St. Mary's to celebrate parish, church anniversaries

<p>St. Mary's Catholic Church of Leopolis will celebrate 135 years as a parish and the centennial of the church building with a special observance Oct. 30.</p><p>Father Patrick Lloyd will celebrate Mass at 10:30 a.m. A parish dinner and program will follow at noon in the church hall. The celebration will conclude with a 7 p.m. Mass on All Saints Day, Oct. 31.</p><p>Leopolis was founded in 1865 by Nathan Leopold, a native of Bohemia. Leopold fled the oppression in his homeland, came to America, and found his way to an area with uncultivated land, rocks, trees and a river flowing through it. He sent word back to his people to come and they did. Originally, they pitched tents by the river, but eventually they helped each other clear the land and build homes.</p><p>The Bohemian families also brought their faith to the new land and worshipped under the open sky. Later, they gathered in each other's log homes. The first Mass was held in the home of Matthias Cerveny on June 5, 1876, using the kitchen table for the altar. The celebrant was the Rev. Amandus Masschelein, a Franco Belgian priest missionary who came on horseback from Keshena. He served the Leopolis mission from 1876 to 1880.</p><p>In 1886, the residents picked the highest spot in Leopolis on which to build a log church, and completed it the next year. The altar was built by Matthias Cerveny. A bell, donated by Mrs. William Smith, was installed in a small bell tower. Membership was about 15 families, made up of mostly Bohemian people, a few Germans and one French family. They dedicated the church to their Bohemian patron saint, St. John Nepomucene. By 1910, the church became too small, so they razed the log building and built a wood framed building, 32 feet by 80 feet, with a full basement. The basement was dug using a horse drawn earth scoop. The cornerstone on the church reads 1911. The new church was dedicated in 1912 to a new patron saint, St. Mary of the Assumption. St. Mary's boasted a tall bell tower with a steel cross on its peak. The original bell from the log church is still in use today. The original stained glass windows, depicting various saints, and the three traditional altars also remain.</p><p>From the 1880s to 1940s, St. Mary's of Leopolis was a missionary church served by priests from Gresham, Keshena, Shawano and Clintonville. St. Mary's became an independent parish, with its first resident pastor, Father Anthony Baier, in 1946. Under his leadership, the parish rectory and sacristy were added in 1949. No major changes to the building were made until 2004, when the Rev. Harry Hafeman, as pastor, initiated the building of a side entrance addition, with a lift type elevator, making the church handicap accessible. This project was completed and blessed by Bishop David Zubik in 2006.</p><p>That same year, St. Mary's of Leopolis was linked with St. Anthony's of Tigerton, St. Mary's of Marion and Holy Family/St. William of Wittenberg, to form a four-parish family. Father John Girotti was appointed pastor of all four parishes, with the Rev. Harry Hafeman assisting him for the initial period.</p>

<p>With Father Girotti's guidance and vision, the parishioners embarked on a ceiling restoration project, with traditional painting done by professional artists from Milwaukee. When Father Girotti was called to Green Bay, the project was continued and supported by his successor, Father Patrick Lloyd. This ambitious undertaking was completed in the fall of 2010, and a celebration was held.</p>
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