The first missionary to visit Odanah was Father Agustus Van Parmel, who came from La Pointe on occasional visits from 1855 to 1859. Father John Chebul built the first Catholic Church in Odanah. In 1882, Bishop Kilian Flasch of La Crosse administered the first Confirmation service in Odanah. In 1883 the church was dedicated under the patronage of the Sorrowful Mother. Later that year, Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration from La Crosse opened a parish school in Odanah. The school remained open until 1969. In 1878, the Franciscan Fathers of the St. Louis Province took over parishes serving northern Wisconsin's Native American population, Including St. Mary Parish. In 1888, Katherine Drexel, who was named a saint by Pope John Paul II in 2000, visited Odanah. Born to wealthy parents in Philadelphia, she purchased the former 160 acre Presbyterian mission for the Catholic mission, which is the site of today's St. Mary Church. Renovations during the past century have kept it in its original condition. In 1999, St. Mary Parish celebrated its centennial with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Raphael M. Fliss. Members of the Franciscan religious order, as well as the Franciscan Sister of La Crosse, were on hand for the celebration. Earlier in the year, the Franciscan Fathers turned the parish back to the Bishop of Superior, ending a 121 year of service to the St. Mary community. The last resident priest was Father Michael Lange, OFM, who died before the centennial celebration.
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