Our Lady of Seven Dolors was founded on Pentecost Sunday in 1867, 150 years ago. Father Francis Xavier Pierz stopped at the home of John Miller, the first settler of the area, to offer Mass. Father Pierz called the area “Our Lady of the Prairie” and wanted the German, Polish and Irish settlers to move there to build a church.
Father Ignatius Tomazin became the first priest. He called the parish “The Prairie of St. Mary.” The Benedictine fathers of St. John’s Abbey offered Mass after Father Tomazin left in 1873.
Beginning in 1902, groups separated and built St. Ann in Brandon and St. William in Parkers Prairie a few years later.
The parish currently has 384 members.
Questions about the parish were answered by Father Peter VanderWeyst, parish secretary Beverly Hanson and Linda Wagner.
Q: What is the most interesting facet of your church building?
A: The beautiful high ceiling is one of its outstanding features.
Q: What is the most popular event or tradition at your parish?
A: We have a parish bazaar every year. Our parishioners fry and bake chicken, with homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn and buns with Millerville butter. There are games for the children, bingo, silent auction and raffle boards.
Q: What is an interesting historical fact or anecdote about your parish?
A: The first church, built in 1868, was made of logs. Father Edward Ginther came in January 1882 and a new frame church was begun that year. In 1891 the parishioners built a new rectory.
Father Victor Siegler supervised two major building projects — the basement church that seated 600 in 1923 and the new rectory in 1928. The old church was made into a church hall. All building projects were stopped during the Great Depression and the Second World War.
The top part of the church was dedicated Oct. 25, 1956, by Bishop Peter Bartholome.
Meet the pastor
Father Peter VanderWeyst grew up in rural St. Stephen. He was ordained June 16, 2007.He has served in 13 parishes over the last 10 years, beginning in 2007 as parochial vicar in St. Cloud at St. Anthony, Holy Spirit and St. John Cantius, In 2009 he became parochial vicar in Chokio, Herman and Morris. Then Father VanderWeyst served as pastor at Browerville, Clarissa and Bertha. Since 2014, he has served as pastor of St. Ann (Brandon), Sacred Heart (Urbank) and St. William (Parkers Prairie) in addition to Our Lady of Seven Dolors.
Q: What inspired you to become a priest?
A: I first felt called to the priesthood as an alter server in the fourth grade. I liked the peacefulness of being close to God at the altar. I would pay attention to what the priest was doing, and I thought, “I could do this.”
Q: What do you enjoy most about your daily life as a priest?
A: I enjoy being with the people of God and the sheer variety of things that they bring to my life. I find that days when I am mostly unscheduled can be my fullest, as God fills in my schedule. Those are the days you never know what is going to happen next, or who God will put in your path. There is a good mix of a scheduled routine and the spontaneous working of the Holy Spirit.
Q: What was the theme of a favorite homily that you preached?
A: I don’t know that I would pick a favorite. As pastor of four parishes, favorites are something that I try to stay away from. I find that homilies that involve an image for people to grasp are better than homilies that don’t. I also find that God helps me to continue to reflect about homilies even after they are given. I do try and remind people that God loves them and to speak on “grace” often.