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A Compromise Establishes Name for Church

1018

1914—August 24


When it comes to naming a church, there are plenty of names to choose from, but sometimes coming to an agreement for those involved in the naming process can be challenging.

Fr. Hanssens believed that as first pastor he would be the one submitting the name for the new parish to the bishop, without realizing that his community of Franciscan Friars, especially Fr. Eustace Vollmer, had considerable clout. With both being of the same religious order, one would expect similar views and ideals to prevail, which they did—to a point. Both Fr. Rudolph and Fr. Eustace wanted to name the parish after Franciscan saints. They, however, could not agree on which one.

Fr. Eustace wanted the new parish to be dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua. However, Fr. Hanssens had once made a promise that if he ever had the opportunity to build a new church, he would name and dedicate it after a 13 century Italian Tertiary, Saint Margaret of Cortona, a favorite Franciscan saint of the Belgian people.

Since Fr. Rudolph was Belgian himself, he believed his choice trumped anyone else’s because “the church was being built for Belgians.” He would not be swayed. Both priests unrelenting, compromised, and named the new church Saints Anthony and Margaret.

Although a most peculiar combination, the name was made official on August 24, 1914 when Fr. Hannssens and the parish’s first trustees, Con Shears and Rene Lagae signed the papers incorporating the parish in accordance with the laws of the state of Wisconsin.

Looking back, though, it was a very fitting name. Whereas Saint Anthony is often depicted holding the infant Jesus in his arms, Saint Margaret is shown holding or being near and gazing at a crucifix. Each artistic representation, in its own way portrays a God who holds nothing back from us. In both the incarnation and the passion, we have God’s total self-giving love.

Although there are many churches that bear the individual name of Saint Anthony, as well as Saint Margaret, at no time, nor place, will you ever find a church named after both saints except in Allouez from 1914 to 1959 when the name of Margaret was dropped.

Why was the Name Margaret Dropped?

Since the early 1960’s the parish in Allouez has been called St. Anthony. The name of St. Margaret is no longer mentioned. Although still a Saint, today, many in the parish know little about her.

No reason has ever been given why the name Margaret was dropped. The name seemed to have disappeared with the building of the new church, and the tearing down of the old one.

Although not a reason for dropping the name, an explanation does exist for why some people were saying that “Anthony and Margaret had a divorce.” At the time the new church was built, a series of high profile celebrity divorces (Rock Hudson and Phyllis Gates in 1958, Eddie Fisher and Debby Reynolds in 1959, and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in 1960) , may have spawned the wise crack about the Anthony and Margaret getting a divorce.

Such a statement of course is erroneous. Both Anthony and Margaret took vows of chastity which precluded either of them from ever marrying in the first place.
Over the years, though an even more serious misconception (in that it was taken to be true) was that some parishioners wrongly assumed that the name Margaret referred to St. Margaret of Mary Alacoque who promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in its modern form.

So it behooves us to learn more about who was St. Margaret of Cortona, and why she was she so popular among the Belgians.

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