The history of Holy Family Parish is the story of Catholic immigrants from three European countries. In the mid-nineteenth century, Irish, Czech and German families settled in the area which today is northwestern Manitowoc and northeastern Calumet counties. Simple churches were built, later to be replaced by more permanent structures, and parishes were born.
The first church in Manitowoc County was the Church of the Maternity of Mary, built at Manitowoc Rapids in 1851. Jesuit priest Fr. Joseph Brunner was the leader of that church. He also traveled to serve Catholics in the area, where other churches began.
Irish immigrants who settled in the Maple Grove area in the early 1850s were served by Fr. Brunner. He celebrated masses in the homes of early settlers before establishing St. Paul Parish in Noonan’s Corners, between Cato and Grimms, along the Manitowoc – Menasha trail (now Highway 10). In 1854, land was cleared for a cemetery, and a frame church was erected there.
In 1858, land was sold to Bishop Henni of the Milwaukee Diocese for the St. Paul Congregation. St. Paul Church was built on the site of the present St. Patrick Cemetery in Maple Grove. Land was donated for the congregation, on which the first rectory was built. A decade or so later, the Noonan’s Corners building was abandoned, and things moved to the establishment at Maple Grove.
In 1868, the year the Green Bay Diocese was established, the cornerstone was laid for the present St. Patrick Church of Maple Grove. St. Patrick Congregation was incorporated in 1883.
Meanwhile, Czech immigrants settled in the Reedsville area. In 1863, 25 families purchased land for a Catholic church. Two years later, in 1865, the Bohemian families built a 24 by 36 foot log church. This was the beginning of St. Mary Parish in Reedsville. The parish was named under the title of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
German immigrants settled a few miles to the west, in the Kasson and Brillion areas. Those from the Kasson area would attend mass at St. Patrick in Maple Grove before organizing themselves in 1875 as Holy Trinity and becoming a mission of St. Mary, Reedsville. The first mass was celebrated in the small frame Kasson church on January 1, 1876.
Just a few years later, in 1881, the resident Reedsville pastor assisted in organizing a new mission parish in Brillion. The parish was established on September 8, 1881, the feast day of the parish, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In Reedsville and Brillion, as earlier in Maple Grove, new churches were built to replace the initial ones. A new brick church was built in Brillion in 1899. In 1907 in Reedsville, a brick church was dedicated with great fanfare.
Early on in their histories, these neighboring parishes began a strong commitment to Catholic education, which continues today. In 1885, the old church in Maple Grove was turned into St. Patrick School. There were 100 students when the first classes began in the fall of 1886. The present St. Patrick School building was built in 1913. St. Mary School in Reedsville began in 1886 and a larger school was built in 1895. In Brillion, the first school was built in 1889, and when the 1899 church was built, the old church was converted into school rooms for the older students. A new school building was built in Brillion in 1922, with a major expansion in 1961. In Reedsville, a new school was built in 1954. St. Patrick School closed in 1981, when students began attending Catholic school in Reedsville. In 1985, the school was renamed St. Mary-St. Patrick School. Holy Family Catholic School and Religious Education continue to serve parish children in these same two locations today.
History has a way of coming full circle. Catholics in this area were served by the same priests and churches in their early history, before becoming distinct. In recent years, that trend has reversed as the Catholic faithful have come together again.
As change was a constant in the beginning of the history of our parish, so too in more recent years. In 1961, the Holy Trinity mission was closed, and members joined St. Mary in Brillion. Church furnishings were sold to parishioners, and the church was dismantled for lumber.
St. Patrick in Maple Grove and St. Mary in Reedsville, after sharing a priest for over a decade, merged to become St. Mary-St. Patrick Parish on July 1, 1995.
In October 1998, St. Mary-St. Patrick and St. Mary, Brillion began sharing a priest. After several years of prayer, discussion, and consultation with parish members, the parishes agreed to merge into one and build a new church together. Parish members chose the name Holy Family, which was approved by the Bishop as he merged the parishes, effective January 1, 2001. Construction of the new church began August 20, 2001.
Holy Family Catholic Church, serving the Catholic Community of Brillion, Reedsville and Maple Grove, was dedicated by Bishop Robert Banks on June 9, 2002. On June 3, 2012 a celebration was held to mark the 10th Anniversary of the dedication of the Church.