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History of Stella Maris Parish
Stella Maris Roman Catholic Parish
In the beginning…
The Catholic Church was built upon a rock, namely Saint Peter, with Jesus Christ as the foundation and cornerstone and each believer as a stone.
Stella Maris, Guide of Christians…Pray for us.
Stella Maris Parish: History of St. Michael the Archangel Church, Jacksonport
Celebrating our Catholic faith at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Jacksonport has been going on for many years. St. Michael the Archangel’s feast day is September 29th, and this date has been a time of great celebration (also known as Michaelmas) in Europe for centuries. Is it any wonder that the people of Jacksonport chose St. Michael to be their church’s namesake? Festivals abound in Door County: Fall Fest in Sister Bay, Old Ellison Bay Days, Ephraim’s Fyr Ball, and the Fish Creek Winter Carnival. And then there is the festival that occurs in Jacksonport for Door County’s main agricultural resource cherries named appropriately “Cherry Fest.” Also, the Irish consider September 29th to be a lucky day for fishing. It is probably true in Jacksonport as well!
In continuing research on the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel, from The Lives of Saints author Fr. Alban Butler writes, “MI-CA-EL,” or “Who is like to God?” Such was the cry of the great Archangel when he smote the rebel Lucifer in the conflict of the heavenly hosts, and from that hour he has been known as “Michael,” the captain of the armies of God, the type of divine fortitude, the champion of every faithful soul in strife with the powers of evil…And since Christ’s coming the Church has ever venerated St. Michael as her special patron and protector.” May God continue to protect St. Michael the Archangel Church in Jacksonport and all who worship there.
St. Michael is the protector of the faithful. This is true today, but also true for some of the first settlers on the peninsula: the Potawatomi Indians. In the early 1600’s these Indians lived in the northern third of lower Michigan, but being threatened by the Ontario tribes the Potawatomi started to move and by 1665 most of the Forest Potawatomi tribe (numbering around three thousand) were living on Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula. Historians believe it was one of the largest Indian villages in the state. It extended from the south bank of what is now Hibbard’s Creek, which is located at the northern end of Jacksonport and approximately one-half mile along the Lake Michigan shore. Catholicism was introduced to these Native Americans by Jesuit missionaries who came from Quebec, Canada in 1665. Fathers Marquette and Allouez are thought to have spread the word of God among these peaceful hunters. Reports of their work with the Potawatomi in this area are recorded in the Jesuit records called “The Jesuit Relations.” As stated in the book, History of Door County, “Here the Jesuit Missionaries and French Empire builders labored more than one hundred years before Chicago received its first settlers.” As the years passed, legend has it that the Jesuit Fathers had established a Mission station among the Potawatomi naming it “St. Michael’s” and the surrounding locality was supposed to be known as “St. Michaelsville.”
When the dominion of the British and French came to an end in 1787, Wisconsin became part of the Northwest Territory; and in 1836 it was organized as the Wisconsin territory by Act of Congress. In the middle of the 1800’s the immigrants from Ireland, Scotland and Canada began coming to this area. Records state, “In 1867 three men in Madison planned the future of Jacksonport: Colonel C .L. Harris, John Reynolds, and Andrew Jackson of the Government Land Office in Menasha.” In honor of the last, they named the locality “Jacksonport.”
But the aforementioned mission name of “St. Michael’s” held true because the earliest records of an organized Catholic Congregation in Jacksonport go back to1874 when Father Rhode of Ahnapee (now Algoma) served this area. Father Rhode had six missions from Maplewood to Rowley’s Bay. Mass was celebrated in the Jacksonport homes of Victor LeClair, Joseph LaMere and Charles Reynolds. Victor LeClair was a commercial fisherman. Joe LaMere began as a commercial fisherman; eventually he acquired farming and timberlands. Later, he bought a steam barge called the “Addie Wade” for delivering his forest products. Charlie Reynolds had been a successful merchant in Green Bay. Once established in Jacksonport he maintained a large store and lumber mill.
One of the first recorded baptisms in 1874 at “St. Michael’s Mission” was that of John Reynolds, son of Thomas Reynolds and Johanna Foley. (Interesting fact: Later, John Reynolds’s son became a governor of Wisconsin.) The little congregation grew in the next ten years with the great lumber boom that spread from Jacksonport to much of the upper Door Peninsula. The Catholic families, almost twenty-five in all, here in the wilderness longed to have their own house of worship. The land for the church and cemetery was given by Charles Reynolds and his wife. The deed dated May 23, 1881 states it was sold for $1.00 to Rev. Krauttauer (this name was taken from the deed…apologies for spelling) and his Successor, Diocese of Green Bay. (Picture # 3)
The earliest record concerning St. Michael the Archangel’s construction is the actual bill of lading (shipping receipt) dated June 10th, 1880. (Picture #4) This receipt reveals the cargo of building material, the ship it sailed on (Schoonover Pilgrim), and the person responsible for receiving the cargo (Victor LeClair). Other similar receipts reveal additional material received.
Records list the cost of church construction to be approximately $600.00. Each family pledged money towards construction in the amounts from $2.00 to $35.00. (It is also interesting to note another means of supporting a church was in the collection of pew rent… the listing charts showing which pews were purchased by each pioneer family are on record today.) The names of some of the original members were Victor LeClair, Tom and Charles Reynolds, Antone Londo (this is Father Matt Simonar’s great grandfather), Peter P. Parent, Le Mieux, Conlon, Gilbert, Frank Cardy, Michael McDermott, Exor DeJardine, and the LeMere, Butler and Campbell families. They all gave of their labor to build the church. The Advocate and the Green Bay Diocesan newspapers date the wooden church named St. Michael the Archangel with a completion date of 1882.
The earliest photo of the church probably dates to around 1900. There are wooden fence posts around the church, a few trees, a chimney at the middle of the roof, a bell tower with open window frames, an entrance to the church at the front of the bell tower, and three windows on the left side and four on the right side of the church. (Picture #5)
The next known photo available dates to 1940. By that time an addition had been constructed to bring the left side of the church even-up front with the bell tower. As a result, a fourth window had been added to the left side and the church entrance shifted left to the middle-front. A detailed wrought-iron fence and gates are evident in this photo. The serving priest, using the right-hand gate entrance, kept his horse and buggy in a small shed. (Picture #6)
The church has eight stained-glass windows installed in 1947 during Father Arthur Tardiff’s term of service. The windows costing $1,480 represent the following: Christ the King, Mary the Iron Tower, St. Joseph Patron of the Church, the Eucharist, St. Peter, Confirmation, Baptism, and St. Michael the Archangel. (Pictures #7-14)
It has been said that, “Antiques are things one generation buys, the next generation gets rid of, and the following generation buys again.” Fortunately none of the antiques at St. Michael’s have ever been sold and are still in use today. These include the monstrance, a chalice, the book holder, and candelabra candle holder. The fourteen Stations of the Way of the Cross, made of plaster of Paris, have not been dated. (Picture #15) When the church’s interior was painted in the late 1940s, they were removed and repainted by the Nuns at Bay Settlement, the same that served Institute Catholics from 1896 through the early 1990s. A glass case encloses the various oils for baptism, confirmation, and the sacrament of the sick and below stands the baptismal font. (Picture #16) The church has had a variety of statues of holy personages over the years. Currently there is St. Joseph the Worker, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Mary and the child Jesus, and the Infant of Prague. (Picture #17) It is also comforting to know that the original statue of St. Michael the Archangel remains at guard. (Picture #18)
In the passing of time more changes came to St. Michael the Archangel Church. Electric lights burn brighter than the kerosene lamps. A new electric organ put the old pump organ into retirement. During the 1960s wall insulation finally arrived along with a modern heating system. Prior to this the two wood burning stoves provided heat, but were never very effective for the entire church…according to Gary Orthober the church was “as cold as a corn crib in winter.” Gary’s wife, Marilyn, also commented that the trend of the 60s was “modernizing.” The communion rail was removed never to return. The modern wood-stained altar, wall paneling, and tile ceiling came to replace the ornate white faux marble altar (Pictures #19, 20, 21) and the old pressed tin ceiling and wall. (Picture #22) The fact that rust/corrosion behind the tin helped that decision along. William Brungraber Jr. and his father, William Sr., were involved in a lot of the repairs of St. Michael Church including the major renovation of the mid 1960s. (Picture #23)
Outside, the church’s appearance is that of the classic white country church – small, with belfry tower topped with a cross. (Pictures #24, 25, 26) The parishioners have kept its appearance the same for over fifty years. The large solid redwood cross near the left side of the church was built and dedicated in honor of Father Eugene Tremblay who served St. Michael for 18 years from 1969 to 1987. (Picture #27) In keeping with the pioneer character the church to this day has no running water or plumbing. However, in 1993 a parish hall was built providing fully functioning bathrooms and a kitchen. (Picture #28)
During 2010 and 2011 more renovations occurred at St. Michael the Archangel. The gathering area was enlarged by taking out a wall and the old confessional. It is amazing how much different that whole area feels in the entryway. The flooring has been replaced with a beautiful appropriate tile. The pews which are also as old as the church in one way or another have been repaired, stained and adapted to the needs of today. They are very good quality and should not be lost. The altar furniture was stained darker to show their importance. All the interior and exterior changes enhance the rich history of worshiping that continues at the Stella Maris site of St. Michael’s.
