A History of Bishop Garrigan High School

Algona, Iowa

Bishop Garrigan High School opened its doors in 1959 to consolidate secondary Catholic education for students from St. Benedict, St. Cecelia (Algona), St. Michael (Whittemore), St. Joseph (St. Joe), and St. Joseph (Wesley) parishes in southern Kossuth County.  The five-parish Garrigan corporation governed operations at the secondary school.

Throughout its thirty-six year history, four men have served as chief administrators of the school.  Father Francis Conway was the first superintendent.  The Golden Bear football stadium is named Conway Field in his honor.  Father Cecil Friedmann followed Fr. Conway as superintendent.  Basketball games, plays, and concerts are now held in Friedmann Auditorium, which was named in his honor.  Fr. Friedmann was followed by Father Gerald Feierfeil, who changed the title of the chief administrator from superintendent to president.  Mr. Eugene Meister followed Fr. Feierfeil as president and became the first lay administrator of a high school in the Sioux City Diocese.

The exterior structure of Bishop Garrigan High School has remained essentially the same since its opening in 1959, although improvements such as a paved parking lot have been made in recent years.  The interior has been renovated on many occasions.  Recent renovations include a an expanded music area, remodeled office facilities, a new weight room and fitness area, handicapped access to the entire building, carpeting in many classrooms, and a schoolwide computer network.

In the early 1990s the area Catholic elementary schools were merged into the single Seton Grade School in Algona.  At that time a single governing board assumed responsibility for both Seton and Garrigan.  Shortly thereafter, the high school officially changed its name to Bishop Garrigan High School, to better denote the Catholic identity of the school.

Bishop Garrigan High School continues to provide educational and spiritual opportunities for students from all five member parishes.  With the closing of St. John High School in Bancroft in 1989, a number of families from that parish chose to send their children to Bishop Garrigan.  In addition the school has served students from other Catholic parishes in the area (such as Livermore, Emmetsburg, Britt, West Bend, Humboldt, Graettinger, and Spencer), as well as non-Catholic students who wish to learn in a Christian environment.

The first faculty of Garrigan High School consisted of two priests, twelve sisters, and four lay teachers.  The sisters were members of two religious communities from Dubuque, Iowa:  the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (PVBM) and the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Family (OSF).  Enrollment for the first school year (1959 - 1960) was 318 students, grades 9 - 12.

The Sisters of the Presentation have continued to serve Bishop Garrigan throughout its history.  Their numbers declined from nine or ten from 1959 to 1972 to one in 2004.  The Sisters of St. Francis staffed Garrigan for a total of twenty-three years, providing three sisters per year.  Decreasing numbers of sisters forced their reluctant withdrawal from the school in 1982.  Other religious communities at Garrigan included the Sisters of Humility (CHM) from Ottumwa (now Davenport) from 1966 - 1970 and the Sisters of St. Francis (OSF) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1970 - 1972.

Peak enrollment ranging from 503 to 511 at Garrigan came between 1966 and 1969.  The teaching staff at that time included fifteen sisters, six priests, seven lay men, and three lay women.  Since that time enrollment has declined in both public and Catholic schools throughout the rural Midwest.  Today Bishop Garrigan educates slightly under 200 students.  The teaching staff includes one priest and one religious deacon, together with seventeen full- or part-time lay teachers.  One sister serves in an administrative capacity.

Over the years many graduates of Bishop Garrigan have chosen vocations as priests, sisters, and brothers.  These include Sr. Janet Goetz, the Bishop Garrigan registrar.  The most recent graduate to dedicate his life to Christ was Fr. Nick Becker, who was ordained a priest in 2002.