Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Look Inside the New St. Cecilia Catholic Church, Wisconsin Dells

"The present glory of this house shall be greater than the former."
- Haggai 2:9
(Referenced in Father Eric Sternberg's Letter within the Solemn Mass of Dedication Program, August 28, 2016)

Sunday, August 28th marked a landmark moment for the Wisconsin Dells Catholic community. After fifteen months without a proper church building, St. Cecilia Parish opened its wonderful new church to the public. To mark the occasion, the Parish held a Solemn Mass of Dedication, followed by a festival and tours of the church.

To stem the inevitable rush of Mass-goers to claim seats in the building, the doors were kept shut until an hour before Mass. Thanks to the willingness of Father Sternberg and the Parish Development Committee, I was able to take a self-guided tour just before the doors were unlocked. The photos in this post come from that visit.

The new St. Cecilia's church building replaces a smaller century-old building that stood on the same site. In a slight nod toward post-Modernism, and a greater nod towards Parish history, a number of elements from the previous building are visible with the new church. Last year, I published a series of posts detailing the old St. Cecilia Catholic Church, which can be visited for comparison:

Post 1 (Interior photos)
Post 2 (Exterior and Parish grounds)
Post 3 (Windows)

“Novam ecclesiam Sancta Caecilia, XVIII Aug MMXVI
Lux luceat in tenebris”

“New church of Saint Cecilia, 18 August, 2016
The light shines in the darkness”

This was my first look inside the nave. First off, the spaciousness comes to the forefront. For years, St. Cecilia's has held weekend Mass in its old school gymnasium during the summer months to fit the vacationing crowds. The expanded seating in the nave and transepts should keep seating more manageable, with room for over 1,000 souls[1].

To my eyes, the restoration and adaptation of the statuary, altar works, and windows from the old church building are an instant treasure. Practically every statue and stained glass window from the former building has made its way inside the new church. The high altar represents a creative and tasteful update from the previous high altar. 

The St. Cecilia and Sacred Heart of Jesus statues were each given their own side altar space and are positioned under the large windows on opposite transepts near the front of the church.

Detail: St. Cecilia side altar

Detail: Stained glass window depicting the angel approaching the shepherds the night of Jesus' Nativity

Stations of the Cross

Detail: Sacred Heart of Jesus side altar

This Parish, whose patron saint doubles as a patron saint of sacred music, has a well-supplied music section in the south transept. Their performance at the Dedication Mass was magnificent.


Recognizing the importance of culture in the local faith, pictures of Our Lady of Częstochowa and Our Lady of Guadalupe hang in the transepts. Wisconsin Dells is a small, but historic outpost for Polish Catholics, and a Polish language Mass is held in town on a monthly basis. Weekly Spanish Mass is also a fixture at this Parish.

Windows from the old church line the nave.

St. Cecilia Catholic Church

Weekend Mass Times
Saturdays: 5 p.m.
Sundays: 8 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 5 p.m.
Spanish Sunday Mass: 6:30 p.m.
Polish Sunday Mass: 3 p.m., first Sunday of the month

Additional Sources

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Upcoming Event!: Doors Open Milwaukee Shares 10+ Catholic Sites to the Public, September 17 & 18

Photos by Colter J. Sikora, except 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, shared by Historic Milwaukee, Inc..

It's that time of the year again...time for Doors Open Milwaukee! I'm cramming on other projects right now, along with making my plans to attend both days of Doors Open. To be brief, below is a list of the eleven Catholic sites that I am aware will be open beyond regular Mass times this weekend. The links will take you to an information page on each site, including the hours that each of them will be open this weekend.

4.  Catholic Financial Life (where they have a chapel AND a rooftop pool!)
9.  St. Joan of Arc Chapel (Marquette University)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Upcoming Event!: Open House at St. Mary's Oratory, Wausau, on September 10th

Courtesy of St. Mary's Oratory.

St. Mary's Oratory, part of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, is opening its doors for tours this Saturday in Wausau, Wisconsin. From 10 am to 3 pm, young adults from the Oratory will be guiding visitors through the church building at the top of each hour. Being one of Wausau's oldest church buildings, St. Mary's is sure to be an architectural treat for those who make the trek!

The Open House coincides with the Wausau Festival of Arts, which brings over 100 professional artists to town to show their crafts.

According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, this building is the oldest in Wausau to be continuously used as a church, dating back to the 1890s.
[1] Built on the site of Wausau's first Catholic church, it was designed by Adolphus Druiding, an architect known for his work on many churches, including Chicago's St. John Cantius.[2]

Left: St. Michael the Archangel
Right: St. Florianus (St. Florian)

As is all too common in many older Midwestern cities, St. Mary's congregation shrunk in size throughout the 20th Century and was threatened with closure. The Institute of Christ King Sovereign Priest was given permission to move to St. Mary's in 1999 and has worked tirelessly to restore beauty to the building.

On my way to a family vacation in Northern Wisconsin in 2014, I stopped by the Oratory unannounced to go to Confession (as Catholics tend to do). At the same time, I was given a wonderful tour of the church by one of the former Canons (priests) at St. Mary's. The photos in this post come from my haphazard attempt to capture the tour. 

Most of the artwork in this post and throughout the church were acquired during the lengthy restoration process and have wonderful stories of their own. To really appreciate the beauty of St. Mary's and hear these stories in-depth, I encourage you to make a visit at the Open House!

St. Mary's Oratory