On February 24, 1950, the Most Reverend William P. O’Connor, Bishop of Madison announced the formation of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish. It comprised 25 square miles, which formerly were part of St. Bernard’s congregation. The Reverend Jerome Mersberger, then an Assistant at St. Bernard’s, was named the Pastor. A census of the new parish had revealed the presence of more than two hundred Catholic families living within these boundaries. The first general meeting was held on March 19, 1950. A chicken coop, on the Joe Fix farm on the south side of West Dean avenue was the first chapel and a vacant farmhouse on the property was to serve as the rectory. The first Sunday Mass was offered on June 16, 1950.
A beautiful hand-carved statue of The Immaculate Heart of Mary is unveiled in a ceremony officiated by Bishop William O’Connor and enshrined in the church to the side of the altar. The Bishop encouraged Father Mersberger to spread devotion to Our Lady of the Green Scapular, providing the pastor with a supply of green scapulars to distribute. The devotion grew quickly and the small shrine began to attract many visitors who had great devotion to Our Lady. In short time the shrine statue of Our Lady of the Green Scapular attracted thousands of prayerful visitors from around the world, many saying that they received spiritual and physical strength through Mary’s intercession.
The Catholic Diocese of Madison purchased six acres of land in the village of Monona for the parish, formerly part of the Ellestad and Seeliger farms. The first building on the property (currently the gym and preschool section of our school) included a temporary rectory, auditorium/gymnasium and a chapel. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on September 12, 1950, Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary. The building was completed and dedicated on September 23, 1951. By 1954, 700 families were registered and the need for an elementary school was formalized. An attached school building was completed and opened for classes in the fall of 1954. It contained seven classrooms and a teacher’s room. It was under the direction of the School Sisters of St. Francis. In 1956, a playground and parking lot were constructed. In May 1959, planning began for a new shrine – church building and school addition. Ground was broken for the church on December 10, 1959. In May 1961, the permanent church building was completed and dedicated (our current church building). An addition of six more classrooms to the school was completed in 1962. By this time, the parish had grown to 1200 families.
In 1968 the IHM Convent was completed. The sisters moved from the house across the street into the new convent. The parish priests moved into the old convent until the new rectory was built to the south side of the church. The former rectory was attached to the gym. The parish office and the liturgy office were moved from the school building. In the mid 1970’s a Director of Religious Education was appointed. Also, the attrition of the School Sisters of St. Francis forced the administration to begin hiring lay teachers.
Fr. Mersberger was assigned to serve as pastor at St. Mary Catholic Church in Palmyra. The World Shrine of Our Lady of the Green Scapular moved with him to that location. Msgr. Edward Bier was appointed as the new pastor at Immaculate Heart of Mary.