When Belle Plaine was founded in 1854, the nearest Catholic church was in Shakopee, Minnesota. In 1856 the first Catholic settlers, mostly Irish, began migrating to Belle Plaine. A priest from Shakopee, Father Cornelius Wittman, O.S.B, would come several times a year, on irregular days, due to Sunday being reserved for his Shakopee parish, and celebrate mass in one of the homes of the Catholic Belle Plaine residents.
In 1860, the Belle Plaine Catholic Community decided to build a church. This church was located in block 145 (Sacred Heart Church site) and was named St. Martin. Later, St. Martin’s Catholic Church would become Sacred Heart Catholic Church. At this time, there were roughly 100 Catholic families living in Belle Plaine, mainly of Irish and German descent.
In 1868, the 40 families of German descent decided to split from the existing predominately Irish Catholic church and build their own church, one that would be spoken in their native language. A new church located just south of the present church was built in 1871; the new church was dedicated on December 8, 1871, and was named for the Princes of the Apostles, Sts. Peter and Paul. The church that was originally built was not extensive but served the German parish for more than thirty years. Hence, beginning in 1903, a plan to build a new church began. The last service in the old church was held on Sunday, September 17, 1905, and the new church’s dedication took place on November 14, 1905.
In 1972, the Archbishop Coadjutor of St. Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese, Reverend Leo C. Byrne ordered Sacred Heart and St. Peter and Paul parishes to consolidate due to a shortage of priests. It was decided that St. Peter and Paul Church would remain, as it had a rectory, grade school, and convent, and the Sacred Heart parish house was to be the home of presiding priest. Scared Heart Church was closed for regular worship services on December 1, 1972, but upon special request, parishioners could use it for weddings and funerals up until December 1, 1974. In 1988, the decision to dispose of the Sacred Heart church was made, and in March of 1989, the Church was torn down.
A new name for consolidated church was decided; the new parish’s name was to be “Our Lady of the Prairie.” The Catholic community was back to the beginning of their roots in Belle Plaine, with the Irish and Germans, worshipping together.
Albrecht, Leo J., “Belle Plaine 150 Years, 1854 – 2004;” published in 2004.