The parish was founded Oct. 21, 1891. It now has 2,225 members. The parish staff provided the following information.
Q: What is the most interesting facet of your church building?
A: Our current church was built in 1997. Its design was considered a new concept for our area. There have been a few updates, including an addition in 2005 of meeting rooms, cafeteria and gym and a connection to our Catholic school that was built in 1951. Our latest update was added in the fall of 2015. A Rodgers Infinity Series 361 pipe organ was purchased and installed with the generosity of a donor and then blessed Nov. 22, 2015, by Bishop Donald Kettler.
Q: What is the most popular event or program at your parish?
A: Our biggest events of the year have been our fall festival and our school gala in May. Both are major fundraisers that parishioners look forward to each year.
Currently, Father Mark Innocenti runs a program called the “St. Andrew Coffee Project” — he buys coffee from farmers in Guatemala, has it roasted to order by “Roastery 7” (a company owned by a parishioner from St Andrew’s) and sells the fresh coffee to churches and other community members. He donates all of the proceeds from the coffee to both our St. Andrew Catholic school and other Catholic schools through the Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of St. Cloud.
Q: What is an interesting historical fact or anecdote about your parish?
A: We currently have nine vocations that have come from within our parish and who serve both inside and out of our diocese. Six out of the nine are priests.
We are the farthest southern and eastern parish location in the Diocese of St. Cloud.
St. Andrew Church was established as a mission parish with eight families. It was served largely by mission priests who came twice a month and on great feasts of the church year. Prior to this time, Catholics had to travel to Dayton, Fletcher, St. Michael or Anoka for Mass.
Meet the pastor
Father Mark Innocenti grew up in Roseville, Minnesota. He moved to St. Cloud in 1988 to work at what was then Banker Systems. He entered St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul in 1993, went to St. Paul Seminary in 1995 and was ordained in 1999.
He served as associate pastor at St. Anthony Parish in St. Cloud for two years. He served as pastor for 11 years at Our Lady of Lourdes in Little Falls and then at the cluster of St. Michael in St. Cloud and St. Joseph in Waite Park for about three and a half years. Presently he has served at St. Andrew Parish in Elk River since December 2015.
Q: What inspired you to become a priest?
A: The call to the priesthood evolved from a conversion in my late 20s. I started to pray and ask God what he wanted me to do. Over the next six or so years, the desire to serve God and neighbor became stronger with, seemingly, the doors opening and pointing me to the priesthood.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your daily life as a priest?
A: I enjoy the daily routine of being a priest in that I get to spend my day with a variety of situations, events, liturgies and people, all which focus on God and his kingdom.
Q: What was the theme of a favorite homily that you preached?
A: I often refer to heaven as a reunion of sorts. Most families understand well the gathering of friends and relatives at holidays or special events; seeing each other and greeting each other after a long time of being apart — how wonderful those times are. Imagine how wonderful it will be to come into heaven and see all our loved ones who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. Imagine this reunion. It is waiting for us as we give our hearts to Jesus and follow him as he has taught us.
Fall festival Sept. 18 marks anniversaries
St. Andrew Parish’s fall festival Sept. 18 will celebrate 125 years as a parish and 65 years as a school. The day begins with Mass at 8:30 a.m. Bishop Donald Kettler will preside at the 10:30 a.m. Mass. Dinner tickets are available for pre-sale only, with seatings at 11:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. Entertainment includes Kenny, Diana and Zach Janson, and musician Levi Pelzer. Games and live and silent auctions are from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Throughout the day hamburgers, hot dogs, walking tacos, baked potatoes, tamales and beer will be available.