Fr. James Lenhart, Ph.D.
The the first photo was taken of Fr. James Lenhart, Ph.D. in
front of the old St. Agnes Rectory. Upon his arrival here, Fr.
Lenhart found the church without a sacristy or belfry, so he
suggested building a new church with a projected cost of
fifteen thousand dollars. The new St. Agnes church was
dedicated on November 28, 1901, (This building burned
down by a fire in 1954, then rebuilt and dedicated in 1956).
Fr. Lenhart began his long pastorate of St. Agnes on
September l, 1898 and continued for 37 years, until his death
by murder in 1934.
1974 Father Brackett's Altar
St. Cecilia's Church
Back Row: Ernie Remondini, Chuck Butorac. Don Rizzardi,
Larry Schiavo, Mark Shamion, Victor Fiorazo, Father Louis
Second row: Eugene Zorzin, Paul Aldegarie, Tony Fittante,
Mike Cattani, Mike Fiorazo, Allan McLaine, Mike Kmichiek.
Third Row: Frank Baker, Mark Fittante, Steve Benson, David
Aregoni, Jim Atanasoff, Tom Kinney.
Front Row: Bill Cataldo, Chris Haglund, Brian Pellizaro, Bob
Watts, George Stiffe, Gene Bortolomeolli.
Photo by Jack Cozzuol, Iron River, Michigan.
2016 Black Cow Event
October 8, 2016 at V.A. Hospital in Iron Mountain. The
Black Cow Event is a quarterly event which serves
veterans ice cream sodas and treats. Pictured above are
Arthur Aregoni, Stewart Adair, Robert Remondini.
2013 St. Agnes Choir
Front row: left to right: Joyce Myefski. Paulette Davis, Jane
Lombardini, Carol Brunswick.
Second row: Charlotte Serena, Mary Wall, Gayle Cerney,
Dennis Cerney, Bernice Pairolero, Melissa Powell.
Third row: Ron Basso, Sue LaFountain, Terri Floriano,
Nancy Clements, Carol Stanchina.
Fourth row: Harold Nichols, Rose Watt, Tim Hines, Barb
Martini, Sarah Townsend, Violinist, Luella AMbach,
Missing: Jane Townsend, pianist. Approximate year 2013.
2013 St. Cecilia Church Choir
Top Row: Don MacDonald, Jim Paul, Donna Capello, Gloria
Ingold, Theresa Jacques, Klaryce Bilski.
Middle Row: Michelle Wiegand, Delina Liptak, Donna
Bottom Row: Stephanie Wiegand, Rosalie King Organist
2021 St. Agnes Church Choir
1916 St. Agnes Mission
1934 Church of Saint Agnes
1948 St. Agnes Mission
1950 St. Agnes Mission
1910 Official Guide Booklet of
St. Agnes Church
1901 - 1951 Jubilee
1960 The Golden Jubilee
Father Hennelly’s 25th
1944 First Communion at the
St. Agnes, Iron River, MI, Fr. Eugene T. Hennelly, pastor
Patricia Mahon, center, holding bouquet
St. Mary's of the Assumption
Wedding of Ramona Wodzinski and Robert Ross on
September 1, 1947 at Assumption Church
St. Mary's of the Assumption. Left to right: Tom Wall Fr.
Polawski, Dan Wall. circa 1977
Final Mass at St. Mary's of the Assumption Church -
Cheryl Zielinski Spencer, organist and directress. Luella
St. Cecilia Martyr, Patroness
of Church Music
Feast Day: November 22
Major Shrine: Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome, Italy
Patron of: Church music, great musicians, poets
In the fourth century appeared a Greek religious romance
on the Loves of Cecilia and Valerian, written, like those of
Chrysanthus and Daria, Julian and Basilissa, in glorification
of the virginal life, and with the purpose of taking the place
of the sensual romances of Daphnis and Chloe, Chereas and
Callirhoe, etc., which were then popular.
The story of S. Cecilia is not without beauty and merit.
