became the 3rd Diocesan Priest to serve Guardian Angels. Father Larry served as our Pastor until October 15, 2007. On October 17, 2007, during the time Guardian Angels was celebrating our 150th Anniversary, Father Paul Jarvis became Pastor and remained at Guardian Angels until June of 2011.

On July 1, 2011, Fr. Doug Ebert became Pastor at Guardian Angels and remained at Guardian Angels until June of 2014.

In 2013, the “Stewards of Our Legacy” capital campaign began and its focus was facilities and finances.

On July 1, 2014, Fr. Fernando Ortega became Pastor at Guardian Angels Catholic Church and School.

Our history is celebrated and our roots run deep as a traditional Catholic Church. Today Guardian Angels is a parish community in a small town setting comprised of people from a suburban and a rural agricultural environment with a significant Hispanic population.

Our church history of strength, resilience, love of God and man will continue through the lessons taught us by our forefathers.

Come join the challenge!