One cannot take a historical journey without addressing St. Michael Church’s “heart and soul” – its congregation – its individual parishioners. There are several families’ names that repeatedly show up over the years and represent substantial contribution of time and talent to this site. One of the longest surviving names is that of LeClair. Victor LeClair (1827-1888), in the 1880’s was one of the “founding fathers”, so to speak, of the parish. His name appears on the bill of lading describing the lumber material destined to become St. Michael Church. His is also the oldest grave in the parish cemetery. (Picture #29) He is Joe LeClair Sr.’s grandfather. Interestingly, Joe’s father was born the year St. Michael’s was built (1882). Joe was a faithful parishioner all his life (a trustee for thirty of those years). Some of Joe’s documented memories are as follows. As a boy in the early 1930’s, he and a friend would get up early on Sunday’s to go to St. Michael to light the kerosene lamps of which there were four on each inside wall. Joe also made a few handfuls of cedar shavings the night before to start the wood fire in the church’s stove. Joe believes electricity did not arrive until the late 30’s. Joe was also chosen by Father Barrette to be an altar boy (he did not have the chance to volunteer). The Mass was in Latin when Joe was an altar boy and he had to know these Latin responses in order to correctly serve. One day he asked the priest, Father Barrette, OMI, if the Mass would ever be in English; the priest answered, “Never!” (Of course, this changed in the 1960’s.) Another boyhood memory Joe had of Father Barrette occurred when Father was really getting into his sermon and his false teeth practically flew out of his mouth but he caught them before they fell!
Another parishioner recalls one Sunday morning before Mass, Father Tremblay realized there was no wine; he sent Rueben Kiehnau to St. Mary of the Lake in Baileys Harbor to get some sacramental wine. Rueben told him it would take about forty minutes. Father replied, “That’s OK, I’ll give them a long sermon.” Father was still preaching when Rueben returned.
John Gagnon, a faithful steward of St. Michael’s for over 35 years, recalls this Sunday lector incident. “I was with my wife and five daughters in the “Reserved for Lector” front seat and my youngest, Nicole, was sleeping against my shoulder. It was time for the two readings, so with Nicole still sleeping against my shoulder, I got up with Nicole, completed the readings, and returned to my seat.” (Wish there was a picture of that angelic event to post here!)
When there were no altar boys available to serve and girls were not allowed beyond the communion rail. Vicki Progar, daughter of Frank Schneider, explained that her father had her sit in the front pew near the aisle to ring the chimes when the host and chalice were elevated by Father Beausoleil. This may have been the earliest example of greater participation in the liturgy by young women. Singing church hymns is a form of prayer enriched by organ music played with the talented hands of an organist: Marie Brungraber and Betty Gagnon were the organists during the 1950s, and then Marilynn Orthober primarily took over for the next forty years and still fills in once in a while today (2011) for Kathy Sedan.
Sally (Grovogel) Kiehnau stated her neighbor, Harry Brungraber, told her he believes Mass was said at the current Kiehnau home which dates back to the 1870’s and has been remodeled extensively.
Another memory is of Frank Schneider, a devoted steward at St. Michael, who died in 2003. He joined St. Michael in 1941, and for more years than one can remember, his would be the voice leading the Rosary, if one came to Mass early. Frank taught catechism and Catholic Youth Organization classes…he also offered to these students, after their religion lesson, free lessons in dancing polkas, waltzing and square dancing! Frank’s was a familiar face at the Dorchester Nursing Center where he would come to talk to residents, sometimes bring his grandchildren and on appropriate occasion, arrive as Santa Claus. He, like so many Stella Maris parishioners past and present, was a generous person, giving the best of gifts, the gift of himself to others.
St. Michael’s rich history also includes the dedicated priests who gave of themselves during the 1800’s beginning with records of Father Rhode in 1874-1876. Father Blume served St. Michael’s from the fall of 1876 to the latter part of 1884. Then Father Gregory Pellegrin ministered all of Jacksonport while also a pastor of St. Joseph’s Sturgeon Bay. In 1889 Father Bernard Hugenroth built a rectory at Ss. Peter and Paul in Institute and served all of Jacksonport. Father Francis Kroll became the pastor of Jacksonport, Institute, Baileys Harbor and Egg Harbor in 1894. Finishing out this historical century in 1899 Father Louis Vande Castle shepherded all the Northern Door County parishes. When one realizes that the roads in those days were mostly dirt trails and the mode of transportation was either horseback or buggy, you understand somewhat the zeal and the stamina of these early pioneer priests who fasted from midnight before celebrating Mass the following day at diverse hours. (As the writing of the Stella Maris Parish history continues, so will the history of the priests from the 1900’s to the present be discussed in more detail.)
This telling of St. Michael the Archangel Church is not complete because there are many more memories that could be shared and will be shared in the future. But the greatest memory is to know that we are all blessed by God who gave us a little white church in Jacksonport. St. Michael the Archangel’s wings are wrapped around us all whispering, “You are loved and blessed.”
Stella Maris Parish: History of St. Paul the Apostle Church, Fish Creek
Reading about St. Paul one can’t help but envision an active traveling man spreading the Good News wherever he went. He was converted from Judaism on the road to Damascus to preach that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Saint Paul’s message spread throughout the land reaching the hearts of thousands. And so it is fitting that St. Paul’s Church in Fish Creek was established to spread the Good News to hundreds of travelers to Door County every year.
Some of the first travelers and early settlers to Wisconsin during the latter 1600’s were of French descent. These early explorers and fur traders settled near the Green Bay area. Trading posts were built near waterways so it would be easier for the Native Americans to trade their furs for goods that the French brought back from France. The early French settlers were more interested in the fur trade than farming. As time marched on people who settled in Door County came here for many different reasons.
During the mid-1800’s, Fish Creek was settled mainly by Asa Thorp who built a dock and wood supplying business for passing schooners. Many of the settlers to the Fish Creek area made their living through the harvest of timber and fish. But by 1900, over-harvesting of these resources, combined with improved transportation – including a regular schedule of passenger steamers – led to the rise of the tourism industry. This made a big impact on the establishment of a Catholic Church in Fish Creek.
Prior to 1917 the Catholics of Fish Creek had to ride to Mass by horse and buggy either to Baileys Harbor or Egg Harbor where the Oblate Fathers of Mary Immaculate shepherded the area. The Oblate Fathers have their Provincial House in Lowell, Massachusetts. One may wonder how priests from Massachusetts ended up in Door County; the following offers that answer. Bishop Stang of Fall River, Massachusetts, a classmate of Bishop Fox in Louvain came to Green Bay in 1904 to be a co-consecrator of Bishop Fox. Bishop Stang told Bishop Fox that there were Oblates in Lowell who could take on the missions in Door County that needed French speaking priests. Hence, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate were asked in 1906 to come to the Green Bay Diocese. Sources gave two alternate reasons for their being asked. One was because of the need for French-speaking pastors. The other was that they were originally asked to care for the Oneida Indians on reservation. In 1906 Fr. L.A. Nolin was established as Pastor of St. Mary’s in Baileys Harbor which included Sister Bay and later, of course, Egg Harbor and then Fish Creek.
Traveling a long distance for Mass to Baileys Harbor or Egg Harbor changed through the perseverance of the Barringer family. Having seven children, Jacob and Josephine experienced quite an undertaking in transporting their family to church, so in 1917 they along with other local families made a request for a Catholic church to be established in Fish Creek. Their needs were heard and that same year the Bishop of Green Bay approved the request.
The Green Bay Diocese Bishop Paul Peter Rhode chose the name for the Fish Creek mission parish to honor the apostle St. Paul; it also commemorates the bishop’s name, as well as, the first priest assigned to St. Paul’s, Father Gustav Paul Berneche. Since several of St. Paul’s parishioners were of French descent, French speaking Father Berneche of the Oblate Fathers of Mary Immaculate was warmly welcomed.
