A History of Inspiring Faith Builders
Our city and parish both began with the earliest settlers in the Hudson area, when Wisconsin was still a territory. During trapping seasons in the early 1800’s, Mass was offered in this locality by itinerant missionaries, among them Father Gaultier, the famous priest-explorer.
In 1840, two young Frenchman, Louis Massey and Peter Bouchea, started a settlement on the banks of the Willow and St. Croix Rivers. The town was first called Willow River, then Buena Vista, and finally Hudson in 1852. The pioneers were Catholic, and they became the first parishioners of Hudson’s fledlging Catholic community.
Father George Keller, from St. Paul, offered the first recorded Mass in the new settlement of Hudson in January of 1855. Later the same year, Father J.J. McGee was named the first resident priest of Hudson. Father McGee oversaw the building of Hudson’s first Catholic church, which stood upon land donated by Louis Massey (an ancestor of present-day parishioners). The new church, which was dedicated to St. James, was completed in 1857.
In the years that followed, several priests came and went as the parish continued to grow. On June 20, 1868, Father Chrysostom Verwyst arrived. He was a visionary who made many improvements to his parish, including purchasing the land for the cemetery, securing the purchase of land at the corner of Fourth and St. Croix Streets for a new church, and establishing our first parochial school. In 1874, a new, larger church was blessed and dedicated under the patronage of St. Patrick of Ireland.
A School – Essential from the Beginning
Father Thomas Kelly arrived in Hudson in 1875 and opened St. Mary’s Academy on the hill, conducted by the Sisters of Mercy from Janesville, Wisconsin and later by the Sisters of St. Joseph. In the late 1880’s, Father Kelly initiated the building of the first St. Patrick School. He was reassigned before it completion. In her recollections of St. Patrick’s Parish, Sister Bonaventure Schoeberle FSPA wrote: “Father Kelley’s joys were not realized; the building was in progress, and it is said that the unfinished work made it so hard for him to bid adieu to Hudson.”
In 1889, Father John A. Barney came to St. Patrick as its eleventh resident priest. Staying the next 36 years, he enjoyed the longest pastorate in the history of the parish. During his first year, the two-story red brick school building was completed at a cost of $7000. The original school building stood until 1953, when it was demolished to make room for a new school and gymnasium.
Monsignor John M. Owens served as pastor for St. Patrick’s Parish from 1934-1962. Under his tutelage, our present school, dedicated in 1955, was built. In 1981, the St. Patrick School gymnasium and kitchen were renamed the Owen Center in his honor.
With the continued growth of Hudson and St. Patrick Parish, St. Patrick School added a wing onto the north end of the building. This wing currently houses the 5th grade and Middle School programs. As Hudson became a booming suburb of the Twin Cities area, St. Patrick School was bursting at the seams and in need of more classrooms and specialty spaces.
In 2002 St. Patrick School underwent an extensive renovation and addition to bring St. Patrick School into the 21st century. The original building, built in 1955, was gutted and reorganized to house a new main office, a music room, an art room, a new media center, a computer room, new kindergarten and kindergarten readiness classrooms, and an improved space for the Religious Formation Program. The southeast primary wing was added with eight new classrooms, a new cafeteria/multi-purpose room, and activity room.
The Sisters 0f St. Agnes from Fond du Lac came to Hudson in 1905 to take charge of teaching at the school. These dedicated Sisters provided education and inspiration to the students of St. Patrick -School from 1905-1983. They also maintained a visible presence in Hudson, serving not only the school but also teaching music lessons, ministering to the sick, offering religious education classes to the youth of our parish as well as teaching religion and scripture classes.
Saints and Leaders
Our parish is proud to have educated one who may soon be named to sainthood – Father Solanus Casey. This Capuchin priest received his first Holy Communion in St. Patrick Parish. Father Casey is revered for his deep abiding faith and his commitment to the poor and sick. His deeds and words continue to be an inspiration even today.
Our parish family has also started out on their faith journeys several priests and nuns, among them: Father Ingatius Kinney, Sister M. Florence Marie, Sister Mary Michael, Sister M Carmella, and our own Father Jim Dabruzzi, who has returned to us. When asked about St. Patrick School, Father Dabruzzi replied: “I had a wonderful education there. My first year at the Pontifical College in Ohio was very easy because of the start St. Patrick School had given me.”
St. Patrick’s Parish has also contributed to many civic and professional leaders who have been guided by their Catholic values.
“Facing the 1970’s as a teenager, my Catholic education played a major role. Those of us in that age bracket were facing moral challenges and decisions no one had ever discussed with us. Now we are aging facing ethical challenges no one has ever dreamed would become realities. The teachings of our Catholic school, and our faith community, serve as anchors that help us to meet those challenges. They have provided us with the confidence to make the difficult decisions based on our values and beliefs…to stay focused in times or turmoil and difficult decisions. They have given us the ability to make the decisions we believe are right – even if no one else is looking, or no one else knows about them.” - State Assemblywoman Kitty Rhodes
Our dedicated teachers and staff set high goals and give students the skills needed to attain them. Strong art and music curricula enhance learning. Older students mentor and help children in the early grades, adding to the sense of family within the school. All of these things foster learning and make St. Patrick School a special place. Our students rank among the best nationwide! Their achievement is reflected in their performance in standardized test scores.
Parish support for our school and religious education programs have proven to be a good investment in our most precious resource -- our children.
Parental and parish involvement in the school has always been the cornerstone to our student’s success. These sacrifices ensure the continuity and success of our Catholic education legacy. This commitment to a faith-based education is evident in alumni and current students who represent the second and even third generations of their family to attend St. Pat’s. Such as members of the Gherty, Richie, Casanova, Simon, Loughney, Kinney, Morrissette, and O’Brien families, to name just a few.
This Catholic commitment is also evident in the leadership of those new to our community. They bring insight and new perspectives from parishes far and wide. The common thread all these parishioners share is the resounding “YES” they have given to the importance of a Catholic education.
“A Parish, such as ours…
…must strive to develop educational programs that will include every member of the parish community regardless of what school they attend or what age they are. Education must reach every member of the parish from cradle to grave. There is no stage of life in which man is not confronted with new questions that must be answered and new situations that must be met in an intelligent manner.” - Father Alex Anton, 1973
The Religious Formation Program (RFP) is an integral part of our faith community. Current enrollment in the RFP program consists of nearly 700 children . RFP encompasses Bible School, Mission Trips, Eucharistic, Reconciliation, and Confirmation preparation. St. Patrick School and the RFP are inextricably linked: they use the same space, stress the same values, and they recognize each other’s contributions to strengthening our parish family. This strong partnership continues to inspire and teach the increasing number of area Catholics.
St. Croix County continues to be the fastest growing county in the state of Wisconsin, and the enrollment at St. Patrick’s reflects that. Many members of our parish recognized the need for a Parish Education Center several years ago. Dedicated individuals, with Father Peter F. Szleszinski’s support, worked tirelessly to ensure that our parish family will be able to enjoy a strong school and faith community for years to come.
Researched, Copy, and Design by Mary Pat Finnegan
Many Thanks to Marybeth Lorbeicki Mataya
The Addition in 2002