ANTIGO — In 1893, a group of devout Catholic women came together for the betterment of their church and the community.
On Monday, Nov. 5, the St. John the Evangelist Christian Mothers and Altar Society celebrated its 125th anniversary.
The Confraternity of Christian Mothers was officially established in the parish on Nov. 12, 1893, with the purpose of receiving the Lord in holy Communion, working together, and meeting to pray with and for one another and for their families.
Society member Mary Brennecke explained that members were schooled in the ideals of Christian “womanhood, wifehood and motherhood.’’ They were also trained to aid one another in educating their children to become faithful members of the Catholic Church and “imitators of Mary, the ideal mother, and her perfect son, Jesus Christ.”
In the early years the meetings were held on the feast of the Seven Dolors (Sorrows) of the Blessed Virgin and on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Using funds raised at annual bazaars, the group also practiced philanthropy from an early age, purchasing stained glass windows for the young St. John Catholic Church and donating $400 toward the painting of the sanctuary. A bazaar profit of $4,600 in 1920 helped to make the parish debt-free. In 1928, the society donated $300 toward new Stations of the Cross, which were later donated to St. Anthony Parish in Neopit.
After the arrival of Fr. Leo Binder as pastor, the group became more active, and from 1948 through 1980 it was under the leadership of 14 presidents. In 1953, the name of the organization was changed to Christian Mothers and Altar Society and all women of the parish were welcomed as members.
“We continue to serve the parish, community, and the world through prayers and monetary assistance,” Brennecke said. “We sponsor two bake sales, one in December and one in May, for the monetary support and continue to purchase the altar breads for Mass.”
In addition, the society sponsors a March birthday celebration at one of the area nursing facilities. Food is collected for the Antigo Area Food Pantry and, in conjunction with the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, there is a “Lick Family Violence” campaign where society members, after Mass, hand out suckers for a donation, which goes to AVAIL, Inc.
Donations also go to Living Waters and the Salvatorian Mission Warehouse, two organizations that provide support in other areas of the world.
Rosaries are made by society members, which are then sent to the diocese for distribution to those who need them. The parish priests and a seminarian are also remembered with gift cards or small monetary gifts.