On December 17, 1917 the first Mass was celebrated by Father Berneche in a room rented from Margaret Carmody for $2.00 a month. At this time Mrs. Carmody lived in the old Frank Seaquist house near the dock. Imagine the pride of Mrs. Carmody at having Mass in her home, and the scrubbing that must have preceded this great event. Clyde Duclon served the first Mass. His parents, the Joseph Duclons, lived in the upstairs apartment. The first entries in the parish records read: January 2, 1918 – altar linens bought from Charles LaRouche for $4.80; January 15, 1918 – kerosene lantern, $1.25; and the first funeral Mass for Alice Duclon. From 1917 through most of 1921, Masses were said, when roads permitted, in the room at the Seaquist house, but during the summer Masses moved outside to accommodate more worshippers. Modern roads were slow in coming to Door County, and during these years children still had to be taken to the neighboring parish for their catechism. Some had to walk as many as five miles!
By 1920, roads improved to the degree that more people came to visit Door County by car than by boat. It is interesting to note, however, that motorists were advised to come prepared because their trip to northern Door may require at least three spare tires!
As tourism rose in Door County, so did the need for more space to worship. In October, 1921, St. Paul Church and the Diocese of Green Bay purchased an old grade school building from the Gibraltar School District. (Picture #30) The fifteen St. Paul parish families on record in 1922 were: Barringer, Beyer, Burr, Carmody, Coughlin, Churches, Duclon, Hoffner, J. Hogan, Th. Hogan, Wm. Hogan, LeClair, Pesch, Resler, and Schuyler. These families worked hard to remodel the school into a solemn place of worship. Father Berneche was pleased to have seven year old Dale Burr, eldest son of Georgia Burr, become the first altar boy in the little white church. Some of the happiest memories of the little white church were the weddings. The first and only double wedding was a crowded and joyous affair when Elaine Duquaine wed Alva H. Older and her sister, Beatrice, married Michael G. Colwell on August 27, 1955. (Picture #31) This little church continued to spread the Good News until the early 1960’s. This school/church still stands today (only a few doors down from the current church) and presently houses the Gallery of Gold jewelry store owned by parishioners, Carl and Nancy Stubenvoll. (Picture #32)
St. Paul the Apostle Church held about 120 people, but by 1950, even with four masses on Sunday mornings during the summer, there was not enough room inside for all the people. Some fifty or more worshipped while standing on the steps and the lawn. During the 1940’s, St. Paul’s present priest, Father Arthur J. Tardiff, O.M.I. (served St. Paul’s from 1944-1951), had already started a building fund. The energetic ladies of the church contributed their talents in bake sales, card parties, and other fund raising activities. Along with the generosity of visitors and parishioners (there were only a little over twenty St. Paul Parish families residing basically in Fish Creek and Ephraim), summer resident Mrs. Agnes Ryan’s substantial gift, and parishioners Mr. and Mrs. Harry Churches donation of land, the dream of a new church became a reality.
Sadly, Father Tardiff never saw the new church; he died in 1951. The actual building was accomplished by Father Laureat Savard, O.M.I. He served from 1951 until 1960 when he was transferred to Washington D. C. The building committee was formed of Joe Duclon, Elmer Duquaine and Bill Daubner. Parish trustees, Roy Kinsey and Fred Wesner, served as general advisors. Construction began in June 1957 at a cost of approximately $40,000. (Pictures #33 and #34) Although the building was not finished, the first Mass was said at the beginning of the tourist season on July 7, 1957. The first wedding in the unfinished church took place on September 21, 1957 when Georgianna Burr and Patrick Watters were married. But until the new church became insulated and heated, it was necessary that Mass be held in the little white church during the harsh winter season.
Once the entire construction of the new St. Paul the Apostle Church drew to completion, the formal dedication took place on August 20, 1961 at 2:00 PM. (Picture #35) In the absence of Bishop Stanislaus V. Bona, Bishop of Green Bay, Monsignor Joseph Marx P.A., Vicar General presided. Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament followed the dedication ceremony. Father Albert Beausoleil, O.M.I., was the current parish pastor who completed the interior decor with an artist’s eye for color and harmony knowing that it blended with all of Father Savard’s previously dedicated work.
Father Savard was truly inspirational to all who knew and worked with him. He supervised every detail in the building and was inspired to write the following prayer which appeared in the church dedication booklet.
“The Lord’s is the earth, and the fullness thereof.”
“O Lord, we have taken these elements of Thy creation: wood, mortar, and stone, and through
During the church dedication parishioners paid a special tribute to Father Savard through the following words: The greatest of our parish debt is the most difficult to pay. It is to our Pastor. Seven years ago he came from Boston to shepherd our small, humble parish. He brought to us not only his Eastern accent, but a direct, thinking approach to our religious life. The growth of charity and the number of people at our communion rail has been in direct ratio to a growing building fund. “If you would know and be known, live in the country.” How true this is. Few men pass the scrutiny of country people and retain respect. Father Savard has not only won respect, but he stands as a constant example of a life lived in humility and charity. His selfless devotion to the details of constructing this beautiful church has been the deciding factor against a tiny parish carrying an intolerable debt. We are truly grateful, Father, and hope you will accept this loving tribute.
A time to note some of the specifics of this beautiful new church is in order. In 1961 St. Paul’s church dimensions stood at 75 feet long, 46 feet wide (front) and 57 feet wide (back). Architect Len Schober from the firm of Foeller, Schober and Berners of Green Bay designed the church to serve the summer tourists with an atmosphere that was simple, airy, and serene. The type of construction is Low V laminated wood arches, which lowers construction and maintenance costs and yet presents a wide open area for everyone to see the altar. Walls are framed with a veneer of stone, cut from a Door County quarry. Light wood pews and a brownish tan floor help to bring the outdoors in. There is no basement; a furnace room is in a wing in the sacristy area. The seating capacity grew to about 275 with place for maybe a hundred standing. It is definitely a tourist parish!
The tourist numbers continued to grow, and once again St. Paul Catholic Church found it hard to offer comfortable seating for all worshippers. In 1991, through the hard work of its parish families (numbering still less than forty) and generous tourist donations, the ground work for expansion was underway. The 1961 roof and floor needed replacement, the ceiling needed touching up, a relocation of the altar would be necessary (Picture #36), along with the desire to air condition the church, not to mention the hope of a small kitchen and a gathering spot for coffee and doughnuts. With the addition, seating space would allow for approximately four hundred people.
Under the direction of Father Paul B. Stoeckel, O.M.I., and trustees Harvey Malzahn and John Kellner, architect Richard Dannhausen was instructed to build an addition of “wings” to St. Paul Church. These wing additions could be closed off during the winter and opened during the summer to adjust to the ever-changing parish size. The building was completed in 1993 and the blessing occurred that year on November 6th with Bishop Robert J. Banks and Father Stoeckel as celebrants. Organist, Jeanne Chase and Fathers Ivan Smith, Richard Kleiber, and Gerry Kleba participated in the ceremony. The following words were lifted from the pamphlet created for the Blessing of St. Paul Catholic: St. Paul’s congregation started having Mass in their own church 71 years ago in 1922. Thirty-five years later a new church was built. The new church was not adequate by 1992…so a renovation and enlargement was necessary. The congregation has not grown that much but attendance at Mass during the months of June, July, and August and through the months of September and October has increased year by year. Where once the back pews were roped off, now the church has a sizeable congregation, consisting of people from all the Northern Door Parishes as well as visitors who come even during the winter months. The parishioners of St. Paul have fluctuated, as far as numbers go, very little in seventy years. That has made the parish to depend for help on our neighboring parishes and our summer guests for lectors, servers, Eucharistic ministers as well as organists and ushers during the whole year. Fish Creek has been a tourist town from its inception and our church is really meant to serve the many visitors who come to Fish Creek and Door County…One of our trustees is worried that the time is soon coming when even the enlarged building will not be able to handle the people and another addition will be needed. St. Paul’s has a long history of a few people providing for many. The many are grateful for this care and are not shy about saying how much they appreciate the beautiful church and beautiful liturgies. May this be just the beginning of a long and glorious life.
Today we are blessed with the gift of worshipping together at St. Paul the Apostle Church. The fiftieth dedication anniversary took place on August 20, 2011 at the 4:00 PM Mass with Father David Ruby presiding. (Picture #37) During the summer months many visitors continue to be welcomed. And as St. Teresa of Avila is quoted to have said, “Comfort is one of the necessities when praying.” And, hopefully, all do find comfort in this house of worship where the Good News is always being spread. In conclusion, St. Paul the Apostle writes in Ephesians 4:3-6, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” The hopes and efforts of families of St. Paul the Apostle Church from 1917 and through today united in Stella Maris Catholic Parish continue to be learning to enjoy the way we members of Christ’s body complement one another.
