OCONTO — Supplied with shovels and hardhats, Bishop David Ricken, Fr. Joel Sember and key community leaders led a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Holy Trinity Church on Friday, May 11.
Located on the current church property, construction of the new church begins this month. General contractor, The Boldt Company, is directing the construction project. Completion is anticipated in time for Christmas.
Holy Trinity, formerly St. Joseph Church, traces its roots to 1870, when approximately 100 families of German and Irish descent decided to build a new church in Oconto. The existing parish, St. Peter, was established in the 1840s by French Canadians.
In 1996, St. Joseph and St. Peter parishes merged to form Holy Trinity Parish. The new church will feature some of the stained glass and statues from both former buildings, according to the parish. The present church will remain in use while the new church is under construction and will then be disassembled.
According to Fr. Sember, the decision to build a new church followed a review of the current church building. “It was a matter of asking ourselves, how can we ensure a Catholic presence in the City of Oconto for the next 100 years and beyond,” the told The Compass. “In 2011, we commissioned studies of the old church and there are lots of issues like insulation and wiring to foundation issues and structural issues.
“So we came to a conclusion that you could spend a lot of money on the old church just to keep it from falling down, but it wouldn’t address other issues such as accessibility and being welcoming,” added Fr. Sember.
Before breaking and blessing the ground on the Madison Street site, Bishop Ricken told the approximately 100 people in attendance that construction of the new church is an act of faith.
“Thank you to all of you who are making the sacrifices to help this dream to come true,” he said. “You have been worshipping in this beautiful building that’s gotten kind of worn down with the years. I know it’s been a process to make the decisions about the future and to recognize that a new facility is needed.”
The process of building a new church demands great prudence and judgment, said Bishop Ricken. “I just know that God is going to bless this community with many more people coming to church,” he said. “This is a real act of faith and hope. We know that it takes sacrifice on everybody’s part, but that’s what makes us church.”
Bishop Ricken thanked Fr. Sember for taking on the building project.
“We are grateful to him for persevering and continuing to journey with you,” he said. “Often it’s not the end product that is as important as the process to get there. We can begin to build unity and then outreach from the unity (grows into) the community.”
“It’s our generation’s turn to pay it forward, so to speak,” said Fr. Sember, “to leave a legacy for the future.”