The history of the Diocese of Superior dates back to the 17th century. Our Journey Through Faith offers a glimpse into the historic events that played a role in the growth of Catholicism in Northern Wisconsin.
Our Journey through Faith: A History of the Diocese of Superior,
Fr. Walter Beaudette of Rice Lake organized the first Catholic church in Birchwood in 1908. Built on donated land, the church was completed in 1909 for approximately $1,100. The Arpin Lumber Company contributed most of the money for the building. Mass was celebrated at the church one Sunday each month. An extension was added tot he south end of the church in 1918, and a recotry was built the following year. Plans for a new church began in 1944, and in August 1950 the present church was dedicated.
When Fr. Clarence Ludwig became pastor in 1953, a large garage with a workshop was built near the rectory. Here, Fr. Ludwig constructed the altar and many carvings found in the church today. The altar was built almost entirely with dimensional birch wood. St. John joined Our Lady of Lourdes in Dobie and Holy Trnity Chruch in Haugen to become a cluster parish in 1991.
In 1991, parishioner Tony Jilek helped erect a bell tower using a bell from Our Lady of the Mount, a Catholic church in Pribram that was closed after World War II. The bell, which is about five feet in diameter, was cast in the 1800's in Ohio and brought to the Pribram area in 1911 when Czechoslovakian immigrants built a church there. When the church closed the bell was transported to Birchwood, where itsat dormant for nearly 50 years. Inremembrance of the Pribram Church, St. John parishioners erected a cross at the site of the crumbling church foundation in 2000.
REFERENCE: Our Journey through Faith: A History of the Diocese of Superior,
by Sam Lucero, 2005.