Stella Maris Parish: History of St. Rosalia Church, Sister Bay
Sister Bay is a respite for many who just want to get away from the hustle and bustle of their busy lives in the big city. Getting in touch with nature inevitably for many brings them closer to God. Similar was the desire of a girl named Rosalia who lived during the 12th century in Palermo, Sicily. No, she did not leave Palermo and travel to Sister Bay, but after some research one can see the connection in naming the Stella Maris Parish Catholic Church in Sister Bay “St. Rosalia.”
St. Rosalia was a holy hermit who left her world of royalty not out of selfishness but sacrifice. Legend says she was born in 1130 into a wealthy family in Palermo, Sicily (she was a descendant of Charlemagne and raised around the royal Sicilian court). She gave up her worldly pleasures to discover the pearl of great price which is a relationship with Jesus Christ. When she reached her teen years, several rich men wanted to marry this beautiful girl, but the Blessed Virgin appeared to her, alerting her that her soul was in danger. And at the tender age of 14, the girl left her father’s castle at night. She found two angels outside, waiting to escort her to the summit of a nearby mountain. Later, she moved to a cave atop Mount Pellegrino, devoting her life to God. Rosalia was probably a great mystery in the eyes of the world. After all, she could have married one of those rich men. She could have savored parties, dinners and dances. Instead, she lived as a hermit and died alone. Little is known of her life, except for the lines she wrote upon the cave wall: “I, Rosalia, daughter of Sinibald, Lord of Roses and Quisquina, have taken the resolution to live in this cave for the love of my Lord, Jesus Christ.”
We can imagine hours of prayer, days of fasting-and times when she longed for the sound of a human voice. But then the vow must have come back to her. She had promised to give up many pleasures for the best of reasons: love for Jesus Christ.
Thomas Merton, the 20th-century Catholic writer, lived in a hermitage for the last few years of his life. In “Follow the Ecstasy: The Hermitage Years of Thomas Merton,” there is a compelling quote about what drew him to live in seclusion at the Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky: “I can imagine no other joy than to have such a place to be at peace in, to love silence, to think and write, to listen to the wind and all the voices of the wood … to live in the shadow of the big cedar cross, to prepare for my death and my exodus to the heavenly country, to love my brothers and all people, and to pray for the whole world …” St. Rosalia also must have enjoyed the sounds of the wind and the voices of the wood. And she surely found great joy in prayer.
Her life on earth ended in 1160, and that would have been the end of her tale. But the Lord had more in store for her. In 1624, a plague swept through Palermo, and a hermit had a vision of a woman who instructed him to search for her remains. A group of monks, led by the hermit, did as the woman requested and found the cave on Mount Pellegrino where she had died. The plague ended shortly after, and Rosalia was credited with ending this suffering. She became the patron saint of Palermo, and her feast day is celebrated on September 4th.
Every year there is an elaborate celebration in Sicily to celebrate the discovery of St. Rosalia’s relics. It is ironic that there is much boisterous fanfare to honor a woman who lived so quietly. The festival, you see, features dancing in the streets, processions, feasting-and a night sky ablaze with fireworks. One can picture Saint Rosalia atop a celestial mountain, gazing with amusement at the festivities in her honor.
Hence, the connection is made between Palermo, Sicily and Sister Bay, Wisconsin. St. Rosalia found great joy in the quietness of prayer as do those who have worshipped and still do worship at St. Rosalia Church in Sister Bay. And just as the history of the beloved St. Rosalia arouses interest, so does the history of St. Rosalia Church.
The 1874 records show that Catholic worship services did indeed occur in Sister Bay. Mass was held once a month in the Pat Dimond homestead in Sister Bay with Father Bloom traveling all the way from Sturgeon Bay to officiate. Worshipping at the Dimond home continued for about five years, but in 1879 worship was moved to the Andre Roeser home. The Roeser homestead had fifteen rooms and was the center of much of the early Sister Bay village activity. (Picture #38)
Mass continued at this location for the next twenty years. About every two weeks the small Catholic congregation in Sister Bay sat on wooden planks in an 18 by 30 foot upstairs room in the Roeser homestead. Father Hugenroth presided and led in the singing of many German hymns. The families that worshipped at the Roeser homestead were of primarily Bohemian and German descent. But it is interesting to note that so many different nationalities lived together harmoniously in Door County at this time: Germans, French, Norwegians, Swedes, Irish, Italians, etc. These European families found a better life here in America with its wilderness and opportunities.
Andre Roeser, a miller by trade, and his wife and Leone, found their way to Sister Bay in 1877 because he had heard there was a grist mill here. In 1883 they purchased the lumber mill, flour mill and well over a mile and a half of shoreline with adjoining acreage. After 1879 when the passenger and freight boats first began to stop at Sister Bay, so much of the social and work-a-day activities centered in and around his saw mill and dock it was often said that Andre Roeser knew everyone and everyone knew him. Leone Roeser was on constant call as one of the village midwives. Their missions of untold help and charity contributed greatly in the struggles of the early pioneer settlers of Sister Bay. The Roeser family gave to the village the land that is now known as the present Sister Bay Park.
Then on the 17th of April in 1909, Andre Roeser sold a two-third acre site for $100.00 to the Green Bay Diocese. “A tract of land in Township 31, beginning at a birch tree 12 inches in diameter and 46 rods distance from the quarter post on the south line of section 5” begins the deed. After the deed was signed by Father N. Hunold OMI (in 1906, the Mission Oblates of Mary Immaculate began serving the parishes of Northern Door County), and Mrs. Elda Roeser, for the congregation, St. Rosalia Church construction was underway. Henry Seiler, a Jacksonport carpenter, built the first church, including plastering and finishing touches, for $150. (Picture #39) Even though this church held fewer than one-hundred parishioners, it was a vast improvement over the small rooms in the earlier private homes. St. Rosalia early records show family names of the Magnettes, Bundas, Jungwirths, Hugenroths, Roesers, Hammersmiths and Daubners; many of these families are still active in the Catholic community today.
Mary Jischke was the first to have been married in the church on September 10, 1910. They had to travel more than two hours by buggy over the rough road through the swamp to Baileys Harbor to make arrangements with the priest for the wedding, and flowers were brought from Manitowoc by stage to adorn the church. Mary did not leave town for her honeymoon. She recalled that her mother, who ran the Sister Bay general store and post office, was “so tired from all the cooking for the reception that she asked me to get the mail out the next morning.”
Along with marriages, growing families and residents, and an increase in the tourist industry, two more church additions were necessary. In 1930 the church renovation could seat about 125 persons, and the 1956 addition increased accommodations to 300 parishioners. Trustees acknowledged future expansion needs and included a 1956 purchase of four acres of land on Highway 42 just south of the first church. Indeed, their foresight proved accurate. After almost a century of service, and the growth of the Catholic community, a larger building was needed.
The prime reasons for building a larger church were to provide much needed classrooms for the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine classes, a fellowship hall, kitchen, meeting rooms, and to accommodate a fast-growing congregation of residents and visitors. In the latter 1980’s a new St. Rosalia Church was planned to accommodate 500 persons during the summer months, it was designed to permit the side chapel and social hall annex to be closed off in winter thus creating a smaller central church with a 300 seating capacity. Jerome J. Kuskowski & Associates was the architect, and the general contractor for the new church was the John E. Gilson Company with most of the subcontracting in the hands of local businesses. Richard Burress served as chairman of the building committee assisted by church trustees Patrick Conlon and Robert Berns and parishioners Daniel Peterson, George Jischke, Jack Champeau, Joseph Jungwirth, Ann Flood and Ruth Stahl. Construction began on August 1, 1983.
The first mass in this beautiful new church was celebrated on June 27, 1984. Earlier, following the century’s old tradition of the grand processions held in Catholic countries on the Feast of Corpus Christi, Father Stoeckel and parishioners of the old St. Rosalia’s formed their own grand procession. Marching from the old, small wooden mission church, bringing first the Blessed Sacrament and tabernacle, holy water and incense, and a banner proclaiming “Come, Holy Spirit,” parishioners picked up everything they could carry, from chalices to chairs and brought them up hill from the old church to the new. A brief room-to -room blessing by Father Stoeckel followed and a new St. Rosalia’s was ready for use.
