Catholic School in Wells open more than 100 years

Published 9:00 am Sunday, March 11, 2018

WELLS — Despite a decrease in the number of students who attend the school and other changes, St. Casimir Catholic School is still open, more than 100 years ago after it was founded.

Sarah Oldham, a member of the school’s interim administrative team, said St. Casimir Catholic School brings the message of Jesus Christ into classrooms, guiding students to be good Christians.

“That also helps guide them to be a very well-rounded individual as they move on in life,” she said. “Right now, of course, we’re at the primary grades of elementary school, but as they leave us and move on into middle school and continue to grow and develop into ultimately adults, we find that having a good, strong foundation and base not only in the full education, but also with the Christian background, that that helps provide them with good consciences.

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“It makes them to be good members of the community and society. They give back and they’re able to have that good base to fall back on.”

The pre-K to sixth-grade school teaches core subjects along with religion, music and physical education classes.

“Some of those other courses that some other schools have had to cut due to funding, we’ve been still able to provide so that we feel we’re still able to provide a very well-rounded education,” Oldham said.

Classes vary from one to two students in small classes, to seven students in larger classes. The Rev. Jason Kern is the priest at St. Casimir.

“He’s brought a really nice, descriptive way of how we are a vital part of the community,” Oldham said.

A retired priest and Wells native, the Rev. Eugene Stenzel was a pastor at St. Casimir Catholic Church for 22 years and served as a fill-in priest for a daily mass in January.

“It’s home to me,” he said. “I was born and raised here.”

Stenzel attended the school from the late 1940s to early 1950s and remembered each grade having 30 to 35 students. When he attended school there, Franciscan sisters taught students, while today the entire staff consists of lay people.

Despite the reduction in student numbers, Stenzel said the school is still important in the community.

St. Casimir’s Parochial School in Wells was built in 1915. — Sam Wilmes/Albert Lea Tribune

“It’s a real sign of progress, the fact that lay people are doing it,” he said. “It’s a sign of the church growing, that now we have lay people doing what we thought we had to have religious people doing, but lay people are just as competent.”

Oldham has three children at St. Casimir Catholic School and has been a school board member for five years.

“It is just a treasured, cherished thing to hear your child getting ready in the morning and they are singing a church song,” she said. “You are able to parent them in a sibling conflict and you are able to bring Jesus into that and ask them, ‘Is that how Jesus would treat his brothers?’ or, ‘Is that how Jesus would treat his friends or his classmates?’ and they are able to just very immediately and instinctively and intrinsically just connect with that, and so it’s allowed a lot of teachable moments in very wonderful ways.”

Oldham said she believes she was called by God to her job, adding she believes a Catholic education is important, deeming it “amazing” to see the Holy Spirit at work.

“They will learn their reading, writing and arithmetic — we know they are going to learn that along the way,” she said. “But ultimately our mission is to make sure that their soul is saved.”

By the number

103 – Years since the St. Casimir School building was built in 1915

22 – Years the Rev. Eugene Stenzel served at St. Casimir Catholic Church

33 – Students enrolled at the pre-K through sixth-grade school

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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