On September 6, 1942, Holdingford, Minnesota dedicated the nation’s first shrine built to honor those who served in the United States Armed Forces, WWII, both abroad and at home. Dubbed as the largest and most spectacular religious event in the history of Holdingford, an estimated five thousand people were in attendance. The day’s ceremonies were opened by a town parade during which two flights of Taylor Cub Airplanes flew in low formation over the line of march and dipped their wings in salute to the Flag.
Among the dignitaries in attendance were Governor Harold Stassen of Minnesota; Fred Schilplin, publisher of the St. Cloud Daily Times; Rev. Gilbert Winkleman, O.S.B, Dean of the School of Architecture at St. John’s University; Charles Brenny, Mayor of Holdingford; Dr. E. J. Schmitz, master-of-ceremonies, and Father J. Kromolicki pastor of St. Hedwig’s Church.
Harold E. Stassen, then Governor of Minnesota gave praise to the countless volunteers making Father J. Kromolicki’s vision a reality and stated that, “ The nation must hold true to the basic rights and precepts given them by God or a just peace would be but a vain hope. America with its grand freedom and its love of justice and truth must take the lead in obtaining a just and lasting peace and not merely an armistice.”
Fred Schilpin, St. Cloud Daily Times, paid tribute to Father Kromolicki, pastor of St. Hedwig’s Church, for his vision and dedication to seeing this undertaking materialize. “This beautiful community’s Soldiers’ Shrine is the expression his love and the love of all the people of Holdingford, Stearns County and central Minnesota for the defenders of democracy everywhere.” And in speaking of the shrine he stated that, “ It will stand through the years as a loving patriotic tribute and a physical emblem of the faith of the whole community of Holdingford.”
Statistics: The Shrine was designed by Rev. Gilbert Winkelman, O.S.B., Dean of the School of Architecture at St. John’s University and constructed by Edward Feia, son Donald, and many parish volunteers. Over 540 loads of fieldstone from area farmers were used in the construction.
Located in the corner lot directly across from St. Hedwig’s Church, the Shrine is 42 feet long, 18 feet wide, and 22 feet high. Four carved angels adorning trumpets stand in procession followed by a large statue of Christ the King. Plaques with names of over one hundred soldiers were at one time embedded into the walls of the shrine, but today are no longer visible. The four crosses on the shrine are in memory of four young men from Holdingford who died during the; (1) Elmer Kerestes, Pearl harbor, (2) Walter R. Mattson, St. Lo, France; (3) Walter Krystosek, Anzio Beach, Italy, and (4) Joseph Troxil, U.S. Navy who died at sea. Recently the crosses have been updated in stainless steel and
the addition on another which is dedicated to all men and women serving in our armed
For seventy years the Shrine nestled in the backdrop of Holdingford has been a symbol of community faith and pride for those who have served and are serving our county. This Shrine has been dutifully kept up by parishioners of All Saints-St. Hedwig and many
members of the community of Holdingford. We call on you to visit the Shrine and take part in the history and pride of Holdingford.
Information provided by the Stearns County History Museum
Article written by Michelle Kiley, Holdingford.
Photos by Deborah Binsfeld, Holdingford.