Identity of mystery priest is solved

By | April 25, 2012

That is until the story featuring Mader and the photograph appeared in the March 30 edition of The Compass.


Above is the photo that Beth Mader, a resident of Allouez, asked Compass readers to help identify. Below is a photo of Msgr. Martin Theodore Anderegg, who served as pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Green Bay for 49 years. (Courtesy of Beth Mader | For The Compass)

The portrait of the young priest is that of Martin Theodore Anderegg. Born in 1862 in Belgium, he came to America in 1870 and grew up in De Pere. From what Mader has been told, his dream was to become a priest, but his studies were delayed because he needed to help his family at home after the death of his father. “He wasn’t ordained until he was 30,” said Mader.

When he was ordained in 1892, a busy future laid before him. On July 15, 1893, he would be assigned to his one and only pastorate, becoming the first resident pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Green Bay.

Three years prior to his death — at age 77 — he was elevated to monsignor.

Msgr. Anderegg was pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish for 49 years. During his ministry he guided parishioners not only through building a parish from scratch, but through the challenges of a changing nation and world.

He became pastor during tough times — the boom of the 1880s led to what was called the “Panic of ’93,” the worst economic depression to ever hit the United States up until the “Great Depression” 36 years later.

And as 1900 and a new century approached, the complexion of America and Green Bay was changing with waves of new immigrants. The automobile would go from a luxury to a necessity with the Model T showing up on the market in 1908.

Msgr. Anderegg probably spoke at one time or another about women earning the right to vote in 1920.

And the pain of World War I and then the unthinkable, World War II, both were difficult for parishioners as they watched their young men go off to war while worrying about family and friends still living in Europe.

One Compass reader, Barbara Moore, a member of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, remembers her good friend, the late Helen Andruskevicz, speaking about Msgr. Anderegg.


(Courtesy of the diocesan archives | For The Compass)

“My friend had intended to write her memoirs, which was to include the family’s friendship with Fr. Anderegg and his sister, Adele. She would talk about the times she (Helen) and her sisters would go over to the rectory and help Adele plant flowers around the rectory,” said Moore.

“Fr. Anderegg was responsible for the installation of the gorgeous windows we have at Ss. Peter and Paul,” continued Moore. “It’s very interesting as the artist responsible for the halos in the first windows was killed in the First World War and different artists completed the other windows. Fr. Anderegg always pointed out the difference in the halos when he was training altar servers.”

In the lower level of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, in the Fr. Schuh Hall, are photos of all the pastors who served the parish — including Msgr. Anderegg.

It was members of the board of directors of the Green Bay Diocese Museum at the Bishop Wycislo Center at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay who positively identified the young priest as Msgr. Anderegg.

What’s interesting is that another Compass reader also contacted Mader saying they had the same photograph in a family album, but they too could not identify the man. The speculation is that perhaps individuals or families helped sponsor his education and were recipients of the studio portrait.

Ultimately, Mader learned that Msgr. Anderegg was not a member of her mother’s family. But, she said, he and her Belgian ancestors were born in the same region, near Leuven. The photograph was originally found in an album that today belongs to her second cousins once removed, Joe and Clara Van Ess of Sugarbush.

When Mader first talked to The Compass about her then unidentified photo, she said, “I think any time someone feels that call in their life to serve God in that way is to be celebrated. Just to know who this person is … would be really neat to know.”

In the end Mader not only solved her mystery, she also helped others perhaps take a step back in time to remember those like Msgr. Anderegg who founded and built the parishes in the Diocese of Green Bay.


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