What We Believe
The St. Patrick Parish Family through the power of the Holy Spirit seeks to provide for the Catholics of Onalaska and the surrounding area: An environment of worship and prayer in which the parish community is nourished by God’s Word and the sacramental life of the Church. An opportunity to share our faith through education, fellowship and service programs; to continually grow in out relationship with God and one another; and to share our Christian experience with all God’s people.
A History of Saint Patrick’s
a St. Patrick’s Parish was established by the Diocese of La Crosse in 1949. Fr. Chester Wrzaszczak was appointed the administrator. The first Mass was celebrated July 31, 1949, in the Onalaska Park.
In September 1949, Fr. Joseph Bach was appointed first permanent resident pastor of the new parish. A friend of the parish, Vern Dale, offered the use of the Jewel Tea warehouse at Second Ave. and Main Street as a site for Masses until a more suitable location was established.
Late in the year, a frame cottage was purchased on the current site of the parish for use as a rectory and chapel. The growth of St. Patrick’s had begun. In October 1950, plans to build a combination church, school and convent were completed. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in November 1950 and the cornerstone was laid and blessed in June 1951. The school year began in September 1950 in the new building with the Benedictine Sisters of Eau Claire staffing the school. The building was dedicated in March 1952 by Bishop John Patrick Treacy.
In 1958, the parish realized it was again short of space and decided to build a new church and rectory. In March 1959, Fr. Bach moved into the new rectory. The cornerstone was laid in June 1959. After a year of construction, the church was dedicated on May 9, 1960.
Church life continued as usual until the departure of Fr. Bach, due to ill health, in 1968. At that time, Fr. John Rossiter, who had been principal at Regis High School in Eau Claire, arrived as pastor. Fr. Rossiter led the church through many years of growth.
During 1982-83, the Parish determined the school was again running out of room. Fr. Rossiter initiated a fund-raising campaign and the new Parish Center was under way. The center, which joins the original school structure, contains a gym with a stage and kitchen area, two new classrooms for the seventh and eighth grades and a music room. The dedication was held in October 1984.
On February 7, 1985, Fr. Rossiter; Ferdy Roth, a parish sacristan and lay minister; and Bill Hammes, the parish custodian, were killed by Brian Stanley. Stanley, who pleaded guilty to the crimes was ruled not responsible by reason of insanity and was placed in the Mendota Mental Health Center in Madison. After the tragedy, Fr. Bernard McGarty was named temporary administrator of the parish, and he successfully helped the parish through grieving and the troubled times.
In April 1985, Fr. William J. Matzek, who had been pastor at St. Olaf’s in Eau Claire, was appointed by Bishop John Paul to be pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish. In June 1985, Sr. Dale Wollum was hired as a pastoral assistant. And Fr. Steve Baures, who had been at Notre Dame Parish in Chippewa Falls, was appointed associate pastor in August 1985.
A Pastoral Team was formed in 1986 and consisted of the pastor, Fr. Bill Matzek; Fr. Steve Baures, associate pastor; Sr. Dale Wollum, pastoral assistant; Loren Kannenberg, principal of St. Patrick’s School; and Cathy Olson, director of religious education. Cathy Olson was hired in January 1983 to be full-time director of religious education. the Parish continued to grow in size and because of the large number of students in CCD.
In June 1988, Fr. Steve left St. Patrick’s to become pastor of St. Anthony’s in Cazenovia and St. Wenceslaus, Yuba. Fr. Leo Schneider was appointed associate pastor in June 1988.
In June 1992, Fr. Schneider was assigned to the Newman Community Parish in Eau Claire. Fr. Tom Krieg, a newly ordained priest, was assigned to St. Patrick’s in June 1992 and served as an associate pastor until August 1995. Because of a shortage of priests in the Diocese of La Crosse, in October 1995, Deacon Frank Abnet was hired full time and appointed by Bishop Raymond Burke as finance officer of the parish.
In July 1996, Fr. Ed Thome retired from the active ministry and chose to live at St. Patrick’s and join our staff to help with Masses and the other areas of priestly ministry.
After a number of years planning with the Parish Pastoral Council and Finance Council, the decision was made in spring 2002 to increase the worship space at St. Patrick’s.
Many Masses were overcrowded and enough seating space became a problem.
The decision was made to expand the worship space from seating 550 to seating approximately 1,000 people. Construction began in August 2002 and was completed in June 2003. The new addition also provided additional office space and room for other parish activities and functions.
On June 21st 2005 Father Bill Matzek became pastor of his home parish in Big River, WI. A short time earlier Father Ed Thome changed his residence to Mary Mother of the Church Parish in La Crosse.
In August of 2015, Fr. Bill Matzek passed away due to a sudden illness. Burial was at St. Mary’s Parish, in Big River, WI
Father Patrick Umberger was appointed pastor of Saint Patrick’s and began his ministry on June 21st, 2005.
In the Fall of 2005, the 7th and 8th Graders of Saint Patrick School began to attend Aquinas Middle School in La Crosse. Our school now had grades: 3 yr. old Pre-school to 6th Grade.
Due to his struggle with cancer, Fr. Patrick Umberger passed away on November 30, 2010.
Msgr. Steven Kachel was appointed Pastor and installed on October 23rd, 2010.
In the summer of 2012 Fr. Kachel was given the honorable title of Monsignor. Also in the Fall of 2012, Robert Zielow was ordained a permanent Deacon on October 27, and was assigned duties at our parish.
In 2013, the parish added a kitchen and lunchroom on to the school building, renovated the gym and established an office area for the Religious Ed staff near the gym.
In 2020, the parish renovated the sanctuary area of the worship space, creating unity of appearance between furniture and marble altar. Two murals were added to the back wall space and a new crucifix to the center, over a beautifully painted marble background.