St. Malachy’s has been central to life in Clontarf since it was first established in 1878. In April of that year, Father Anatole Oster was assigned to Clontarf, then a mission of DeGraff, MN. In 1880, St. Malachy’s became a parish in its own right with a congregation of over five-hundred.
Clontarf grew quickly during those first two years due in large part to the presence of the Catholic Church. Father Oster’s duties went far beyond preparing a sermon for Sunday and performing Sacraments for his parishioners. Throughout 1878-79, new settlers arrived in Clontarf almost daily and when they stepped off the train they were first met by Father Oster. He provided support and advice to the newest members of the Clontarf community, instructing settlers on the practical aspects of making a new life on the prairie.
A larger, and the present-day St. Malachy’s Church (an early photo is above), was built in 1896 to accommodate the growing congregation. Father Oster left the following year and was succeeded by the Rev. J.J. McDonald.
I wish I had a photo of Father Oster to post – I will work on that.
Please check out the Clontarf Events page for information on an upcoming fundraiser for St. Malachy’s.
Any memories of the Church building or priests over the years? How about stories passed down about Father Oster? I recall there were some stories about him coming out to visit families in Tara Township and saying Mass at the Michael Donovan (?) or Kent house – anyone else heard about that? Please share by adding a comment.