St. John the Baptist celebrates building’s centennial with monthly celebrations

By Cara L. Dempski

GLENWOOD CITY — St. John the Baptist, Glenwood City’s Catholic parish, may have been around for the past 133 years, but the building it inhabits celebrates its centennial in 2017.

While the main celebration will be held in conjunction with the parish’s annual Fall Festival, scheduled for September 24, 2017, the centennial committee has planned special events for each month leading to the autumn event.

Committee member Judy Wink said during the February celebration event, a Mardi Gras dinner was held February 28, and that the church’s next event will be a potluck. A “Nationality Breakfast/Brunch” is scheduled to follow the 8:30 a.m. Mass on March 19.

“History tells us the people who settled here and built this church building were of Belgian, German, Irish and Polish descent,” Wink explained. “Parishioners can either bring a dish native to their heritage, or just their favorite dish to eat in the morning.”

Wink stated other events will include following the Stations of the Cross on Friday, April 7. This will conclude with a Latin Benediction by Deacon Wesley Tuttle. In May, there will be a Crowning of Mary with the children’s choir during morning Mass. 

The service will also include a short presentation about youth education and the catholic school attached to the church. The school’s current use is as an educational facility for parish members.

On June 11, there will be a Latin Mass celebrated by Father Dennis Meulemans, who – along with his cousin, Father Ed Meulemans – was ordained from St. John the Baptist. The Meulemans cousins, Father John Long and Tuttle will give brief talks about their vocations as part of “Vocation Sunday.” A “Dairy Month” breakfast made and served by the Knights of Columbus will follow the presentations.

In July, the parish will worship in the great outdoors. The July 30 Mass will be celebrated in the lot west of the church. There will also be a special musical presentation and a picnic that day.

Wink said the August celebration is still in its planning stage, but confirmed that it will be something special that the parish, and the community, will enjoy.

Finally, the annual Fall Festival celebration will be held on September 24. Bishop James Powers of Diocese of Superior will be on hand to celebrate the 10:30 a.m. Mass with the parish. Wink promised a special musical celebration, and the annual dinner, gym games and farmers market.

St. John the Baptist Parish was founded in 1886, but the current church was not completed until 1917. Services were initially held in the Glenwood City school building. A dedicated wood-frame church building was completed in late 1886. It sat just north of the school on the block between Elm and Oak Streets.

The church served the parish for approximately 24 years, before some parishioners realized the steep climb up the hill was getting to be too much for older church members. The parish purchased a little over four acres of land in March 1912 for its new building, but was not able to immediately begin construction due to a lack of funds.

An act of God forced the parish’s hand when, on December 28, 1914, the original church on the hill was destroyed by fire. The parish lost not only its building, but nearly all of its religious artifacts. The following spring, 1915, the parishioners began constructing their new facilities on the current site. 

Mass was held in the basement until 1917, when work on the upper brick section of the church was started. The entire building was completed in the spring of 1918, and a dedication was held on July 4, 1918.

The planning committee hopes that parishioners and community members will help to celebrate the building’s centennial.