Door County field stone, rough-sawn board and batten cedar were used in the church’s exterior construction. The roof is concrete tile. This combination creates a study in contrasts and textures of the 11,000 square foot structure. All materials of this sacred building echo the natural beauty of Door County.
On entering the main church, the visitor’s eyes are drawn to an imposing wall of natural field stone backing the main altar; talented stone mason, Donald Anderson, laid this stone. (Picture #40) Against the rough stone hangs a hand carved linden wood crucifix imported from abroad. According to Rev. Paul Stoeckel, O.M.I., pastor of the church in 1984, the crucifix is from the Alps area of Italy which is famous for its wood carving.
Red oak beams and oak planking form the high ceiling and red oak was used for the trim, cabinets and pews (kneelers were installed in 2011). Textured plastered walls reflect the delicate light of stained glass designed by the T. C. Esser Company. When observing the total effect of stone, glass, and wood, the artist who created the windows said, “This building is powerful.”
The painting of “Stella Maris,” Star of the Sea, by notable artist Frederic Poole, adorns the back wall of the church. (Picture #2) It was a gift from Mrs. Florence Wilterding. Also, respectfully placed is a small painting of this church’s namesake, St. Rosalia. (Picture #41)
A dedication Mass for this beautiful church took place on Sunday, September 9, 1984. (Picture #42) Bishop Adam Maida, Monsignor John Schuh, St. Rosalia’s Rev. Paul Stoeckel, hundreds of parishioners, as well as the oldest and newest members in 1984 Mary Jischke, 96, (Mary’s wedding was discussed earlier in this history) and Kolina Sully, 6 1/2 months, were all present for the celebration. All in attendance gave thanks to the Lord for His guidance and answers to prayers in building this church. (Picture #43)
Since 1984 only a few changes have taken place at St. Rosalia’s. In 1996 the parish purchased the Wagner property and added a second parking lot, and in 1997 an addition was built onto the church, thus enlarging the social hall and kitchen area. Change is inevitable, but it is soothing to know that some things never really change. One of these being the dedication and devotion of the parishioners to maintain St. Rosalia’s as a welcoming respite for worship and prayer. Sometimes we need to go into our own caves, as St. Rosalia did, and step back from the noise and activity of our busy lives and listen humbly and quietly for God’s guidance. God is often found whispering gently in the quietness of a humbled heart.
Stella Maris Parish: History of St. John the Baptist Church, Egg Harbor
After John baptized Christ, he told his disciples to follow Jesus. St. John the Baptist Church in Egg Harbor has been blessed with many priests and parishioners who have followed and continue to follow Jesus. The sacrament of Baptism is our first step in following Jesus. To quote the United States Catholic Catechism:
"Jesus’ immersion in the water is a sign for all human beings of the need to die to themselves to do God’s will. Jesus did not need to be baptized because he was totally faithful to the will of his Father and free from sin. However, he wanted to show his solidarity with human beings in order to reconcile them to the Father. By commanding hisdisciples to baptize all nations, he established the means by which people would die to sin--Original and actual--and begin to live a new life with God." It is not only at St. Johnthe Baptist Church, but at all the Stella Maris sites that each and every time we worship weare called to "begin to live a new life with God."
Living a new life with God was the driving force that influenced many Catholics to settle in the Midwest portion of the United States. The country had a growing world reputation for democratic ideals and work opportunity during mid-1800. In 1850 Catholics made up only five percent of the total U.S. population, but by 1906 seventeen percent of the total population (14 million out of 82 million people) were Catholics. In 1906, Catholicism constituted the single largest religious denomination in the country. The immigrants held onto their Catholic roots for spiritual comfort and group identity. The neighborhood Catholic Church was not just a church; it was the focal point of a whole community, a whole way of life. It is recorded that in 1857 the first two Catholic families of Thomas (Blackjack) and William (Redjack) Carmody(Picture #44) set down roots in a location three miles south of the Egg Harbor village which became known as "Carmody Settlement" (later known as Sunny Point Settlement). These two families with a total of fifteen children, some of whom were born in Ireland, some in Ohio, and some in Egg Harbor, proved to be the first step in establishing St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. These pioneers wanted to be able to have Mass, receive the Sacraments, and have their children educated in the tenets of their faith. In 1865 French Canadian families started to arrive in the area. Among the first to come were Levi Baraboo, Peter Parent, Jerry LaMere, the Monicas and the Vertzes. In 1868 Father Burnett from Menominee, Michigan began visiting the families in the Carmody Settlement. He continued in this work for about six years when the Rev. J. J. Rhode, who was pastor at Ahnapee, Wisconsin, began visiting the area. Father Rhode came for a short time from about January, 1875 to August, 1875. Father Engelbert Blume began coming in August.
The Egg Harbor congregation was organized in 1876 by Rev. E. Blume of Sturgeon Bay. Land was donated on July 1, 1876 by William and Margaret Carmody. Finally, in 1878, through the efforts of many local families and Father Blume a small log church named St. John of the Desert (it was not until December 6, 1908, that the parish name became the congregation of St. John the Baptist) was constructed two miles South of Egg Harbor on the northeast corner of what is now the cemetery.
The Egg Harbor area continued to receive more French Canadian families: Charles LaRouche, Eugene Gagnon, Peter DeFere, and the Eugene Cordier families came in 1884. And it was in 1884 that Rev. G. J. Pellegrin succeeded Father Blume. Father Pellegrin was followed by Father J. O’Loughlin in 1886. Then Father J.J. Fox is noted as being pastor for a short time. But in 1888, with the arrival of Rev. Hugenroth, it was determined that the little log church no longer met the needs of the growing population (within a span of forty years, 1857-1897, the Catholic community grew from two to fifty-nine families, mostly of French and Irish descent).
A new wooden frame church was built in 1899 across the road from the little log church. The timber for this church came from Plum Bottom owned by Leathem Smith. Some of the parishioners donated a great deal of labor, notably John Carmody and Eugene Cordier. The Cordier family whose home was near the church graciously hosted visiting priests.
Church details consist of a choir loft filled with French and Irish voices and the music of organist Esther Carmody Cassidy. The interior of the church held plastered walls and brown painted floors and pews. All proved to be quite an improvement over the first log church.
The following items from the "Door County Advocate" tell the story: August 17, 1888 - "Work has commenced on the new Catholic Church. The structure is to be 30’ x 40’ and is to be completed as early as possible." November 2, 1888 - "The new Catholic Church is rapidly nearing completion, the plasterers now being engaged in finishing the exterior. The edifice is not only an ornament to the town, but to the whole County as well. Great credit is due to Rev. B. Hugenroth, the pastor, who conceived and carried the project through successfully." December 11, 1888 - "The raffle for the benefit of the new Catholic Church held at the town hall on the evening of the 21st (of November) brought the neat sum of about $150 into the treasury. This includes everything, however. James Nugent, Jacksonport, held the lucky number that drew the handsome gold watch. It was No. 19. A gold cane was also raffled, No. 227 taking the prize. This was held by Alphonse Cote. Services will be held in the new church on Monday, December 9. The congregation is indebted to Jas. Nugent and J. C. Krock, the carpenters, who performed their duties so acceptably and with so much fidelity. Although they received only $300 for the work, everything was done in a conscientious and workmanship like manner."
With Parish life being the focal point for many social activities during the early 1900’s, one important activity occurred at the Charles LaRouche home. The choir met there for practice with the dedicated Carmodys and Reslers walking miles to be there. Two violinists, Tom Cassidy and Grace Carmody, along with organist, Laura LaRouche, volunteered their talents to make Sunday worship of our Lord as beautiful as possible. It is nice to know that this type of dedication continues today!
Fourth of July Picnic in connection with the parade was the big fundraising project for the church during the early 1900’s. On the menu was chicken pie and biscuits with a real treat for dessert - homemade ice cream! Fundraising is an ongoing necessary church activity...St. John the Baptist Church was no exception.
As the village of Egg Harbor grew, there was a movement to build a church in the Village. A controversy had arisen between the Irish and French families about the location of the church. Finally land was deeded to the congregation on January 9, 1901, by Charles and Delia LaRouche (Picture #45), and the present site was accepted as the location for the new church, and Father Nolin, O.M.I., the pastor of Baileys Harbor, set about to build a new church.
In 1909 after the building had a foundation and a rough floor in place a corner stone laying ceremony officially started the building project. It was an ecumenical ceremony with anyone who placed coins in a box being allowed to pound on the cornerstone. The highlight of the ceremony was a High Mass in the open with the choir and organist Lily Gagnon providing the music.
