Oconto church has final Mass
St. Peter Church to close after July 30th celebration
By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor
Holy Trinity Parish, Oconto, is saying good-bye to an old friend. The faith community will celebrate the final Mass at St. Peter Church at 10 a.m. on Sunday, July 30. Bp. Robert Banks will officiate. Holy Trinity will then celebrate all Masses at the St. Joseph site. Plans for a new building, Holy Trinity Church, are underway.
"For some people, much of their upbringing took place here so there is a lot of sadness," said Fr. Dave Ruby, pastor. "We need to move on to complete our unity. It's hard, but people come before buildings. That's what we want to emphasize."
The unity of St. Peter and St. Joseph parishes began in 1992 after the unexpected death of Fr. Valentine Myslicki, OFM, pastor of St. Peter. Fr. Terry LaCombe became pastor of the linked parishes in June of 1992. In 1996, the two were merged to form Holy Trinity.
"I'm pleased for the community and the plan for the future," said Fr. LaCombe, who served as pastor in Oconto for seven years. "They can't afford to have two old churches and need a new, neutral site. Fr. Dave and the council have made great progress. There are a lot of really good people there."
"The parish voted to go to a new site," explained Fr. Ruby. "To build a new church, we need to close a site to help save money. We had been alternating using each worship site for six months at a time, so that was a helpful process in the transition."
The present St. Peter Church was built in 1899 with the first Mass celebrated at midnight at the turn of the century. The congregation was organized on June 19, 1857, the first church built in 1860.
Sr. Mary Jo Kirt, administrator at Mount Tabor Center, Menasha, is among those who grew up in the parish community of St. Peter's. Sr. Kirt, who will speak at the closing Mass, recently visited the historic church.
"My sister and I sat in the church and remembered all the gifts we received," she said. "Belonging to the parish was the center of our lives. My family, ancestors, and parents put tons and tons of energy into this church. As I looked at the stained glass, I thought to myself 'our family donated those windows.' Because of the wonderful memories, it is hard to say good-bye, but the memories will live."
Fr. Francis Vaillant designed the stained glass windows at the time the church was built in 1899. The symbols in each represent some aspect from the life of St. Peter. The windows, statues and Stations of the Cross will be removed from the building and stored for use in the new church.
"This church has been a part of this community and peoples' lives for 100 years," said Fr. Ruby. "Bringing a part of the church to the new building connects us to the past."
"We must trust that God will be with us as we move forward as people of God," said Sr. Kirt. "Maybe it is time that the church is closed. We must remember that God is bigger than this."
As a part of the closing celebration, a dinner will be served in the parish hall at 2 p.m.