The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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May 5, 2000 Issue
Special Section:
Parish Plans Approved

Parish community will maintain worship site

St. William Church is home to Eland residents

By Linda DeVries
Compass Correspondent

"We've always been a close-knit, community-oriented parish. We're small, so we've never been real structured or had lots of committees. If something needed to be done, everyone pitched in. Now it seems like people have scattered, like sheep."

Kay Norrbom spoke these words sadly, as she lamented the closing of St. William Church in Eland. Regular Sunday Masses were discontinued at this 89-year-old church last October, when the parish began its merger with parishes in Wittenberg, Tigerton, and Marion. St. William will now be used only for occasional weekday Masses and special occasions, such as funerals and weddings.

Fr. Mike Carroll, who serves the combined parishes, said, "I've been impressed with the vitality and strength of the faith community in the Eland area, and I hope that can be integrated into the merged parish."

"This will have to be a united effort," he said. "Financially, the merged parish will keep it going, and I hope the local parishioners will help with the nuts and bolts. I've tried to be sensitive to the feelings and expectations of everybody, but the change hasn't been easy."

Fr. Carroll has also observed that many of the young people who grew up in the parish still have a strong identification with that faith community.

Carrie Zoromski, who now lives in Greenville and attends St. Marys Church there, is one of them.

"When I come back to St. Williams," she said, "it's like coming home to my faith family. I miss being in a small parish where wed stand outside and talk for half an hour after the service. My faith was formed at St. Williams. When I'm there, I remember an aunt, a neighbor, a friend--those who were there when this church started."

Originally called All Saints, the church began in 1911, holding Mass in the vacant half of Elands Kutchens Drugstore. In 1913, a donation of land and an anonymous gift of money helped make it possible for parishioners to build their own facility, provided they change the churchs name to St. William. The building was complted in 1914.

In 1960, St. William became a mission to Holy Family Church in Wittenberg. Several years later, when parishioners were asked to consolidate with Holy Family, they voted to remain a mission church.

Last year when Fr. Carroll was given responsibility for Eland and Wittenberg, in addition to his parishes in Tigerton and Marion, it was no longer feasible to hold weekly services in all four locations, according to Mark Mogilka, Director of Pastoral Services . The Pastoral Council approved the merger

"We held an open parish meeting in Eland," Mogilka said, "and we asked them what they wanted to do. They wanted to maintain the Eland worship site, and if they can do so, great! I expect that there will be representatives of St. William on the new Parish Council, but that decision will be made by the local committee, not the Diocese."

Kay Norrbom, who served as church treasurer as did her father before her, said she will give the combined parish a try. "Everyone wants to know what we're going to do," she said, "because we we're so involved. The Christian Mothers will continue to meet in homes like we always have, but things will be different."

Clayton Norrbom, who grew up at St. Andrew and is now in graduate school in Boston, said, "Eland has suffered the fate of many other small towns. In the past ten years, we lost our grocery store, bank, car garage and rail-line. The loss of the church seems to be just one more step toward my hometown losing its identity. . . . the loss of one more place where people come to meet and get to know each other . . . a place that makes a little town a town, not just a collection of houses."

"I know that if I flew there right now," he added, "there would be open arms waiting for me. Everybody does really know everybody else, and they care about them as well."

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