History of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Parish
INDEPENDENCE • 1875
THE EARLIEST PARISHIONERS OF SS PETER AND PAUL PARISH WERE SEEKING REFUGE FROM THE POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS UPHEAVALS IN THEIR NATIVE SILESIA, A CULTURALLY POLISH PROVINCE EVEN THOUGH IT WAS AT TIMES ALSO CLAIMED BY BOHEMIA, AUSTRIA AND GERMANY.
Immigrants from the town of Popielow found peace and hope settling in the town of Burnside and eventually Independence and its surrounding countryside.
From the early 1850’s the faith and prayer of the people was sustained through gatherings in private homes. But the Catholic immigrants were eager to establish a parish. So the first white-board church was built by roughly sixty families on ten acres of land acquired for $15. On October 7, 1875 Bishop Heiss dedicated SS Peter and Paul Church. The new parish mission was served by Fr. Hieronymous Kilmecki from St. Michael Parish, North Creek which Bishop Heiss had just dedicated the day before. Of the new communities and structures the bishop wrote, “The Poles are always a noble people, animated by a spirit of sacrifice for their Catholic faith.”
As a testament to the bishop’s statement, since 1875 the parish has encouraged many priestly and religious vocations. The centennial celebration honored by name seven priests, one religious brother and forty-six religious sisters from the parish for their faithful service. Today the parish is blessed to support an additional three young men in their discernment and seminary formation.
The present church building was begun in 1895 and completed over ten years later after adding transepts and sanctuary. The size and beauty of its architecture, stained glass and ornamental detail has enjoyed much praise over the years. The recent restoration has attempted to recapture the glory and sacrifice of the pioneering parishioners while also enhancing the building’s function and service. The experience has proven the statement above from Bishop Heiss as once again true for this generation of Catholics.
Catholic School has remained a priority of the parish since the first school was opened in 1887. Franciscan Sisters from Milwaukee and Stevens Point initially served the students and families in the school. Since 1973 lay faculty have continued the strong tradition of teaching and exemplifying the faith for our children and youth. The current school building, now celebrating its 50th Anniversary, was constructed in 1967 and also provides the parish with resources as a catechetical center and host for middle school athletics.
With Permission: Feed my Lambs: Diocese of La Crosse Sesquicentennial Anniversary Page 127 © Éditions Du Signe, 2017
Parish Restoration 2015
2015: Completely Restored Church Interior
There have been several recent advancements in the ongoing Restoration of the church building at SS Peter and Paul Parish. We are grateful to all the contractors and construction workers for their dedication and cooperation keeping us moving forward. Below are some highlights of the restoration that were made possible by your amazing support.
There are several invitations to you all, members and friends of SS Peter and Paul Parish, for the simultaneous and ongoing interior restoration of our souls. It would be a shame if we restored the building to its original grandeur (with a few flares of our own) but paid no attention to the state of our souls and the covenant with our eternal and glorious Heavenly Father. If you are able, we invite you to join us as we celebrate this significant historical and spiritual time in the life our parish.
A sneak peek at the returned scene of the Ascension reveals the presence of Christ adorning the center section of the sanctuary dome. Black and white photos from the 1930’s and 40’s which were studied during our preparation, revealed to the members of the Restoration Committee something that others remembered from their childhood: the presence of a mural above the main altar. Early in the process it was hoped that we could restore or recreate the beautiful scene. With the help of Affiliated Artists, Inc., we were able to witness the dream to true.
David adds gold leaf to the main altar. While foil was used throughout he church, the gold foil was reserved for the front altars to highlight their sacred nature and place and function in the sanctuary.
An angel painted in the dome of the sanctuary adores the Blood of Christ depicted in a chalice which was modeled after Father Woody’s personal chalice. The chalice was first made in 1891 for the ordination of Fr. Thomas O’Connor. It was later acquired, refurbished and given as a gift to Fr. Woody by his parents at the time of his ordination to the priesthood June 17, 1995.