St. Francis Catholic Church in Brainerd will mark the 150th anniversary of the church with a yearlong celebration of events, including speakers, workshops, concerts and special gatherings open to the entire community.

The church celebrates its legacy of a continued commitment to the greater community throughout its history, officials said in a news release. From the beginning, a fundamental ministry of the parish has been social justice, encouraging continued partnership with others in society to serve the common good and meet the needs of the community, including establishing the Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen which began in the church in 1987, eventually evolving into a ministry of the wider community.

Today, through both monetary and volunteer support, St. Francis helps many organizations including area food shelves, Habitat for Humanity, The Salvation Army, Angel Tree Program and Bridges of Hope.

“Growing up I attended St. Christopher’s in Nisswa, but I still remember my early impressions of St. Francis in Brainerd as being a devout community of deep faith. Back then I never would have thought that I would someday be pastor of this parish, but I am so grateful that I was assigned here just a few months ago,” stated the Rev. Michael Garry. “We invite the community as a whole to share in the celebration of the 150th anniversary of St. Francis Catholic Church, and together recall the manifold blessings God has bestowed on our community over the years.”



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A black and white photograph of an older St. Francis Church in Brainerd. Submitted Photo
A black and white photograph of an older St. Francis Church in Brainerd. Submitted Photo

The 150th Anniversary celebration of events include:

  • July 4: St. Francis Catholic Church 150th Anniversary float will be in the Brainerd Fourth of July parade. The St. Francis Catholic School Trash Can band will accompany the float to perform.

  • July 22: St. Francis Church is the sponsor of the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge Choir Concert to be in the bandstand in Gregory Park as part of the Performances in the Park. The choir will perform a mix of gospel, Christian contemporary and Americana themed songs. Hot dogs, chips and dessert will be served before the concert.

  • Sept. 24: St. Francis Catholic School Foundation Dinner, which is in its 25th year as a fundraising event for the school. The dinner will feature Eric Genuis, a master pianist/composer and world-renowned performer as the keynote speaker and guest performer.

  • Sept. 22: Autumn concert and social hour.

  • Oct. 2: St. Francis Church Annual Booyah. An annual autumn gathering featuring booyah, an upper Midwest stew, a dessert and refreshments along with live music in the St. Francis School parking lot.

  • Oct. 9: Workshop titled “The Beauty of Reading ... Especially Together” at St. Francis. Presenter is Marcie Stockman, founder of the Well-Read Mom. With honesty, humor and encouragement, Stockman shares how a desire to read great literature and make meaningful connections became the catalyst for the Well-Read Mom international book club. See how in changing times, the simple proposal to stay together to read and discuss books can have an impact on our personal growth, our families and the culture, the release stated.

  • Dec. 19: Christmas music concert at St. Francis, followed by refreshments and small bites. Christmas music has a long tradition in the Catholic church, which dates to liturgical Christmas music sung during Mass. The first Christmas carols sung in everyday language began in the 13th century by St. Francis of Assisi. He was considered the “Father of Christmas carols.” In Greccio, Italy, 1223, St. Francis built Nativity scenes in a cave, with live animals, and invited villagers to gather around the manger while he spoke about baby Jesus. Worshippers sang hymns, or canticles, as St. Francis called them.

  • Jan. 21, 2022: March For Life.

  • Jan. 29, 2022: Stained glass window tour by the Rev. Garry. People may tour the church’s stained-glass windows with a “Story of Our Windows” book containing pictures, description and meaning available for purchase.

  • Jan. 29, 2022: Catholic history presentation by Garry.

  • Feb. 27, 2022: Hotdish competition, St. Francis Church Hall. Minnesota’s version of Mardis Gras and the unofficial state dish of Minnesota. Hotdish is a northern Midwest specialty, it is a favorite for large family and church gatherings. Hotdish is considered the unofficial state dish of Minnesota. The first “hot dish” recipe on record came from a 1930 cookbook as a one-dish meal featuring hamburger, tomato soup, and canned peas.

  • March 4 - April 1, 2022 (Fridays during Lent): St. Francis School fish fries, St. Francis Church Social Hall. Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent, which leads to the phrase “fish fry season.” A dedicated fish fry committee, families and students work together to offer up a great Lenten meal for the entire community.

  • March 2022: Forty Hours of Devotion, St. Francis Church. Forty Hours of Devotion is a weekend retreat of continuous prayer before the Eucharist. The 40 Hours of Devotion developed in 1530, under Pope Paul III, and gained popularity throughout history due to the encouragement of St. Philip Neri, St. Ignatius, and St. John Neumann. The event begins with Mass, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, with ongoing adoration throughout the weekend. Each year, the retreat weekend has also included talks by spiritual guests. The devotion is especially dedicated to the forgiveness of sins, the souls in purgatory, and the difficulties facing our parish and world. The 40 Hours of Devotion in the Brainerd area began in 2008.

  • April 9, 2022: Writing Workshop: Remember, Rejoice and Renew; Writing From the Spirit with instructors by Candace Simar and Deacon Mike Knuth. Workshop is described as: “It’s difficult to put into words what happens in the spirit. We’ve all been touched by reading devotionals or meditations written in The Magnificat, the parish newsletter or other publications. How do they do that? How do they craft the words to share personal insights with others?” In this three-hour class, Knuth will demonstrate the ancient form of sacred reading called Lectio Divina. This hands-on demonstration helps participants hear from God as they delve into Scripture. Simar will teach the participant how to translate that insight into a meditation to be shared with others. Each attendee will walk away with a bit of inspiration writing finished or near-completion. This class is for people who’ve always wanted to write for the parish newsletter, create a unique Christmas letter, contribute to magazines or start an online blog. Bring a notebook, Bible and pen. Together people will rejoice in new insights, remember things learned from the Bible and renew others as we share with other readers what we have written.

  • April 9, 2022: Social hour and keynote speaker award winning author Candace Simar, “Converting to the Faith” will shares her long conversion journey to the Catholic Church after 62 years of being a protestant. Through the witness of Benedictine Sisters while on a writing retreat at the Annunciation Monastery in Bismarck, North Dakota, Simar reveals what dramatically shifted her point of view. Simar and her husband Keith entered the church in 2015.

  • May 7, 2022: All day retreat with author Elizabeth M. Kelly. Kelly is an award-winning speaker and the author of six books, including “50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic,” which won the Catholic Press Association award for Best Popular Presentation of the Faith. A spiritual director and popular retreat leader, she has appeared on National Public Radio, Eternal Word Television Network, Salt and Light Television and is the author of the nationally syndicated column, “Your Heart, His Home.”