APPLETON — St. Pius X parishioners John and Holly Ostermeier have six children, all of whom have been part of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd faith formation program at their parish. The curriculum includes study of the Mass and various terms associated with it. With that knowledge, the Ostermeier children built a Lego replica of their church sacristy.
Their three oldest children, Isabel, 13, an eighth-grader; Ben, 12, a sixth-grader; and Amelia, 10, a fourth-grader, are altar servers at St. Pius X Parish. Their younger children, twins Simon and Linus, 8, second-graders, and Jonah, 5, a kindergartener, plan to be altar servers when they’re old enough.
Holly explained how the Lego project came about.
“Two years ago, it started with Linus making a very small church with an altar, a chalice, a paten, some bread and a tabernacle,” she said. With some encouragement, the siblings transformed the generic church into a miniature of the St. Pius X church’s nave.
“The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd really gave them a lot of the background and the inspiration to do this because they know what everything is on the altar and in the sacristy,” explained John. “And altar serving,” added Holly.
All six children are homeschooled. “This is our first year,” said Holly. “They were in a public school, then last year they were in a virtual public school because of COVID. After noticing that virtual schooling was going well, we wanted to do Catholic homeschooling, so we enrolled them in Mother of Divine Grace School,” a Catholic, classical approach to distance learning.
Hanging behind the altar in the St. Pius miniature is its most eye-catching feature — a large crucifix. Three aisles are lined by pews filled with parishioners, including a family with a baby, an elderly woman in a wheelchair, a man with a crutch and a person attending Mass with their service dog.
Steps lead up to the sanctuary. A Lego version of Fr. Patrick Costello, St. Pius X’s parochial vicar, stands at the altar celebrating Mass. The wall behind him was constructed of Legos that match the colors of the stones in the actual building.
While some items were added to enhance the scene, most are miniature furnishings found in the church. There’s a piano, rows of candles that parishioners light for prayer intentions underneath pictures of St. Faustina’s Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Miraculous Medal, two ambos (one for the lector and one for the cantor), chairs for the priest and deacon on the right side of the sanctuary, chairs for the lector and another priest on the left side, a thurible for incense and a candle snuffer.
“We added a glow-in-the-dark statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with candles in front of it. There’s a baptismal font. Next to that is the Easter candle. Because it’s Lent, we have Lenten decorations on the steps to the altar — two pots with sticks in them,” explained Isabel.
“On the altar is a crucifix, two candles, the Roman Missal, wine and the ciborium where the consecrated hosts are kept,” she added. “Father is holding a consecrated host in his right hand. The back altar has two candles, the tabernacle where the ciborium is stored and the sanctuary lamp next to it that’s lit all the time. On the table in the back are the cruets. One has wine and the other has water. Then there’s the lavabo dish for the washing of the hands.”
Three altar servers are near the altar. “We don’t have a chair for them, because their legs don’t bend,” noted Isabel. “Next to them are the bells. On the other side is the processional cross and the processional candles.”
Several months ago, the children built a convent and high school modeled after the Discalced Carmelites’ Monastery of the Holy Name of Jesus in Denmark, about 15 miles south of Green Bay.
“We call it ‘Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.’ Because they’re Sisters of the Miraculous Medal, we called the school ‘Labouré High School,’ since St. Catherine Labouré designed the Miraculous Medal,” said Isabel. “We have a classroom with students learning science, math, history and Latin. We’ve got the ‘Glory Be’ in Latin (Gloria Patris) on the wall. A sister is teaching. Another sister is in adoration. There’s the kitchen where the handmade altar bread is made. There’s a room with a sewing machine and washing machine and a place where the sisters sleep. There’s a garden outside.”
Their latest project was duplicating St. Pius X’s sacristy and narthex. “Because we’re altar servers, we get to see a close-up view of all this. Ours has all the same stuff that is in the sacristy at St. Pius,” said Isabel. “Behind the sacristy is a confessional with the person kneeling. Fr. Jim (Jugenheimer, pastor of St. Pius Parish) is in the confessional.”
Fr. Kyle Sladek, former parochial vicar of St. Pius X, now serving as administrator at St. Mark Parish in Redgranite and Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Poy Sippi, is depicted vesting in the sacristy by a mirror. “He’s wearing a red chasuble because it’s the feast day of a martyred saint,” said Isabel. “Me and Amelia made the different colored chasubles that are in the closet. The room has a counter, a sink for washing the vessels and a holy water sprinkler (aspergillum).”
The narthex completes the church property.
“There’s a statue of St. Pius X. Our church has chairs and tables in that area, a bulletin board, a table next to the sacristy that has the ‘Two Hearts Devotion’ (Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary), prayer intention books and copies of The Compass newspaper,” said Isabel. “The headline on this one is, ‘There’s a Lego church campus.’ Also, we have a coffee bar called ‘The Holy Grounds.’”
The construction project — which is both for show and for play — is not only a testament to the faith of the Ostermeier children, but to their creativity as well. “To take all these little Lego pieces and find these creative uses for them, I can’t comprehend that,” said John.
“It’s just evolving,” said Holly. “Every week, they tell us to come downstairs because they think of something new.”