Finally, on October 5, 1910 the dedication of St. John the Baptist Church took place (only the bell tower structure needed completion which did occur the following year). (Picture #46) At the dedication people from all over the peninsula came to celebrate with the parishioners of St. John’s. Bishop Fox of the Green Bay Diocese who was present for the dedication praised the people and their pastor for their wonderful achievement in erecting a splendid building which combined in a remarkable degree both beauty and solidity. The solidity of this church is evident because on October 24, 2010 the 100th Dedication Anniversary Celebration of this church took place with presiders, Bishop Ricken and St. John the Baptist-Stella Maris Parish pastor, Father David Ruby. (Pictures #47 & #48)
It is interesting to note the original cost of this beautiful church was approximately $2,000, excluding the altar and the pews, which were built by Charles LaRouche. Some of the cost details follow: door and window frames $30.00, doors and windows $66.00, maple flooring of 3,000 square feet $90.00, mason work of 104 cord stones $300.00. The stone was quarried locally. The beautiful pink and gray granite stones on the outside of the building are sometimes referred to as "hard heads" and are believed to have come from the fields of local farmers.
The church basement, when the new church was built, was left unfinished so the ladies of the parish took it in hand to improve conditions. For many years Phoebe Carmody was president of the ladies organization and was ably assisted by Mrs. Roman Mazur and her crew Annie Baraboo and Mother (Mrs. Joe) Haen. The wood cook stove that they used required constant stoking.
By 1918 it seemed that it was time that the parish has a resident pastor. Father Berneche supervised the building of a rectory (the present building). The same design of the church outside walls mirrored the rectory. Father Berneche was pastor until 1922. During the 1920’s Door County moved from fishing and farming livelihoods to catering tourists in a vacation land. The scenic area that had drawn the Scandinavian people because of the similarity to their homeland began to attract all nationalities, and many of these families began to live in the area all during the summer time.
The Great Depression brought tough times for our entire nation, but no matter how severe the hardship parishioners of St. John the Baptist Church persevered in paying off debts and doing the needed renovations. During the 1920’s and 1930’s Fr. Barrette paid off the rectory debt despite bad times, and repairs continued to be accomplished when Father Fortier came in 1933. In the 1940’s Father Tardif ordered a new roof on the rectory as well as redecorating the church. Much work was done by Father Savard (1952-1961) (Picture #49) with a new heating system installation, blacktopped parking lot, and he did much work with the CYO. During the 1960’s, Father Beausoleil renovated the altar and sanctuary. The Holy Name and Altar Societies aided these improvements with many fund raising activities such as chicken dinners, bazaars, and card parties.
In 1964 the shrine in honor of the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Grace (Picture #50), was donated by Felix and Julia Milfeld of DeSoto (Picture # 51), summer visitors of Egg Harbor for many years. This shrine not only honors Our Lady, the Mother of God, but gratitude to the Oblate Fathers who served the parish for many years. The general design of the shrine was conceived by the Milfelds while Fr. Beausoleil worked out the details. The shrine is situated between the church and rectory. It can be seen from the highway that passes in front of the church property. The statue of the white Carrera marble stands four feet tall on a pedestal of cut stone seven feet high. On both sides of the pedestal, and slightly lower, a wall extends five feet. Below the ends of these walls two flower beds three feet wide extend about six feet. A stone kneeler ten feet wide unites the extremities of the flower beds. Inserted into the side walls are two plaques of reddish granite which are inscribed the two parts of the Hail Mary. A small plaque of the same granite inserted on the front of the pedestal reads, "I am the Immaculate Conception" and "Our Lady of Grace pray for us."
The year 1968 brought a complete renovation of the church rectory under the guidance of Father Clarence Meile. Father Frank Ryan supervised church renovation in accordance with Vatican II in 1972. Then in 1975 Father Vincent Ott, assisted by Father John Louis, completed work on the church hall and kitchen. During the latter 1970’s, in preparation for the centennial celebration of St. John the Baptist Church’s establishment (1876-1976), the interior of the church sanctuary underwent another update with a contemporary design with strips of narrow wood accenting the altar wall (Picture #52). (This interior again changed (Picture #53) when Father Matt Simonar became pastor in 2000.) Under the leadership of Father Stoeckel, who came to St. John’s in 1976, many of the directives of Vatican II were put into practice, such as men and women lectors, men and women Eucharistic ministers, greeters, bible classes, and updating music.
Music plays an important part in the church liturgy. Father Berneche (1913) was a good musician who composed music and played the violin. He had Laura and Leda LaRouche as organists. Father Fortier (1922) organized a three part choir with Avila Bauldry as organist. Mrs. Bauldry taught organ and piano for many years with future organists of the parish among her pupils. The choir prepared a solemn high mass to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the church building on September 20, 1934 with Mrs. Leo (Vera) Carmody as director and organist. While Father Tardiff (1942) was here the pump organ era came to an end with the donation of an electronic organ by Mrs. Agnes Ryan, a summer resident at Fish Creek. During Father Savard’s pastorate (1951) a junior choir, organized by Jeanne Chase, sang frequently at mass. Jeanne Chase along with Millie Lemere and Carl Dahlen shared their musical talents as organists for many years. Brother Andrew of the Sacred Heart Fathers directed the children’s choir while Father Beausoleil (1960) shepherded St. John’s. Father Labrie (1965) was choir master for the first three-part English High Mass. After Vatican II, the list of parishioners who continued to serve in the choir, as canters, organists, and choir directors is too long to list them all in this history, but many continue to make a joyful noise to the Lord and all who worship at St. John the Baptist Church-Stella Maris Parish are grateful to them for their uplifting music at mass.
Teaching catechism has also changed dramatically over the years. It has gone from Father Barrette (1922) teaching class in the rectory, followed by the priest teaching weekly catechism in various parishioners’ homes, and then The Franciscan Sisters from Bay Settlement (1940’s) conducting summer sessions at the village school, during the 1960’s the brothers from the Sacred Heart congregation taught catechism every Saturday morning in the church hall, to the present in which lay people are responsible for the teaching of catechism (Picture #54). Oftentimes a catechism lesson will involve the life of this church’s namesake, St. John the Baptist.
All four gospels introduce John as being present at the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. Other references to John suggest that his ministry of calling people to repentance was well received, and as a result of this ministry, suggest that John "prepared the way" for the ministry of Jesus. Today at St. John the Baptist Church in Egg Harbor and all the other Stella Maris Parish sites we pray with John the Baptist, not as the popular baptizer or the prophet who drew great crowds, but rather John the man, struggling with the Word of God as he understood it. Imagine what it must have been like for him to arrive at the decision that "he must increase and I must decrease," as he became more and more aware of his role in God’s plan. It is never easy to change and it is not always easy to accept God’s will, so this, too, is a prayer for all who worship at Stella Maris Parish.
Stella Maris Parish: Washington Island Catholic Worship
Ecumenism is the word that comes to mind when the Washington Island Catholic Community is regarded. As Christians we must respond to those in need. There is no Catholic church building on Washington Island, but this did not stop the fifty plus parishioners from finding a house of worship. Their Lutheran friends welcomed them to worship at their church. The Mass must be celebrated. The greatest sacrifice we can experience is through the Eucharist. Through the Eucharist we become strengthened in our faith. We continuously strive for ecumenism…for Christian unity…and that is what all the Stella Maris sites are about.
Religious life on Washington Island dates back to the 1600’s. The Washington Island Historical Archive Committee notes that early explorers, such as Jean Nicolet in 1635, came to this area of Northeastern Wisconsin followed by traders and missionaries. Prior to 1850 these islands provided a perfect home for the Pottawatomie Indians since there was ideal protection against all enemies. Records show that Indians lived here as late as 1860.
The Island did not receive its name until 1816. The Federal Government sent three ships of sailors to Green Bay to prevent the English from inciting the Indians against American colonists. One of these vessels, the “Washington”, became separated from the others on the second night out and put into the nearest harbor. It waited there several days for the other boats. During those days, the men rambled over the Island, and in honor of their vessel gave the name “Washington” to both the island and the harbor that had sheltered them.
The first Icelanders who came to Washington Island in 1870 were fisherman. They wrote to their friends in Iceland and encouraged them to come too. They came and established the second oldest Icelandic settlement in America. Early settlers were primarily fishermen. Because of its cool summers, beautiful scenery and good fishing, the Island has always attracted tourists which is now the main industry. Many of these Catholic tourists choose to worship with the locals.
