A Catholic Faith Community
St. Mary Parish is a Catholic faith community that has currently over 1,250 registered units and over 3,000 faith members. Our primary goal is to celebrate our faith through the Eucharist and sacraments. We strive to be a people who share our faith through our Time and Talent outreach to others, locally, nationally and in the world with over 100 ministries in 12 categories. St. Mary has a rich history with humble beginnings of dedicated immigrant Catholics who sacrificed much for future generations.
1859 St. Mary Parish was organized by Fr. J.N. Pfeiffer, and the Irish Catholics of the area
1860 Frame church was completed and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin under the title “St. Mary of the Seven Dolors”
1862 Small frame rectory was built for the first resident pastor, Fr. Louis Dael
1864 Parish opened the first parochial school in Appleton. The two-room building was staffed by missionary sisters of Barton, later known as the Sisters of St. Agnes, Fond du Lac
1865 Land was acquired on the west bluff of the Fox River to serve as a cemetery
1866 The Irish and Germans were separated into two parishes by Bishop Hennie of the Milwaukee Diocese, to which Appleton belonged back then. Irish Catholics remained at St. Mary and the Germans joined the new parish named St. Joseph, the second Catholic parish to be established in Appleton. The two parishes worshipped together at St. Mary for two years during the construction of St. Joseph Church.
1874 Cornerstone of the present brick church was laid with impressive ceremonies
1885 Frame rectory was razed and a more substantial home was built
1888 Parish constructed a two-story school and a frame convent
1889 School opened under the direction of the Sinsinawa Dominicans
1894 Columbia Hall, a social center, became a reality
1901 Convent burned to the ground while the sisters were attending Mass
1910 Congregation began renovating the church, the year of the church golden jubilee
1911 Generous members donated the marble altar, side altars, communion rail, and memorial windows. Jubilee celebration occurred on September 18. The parish observed the first Mass of Fr. Alois Schueller, the first native of Appleton to become a priest
1923 Misfortune again touched the parish. This time in the form of a windstorm which destroyed the south steeple
1930 Destructive whirlwind again toppled the south spire of the church. The north steeple was removed and parapets were added to each tower
1946 Plans were laid for a new school
1949 George Cotter, son of the parish, professed Perpetual vows and became a Capuchin brother
1952 Contractors were authorized to level the old school
1953 New school was ready for occupancy
1958 Construction on a two-story residence with rooms for 20 sisters was started
1959 Church centennial was observed on September 18
1960 Brother George Cotter OFM took the name Pius and became Brother Pius Cotter OFM
1963 Rectory and administration building was erected
1970 Michael Carroll of the parish was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Green Bay
1975 Convent was leased to CASI, now known as the “Mooring”, a halfway house for recovering alcoholics
1976 William (Bill) Burke was ordained the first permanent deacon at St. Mary.
1978 St. Mary and St. Joseph school faculties comprised of the Sinsinawa Dominicans, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and the lay teachers, joined to staff the present Catholic Central School (a joint effort between the two parishes and the foundation of ACES)
1983 Brother Pius Cotter OFM was ordained a deacon
1984 St. Mary Parish celebrates its 125th anniversary
1987 Church building is renovated and administration building is remodeled to create parish center
1988 Brother Pius Cotter OFM was ordained a priest
1989 Catholic Central campus became part of the Appleton Catholic Education System (ACES). The cross on the north tower of the church was hit by lightning causing significant damage. There was also damage to the corbels.
1990 The Sinsinawa Dominicans are no longer serving St. Mary after 100+ years. Pastor’s living quarters were moved from the original rectory on 7th Street to an apartment above the parish center
1991 Two parish sons, Thomas Long and John Doerfler, were ordained to the diaconate at St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican. They were ordained to the priesthood at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Green Bay, Wisconsin.
1992 Bell tower windows were replaced. A replica was designed using the original 1874 glass and is displayed in the Parish Center
1999 The failing pipe organ was replaced with a new state of the art digital organ. The Allen digital computer organ (Renaissance 350 model) was installed July 26 and was blessed the weekend of September 26.
2000 Dedication concert of the new organ was given February 20 by Tom Hazelton, representative of the Allen Organ Company
2004 Century II Capital Campaign for a new Parish Center, Demolition of the old Parish Center and Offices
2005 New Parish Center completed, and dedication by Bishop Zubik of the new Holy Family Chapel. Gerard (Gerry) Schraufnagel was ordained a permanent deacon to serve at St. Mary Parish
2006 First Covenant signing for our relationship with Twinning Parishes, Holy Family and Holy Spirit, in Alabama
2009 St. Mary celebrates its 150th Parish Jubliee
2010 In February, St. Mary Parish family mourned the loss of long time Pastor, Fr. Michael O’Rourke. The Post Cresent live-streamed his funeral over the internet for many to view around the globe
2011 Through a generous donor, St. Mary Church was air-conditioned
2012 Jeffrey Prickette was ordained a permanent deacon to serve at St. Mary Parish
2014 Catholic Central Elementary closes. St. Francis Xavier merges elementary education into two campuses: Marquette Street and McDonald Street