The History of St. Wendelin School

 

The history of the Parish goes back to the 1840's when the first settlers of the district of Carbon Center arrived from an area in southern Germany near Saarbruecken, which was known as Sankt Wendelin.  At first, like the other German speaking Catholics of Butler County, they were in the spiritual care of the Redemptorist Fathers.  The first resident German speaking priest of Butler County was Reverend Ferdinand Kuehr who was assigned to Saint Peter Church in Butler in 1840. He also had jurisdiction of Saint Wendelin in Carbon Center. 

Long before they had a church of their own, the early settlers in Carbon Center made provisions for community worship.  In 1845 they hired a man named George Mueller, a man more educated than the rest, as a teacher.  He induced them to buy six acres of ground where they constructed a school and a small chapel made of logs and clay.  They named the chapel for Saint Wendelin, the local patron of their place of origin.  Besides being the schoolteacher, Mueller led them in prayers and songs in the little chapel.  By 1857 the log building became too small for both a school and chapel and an addition was added.  The priest from Butler would come out once a month on a weekday to conduct services. 

The congregation continued to grow steadily, and a new church (64 by 36 feet) was built and dedicated on January 16, 1876.  The chapel was still used as a school.  In 1880 the Capuchin Friars from Herman began to minister to the parish.  At that time there were 32 families and 173 parishioners.  A parish rectory was added in 1926, and Reverend Oswald Greiner became the first resident pastor. 
Due to increasing enrollment in the school a new and bigger school was needed.  The cornerstone for a new school was laid in 1912.  The building was two stories and constructed of stone and brick.  In the fall of 1927 the Sisters of Saint Francis of Millvale began to teach in the school.  The parishioners built a convent for the sisters.  They continued to administer the school until June 1996. 
By 1950 Saint Wendelin Parish had 136 families and an enrollment of 140 children in the school.  Under the direction of Fr. Linus Doemling, OFM Cap. the parishioners worked very hard to add a new wing on to the school. Soon it was realized that a larger church was needed as well.  Under the direction of Fr. Edward E. Stoehr, OFM Cap. the contract for the new church was signed on January 16, 1970.  The cornerstone ceremony took place on Sunday, October 18th.  The new church was used for the first time on Palm Sunday Eve, April 3, 1971.  A new rectory was built as well. 

The Capuchins continued to serve the parish for 118 years from 1880 until 1998.  On April 28, 1998 Fr. Harry R. Bielewicz became the first Diocesan priest to become the pastor at Saint Wendelin Parish.  He has continued the tradition of hard work and the importance of the family and Catholic education in the parish.  There are currently 116 students enrolled in Preschool through eighth grade.  The school expanded to grade 7 in the fall of 2000 and added grade 8 in 2001.  The parish serves 443 families. 

The people of Saint Wendelin Parish have always worked very hard for their parish and school.  Other than the new church and rectory built in the 1970's, all of the buildings on the church property have been built by the parishioners themselves.  They have made great sacrifices in the past and continue to do so today for the love of their parish. 

A great example of their hard work is the annual parish picnic.  The picnic is held every summer on the third Sunday of August.  Visitors come from miles around to enjoy a delicious dinner and a day in the country.  Visitors are greeted by hard working parishioners in the dining room as well as on the picnic grounds.  The people of Saint Wendelin truly love their parish.