St. Malachy Catholic Church

St. Malachy Catholic Church Clontarf, MN

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.

Rev. J.J. McDonald (1897-1901)

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.


Filed under Clontarf, Early Settlers

3 responses to “St. Malachy Catholic Church

  1. Timothy Dolan

    I am a candidate for Deacon in the New Ulm Diocese. I am writing a paper on the church influence of the settling of Minnesota. What I found on your site was some onformation about Bishop(Archbishop) Ireland. Any other information you have on that would fill in some of my paper. I understand there was a Foley listed somewhere and that would have been a relative. The Doyles were also related somehow. You have an interesting site and I thank you for all your work.

    • Hello!

      As far as Clontarf is concerned, Bishop Ireland was instrumental in bringing Catholic settlers to the area as part of the Catholic Colonization Bureau. James Shannon’s book “Catholic Colonization on the Western Frontier” is really the best resource for this topic.

      The Irish Catholics in Clontarf and Tara were from all over, but Ireland initially targeted Irish immigrants living in urban areas on the east coast. Two areas I know people came from are Fisherville, New Hampshire and Salem, Massachusetts. Other settlers came independantly of the colonization efforts, from other areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin. There was a large French population in Clontarf, and I am not sure what Ireland’s role with them was.

      Tell me more about the Foleys you are related to – there are a couple (at least) Foley families in Western Minnesota. I am related to Foleys who came from County Cork, Ireland via Fisherville, NH and settled in Tara Township in 1878. There was another Foley family that came from Quebec and settled in the Morris, MN area. Let me know.

      There is an interesting history of the Doyle family in the Swift County History book. I will post that story in the near future.

      Email me directly –



  2. Becky McCauley

    There is a photo of Father Oster in the Swift County Monitor 12/18/1896 and an article about the new church being dedicated.

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