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Our History

Our Lady of the Lake - Big Lake

In the 1950’s, the Big Lake community experienced the growth of farms, businesses and people. A parish of Catholic residents was born when 47 Catholic families made a leap of faith and purchased land in 1955 and founded a parish in 1958.


After encouragement from diocesan officials and approval of Bishop Peter W. Bartholome, a loan was secured, a rectory purchased and building plans finalized for a 40 x 100 foot, above-ground structure (with a full basement) at an approximate cost of $100,000.


Looking back on those plans, those founding families and the sacrifices made, the story of the beginnings of Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church was called: the Miracle of 1958.


The founding families worked together to build both a church building and a community of faith, providing construction labor, food and encouragement. There were 80 families in the parish when the community gathered to dedicate the new church on November 23, 1958.


Growth of the parish made more space necessary and an annex to the original building was designed and built in 1973. Lower level facilities added much needed classroom space, social area, and storage. The stained glass windows in the nave were designed to represent the seven sacraments. The “pieta” window in the sanctuary was installed in 1977; all made possible by donations from parishioners. The cemetery added a similar pieta shrine in 1987.


Parish improvements continued over the years.  The annex was renovated and the former rectory was replaced with a new pastor’s residence in 1997. The parish was then at 600 households. In the Jubilee Year 2000, the parish completed an elevator project, making the building accessible to people with special needs, providing a ground level entry and access to both the worship area and lower levels.


The rapidly growing corridor on Highway 10 holds continued promise of the expansion and rapid growth. The “Miracle of 1958” continues to bring growth and blessings to the People of God of this parish community in the 21st century and beyond. There were 750 registered families in Our Lady of the Lake Parish in 2002.

Priests who have served Our Lady of the Lake:
1958-1968     Father Joseph Linn
1968-1968     Father John Kroll
1968-1969     Father Leo Revering
1969-1981      Father Ray Ringwelski
1981-1995      Father Richard Wey
1995-1999     Father Nic Dressen
1999-2005    Father Ralph Zimmerman
2005-2012    Father Eugene Doyle


Immaculate Conception - Becker

Our Lady of the Lake Church - October 1958

The history of the Becker Catholic parish begins shortly after the village was founded in 1856.  Benedictine monks from St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, visited “Pleasant Valley, Sherburne County” as far back as 1859 when the monks kept records of parish and mission visits.


When the Catholic Diocese of St. Cloud was formally organized in 1889, Becker was listed as a mission of Little Falls.  It was in 1906 that the pastor of St. Marcus Church, Clear Lake, began to celebrate Mass regularly at Becker.  Catholic families listed at that time were:  Anderson, Bittener, Borst, Carpenter, Clitty, Dodie, Dyson, Gilligan, Gumper, Johnson, Koestner, Kolbinger, McGuire, Moshier, St. Arnold, Stumvoll, and Wendt – a virtual melting pot of ethnic backgrounds.  At that time Mass was offered in the Odd Fellows Hall, a building that was razed when Highway 10 was widened in the early 1950’s.


The pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish, Elk River, began the formal process of establishing a Catholic parish in Becker.  In the fall of 1918, Bishop Joseph Busch asked Father Joseph Trobec to begin planning. The parish was organized in October 1919. Land and a church building were purchased from a Lutheran church in Becker a mile east of town.  In July 1920, land was donated along U.S. Highway 10 (on the site of the present Strawberry Hotel) and the church was moved there and enlarged.


The parish’s first name was St. Joseph’s—a name later changed to Immaculate Conception to honor the doctrine defined by the Catholic Church in 1854 that the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived without original sin.  The parish was incorporated under that name in 1924.


The Becker parish was cared for by the pastor of Elk River until 1933, when the care of the parish was transferred to the pastor of St. Anne’s Church, Kimball.  That arrangement became difficult because of the distance and church services ceased for a year-and-a-half from the summer of 1939 until December 8, 1940.  A parish delegation petitioned the bishop for a pastor.  Father Michael Kremer, chancellor of the diocese, presented the Becker delegation to the bishop, and volunteered to solve the problem himself by becoming the pastor while continuing as chaplain of the Poor Clare Sisters in Sauk Rapids.


The parish grew in the intervening years, and an addition to the church was made in 1942.  Father Ted Ziolkowski succeeded Father Kremer in 1944.  Father Ted guided the relocation of the church in 1950-1951 when Highway 10 was widened, and many buildings in its path had to be moved.  Land was purchased near the Becker schools and the church moved there.  The church was enlarged and renovated extensively at that time.  Construction began in the spring of 1951 and was completed in the fall of 1952.


Pastors from the St. Cloud area served the parish as a “mission” (no resident Pastor) until 1981.  A parish house was built in that year on a five acre parcel of land purchased in 1976 and designated as a new church site.  The parish of the original 17 families had grown to over 200 listed in the 1986 parish census.


In 1984 a Building Committee was formed to plan the new church.  Three separate spaces were needed: a worship space, classrooms, and a parish hall.  Ground was broken on June 7, 1987, (Pentecost Sunday), the beginning of a special Marian Year, and construction began July 1. 


Parishioners gathered for the last time on Palm Sunday to process from the old church on Hancock Street to the new church on Sherburne Avenue on March 27, 1988.  The church building that had served the parish since 1919 was dismantled and burned in June 1988.  Many of the original furnishings of the old building were incorporated into our present building.


In 2002, the parish had grown to over 500 families. Recognizing the needs of the parish, a decision was made to purchase the house and adjoining property. A planning committee was formed in September of 2003 to develop short and long term goals for the parish. In May 2005, the planning committee recommended and installed a video and sound system to meet the overflow needs of the parish in the parish hall. The committee took the next step in September of 2007 and hired an architect to do master planning for the parish. The master plan was presented to the parish in February 2008.


In April 2008, Bishop John F. Kinney announced the recommendations of the Diocesan Planning Council for the Sherburne County parishes. The vision was for the Becker and Big Lake communities to eventually merge into one parish and be served by one priest. The parish long range planning committee decided that the original master plan needed to be scaled back because of this decision, but needed to continue to move forward in order to meet the immediate needs of the parish.


In May 2012, the parishes of Immaculate Conception in Becker and Our Lady of the Lake in Big Lake were merged into one large faith community and renamed The Church of Mary of the Visitation. 

Priests who served Immaculate Conception:


1944-1968       Fr. Ted Ziolkowski / Mission Priest

1968-1970       Fr. Allan Speiser / Mission Priest

1970-1972        Fr. Paul Hemmelgarn / Mission Priest

1972-1973        Fr. Gregory Lieser / Mission Priest

1973-1974        Fr. Joseph Wiersgalla / Mission Priest

1974-1978        Fr. Kenneth Riedermann / Mission Priest

1978-1979        Fr. Richard Sinner / Mission Priest

1979-1989        Fr. Ralph Zimmerman

1989-1999       Fr. Mark Ostendorf

1999-2001       Fr. Marv Enneking

2001-2009      Fr. Eberhard Schefers

2009-2012      Fr. Eugene Doyle

Mary of the Visitation - Becker/Big Lake

In May 2012, the parishes of Immaculate Conception in Becker and Our Lady of the Lake in Big Lake were merged into one large faith community and renamed The Church of Mary of the Visitation.  

Priests who served Mary of the Visitation:

2012-2016          Fr. Eugene Doyle

2016-present   Fr. Mike Kellogg

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