The History of St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish

The first Catholic families in Rock County were Irish farmers from northeast Iowa and Irish Ridge near Lanesboro in Fillmore County. In April and May 1878, five hundred covered wagons, called schooners, stopped in Luverne, a resting area for those on the trail from the east along present day 1-90. Most of the 500 families settled in Rock County, chiefly in the vicinity of Blue Mounds. One descendant of an early family was Monsignor Frank Sampson, famous World War II parachute chaplain who escaped twice from Germans and later became Chief of Chaplains and head of USO. He is featured in the Hollywood film, "Saving Private Ryan."

He is buried in Saint Catherine Cemetery. Bishop John Ireland, Diocese of Saint Paul, with help from three railroad companies, made it possible for many Catholic families to settle in southwest Minnesota. He founded the Catholic Colonization Bureau and placed ads in Europe and elsewhere inviting Catholics to come here where he gave assurances of parishes and priests to serve them. Soon after the Irish arrivals, German families came. Land was purchased for a Luverne Catholic Church in 1879. Father Christian Knauf, resident pastor of Adrian from 1877 to 1893, served the missions of Luverne, Ellsworth, Lismore, Saint Kilian, Worthington, Sioux Falls, and other South Dakota villages. The first church, made of wood, was dedicated in 1881.

The first church became too small for the growing parish and so a second, brick and stone structure was dedicated in 1909. It was rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1940. The third and current church building was constructed in 1975 to accommodate the growing population.

The parish built a new convent in 1952, which later became the parish rectory. An education building was erected in 1961. A major building project in 2005-2006 added a new gathering space, new office space, and renovations to the whole set of buildings.

The first Catholic families buried their loved ones in family plots. The parish purchased land for Saint Catherine Cemetery in 1878. Several graves and their stones were moved to the consecrated cemetery.

The Luverne and Jasper parishes joined as a cluster in 1989. Then in 1994, Luverne and Ellsworth formed a cluster and remained a cluster to this day. Perpetual Adoration began at Saint Catherine Parish in 2003.

In 2018 St. Mary, Ellsworth closed and the church building was sold.  The parishes of St. Catherine, Luverne and St. Leo, Pipestone were then formed into the present cluster.