There is documented history of a Catholic community on Washington Island since at least mid-1800. In 1889, 13 people were baptized by Father Bernard Hugenroth at the house of John Furlong in Washington Harbor and it was written at the time that it was the first time a priest had been to the Island in 11 years. (It was also written that Fr. Hugenroth "proposes to make his calls a little more frequent after this.") During the 1940’s, Catholic Island residents worked toward having Mass said on a weekly basis during the summer months and by the 1970’s, a priest was able to come to the Island in the winter months to say Mass.
Over the years, Mass has been celebrated in various locations: during the summer months at the American Legion Hall, the Island Community House (formerly the John Gislason store at Gislason Beach) and many private homes. From 1965 to 1985, Mass was celebrated at St. Michael’s Chapel (previously the Koyen Store and at one time, the Schoolhouse Beach School) on Jackson Harbor Road. As the Catholic population increased and needs changed, the congregation moved to Trinity Lutheran Church while continuing to meet in private homes during the winter months. That tradition continued until 2000; Trinity Lutheran Church now graciously shares their facilities year round with the Stella Maris - Washington Island community. (Picture #55, #56, #57, #58)
As the priest’s schedule (and the ferry schedule) allows, Mass is celebrated weekly. There was a period of time during the winter months when a priest was not available to come on a Sunday and Mass was celebrated midweek. Beginning in the early 1990’s when no priest was able to come to the Island, Liturgy of the Word with Communion was celebrated by a Lay Presider. While Bishop Banks led the Green Bay Diocese and with the understanding of the Island’s unique differences and difficulties, Washington Island was granted permission to keep a Reservation Tabernacle with consecrated hosts in a private home.
As part of Stella Maris Parish, Washington Island has gathered much from being a member of a larger body. The Island has full representation on both Finance and Pastoral Councils. These positions have given us a voice in advising the Pastor of Stella Maris and assist others in understanding our needs both on the adult and youth religious education areas. We are able to obtain prayer guides, educational material and other assists to continuing faith development.
Adult education is ongoing with bible and book studies. Many of our members have attended CRHP weekends as well as being team leaders. Picture #59)
The Island Catholic community has an active Faith Formation program for youth. We work with educating and preparing our youth for First Communion and Confirmation as well as hold weekly Faith Formation classes for all ages. Our youth are involved as cantors, greeters and servers. One of our youth attended the World Youth Conference in Spain in 2011.(Picture #60)
Washington Island worship is unique in many ways. This uniqueness is evident in the following parishioners’ anecdotes.
“Until recently, during the winter months of January, February and March there was only one boat trip per day to and from the Island. What this meant is that any priest who came to the Island automatically needed to spend the night. With the thickness of the ice in years past and the size of the C. G. Richter, the normal thirty minute trip could last 1-2 hours. Scheduling Mass was difficult and there was an understanding among the residents and visitors in the winter that Mass would begin shortly after the boat arrived and not a minute sooner. The beauty of this set of circumstances is that it allowed the hosting families for the priest the opportunity to have private time to discuss any matters of faith, life or interests with the pastor of our faith community.”
“Periodically a visiting priest would contact our pastor and volunteer to come to the Island and say Mass on Sunday. This gave our community a chance to show the Island to the visitor and let them see first-hand the strength of this community’s faith and the beauty of the surrounding countryside. One particular priest as he began Mass indicated that he had never said Mass on an Island and that he had NEVER before said Mass in a Lutheran church.”
“One visiting priest that came to the Island some years ago was on retreat in preparation for accepting the position of Associate Bishop out of state. He and a fellow priest celebrated with us and after Mass freely talked with people about a variety of topics. The spirit of this man was one of the strongest I had ever encountered. The feeling of his presence and peaceful spirit was so strong that it lingered around one ten minutes after he had left the church. He left to continue his retreat journey but his memory remained behind. A few years later while watching the news, the commentator spoke about the new Archbishop of Milwaukee as a film segment was being shown. The new Archbishop was unmistakably the same man who has said Mass here on the Island, Timothy Dolan.” (Timothy Dolan is presently the Archbishop of New York. His strong faith presence among the people of New York was revealed in a recent “60 Minutes” segment.)
Stella Maris Parish – Washington Island Catholic community has evolved from a summer-only congregation to a close-knit and active year-round community of all ages. The Island is a vibrant ecumenical faith community welcoming all to worship.
Stella Maris Parish: History of St. Mary of the Lake Church, Baileys Harbor
As you stand on the front steps of St. Mary of the Lake Church in Baileys Harbor you see the beautiful waters of Lake Michigan. (Picture #61) These waters welcome you in so many ways: boating, swimming, and picnics on the shore. Our Catholic Church Mother, Mary, welcomes us with open arms to a place of inner solace. A statue of our Blessed Mother stands in the front courtyard of the church, and it is here that the Rosary is often prayed by parishioners. In praying the Rosary we ponder the life of Jesus and Mary and all the mysteries of life. Here, also, Faith Formation children perform the May Crowning of Mary… such a beautiful memory in the life of a child. As a young boy, Jesus probably picked flowers for his Mother, too, to show His love and devotion. At the St. Mary of the Lake Church we are always reminded of the graces we are privileged to receive through devotion and prayer.
Long Ago – People have recalled the first time the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated on the northern tip of this peninsula. They told us this story. A lone missionary carried his little mission altar on his back and landed on the shores of Kangaroo Lake. His name is unknown but more than likely one of the Jesuit missionaries who visited Whites and Indians: teaching, converting, and spreading the Kingdom of Christ. This missionary was not to stay. A few days here and then on he went to visit other isolated communities in this section.
1860’s - Father Pernin, Pastor of Peshtigo, established Baileys Harbor as his mission back in the early sixties. Twice a year from then on the missionary came. On the appointed day every Catholic family for miles around was on hand to greet their priest. They wanted to bring their babies to him; to have their marriages blessed; to have Mass offered for the repose of their departed; to have their faith and hope strengthened by the King of Kings. He paddled his way across the Lake in summer and walked its ice bound surface in winter to fulfill his new charge. Father Pernin left no story and therefore no one will ever know what trying experiences and hardships he encountered during those years he labored here. Other records report that a Father Bernier stationed between Oconto and Peshtigo also shepherded the Baileys Harbor Catholics in 1862.
Early 1870’s – We know that from 1870 on all this section fell under the care of Sturgeon Bay and Ahnapee (now Algoma). Bishop Joseph Melcher, the first Bishop of the Green Bay Diocese, thought it easier for the Pastors of those two towns to take charge of the mission. So it was that the Pastor of Sturgeon Bay, Father Adler, was put in charge. Through the woods, on foot and on horseback when he could arrange to borrow a horse came Father Adler. No church existed and Mass was celebrated in the homes of the Catholic people.
1874 – The first Catholic Church (Picture #62) was erected during Father Rhode’s administration. Small though it was, thirty by twenty feet with a sixty foot bell tower, it served a wonderful purpose. Twenty families comprised the parish at that time. Pioneers courageously and painstakingly conquered the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula. The rapidly expanding villages from Institute to Rowleys Bay were attracting speculators and workers, in the rich lumbering enterprise, as well as farming and commercial fishermen. Stone quarries were springing up everywhere. By 1874 the locality had attracted enough Catholic settlers to warrant building the small Catholic Church in Baileys Harbor referred to earlier. Mass at first was said only once a month, but God blessed the devotion of the small congregation and it rapidly grew. (It is of great interest to note that in 1874 a baby boy, Michael W. McArdle, was born to James and Anna McArdle (Picture #63) in the homestead to the south of Maxwelton Braes Golf Course in Baileys Harbor. This baby boy later becomes the benefactor in the building of St. Mary of the Lake Church in 1936.) Father Rhode was succeeded by Fathers Blume and Pellegrin and the mission was cared for by them until 1886.
1886 – Father Lawrence O’Laughlin was appointed the first resident Pastor of Saint Mary of the Lake Parish. (Picture #64) (We should note that to be identified as a parish there must be a resident pastor living on site in Baileys Harbor. Hence, we recognize this year as the beginning of St. Mary of the Lake Church and no longer a mission of Algoma and Sturgeon Bay.)
1895 – Father Francis Kroll became the second resident pastor, and he is credited with building the first rectory. This frame building stood for 66 years. (Picture #65) It was razed in November 1961 and a modern hotel was built on this site on Highway 57. Theodore Zak, mentioned earlier in coming to Baileys Harbor from Poland in 1871, was a trustee during this time. Martin Schram, Sr. was also a trustee.
