Two Gospel scenes from the life of St. Joseph are depicted in a stained glass window inside St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Hayward. Parishioners were offered an opportunity to do a book study and personal consecration to St. Joseph on the occasion of the May 1 feast of St. Joseph the Worker. (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

Note: All histories are cited or summarized from “Our Journey through Faith: A History of the Diocese of Superior,” by Sam Lucero, 2005. This article is first in a series.

When one thinks of a retreat, it can be assumed that it will take place in a church, and often it does. Following is a list of parishes that have St. Joseph as patron (including as part of the Holy Family), which Catholics can visit for a quick retreat in this, the Year of St. Joseph. In fact, Joseph’s example of attentiveness and listening also show that God speaks in more than one way.

Histories of these parishes are included to show how God has worked in those faith communities, and the natural beauty and heritage that can be experienced present-day.

St. Joseph Church, La Pointe (Madeline Island)

Mass: Saturday, 6:15 p.m., through Labor Day

The oldest Catholic Church in Wisconsin, St. Joseph was founded in 1669 when Catholic missionaries Fr. Claude Allouez and Fr. Jacques Marquette visited the La Pointe area. On July 17, 1835, Fr. Frederic Baraga, the “snowshoe priest,” came to La Pointe and re-established the Catholic mission in response to the needs expressed by Native Americans and French traders. La Pointe was Fr. Baraga’s headquarters from 1835 to 1843. Following the signing of the Treaty of 1854, much of the Ojibwa population relocated from La Pointe to Buffalo Bay (Red Cliff). The first church was built of logs and dedicated to St. Joseph. In 1838, a new, larger church welcomed Bishop Frederic Rese of Detroit, who confirmed 112 adults during his visit. This church was destroyed by fire in 1901 and the current church replaced it in 1902.

History and Heritage: Through Aug. 19, a free downtown half-mile guided walking tour is offered at 11 a.m. on Wednesday and Thursday. Call 715-747-2051, reservations required. A must-stop, walking distance from the ferry, the island’s history museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. It houses artifacts and information covering more than 300 years of history.

Visit for information and events; for ferry schedule,

Outdoor Adventures: Big Bay State Park has a campground, Lake Superior hiking trails and beach. Biking the island is popular, as well as renting kayak and taking guided tours.

Holy Family Church, Bayfield

Mass: Saturday, 4 p.m., and Thursday, 9 a.m.

The first Catholic Church in Bayfield, Christ Church, was built in 1860. In October 1878, the Franciscans came to Bayfield, accepting the care of Native American missions from the entire region and offered Masses in both English and Ojibwa. While one priest remained in Bayfield, the other friars helped care for 45 Native villages and six immigrant settlements. These mission trips, often conducted on snowshoes, by horseback, or dogsled, usually lasted more than eight weeks and covered more than 600 miles.

In 1879, at the request of Franciscan Fr. Casimir Vogt, pastor, the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate in Joliet, Illinois, accepted Bayfield as a mission site. They bought land and built a convent and school, which included boarders for a time. Holy Family School closed in 1999.

Construction of the present church began in 1898, was completed in 1900 and was formally dedicated on July 4, 1900, by the bishop of La Crosse.

History and Heritage: Gateway to the Apostle Islands, Bayfield was voted one of USA Today’s Best Coastal Small Towns. Information on local events and activities can be found at, including highlights of Sept. 11-12 Festival of Arts and Gallery Tour and the annual Apple Festival, Oct. 1-3.

Outdoor Adventures: The biker-hiker Brownstone Trail is accessible in town, whereas the more adventurous can head to Meyer’s Beach to hike the trail with land views of the lakeshore sea caves.

Holy Family, Woodruff

Mass: Saturday, 4 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.; Tuesday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.

Bishop Raphael M. Fliss established Holy Family Parish in 2004, bringing together the former parishes of St. Patrick, Minocqua, established in 1894; Our Lady Queen of the Universe, Woodruff, established in 1955; and St. John Vianney, Lake Tomahawk, started in 1959.

The Holy Family Church was formally dedicated by Bishop Fliss on Aug. 13, 2007, and includes an outdoor Mass space.

The parish’s website notes the church is built on “living stones.” On May 21, 2006, all the members of the newly formed parish were invited to come to the site of the new church. In the spot where the altar would one day stand was a deep pit; more than 1,500 persons attended, and all were invited to write their names on stones, which were then thrown into the pit. Beneath the altar are these “living stones,” representing the original members, the foundation of Holy Family Parish.

A St. Francis walking path is on the parish grounds – information can be found in the church gathering space.

Outdoors Adventures: The area features premiere fishing lakes and the Raven Trail System, part of the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, with hiking, biking, snowshoe and ski trails.

History and Heritage: Learn about local “Angel on Snowshoes” Dr. Kate at the museum dedicated to her legacy, and visit the world’s largest penny. Learn more at Fred Scheer’s Lumberjack shows run through early September – information at

St. Joseph, Hayward

Mass: Saturday, 4 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.; Tuesday, 5:15 p.m.; Thursday, 8:30 a.m.; Friday, 12 p.m.

The influx of loggers and lumbermen, particularly French Canadians, into the Hayward area during the 1880s provided the foundation for a Catholic parish. The gatherings of Catholics were in private homes, led by Franciscan missionaries who traveled throughout the Great Lakes to evangelize the Native Americans. The construction of Hayward’s first Catholic Church was made possible with land donated by the North Wisconsin Lumber Company with donated materials and labor. In 1886, the first Mass was celebrated in the new stone structure. In 1907, the growing parish constructed a school next to the church, but it, like many Hayward institutions, failed to survive the end of Hayward’s logging boom and was discontinued in 1913. In the 1930s, the parish had recovered from the logging exodus and was again growing. By 1967, continued growth led to the construction of the parish’s present structure, and in 2002 a new parish center and adoration chapel was built across the street.

History and Heritage: Hayward is also home to Fred Scheer’s Lumberjack shows – – as well as the landmark Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum.

The annual Fall Festival and craft show is scheduled for Sept. 25.

Outdoor Adventures: Hayward hosts an international winter event, the American Birkebeiner. Visit for information and trail use. The interstate North Country Scenic Trail runs through the area – – the longest in the National Trails System.

St. Joseph, Shell Lake

Mass: Saturday, 4 p.m.

In 1884, a frame church was erected on Bible Hill in the northwest part of Shell Lake. It was destroyed by fire in 1894. A new church was built in 1895 and continued to serve Catholics until the present church was completed in 1981. In 1897, a small building was erected behind the brick church. It served as the visiting priest’s residence, as well as a winter chapel and catechism classroom. Around 1900, St. Joseph was made a mission of Cumberland. After Fr. Dean Buttrick’s arrival as pastor in July 1976, the parish began plans for building a new church. On July 19, 1981, Bishop Raphael M. Fliss dedicated the new church and hall.

Visit for area information and events. The community’s annual Town and Country Days takes places over Labor Day weekend.

The Arts: Shell Lake is an arts hub – the Shell Lake Arts Center has a summer series of concerts provided by campers attending from around the nation. The popular Potter’s Shed hosts live music at their outdoor stage. Visit

Outdoor Adventures: The Shell Lake public beach is one of the largest sandy beaches in the region; public restrooms and playground with picnic area are within walking distance from downtown.

Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary has open trails and programs for all ages –

Three segments of the Ice Age Trail – Timberland Hills, Grassy Lake and Bear Lake – are just south of Shell Lake. Find maps at