Parish History

In 1839 Major Elbert Dickason took roots here and is regarded as the founder of Columbus. He built a small cabin on the west bank of the Crawfish River near the present depot and after he dammed up the river, he built the first saw and grist mills. Later in the 1840’s Irish settlers began to gather in this area, arriving by horse and ox cart, to take advantage of land that was available for $1.25 per acre.

Pioneer Days

In those days “circuit riding” priests saw to the spiritual needs of the settlers on the frontier. One of them, a zealous man whose reputation preceded him, was Father Martin Kundig. It was under Father Kundig’s direction in the winter of 1856 that Saint Jerome Parish was established. Land was donated by A.P. Birdsey, a local merchant, and work began on our first church in the spring of 1857. The ambitious congregation laid a cornerstone in June 1857 but soon realized they couldn’t complete the undertaking, so a temporary wooden structure was built and occupied. In 1865, missionary Father Edward McGurk resumed the work to the stone structure which eventually formed the center part of the church on Lewis Street.

The People Have a Church and Pastor

Father James O’Keefe was ordained in January of 1868 and was assigned as assistant to Father McGurk working out of the town of Elba. Together they served the missions of Columbus, Doylestown, Mt. Pleasant, and Wyocena. Later in 1868, at the request of Father McGurk, the Bishop appointed Father O’Keefe as our first resident pastor of Saint Jerome Parish. It was then that Father O’Keefe purchased land and a rectory for $1400. Records for our Parish begin in 1868 with a baptism by Rev. James O’Keefe on September 13th, 1868 of Mary O’Neil, daughter of Thomas O’Neil and wife Bridget, nee Kelly. The records also show our Parish’s first marriage took place in Otsego on November 27th, 1868 between Dennis Finnegan and Mary Henratty with Father O’Keefe presiding.

Growing Pains

In 1870, Father O’Keefe was transferred to Madison and succeeded by Father McGurk. In mid 1871 Father E. Grey took over, only to retire in late 1872. Father Grey was succeeded by Father Henry J. Roche in late 1872 with 80 families in our parish and an addition to the church was built at this time. Then between 1888-1889 the church was expanded again and a bell tower was built. Improvements totaled $4,672, including  the new bell which cost $465.

Turn of the Century

Father Roche left some time after October of 1892 and was followed briefly by Father Joerger. Then in 1893, Father Roche’s nephew, Father Henry R. Murphy was assigned to Saint Jerome Parish. He is responsible for adding the chapel, building a new rectory and expanding the church cemetery by four acres. During this time our parish was 106 families strong, and Elba became a mission adding 46 additional families. After faithfully tending to his parishioners and the community for over a generation, Father Murphy died in January 1924 and was buried in the parish cemetery. Deeply mourned by the whole community, his funeral was one of the largest ever held in Columbus. As a tribute, all businesses in the city closed during his funeral.

The People Have a School

Father Thomas Myles took over in 1924 and during his pastorate our parish was served by several assistant priests, Viz. Fr. Joseph Braig and Fr. Bernard Meloy. In the spring of 1957 J.E. O’Brien Sr. donated land on highway 89 and Father Myles was the driving force behind building our school there. Saint Jerome School opened on September 3rd, 1958 with 131 children attending grades 1-6.

Plans Are Made For a New Church

After 40 years serving our parish, Father Myles died on April 1, 1965. Father Meloy became temporary administrator until Father Howard Finnigan took over as pastor in the fall. Even though the interior of the church was given a “facelift”, the century-old church was no longer adequate for the parish needs. Fatehr Finnegan launched a successful drive that added over $100,000 to a building fund which would be instrumental in the construction of our current church. He left our parish in 1968 and was succeeded by Father Ambrose Holzer.

 The New Church is Built

It was during Father Holzer’s pastorate that the current church was built and dedicated in 1972. It was necessary since the old church could no longer accommodate our growing congregation which by this time exceeded 400 families. Father Holzer was a skilled artisan in woodcarving whose creations grace many churches in Wisconsin. He shared his God given talent with us by building our tabernacle, altar, pulpit, lectern, side chairs, pews and the celebrant chair. Father Holzer retired in June of 1990, according to the rules of the Diocese, since he was in his 75th year.

Father Holzer was succeeded by Father Bill Hower who arrived from Berlin, Wisconsin in June 1990 to assume pastoral duties at Saint Jerome. In the 1990’s the sisters moved out of the convent and it was then utilized as a library, meeting rooms, and rental space for a local daycare. During his time at Saint Jerome, Father Hower was a military Chaplin and he traveled to fulfill those duties.

The People Celebrate 150 Year Anniversary

Following Father Hower, Father Bruce Hennington was assigned to Saint Jerome in July 2000 and served our parish until he retired in July 2010. In 2006 Saint Jerome Parish was linked with Saint Patrick Parish in Doylestown and a Mass schedule was created to allow Father Bruce to accommodate both parishes. Our parish also celebrated our 150 year anniversary on September 30th, 2006, the feast of Saint Jerome, with Bishop Marlino presiding. Toward the end of his pastorate a maintenance committee was formed to address the growing issues of our aging building and a successful campaign was completed to start a maintenance fund. Parishioners gave generously and the fund grew quickly to allow major repair work to be completed.

Technology Comes to Saint Jerome Parish

The Bishop then assigned Father Steve Kortendick as our Pastor in July 2010 and he served our parish until July 2017. The maintenance projects continued, including energy efficiency upgrades, roof repair, extensive landscaping and replacement of the old boiler to improve the heating system for the school. In addition, a memory walk was created leading to a new grotto honoring our Blessed Mother.

During Father Steve’s time as pastor, he was instrumental in helping our parish pull out of financial distress.  It was with his guidance that the parish had it’s first balanced in budget in many years. In addition, it is due to Father Steve’s technology background that our parish website was created.

Tradition and Technology Come TogetherFather Garrett Kau

Father Garrett Kau was assigned to Saint Jerome Parish in July 2017. As Father Garrett settled into the rectory and parish, he found beautiful old chalices and ciboriums, a monstrance, candle sticks, and a lectionary stand that he was delighted to bring to the Lord’s altar again. These forgotten treasures helped him to add a reclaimed beauty to our altar and sanctuary upon his arrival. Within his first week, Father Garrett celebrated Eucharistic Adoration with Benediction for the parishioners.