Priests who served Immaculate Conception and now Mary of the Visitation
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
2009-2016 Fr. Eugene Doyle
Present Fr. Mike Kellogg
History of Becker
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.