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Parish Established with a Belgian Priest

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1914


Bishop Joseph M. Koudelka, who was aware that the spiritual needs of the Belgian families living in Allouez would be better served if they had a Belgian priest, appointed Fr. Rudolph Hanssens, OFM.

The parish limits of St. Francis, which had once extended from Central Park to Itasca, would with the new parish, end with the Nemadji River. The two mile walks on Sunday for Catholics in Allouez would no longer be necessary. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass would now be offered in their own neighborhood.

Upon arriving in Superior from Antwerp, Fr. Hanssens who was an inveterate hand-shaker, was quickly accepted by the residents of Allouez, grateful they now had their own priest. He wasted no time in sharing with them his dream to build a church, a school and convent which one day would be completely surrounded by the homes of Belgian families. Finding land and securing the necessary funds to build a church were the first priority.

In no time, Fr. Rudolph was overseeing the construction of the Church, often sleeping in the homes of parishioners. By making it clear that there would be no immediate plans for building a rectory, perhaps the pastor was trying to set an example for his parishioners to live simply until adequate funds could be found for the church and school.

A Compromise Establishes Name for Church

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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.

Parish Annual Report

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1919


Parish Annual Report (1919)

Summary of the receipts and disbursements from 1919 showed a total amount on hand as $1568.30 (that is, $20,767 in today’s dollars); and total disbursements as $1482.74. (click on photo for larger image.)

Arrival of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration

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Fall 1925


Father Kubelbeck was fortunate in securing the services of three Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration from LaCrosse to teach in the new school. These Sisters were a tremendous influence on the children of the parish, as well as their parents. Each was given a stipend of $225. The sisters lived in the School Bilding on its upper floors where two classrooms were converted into living quarters.

Although the Sisters graciously took on other responsibilities in the parish, e.g. taking care of the church’s altar, vestments, linens, etc. which the ladies of the parish had done previously, they were very careful not to extend themselves unnecessarily so as to distract themselves from their mission.
 
Foundress of the Sisters Religious Order

The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration were founded by Mother Aemiliana Dirr in 1849. However, when she and some other sisters lost their focus, diverting their attention from education to household duties at the newly built diocesan seminary in Milwaukee in 1856, they became overwhelmed with physical labor, and found themselves unable to develop a truly religious life.

Mother Aemiliana and five others left the community they founded living out the rest of their lives as lay women.
 

Keeping the Proper Balance

Over the years, however, when other responsibilities were placed on them, we can be thankful that although the Sisters may have struggled with distractions and how to keep a proper balance of the tasks at hand, they persevered in keeping their focus on prayer and their mission of educating the children of the parish.

 

Click to enlarge.

Moreover, the School Sisters passed on the value of keeping a proper balance to the children. For example, in the 1950′s Sr. Coronata who after reading and explaining poems to her students had them memorize different lines from the poems. Many parishioners today can still recite lines from In Flander’s Fields and The Village Blacksmith.

The latter by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, focuses on a blacksmith and his daily life. The blacksmith serves as a role model who balances his job with the roles he plays with his family and community. Just as the character in the poem is presented as an iconic tradesman who is embedded in the history of the town, the Franciscan Sisters who taught at the parish school would sink their roots deep into the parish.

Even today, one young woman of the order, Sister Sarah Hennessey, FSPA (see photo below), recognized how important it is to keep a proper balance before making her perpetual vows. As part of her spiritual discernment, she wrote a letter to Mother Aemiliana who died in 1901:

“Will I be enough? I am afraid my fragility will overtake my gifts. I fear even that my gift of self will not be whole enough. I am sure you may remember that feeling as you first stepped on this soil or when you left in faith. And yet, God stayed with you. And in a funny way, you stayed with us too. Because you let the vision lead you, and walked past walls of fear.” Read More

Sarah Hennessey took her final vows on Sept. 24, 2011.

Assistant Pastors

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1950-1963


In September 1950, Father Donn Tracy was appointed as first assistant. He is remembered by the school children as appearing on the playground with khaki pants and a white shirt–quite untraditional for the 1950’s. Within two years, however, Father Tracy would leave to study in Rome and then return to head the diocesan marriage tribunal and become the second editor of the diocesan newspaper from 1955-1963.

Father Leo Krynski talking to school children

Father Leo Krynski talking to school children

In July 1952, newly ordained Father Leo Krynski replaced Father Tracy. Father Krynski would leave St. Anthony in 1956 when he was appointed the first pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine parish (1956-1970). Father Krynski died on May 20, 2006 in his 53rd year of priesthood at the age of 79 at Mount View Care Center in Wausau.)

In 1956, Father Edward Theiler became assistant pastor. He later became diocesan superintendent of schools and served as pastor at St. William Parish in Pattison Park (1963-1970).

Msgr Kubelbeck and Fr Theiler at the rectory door 1957.

Msgr Kubelbeck and Fr Theiler at the rectory door 1957.

Fr. Harold Dodge was assistant pastor between 1959-1963. (Father Dodge died very suddenly in 1977. The FATHER HAROLD DODGE AWARD was established to commemorate his commitment to the church through the ministry of catechetics, and to honor those who share his zeal, his skills as a Christian educator, and his commitment to the Mission of the Diocese of Superior.)

After Fr. Dodge left the parish in 1963 to become vocations director and diocesan director of religious education, the parish had no more assistant pastors.

Other Priests who Lived in Rectory

Priests serving in the city as teachers at the Cathedral School lived at the rectory. These were Fr. Casmir Paul and Fr. William Speerstra. Fr. James Hoffman, as chancellor and secretary to Bishop Hammes, and Fr. Vincent Lynch, as assistant chancellor and secretary to the bishop, also made their residence at the parish.

For nine years, Father Leo Block, superintendent of St. Joseph Children’s home would also help out on Sundays and Holy Days. The children’s home operated until 1963 when foster home programs eliminated the need for such a facility.

Parish Finances Begin to Take Toll

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1967-1969


In 1967, the parish still owed $212,000 (that is, $1.459 million in today’s dollars) from the loan they received ten years earlier to build the new church. By April of 1969, the debt had been reduced to $183,000 ($1.145 million in today’s dollars).

Fr. Nowak Leaves St. Anthony

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1969


Fr. Nowak celebrated his 35th Sacerdotal Jubilee in 1984 while pastor of St. Peter's Church in Eagle River, Wisconsin.

Fr. Nowak celebrated his 35th Sacerdotal Jubilee in 1984 while pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Eagle River, Wisconsin.

In June 1969 Fr. Makk became pastor replacing Fr. Nowak who was transferred to St. Anne Church in Somerset, Wisconsin. “The work here at St. Anthony for the past six and three quarter years has been challenging and demanding, but at the same time very rewarding,” he said. “For all who gave their help and support to this endeavor, I am deeply grateful and pray that God will reward you.”

 
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