1906 – Bishop Joseph Fox of Green Bay obtained the services of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and placed the obligations of this parish under their jurisdiction. A happy choice it was, since they have served long and well. Father L. A. Nolin, O.M.I. was the first Oblate pastor of St. Mary of the Lake, coming in 1907. (Picture #66)
1908 through 1928 – From the twenty families in 1874 to thrice that number the parish grew until “the little white church of 1874” could no longer accommodate them.
1935 – In 1935 the gift of the existing church was given by native son, Michael W. McArdle. McArdle never forgot his beloved home and church in Baileys Harbor. Faith was the center of his life and a glimpse of this is found in the message he sent from his deathbed in Chicago, entitled, “To the Catholics of Baileys Harbor.” “Fifty years ago I served on this very spot as altar boy. More than once I tumbled over in a faint from bitter cold, for I was of delicate constitution. Mrs. Spring usually saved the day…Even then I had an ambition to see a nice warm comfortable Catholic Church here, but I didn’t dream that I would ever take part in it. But I am glad to say all is ready now to go ahead.”
1936 – “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the House of God and the gate of Heaven! And it shall be called the Court of God!” Genesis 38:17 (Introit for the Mass of the dedication of a Church.) On May 30, 1936 the Corner-Stone Ceremonies (Picture #67) were held with Bishop Paul Rhode officiating. On November 29, 1936 the new edifice was formally dedicated. (Picture #68) Besides Bishop Paul Rhode of Green Bay, and Very Rev. Wm. J. Stanton, O.M.I., Provincial from Buffalo, some two dozen other clergymen and about 300 people attended the inspiring ceremonies.
Fifty Years Later, 1986 – Our Eucharistic Lord took up residence in Baileys Harbor and he is still there. It has been fifty years since the building of the new stone Church and 100 years since “the little white church” (Picture #69) was officially established with a resident pastor. Father Eugene Tremblay, O.M.I., (Picture #70) stated in his centennial celebratory message, “On this one-hundred year birthday we congratulate every member of the parish (both the living and the dead) for the wonderful spirit they have shown through the years. We know they love their faith.”(Pictures #71-#74)
1986 to Present – Father Norman Pahl, who served from 1987 to 1990, initiated Saturday morning devotions. From 1990 to 2000, Father Chester Cappucci (Picture #75) presided as the last Oblate of Mary Immaculate to serve as pastor. He continued to encourage us to be a welcoming, loving and caring parish, and always reminded us that the Mass “is never ended.” The year 2000 brought Father Matt Simonar (Picture #76), a diocesan priest, who was appointed to serve all the parishes of Northern Door County. In 2001 Father Matt hired Sr. Georgia Acker, O.P and Sr. Geri Hoye, O.P., to assist him as pastoral associates until 2005. In July of 2005 all six church sites were united into Stella Maris Parish. In 2006, Father David Ruby (Picture #77) took on the task of shepherding and uniting these six sites into one parish. As a priest with six sites, Father Dave’s busy schedule was lightened with the aid of Sister Angela Palm, pastoral associate, and Deacon David Kowalski (Deacon Kurt Grube served prior to Deacon Kowalski). And yet another milestone for St. Mary of the Lake Church has come and gone with the 75th/125th Anniversary Celebration in 2011 (Pictures #78 & #79). The 125 year anniversary signifies the actual beginning of the parish at St. Mary of the Lake, Baileys Harbor with the first permanent pastor in 1886, while the 75 year anniversary celebrates the dedication of the present Church building. All of our celebrations remind us of the “long ago” time when the missionary came to this area and the many blessings we have since received.
Timeless – Today children are still bringing flowers to Mary. During the month of May, Faith Formation students at Stella Maris Parish, St. Mary of the Lake, Baileys Harbor site gather symbolically to crown Mary Queen of Heaven. One little child lifts the floral wreath and places it on the statue of Mary (Picture #80). All stand in awe of Mary’s splendor and you can hear the children’s voices singing, “O Mary! We crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of May.” (Picture #81) And as Mary looks down on us from heaven, today as in times past, she wants nothing more than for us to love her Son. Our Blessed Mother continues to teach us by her example how to love Jesus and how to care for one another. She shows us what it means to walk with Jesus day by day, to learn from Him, and to do what He tells us.
Stella Maris Parish: History Conclusion
In 1874 St. Mary of the Lake in Baileys Harbor became the first Catholic Church built in Northern Door County; next came the log construction of St. John the Baptist Church of Egg Harbor (1878); followed by the building of St. Michael the Archangel Church (1882), Jacksonport; in 1910 St. Rosalia Church was erected in Sister Bay; and finally the dream of worshipping at St. Paul the Apostle Church, Fish Creek came true in 1921; all have a rich history with namesakes chosen because of their strength and faith. St. Mary is our loving Mother of the Church; St. John the Baptist our preparer; St. Michael the Archangel represents a protector of the faithful; St. Rosalia a devotional inspirer; and St. Paul a messenger of the Word. Church represents community. People see the need to strengthen their Catholic faith and therefore build a church. Washington Island Catholics are grateful for their ecumenical church site. In 2005, all of these church sites were united into one Stella Maris Parish. Our Lady, Star of the Sea, guides us to continue in a life of stewardship. Church is an Assembly of God’s people trying to live out their lives as closely to modeling Jesus’ life as they possibly can. Ordinary people who realize they are able to let their light shine with the help of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; people who place the role of stewardship as a priority in their lives. Stewardship is a commitment to take on one or many tasks as an usher, a greeter, a Eucharistic minister, an altar server, a monetary contributor, a cantor and/or choir member, a catechist, a maintenance/grounds worker, an organist, a choir director, a lector, a sodality member, a member of church staff, a representative on a church council or committee, a member of the religious life as a nun, deacon, or priest…and the stewardship list goes on. All worshippers are needed and necessary in the functioning of an effective parish. All exemplify our rich church history. All worshippers’/stewards’ names at Stella Maris Parish past and present could not be mentioned in this history, but all are the authors of this history of Stella Maris Parish.
The introduction of Stella Maris Parish history included a prayer about Our Lady, Star of the Sea beautifully written by Father David Ruby. It is fitting to end this history with another prayer honoring our parish namesake. It is titled “Seafarer’s Prayer” and we are all seafarers on a faith journey traveling to our heavenly Father.
O Mary, Star of the Sea, light of every ocean,
guide seafarers across all the dark and stormy seas
that they may reach the haven of peace and light
prepared in Him who calmed the sea.
As we set forth upon the oceans of the world and
cross the deserts of our time, show us O Mary,
the fruit of your womb, for without your Son we are lost.
Pray that we will never fail on life’s journey,
that in heart and mind, in word and deed,
in days of turmoil and in days of calm,
we will always look to Christ and say,
“Who is this that even wind and sea obey him?”
Bright Star of the Sea, guide us!
---Pope John Paul II
Stella Maris Parish History: Acknowledgements/Resources
Reading through various documents on the six sites of Stella Maris Parish, the one recurring theme was that the focal point of pioneer life was grounded in their Catholic faith and their church. This theme continues today, but with the task of showing unity in one Parish: Stella Maris. These histories do unite us. I am indebted to the editing and unending support of Father Dave. Also, many other resources were available to me, but the most valued were the parishioners who shared their thoughts, their previous writings, or just their words of encouragement. So I recognize the following people at the various church sites: Jacksonport – John Gagnon; Fish Creek – Nancy Sargeant, Andrea & Jim Jauquet; Sister Bay – Jean Casey; Egg Harbor – Lorie Orthober, Terri Madden, and Jeanne Chase; Washington Island – Diane & Larry Kahlscheuer, and Kathi O’Connor; Baileys Harbor – Kriss Schorer, Jannette & Catherine McArdle. I thank our Stella Maris Parish webmaster, Bruce Mielke, who worked many hours editing and providing history website space. Mention needs to be made of the many parishioners who offered contributions to past history writings but whose names are unknown to me, and I express my apologies for citations that have been unintentionally overlooked.
The following resources were also used: The Life Application Bible – New International Version; Door County Advocate writers – Kita Steebs & Lauren Mittermann; John LaDoux, Archivist for the Green Bay Diocese; Washington Island Historical Archives; The Hidden Life of St. Rosalia, Lorraine V. Murray, Commentary, Sept. 4, 2008; Joan Champeau, history article “One of the Earliest Families to Settle in Sister Bay”; History of Door County – Holand, Volume 1; Julie Byrne, Dept. of Religion, Duke University, “Roman Catholics and Immigration in the Nineteenth Century America”; Souvenir Book of the Dedication of St. Mary of the Lake Church - 1936.
It was an honor and a privilege to author and compile the works of the builders of this Parish.