Father Gene Stenzel’s rock house
— a lifelong passion to create

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By Associate Jan Uhlenkamp - Minnesota

Father Gene Stenzel has been a School Sister of Notre Dame (SSND) associate since 2017. SSND have always been a part of his life since he had two aunts who were sisters. It was only after he retired from active ministry that he had time to celebrate Mass several times each week at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Mankato, Minnesota. It was during his studies as a pre-associate that Father Gene realized the spirit of generosity and sacrifice that is at the roots of the congregation. Associate Jan Uhlenkamp captures the highlights of the day the sisters and associates spent with Father Gene in the article below.

Father Gene Stenzel's first shrine built at the age of 10.

On June 24, 2019, a group of Mankato area SSND associates and sisters traveled to Father Gene Stenzel’s family farm in Wells, Minnesota, where his Polish ancestors came to homestead in the late 1800s. As we drove through the fieldstone pillars, we were amazed at what we saw: a house, grottos with statues, a cloister-looking walkway, bell tower and many more structures, all built with fieldstone from the farmland and enhanced with flower gardens.

Father Stenzel, built his first grotto when he was 10 years old — 70 years ago! Through his creations and delightful stories, we felt his love of the land and family.

In addition to using fieldstone, Father Stenzel also creatively incorporates and recycles other materials and things that have been discarded. One interesting item was a confessional made of wood that he crafted into a beautiful display case for his home.

Father Gene Stenzel's rock house

Father Stenzel enjoys entertaining family and friends. He recently completed an outside area with a fire pit and built a sunroom onto the house for extra guests. We experienced his hospitality in his kitchen where we discovered that he not only builds, but also bakes! We enjoyed cookies that he had made with coffee and lemonade to end our day.

We felt very blessed to experience the love of family and God, hospitality and Father Gene’s creativity and many talents. It was an inspiring and fun-filled day!

There are numerous stories on the internet about Father Gene and his lifelong project. Here is a link to one video shared in 2018 on a local Minnesota news station: https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2018/06/17/the-stone-house-finding-minnesota/

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