The beginning of St. Andrew Parish can be traced all the way back to 1848, only 12 years after our government had moved Indian tribes west and organized the Territory of Wisconsin. It was a vast wilderness with scattered settlements near the lakes and rivers made up of many Catholic families of Irish and German decent. The parish was organized by Father Kundig, and later served, probably monthly, by Father Kernan and Father Fander, resident priests of Lake Geneva. With no church structure yet built, mass, baptisms and marriages were celebrated in the homes of Frank Delaney and Morris O’Connor.
In 1856, a 32 by 40 foot church was erected at 4th and Matthews Streets for $750 with a membership of about 50 people. Pews were not provided until 1862.
As membership grew, a larger church was needed. A large lot was purchased at the southeast corner of 7th Street and Walworth Avenue in 1892. There was opposition to the new church site, as some wanted it on the south side of town near the railroad tracks.
The cornerstone was laid on July 7, 1895 with 800 in attendance. When the church was under construction, some opposition members tried to forcefully prevent wagons hauling materials from entering town. The building continued, however, with members contributing labor and materials, hauling much of the stone for the foundation themselves.
Father Buckley came as the upper church was being completed and on July 12, 1899 the $20,000 church was dedicated debt free. The altar from the original church was placed in the new church. Father Smith donated the sanctuary’s St. Andrew stained glass window and gaslights lit the church. Father Buckley served St. Andrew for 21 years.
Father Shanahan, pastor of St. Andrew from 1921-1931, purchased the organ for $2200 and innovated the first Sunday collection; previously parishioners paid dues. He also organized the first choir and said the first midnight mass.
In 1939, the sisters of St. Francis came to being an education program. In 1941, a Kindergarten was started in the convent at 119 S. 7th Street where the school gym now stands and a grade was added every year thereafter. During the 27-year pastorate of Msgr. McDermott, the school was built in 1948 and the auditorium was added in 1956, which was a monument to his dream.
In 1982, St. Andrew had co-pastors for the first time, Father James Vojtik and Father Donald Zerkel. They had special ministries to the Hispanic and deaf communities. During Father Debski’s pastorate from 1991-1998, the church was extensively restored for the centennial of the St. Andrew Church building. On November 28, 1995 a special 100th anniversary mass was celebrated with 350 people, including many former priests, in attendance.
From its humble beginning in 1848, St. Andrew has the largest membership of any Delavan Church with over 1000 registered families. We are proud of St. Andrew Church, which has been restored to its original splendor. The uniqueness of this church can be seen in its hand carved altars and beautiful stained glass windows. Members, former members, visitors and friends have contributed to support its renewal, in the same spirit as the builders of the original church, of this church over 100 years ago and of our school.
St. Andrew Parish and School believe the words of St. Andrew, our patron saint who said, “I have found the Messiah.” For the many who have worked in the service of God, our parish and our school, this is where they have found the Messiah. We thank God for the blessings and the people of St. Andrew today and throughout our history. May we continue to preserve our heritage and grow in our faith.