St. Luke in Two Rivers celebrates 150 years
City's first parish held several events during the year to mark its anniversary
By Crystal Delwiche
This year, right after the feast of St. Luke, his namesake parish in Two Rivers celebrated its 150th anniversary.
The culmination of a year of celebration, started on Jan. 21, was a Sesquicentennial Mass on Sunday, Oct. 21, with Bp. Robert Banks as celebrant. The date coincided with St. Luke's feast, Oct. 18. After the liturgy there was a banquet at the Holiday Inn in Manitowoc.
The celebration honored priests and sisters who formerly served or were members of the parish, said Fr. Larry Seidl, pastor.
The dinner featured entertainment from the Driftwoods, a boys' singing group from Roncalli High School and the Neustadters, a family singing group.
Frank Birr, parish choir director, led "Household of Faith" which has become the parish's special song, Fr. Seidl said.
During this year of celebration, the church also marked the Feast of St. Agnes (Jan. 21) to honor the Sisters of St. Agnes who served 100 years at the parish. On May 6, 2001, the choir held a concert and, on Sept. 15 and 16, there was an ethnic Mass and a concert by the Milwaukee's All Saints Choir, an African American religious music group.
Fr. Seidl noted that it is also the 150th anniversary of Grace Congregational United Church of Christ, so he and the pastor from Grace Congregational will offer a congratulatory message for celebrations at each other's church.
Several activities during year
Other Sesquicentennial events included:
a display of commemorative items for the parish;
a history of the church;
a sale of Christmas ornaments depicting St. Luke Church.
making a quilt showing various parish sites like the outdoor shrine and an old marble altar. The four corners of the quilt depict the four daughter parishes (St. Mark, Sacred Heart, Holy Cross and Holy Redeemer) with St. Luke's in the center of the quilt.
St. Luke Parish started on Dec. 23,1851, when R.M. Eberts and his wife deeded three lots to Bp. John Henni of Milwaukee for one penny. Their only condition was that their names remain on a tablet to be placed on a side wall of the church.
In 1852, work began on the first church, which was completed in 1853. In the meantime, Mass was held in private homes during the winter and outdoors alongside the church in summer.
The first pastor was Fr. Joseph Brunner. He lived at Maternity of Mary Parish, Manitowoc Rapids, and also served parishes at Two Rivers, Mishicot and Cooperstown.
In 1891, parishioners voted to start a new church. Its cornerstone was laid in August, with the church dedicated by Bp. Sebastian Messmer on Oct. 23, 1892. A portion of the old church was moved across from the new and used as a parish hall and school. At that time, the Sisters of St. Agnes arrived. Over the next century, nearly 300 sisters served the parish.
Need for second parish
As the population grew, the need for a second parish in Two Rivers arose. St. Mark Parish was formed in June 1924 to serve people living south of the West Twin River. The first pastor was Fr. Peter Nilles, a son of St. Luke Parish.
The site of the new parish and money toward its building fund were donated by members of St. Luke.
The two parishes continued to share their histories and, in 1975, combined their schools into one school system: Two Rivers Catholic Central.
In the late 1980s, the biggest renovation project in St. Luke's history took place. However, shortly after the celebration that rededicated the church, a portion of it was destroyed by fire.
In the 1990s, the old convent building was turned into a museum. (The Sisters of St. Agnes had left the school.) The school building, built in 1909, was closed in 1999 and its students transferred to the newer St. Mark building.
On Dec. 1, 1995, Fr. Larry Seidl was appointed Administrator of St. Luke/St. Mark parishes and, the next year, the two parishes joined. On May 5, 1997, Fr. Seidl was appointed pastor of St. Luke/St. Mark.
Currently, the parish is in the process, along with its other offspring parishes -- Sacred Heart, Holy Cross and Holy Redeemer -- of beginning the groundwork to reunite as a single parish.