There was in the city of Rome a virgin named Cecilia, who
was given in marriage to a youth named Valerian. She wore
sackcloth next to her skin, and fasted, and invoked the saints
and angels and virgins, beseeching them to guard her
virginity. And she said to her husband, "I will tell you a
secret if you will swear not to reveal it to anyone." And
when he swore, she added, "There is an angel who watches
me, and wards off from me any who would touch me." He
said, "Dearest, if this be true, show me the angel." "That can
only be if you will believe in one God, and be baptized."
She sent him to Pope S. Urban (223-230), who baptized him;
and when he returned, he saw Cecilia praying in her
chamber, and an angel by her with flaming wings, holding
two crowns of roses and lilies, which he placed on their
heads, and then vanished. Shortly after, Tibertius, the
brother of Valerian, entered, and wondered at the fragrance
and beauty of the flowers at that season of the year.
When he heard the story of how they had obtained these
crowns, he also consented to be baptized. After their
baptism the two brothers devoted themselves to burying the
martyrs slain daily by the prefect of the city, Turcius
Almachius. [There was no prefect of that name.] They were
arrested and brought before the prefect, and when they
refused to sacrifice to the gods were executed with the
In the meantime, S. Cecilia, by preaching had converted four
hundred persons, whom Pope Urban forthwith baptized.
Then Cecilia was arrested, and condemned to be suffocated
in the baths. She was shut in for a night and a day, and the
fires were heaped up, and made to glow and roar their
utmost, but Cecilia did not even break out into perspiration
through the heat. When Almachius heard this he sent an
executioner to cut off her head in the bath. The man struck
thrice without being able to sever the head from the trunk.
He left her bleeding, and she lived three days. Crowds came
to her, and collected her blood with napkins and sponges,
whilst she preached to them or prayed. At the end of that
period she died, and was buried by Pope Urban and his
St. Cecilia is regarded as the patroness of music [because of
the story that she heard heavenly music in her heart when
she was married], and is represented in art with an organ or
organ-pipes in her hand.
From Baring-Gould, M.A., Rev. S. “The Lives of the Saints”,
published in 1914 in Edinburgh. Source:
History of Immaculate
Started as a mission of Ewen in the 1880s, Immaculate
Conception Parish in Watersmeet has been independent
since 1916. The first resident pastor arrived in 1916. The
original church was built around 1890 and the rectory in
Father Samuel Bottoni, began his long 44-year pastorate
from 1952 to 1996 and led the parish in construction of a
modern church building. The original church and rectory
were moved eight miles south to Camp Plagens on the shore
of Moon Lake. The new church was dedicated July 7, 1956.
Camp Plagens was located at the northeast end of the lake.
The camp was originally constructed by the Civilian
Conservation Corps during the 1930s. It was used as a
winter training camp for troops during the late 1930s and
early 1940s. Camp Plagens was later donated to the Diocese
of Marquette and was used as a summer camp for youth
until the middle 1970s.
Father Samuel Battoni continued to hold Saturday evening
and Sunday evening Catholic masses at Camp Plagens in St.
John’s Chapel until the mid 1990s. Shortly after Father
Battoni’s death in 1995, the camp was sold to the Lac Vieux
Desert tribe in Watersmeet. In the spring of 2003, the tribe
received a grant to restore one barracks building and the
chapel for use as a historical museum.
On July 1, 2019, Bishop John Doerffler joined Immaculate
Conception Church to the parishes of St. Agnes in Iron River
and St. Cecilia in Caspian. Fr. Gregory Veneklase was
assigned as Pastor/Administrator, with Fr Jeffrey Kurtz
remaining as priest-in-residence.
History of St. Agnes
On this webpage is a brief history of St. Agnes Parish
which contains a compilation of excerpts from the
Centennial Celebration booklet, the book, “A Walk
Through The History of the Diocese of Marquette”, other
similar books, and our own memories. It began with the
discovery and mining of iron ore and the subsequent
settlement of the area.
1883, Father Anatole Pelisson was given charge of the
area with neither church or rectory. He resided in the
homes of parishioners and said Mass in school buildings.
In 1885, the first church was built to provide for the
young and growing community. He was the first in a
succession of priests to serve the spiritual needs of the
On September 1, 1898, Rev. James Lenhardt began his
long pastorate and continued until his untimely death in
1934, murdered by a mentally unbalanced man outside
of the rectory.
