St. Augustine Article, Oct. 2007
Submitted by Kathy Pike

St. Augustine to celebrate 150 years

By Karen Colbenson
Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

It all started over 150 years ago when a group of Catholics, many of them immigrants, came to Austin to worship together.

The first Mass was held on Nov. 1, 1857 in someone's home.

For five years, they worshiped together in someone's home until 1862 when a church was built.

The church, made of bricks from an Austin brickyard, was located just southwest of the current church on Fourth Street Northwest. It was small -- 25-feet-by-50-feet -- but it served its purpose. It was named St. Austin Catholic Church. Later, the name would be changed to St. Augustine.

On Saturday and Sunday, the parish will celebrate the 150 years since its founding with a faith, food and fun festival, and invites the community to share in the free festivities.

Starting with just a few members, the church has grown significantly over the years and now serves 1,100 households.

Like most churches, St. Augustine did not get to where it is today without its share of tragedies. On a stormy summer day in 1976, lightning struck the 140-foot steeple, causing a fire that destroyed the steeple. Though firemen were able to put out the fire before it spread to the rest of the church, damages were estimated at $500,000.

But Jane Felten and Sharon Wagner, both long-time members of the church, also recall many fond memories they have had in the church, including children being baptized and receiving their first communion there. Wagner was married at St. Augustine in 1949.

Wagner said the weekend's celebration is about remembering how the church has changed throughout the years and the hard work of all the people who made the church what it is today.

"I think of all the people before me and what they have given to build this church," said Wagner. "It's truly a monument of faith. It's their sweat, blood and tears. It takes many volunteers to keep a church of this size afloat."

Felten said the church has also been blessed with great priests and leaders.

Several events are planned for the celebration, including birthday cake on Sunday. A family fun fest featuring music, stories and a marionette show will be held Saturday in the parish parking lot.