Did You Know? A History of St. William’s Living Center – Part 2

In Part 1 of our series, we left off at the corner of McCornell Avenue and West Soo Street, where Dr. Herbert Leibold successfully built his vision of a hospital to serve the rural residents of Parkers Prairie. 

Financial difficulties plagued the hospital after Dr. Leibold retired and the city agreed to sell the facility to the Franciscans, who would keep the hospital running. The Catholic organization moved in and took over operations, but the growing Catholic community still had to make a long commute to receive Sunday Mass in Urbank. 

In this installment, we’ll talk about the arrival of the Catholic church in Parkers Prairie, and we’ll introduce you to a man who would become an integral part of St. William’s history. 

Dr. Leibold Makes a Plan

Now that the Franciscans were running St. Raphael’s hospital, they needed a priest to oversee operations. Dr. Leibold, who was partially retired but still active as a surgeon in the hospital, thought this was an excellent opportunity to commission the Bishop to form a parish in Parkers Prairie. After all, there would be little sense in having a priest on staff at the hospital without having a parish where he could be of greatest service to the community. 

A fundraising campaign was soon underway to bring a new Catholic parish to Parkers Prairie. Dr. Leibold led the charge with a $1,000 pledge of his own. It wasn’t long before the community had reached the $6,000 fundraising goal.

On November 21, 1950, Bishop Joseph Busch established The Church of the Assumption of Our Lady. This was later changed to St. William’s in honor of a particularly large donor named William Wissel. 

Sacred Ground

Now that Dr. Leibold had the parish officially recognized by the Bishop, he needed a place to build the church. He purchased the city lot next to his home, directly across the street from St. Raphael’s Hospital. 

The church accepted the donated lot from Dr. Leibold with the agreement that, after he and his wife passed away, the church would be given first priority to buy his home. This gave the church room to expand and a house to use as a rectory. 

Brick and Mortar

With the lot secured, the new parish was now on the lookout for a building. They originally wanted to purchase an old, wooden Protestant church and move it onto the lot. But Dr. Leibold had other ideas in mind. 

He petitioned the church to raise funds to construct a brick building, which they were able to do successfully. Construction began on July 4, 1951 with the laying of the cornerstone. On June 25, 1952, Bishop Bartholome blessed the altar and dedicated the new church. 

Fr. Joseph Vogrin

Born in Slovenia, Fr. Joseph Vogrin spoke only passable English. He came to the area to be an associate pastor at St. Mary’s in Alexandria. Because of his broken English, he was passed over for the job and took a temporary position at St. William’s in Parkers Prairie instead. 

That temporary position would turn into 37 years of dedicated service to the community, and would lead to the formation of St. William’s Living Center as we know it today. Join us for our next installment, where we reveal how St. Raphael’s Hospital became a nursing home facility. 

Did you know that St. William’s Living Center offers physical, occupational, and speech therapy? Visit our website to learn about the many services we offer to the Parkers Prairie community!

Information for this post was taken from the book Beyond Measure, written by Fr. Jeff Ethen, copyright 2000 Central Minnesota Catholic Publishers