In 1900, St. Agnes Parish, the mother church of the entire
west side of Iron county, totaled 125 families, and served
the villages and settlements of Iron River, Stambaugh,
Saunders, Pentoga, Watersmeet, Atkinson Interior, and
later Caspian and Gaastra.
St. Agnes Parish continued to grow in membership and
prosperity under Father Lenhart's leadership.
In the midst of the Great Depression in the late 1920s and
early 1930s, the parish was in debt, church and rectory
were in need of repair, and the parish was in a state of
decline. During that time Fr. George Dingfelder began
the ardous task of restoring the well-being of St. Agnes.
His partorate coincided with the World War II and the
parish began to be reestablished, physically and
St Agnes School opened its doors in September of 1948
and welcomed over 100 children.
In 1954 a fire destroyed the first St. Agnes Church but
fortunately, it was rebuilt and the new church was
dedicated in 1956.
The Convent was completed in 1961,
and a new rectory was completed in
A widespread closing of the local iron
mines in the 1960s and a subsequent
decline in the economy of the area,
together with the marked reduction
of priests, had unfortunate affects on the church; and in
1970, St. Agnes School had to close its doors.
With the closing of Assumption Church, Blessed
Sacrament in Stambaugh, and St. Mary's in Gaastra; there
remains only St. Agnes in Iron River and St. Cecilia's in
Caspian. Father Norman Clisch was named Pastor of
Many repairs and improvements were
made during the pastorate of Father
Norman Clisch from 2000 to 2011, until
The improvements have continued
with the installation of Father Gregory
Veneklase, who was named as
Pastor/Administrator of St. Agnes and
St. Cecilia on July 1, 2011. In addition,
he was then given charge of the Sister
Parish of Immaculate Conception in
Watersmeet on July 1, 2019.
History of St. Cecilia
The settlement of Caspian began at the turn of the century
and continued to grow. However, Gaastra was the larger
community, so that is where Fr. James Lenhardt, pastor of
St. Agnes, built a church to improve the spiritual needs of
the area. Masses in those early days were held in Caspian at
the Duke of Abruzzi Hall and the Calliari Opera House.
There was a succession of priests and assistants until Father
Herman Fadale arrived in 1950 in Gaastra. He was
appointed Pastor of St. Cecilia with Gaastra as a Mission. In
his appointment from Bishop Noa, it was stated that his
main task would be the building of a church and rectory.
Work began on June 9, 1951, and was completed on Palm
Sunday, April 3, 1955. Bishop Noa blessed and dedicated the
church on July 17, 1955.
In 1981, Father Otto Sartorelli
assumed his pastoral duties. His
return to the Parish was exciting, as
he is a native son. Father Sartorelli
was born and raised in Gaastra, MI.
He was appointed pastor of St.
Cecilia Church, Caspian in 1981 and the combined churches
of St. Cecilia and St. Mary’s, Gaastra in 1988. He retired in
In 1985, due to the economy and shortage of priests, St.
Cecilia consolidated with St. Mary’s of Gaastra. However,
by the early 1950’s, records show that Caspian had about
three times the Amount of parishioners in Caspian than in
Gaastra. Many of the faithful in Gaastra joined with St.
Cecilia when St. Mary’s church closed in 1988.
Active ministries included the St. Anne Society, Holy Name
Society, men's choir, mixed choir, and St Vincent De Paul
With Fr. Sartorelli's retirement, the
parishes of St. Cecilia and St. Agnes
combined, with Fr. Norman Clisch
appointed pastor of both St. Cecilia
and St. Agnes in Iron River. His
pastorate continued until his
retirement in 2011, when Father
Gregory Veneklase was appointed
administrator and pastor of both.
Iron River, Caspian, & Watersmeet, MI
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Catholic Communities of
Iron River, Caspian & Watersmeet
Appointed pastor of
St. Agnes, St. Cecilia
from 2011 - 2021 with
Conception added in
Watersmeet in 2019.
Fr. Greg awarded plaque
from Knights of Columbus
Fr. Greg's 25th anniversary