St. Elizabeth Church owes its existence to the pastoral concern of a priest and the persistence in the faith of a people who were left without a parish. As soon as the parish was established, its members raced to the task of building their church. By Christmas Day 1925 Mass was offered for the first time in the church. St. Elizabeth of Hungary was chosen as the patroness of the parish. Her feast day is November 17th.
St. Elizabeth Catholic Church has approximately 200 families today. Our parish has flourished thanks to the numerous volunteers over the years such as trustees, parish council members, religion teachers, extra-ordinary Eucharistic ministers, Christian Mothers, Knights of Columbus, mission groups, lectors, altar servers, choir members, organists, custodians, maintenance people and many others too numerous to mention. The parish has come a long way since the “Meeting under the Oaks” with the start of 45 families. This is proof that the spirit of Father Brenny lives on in the people now making up the Mystical Body of Christ.
Visitors are welcome to share in our celebrations. We are located in the Heart of Brennyville, Minnesota.
St. Elizabeth Church
16454 125th Ave NE
Foley, MN 56329
History of St. Elizabeth Church
St. Elizabeth’s Church owes its existence the pastoral concern of a priest and the persistence in the faith of a people who were left without a parish. The present members owe their parish in large measure to a priest. Father Peter Brenny, and the 45 families who formed the nucleus of the parish in 1924.
Many Catholic residents of the area served by St. Elizabeth’s were formerly members of the Church of St. John Nupomuc in Ramey. Bishop Busch decided there was need for only one parish in the area. A vote was taken among the parishioners whether the church should be located in Ramey, Morril or a location midway between the two. The majority o fht parishioners favored Morrill. The people of the suppressed parish were asked to join parishes in Morrill, Gilman or Foley. Some refused going to any parish. Father Brenny systematically visited and registered all the Catholic people living in the area who were or should have been listed as parish members of the Ramey Church.
In the course of his survey, Father Brenny found out that adventurous young farmers and families were beginning to build homes in sparsely settled areas. He devoted his incredible energy to minister to the needs of these families. The result of this special conviction was that a new church was needed at the location closer to the center of this developing area.
On August 1, 1924 a meeting was held in the shade of a cluster of four round oak trees about 60 yards south of the present church. It was attended by Father Brenny and the people who “wished to belong to the new parish.” Their resolution was presented to the Bishop and the Diocesan Consulters, on August 13, 1924. It received unanimous approval. On September 26, 1924 the Brennyville parish was incorporated with Father Peter Brenny as pastor.
As soon as the parish was established, its members raced to the task of building their church as quickly as possible. Frank Ratka donated five acre tract of land for the church. Having no money to start with, they decided on building a basement first while dreaming about the more elegant superstructure to be added later. They eagerly collected what little money they had and donated all the labor they could furnish.
By Christmas Day 1925 Mass was offered for the first time in the church. St. Elizabeth of Hungry as patroness was chosen. Some say Father Brenny chose that name as a tribute to his faithful housekeeper, Elizabeth Bienek. For some time the parish was served as a mission parish of Morrill until Father Brenny relocated here in 1925.
Father Brenny engaged in several business enterprises during his pastorate. Carpenters built a store, an apartment building, and a cheese factory complex. In 1930, Father Brenny and his parishioners constructed and outdoor shrine in honor of St. Elizabeth. The shrine was later converted to a grotto in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Father Brenny transferred from the parish in September 1935, and was replaced by Father Paul J. Otto. He immediately went to work planning a parish house. The people of Brennyville contributed generously toward their building fund. With a lot of donated labor from parishioners, the colonial style two store frame dwelling was completed.
In June of 1941, Father Al B. Kroll was appointed to the parish. On March 16, 1947 the cheese factory burned down. During the pastorate of Father Kroll our present church was built at a cost of $112,000, on the basement constructed during the time of Father Brenny.
Father Brenny (the founder of Brennyville) died on August 15, 1955 and is buried in our parish cemetery.
Father Kroll remained longer than any other pastor at Brennyville. He left in August 1968 when Father Edwin Oman succeeded him. In 1974 the parish of Brennyville celebrated its 50th Anniversary. Father Oman left the parish in 1982 and was replaced by Father Virgil Hilman. Father Helmin served the parish until 1984. Father Laurn Virning came to St. Elizabeth’s in 1984 as a pastor of a duel parish with St. Joseph’s in Morrill. Father Virning was active in the construction of the ball field. He is well known for his great relationship with the youth of our parishes. He taught us as people of God, the Catholic Church, we are called to study, love, and practice our Catholic faith in worship, work and play. He supervised the construction of our restable building. He resided at the parish house in Brennyville.
In 1996 Father Thomas Olson came to St. Elizabeth’s and served both Morrill and Brennyville parishes. In 2002, after the death of Father Schultenberg, Father Olson became the pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul church in Gilman as well. Father Olson became busy with the maintenance of the church building. The windows in the church basement where replaced, a new sewer system installed, a new furnace with air conditioning installed, the front steps replaced and a new sign in front of the church with beautiful perennials. Father Tom said that our parish members are very important because we are the church.
Father Antonio F. Marfori became pastor in July 2008.
St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church has approximately 200 families today. Our parish has flourished thanks to the numerous volunteers over the years such as trustees, parish council members, religion teachers, Eucharistic ministers, Christian Mothers, Knights of Columbus, mission groups, lectors, Mass servers, choir members, organists, custodians, maintenance people and others to numerous to mention. It has come a long way since the “Meeting under the Oaks” with the start of 45 families. This is proof that the spirit of Father Brenny lives on in the people now making up the mystical body of Christ.
Information taken from The Spirit of Central Minnesota which was published by the Diocese of St. Cloud 1989 and The St. Cloud Visitor August 8,1974.