Father Francis Xavier Pierz, the Catholic missionary to the Chippewa, is considered the founder of Saint Mary Help of Christians Parish. As early as 1852, he wrote articles for the German-Catholic newspapers promoting settlement in this area, and he frequentl celebrated Mass for these new settlements. There was no church in the area, so Mass was celebrated in the home of the settlers.
When Father Pierz visited the German-Catholic settlers here in 1856, he established one of his missions here. A small log church was built on the site where Father Pierz is said to have found a small religious picture of St. Augustine. It is likely that he suggested the name for the township, which probably evolved from the Latin “Santa Augusta Maria” (Holy August Mary) to Saint Augusta.
The first congregation was organized by Father Cornelius Wittman, who was based in St. Cloud. By 1858, the log church had become too small, so a frame church was built near the St. Augusta railroad station. A year later, in 1859, a tornado virtually destroyed the entire village. The old log church survived, however, and in 1861 it became the settlement’s first school.
Father Francis X. Wenniger had erected a mission cross in 1856 when he came to celebrate mass in a settler’s home. When he returned to St. Augusta in 1872 to hold a mission here, he was asked to select a site for a new church. The Most Reverend Thomas L. Grace of St. Paul laid the cornerstone on May 13, 1873. The first services in the new church were held that winter. Father Valentine Stimmler guided construction of the stone church. The present community of St. Augusta grew up and around this church.
In 1875, Bishop Rupert Seidenbusch blessed the new church, and gave it the name “B.M.V. de Auxilio Christianorum,” Latin for “St. Mary Help of Christians.” Bishop Otto Zardetti consecrated the church on July 2, 1890. The rectory was also built in 1890 by Father Meinrad Rittenmeyer.
In 1913, the parish numbered 110 families. Presently, the parish has a membership of over 1900 parishioners, representing approximately 750 households.