Built on the Rock
The 150-Year History of
St. Henry’s Catholic Church,
372 page book is now
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In the beginning, before
there was a congregation along the Rock River known as St. Henry’s, before
there was a city designated as Watertown, or even a state given the name of
Wisconsin, there was a territory that held much promise for those seeking it.
More so, there was in the
area from which Watertown would blossom and thrive, a potential. A potential that would fulfill promise, but
only when the earth of this abundant land was conquered and nurtured by those
daring souls fleeing desperate conditions from distant shores. These pioneers, ancestors of the author and
perhaps also of yours, would conquer their fears and uncertainties, as well as
their new land, by means of faith in oneself, faith in each other, and faith in
their Creator and God.
Upon this land and upon
the shoulders of its God-loving and God-fearing inhabitants, Watertown was
established and would flourish, St. Henry’s was founded 150 years ago, and the
children of God lived their lives and grew in their faith through the short time
that was granted to them within creation in this small area of earth. And God saw that it was good.
(Introductory paragraphs of this history,
Book of Genesis section)
only previous history of St. Henry’s Catholic Church of Watertown was written
in German in 1903, at the time of the 50th anniversary of the
congregation. One hundred years later, a
new and comprehensive history of the congregation has been written to coincide
with the 150th anniversary of St. Henry’s. The product of over two years of research,
this updated history documents and adds perspective to the significant
achievement of the one and one-half centuries of the church itself and also of
the faith and devotion of its members over the years.
lighthearted use of names of books of the Bible to organize the content of this
history, the author covers all aspects of the history of St. Henry’s: the church, school, parish center, rectory,
and cemetery; the societies and organizations; the varied religious services;
the few absolute commands of Christ and the many rules of the Church; the
devotions that nurtured one’s religious life and also the events that tested
emphasis is placed on the early decades of the 150 year history.
A Church Built On The
The 150 Year History of
St. Henry's Catholic Church,
Kenneth M. Riedl, 361
A new church
history has just been published entitled “A Church Built on the Rock, The 150
Year History of St. Henry's Catholic Church, Watertown, Wisconsin 1853-2003” by
our own Ken Riedl. I have read this book and can honestly say that this is a
history by which all other church histories should be and very likely will be
measured. Not since the late Charles J. Wallman penned his mammoth “Built On
Irish Faith,” which was a history of St. Bernard's Catholic Church in
Watertown, has a church history covered so much ground in so entertaining a
fashion. Mr. Riedl's book has raised the bar considerably for other church
historians. His slavish attention to detail and his obvious love of his subject
is made abundantly clear from the first page to the last.
In just over
360 pages Ken manages to tell the history of a church that has been part of the
city of Watertown's landscape for 150 years. This is even more remarkable when
one realizes that no previous history of the church had been written since a
small pamphlet in 1903 which was written in German. The wealth of detail is
amazing! Every priest, nun, or memorable person or event is enumerated within
this book. Highlights of the work include a capsule history of Catholicism in
Wisconsin from the time of Fathers Marquette and Joliet to the more recent
scandals which have rocked the church. And speaking of that, it should be
mentioned here that the book does not shy away from sensitive subjects, but
rather, Mr. Riedl manages to present them in their proper historical context
and he does so in plain, simple language without unnecessary editorializing or
It is very
easy for a work such as this to become dull and limited in its scope, but the
author manages to keep his text lively and interesting by weaving historical
anecdotes into the work. By doing this, the book not only serves as a record of
the history of a congregation, but it also becomes a fine historical reference
tool. And as an added bonus for we who work in the family history field, the
book is extensively and thoroughly indexed! This is a book which should be a
part of anyone's library who is not only a member of St. Henry's Church, but
who is also interested in good historical research. It is, to use the
vernacular, “A darn fine book!”
If there is
anything to complain about this book, it is the opening passage in which the
author makes reference to valuable guidance and encouragement from a so-called
local historian. Bosh! Stuff and nonsense! To think that anyone needed to spur
this gifted author on to his intended and destined work is patently ridiculous!
In this reviewer's opinion, this is an entirely superfluous passage that he
would do well to excise in future editions. Still, he did manage to spell my
name right in that passage.
W.F. Jannke III, President of Watertown Historical Society and Dodge/Jefferson
Counties Genealogical Society
appeared in D/JCGS newsletter, “Out On a
Limb,” August, 2003 issue
- CONTENTS -
During the span of the 1600’s
- 1847, before there was a congregation along the Rock River known as St.
Henry’s, before there was a city designated as Watertown, or even a state given
the name of Wisconsin, there was a territory that held much promise for those
The territory was first
explored by missionaries. Immigrants
followed their footsteps to the land of milk and honey, leaving behind much of
what they had, looking forward to all that was promised.
Watertown was founded. A diocese is formed and its first charismatic
bishop addresses the spiritual needs of the new settlers.
BOOK OF GENESIS - Verses 1847-1850 13
The Watertown-area German Catholics are ministered to by the Norbertine
missionaries and the initial
organizational steps for their own house of worship taken.
BOOK OF EXODUS – Verses 1848-1852 23
The mass exodus
of people who shared a common determination to better themselves, with God’s
help, begin the journey of their lifetimes.
The migration is unique in that many families and relations from the
homeland become reunited in the new settlements.
CAIN AND ABEL - German versus Irish 35
in the new world and of one religion yet, in many ways, each unto themselves. It is not unexpected that some antagonism did
occur; what is difficult to understand is the extent to which it was tolerated.
GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. HENRY - Verses 1850-1853 43
The beginnings of
the German Catholic community in the Watertown area. Saint Henry is chosen as its patron to
support the pioneering efforts of establishing and maintaining a new
GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. HENRY - Verses 1853-1903 49
The first 50
years of existence. A time of building,
materially and spiritually, while being tested by scandal and events very much
GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. HENRY - Verses 1903-1953 91
The second 50
years. A time of maturing and better
defining the mission of the local church, best evidenced by the formation of
parish social and religious groups and the service of dedicated priests.
GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. HENRY - Verses 1953-2003 151
The third 50-year
period. A time of building upon the
foundations of the first 100 years while accommodating the revolutionary
changes brought about by Vatican II and exploring the opportunities and
challenges of increased participation by the laity in ministry to the
church. The latter years are set against
the backdrop of a universal church experiencing unprecedented challenges.
BOOK OF WISDOM 203
School has, in good part, defined St. Henry’s Congregation.
OF ECCLESIASTES 231
Rectory, Hall, Parish Center and Cemetery.
A congregation of faith and a community of social functions. A parish priest was instrumental in the
establish-ment of St. Mary’s Hospital, which served its patients in a manner
somewhat similar to the church serving its members, from birth to death.
BOOK OF REVELATION 239
Cemetery is the final resting place for most of its members.
BOOK OF SONGS 241
St. Henry’s Hall
/ Parish Center. The structures that
complete a thriving parish.
SONG OF SONGS 247
St. Henry’s Choir.
Picnics. A good time and camaraderie
were not to be denied.
FIRST BOOK OF CHRONICLES 259
and shared devotions unite the members into a parish.
SECOND BOOK OF CHRONICLES 273
support and outreach.
An exorcism. Not every parish has
one. Even less would want one. It is documented that such an extraordinary
event did occur at St. Henry’s.
XVIII. BOOK OF NUMBERS 301
Timelines and inventory.
of Watertown, Wisconsin