150 years strong: Catholic churches become St. Francis of Assisi Parish
The unification of St. Henry and St. Mary Catholic churches in Marshalltown, as well as Immaculate Conception Oratory in Haverhill, has been several years in the making. Recently, a unification Mass was held at St. Henry’s, officially uniting the churches as St. Francis of Assisi Parish.
St. Mary’s priest, Father Alan Dietzenbach, has become the pastor for all the church campuses. St. Henry’s former parish priest, Father Don Czapla, was reassigned to St. Matthew’s in Cedar Rapids earlier this month. Father Michael McAndrew has been brought in to serve as associate pastor for the campuses.
The first Catholic parish in Marshalltown was established 150 years ago — in 1869 — and was called Immaculate Conception, before the name was changed to St. Mary’s.
“For folks who have been going to Mass, it looks a lot like it did before, with the biggest change being a change in Mass times,” Dietzenbach said. “Also, the parish office will be out of the St. Mary’s office now.”
Marshalltown Catholic Radio, which had been displaced following the July 2018 tornado, will now have its studio set up at the St. Henry Parish Hall. While it streams online, it is not yet up broadcasting over the airwaves.
A task force formed in January 2018 recommended unification of the churches to the archbishop later that summer. Dietzenbach said the churches had been working to join forces for several years in a variety of capacities.
“St. Mary’s school was falling down in the early 2000s, so they decided to merge the schools at the Saint Henry’s campus. (All students moved to the renovated St. Francis School building in March 2015),” Dietzenbach said. “That was the big shift that got people thinking about ways we can unify our resources and what we do best to serve the community here in Marshalltown.”
The faith formation programs united in 2012, followed by the youth ministry programs in 2014.
“St. Henry’s broke off of St. Mary parish (in 1959) because the St. Mary school was too small for the kids, so they decided to start a new church and school … The dividing line for the new parish was whoever lived north of the railroad tracks belonged to Saint Mary’s, and whoever lived south of it belonged to St. Henry’s,” Dietzenbach said of the parish’s history.
Associate priest is newly ordained
McAndrew became a priest on May 25, 2019. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Northern Iowa before enrolling at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago. A native of Coralville, he was first interested in choral music education until serving the church became his life’s calling.
“I loved being at the student center and talking about faith and taking on leadership roles. I love liturgy, I love music,” McAndrew said.
Both priests are bilingual.
“It’s an opportunity for different cultures to come together. I’m seeing a lot more Anglo and Hispanic families at that one and it’s starting to create a culture around that and it’s fun to see,” Dietzenbach said of the new bilingual Mass. “We want to add on different programming afterward at different times throughout the year.”
McAndrew is excited for what the future holds.
“I’m excited to see what God has planned for me in Marshalltown. They told us in seminary that the first assignment is very formative for the rest of your priesthood,” he said.
Saturdays — 4:30 p.m. English Mass at St. Henry’s; 6:30 p.m. Spanish Mass at St. Mary’s. Sundays — 8:30 a.m. Mass in English at St. Mary’s; 10 a.m. Mass in English at St. Henry’s; 11:30 a.m. Spanish Mass at St. Mary’s; bilingual Mass at St. Henry’s at 5 p.m.
“(McAndrew’s) dad is of Irish descent, and his mom is Honduran, and I’m of German ancestry, so we sort of summarize the Catholic immigrant history of Marshalltown,” Dietzenbach said with a laugh.
For more information, Dietzenbach may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.