Kaukauna Catholics gather for final Mass at St. Aloysius Church

Part of St. Katharine Drexel Parish, St. Aloysius closes doors

KAUKAUNA — When a six-room school building was constructed on the corner of Ann Street and Main Avenue in 1962, it was meant to serve as a temporary church. Part of St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish, it became a separate parish in 1964 and was given the name of St. Aloysius.

Fr. Jerry Pastors, center, pastor of St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Kaukauna, is joined by other clergy around the altar during the closing Mass at St. Aloysius Church. From left are Deacon Gerald Kuborn, Fr. Thomas Pomeroy, Fr. Theodore Hendricks, Fr. Willard VanDeLoo and Fr. John Hephner. Also pictured is Cory VanDeHey, who served at the altar with his daughter, Lauren. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

The new parish’s goal was to build a center for worship on the property, but that dream never occurred. Changing demographics saw St. Aloysius merge with St. Mary and St. Francis Seraph in Hollandtown to form St. Katharine Drexel Parish on July 1, 2007. Following a five-year planning process, the decision was made to close St. Aloysius.

On Dec. 6, a Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated by Fr. Jerry Pastors, pastor of St. Katharine Drexel, and five concelebrating priests: Fr. John Hephner, Fr. David Schmidt, Fr. Willard VanDeLoo, Fr. Theodore Hendricks and Fr. Thomas Pomeroy. More than 200 people filled the basement hall that was remodeled as a worship space in 1978.

Before the opening procession, Fr. Pastors addressed the congregation.

“This decision (to close St. Aloysius) came after much discussion, consultation, listening and prayer,” he said. “We all believe that Jesus is leading our parish and will continue to guide us through these emotional times.”

He said that while the parish planning process had come to a completion, “another process involving the Diocese of Green Bay and our bishop will soon begin.”

“The permanent closing of a church is so important that church law has additional requirements,” he told the assembly. “As such, we all need to realize that this decision will not become permanent until Bishop (David) Ricken approves it.”

Fr. Pastors added that the diocesan presbyteral council “must hear our case and give input. Only after this happens will a decision become permanent. So let us continue to pray and know that Jesus will guide us along the way.”

The seeds of St. Aloysius Parish were planted in 1960, when Bishop Stanislaus Bona granted permission to Msgr. Peter Salm, pastor of St. Mary Parish, to build a second parish on the south side of Kaukauna.

According to the parish history, nine acres were purchased from Henry and Anna Welhouse. In 1962, six classrooms and a temporary church were completed. Eight additional classrooms on the building’s west end were added in 1965. That fall, St. Aloysius School opened its doors to 36 students in grades two to eight. A first grade class was added in 1977.

The new facility was still part of St. Mary Parish until Sept. 10, 1964, when Fr. Sylvester Borusky was appointed pastor of the newly created parish. A highlight of the parish took place in 1997, when it held a mortgage-burning ceremony.

Jean Ryan, a member of St. Aloysius Parish for 43 years, said she had mixed emotions about the parish closing. “We had great roots there, a wonderful 43 years,” she said. “It was always friendly, a wonderful faith community. Our (two) children went through the school.”

The small community allowed for many opportunities for fellowship and volunteering, she said. “It was all good, but we have to accept changes in our lives and that’s what you do. We have good memories and that’s going to sustain us.”

Eyla Mae Zwiers, a charter member of the parish and coordinator of the closing Mass, recalls St. Aloysius as a vibrant parish. “Everybody worked together to achieve the goals that we set,” she said. “We had a group of people that, when they set their minds to it, they did it.”

Following the Mass, a reception was held and mementos and photos were displayed. The school was also opened for guests to tour.