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The history of Catholicism in central Wisconsin parallels, to a large extent, the history of Sts. Peter & Paul's Parish in the city of Wisconsin Rapids. It is the mother parish of the Catholic community. From a simple mission church, SS Peter & Paul church has become the stately beauty it is today. This is the oldest parish in the Wisconsin Rapids area. As far as the first known Mass was first offered here in 1837 by a pioneer missionary, Father Van den Broeck, O.P., from Green Bay. Annually he visited the few Catholics in this area to attend to their spiritual needs. Traveling from Green Bay by way of horseback and canoe, he carried his portable Altar stone in order to say Mass to the frontier people.
Father Anton Godhardt, O.F.M., from Portage, took charge of this area in 1850-1854. Father Louis Dae, Fond du Lac, followed and built a small frame church 20 by 30 foot framed, on what is now 3rd Avenue N, in what was then Centralia. He remained here for two years, followed by Father E.A. Godfert, Green Lake, who took charge of the parish here.
By 1857 the Catholic population on the east side of the river had greatly increased. A rich and generous Canadian, names Francis Biron and other members of the church thought it advisable to build a new church on the east side. This was done.The mission of Grand
Rapids now became a parish with a resident pastor, Father James Stehle, who began the building of the church. His brother Father Nicholas Stehle competed it in 1859 and was dedicated in 1873. The latter remained here until 1859, when the Most Rev. John Martin Henni, Bishop of Milwaukee, appointed Father A.T. David successor. The pastorate was completed by him and a residence was established. In 1861 he was succeeded by Father M. Hens, Capuchin priest, he stayed here until 1864, followed by Father A Spiering, who stayed only nine months. There was no resident priest here during the next 15 months. Father Schwebach from Stevens Point, attended to the congregation during this time. In 1866 Father N. Stehle, once again took charge of the parish. He died a few months later. Father Schwebach again took care of the parish for nearly a year. Father John Gleason was appointed pastor in 1867 and remained until 1869. During this time the foundation of the church on 2nd St. N., which served Sts. Peter & Paul Parish up to the early 20th century, was laid and the superstructure was well under construction, when he was transferred. April of 1867 Father J. McDonald was appointed successor. In December of 1871 Father T. Tanguay became pastor. In 1873 the new church building was dedicated on June 29th. In 1874 Father William DeKe1ver became pastor. Father Peter Pemin became pastor in 1875. In 1878 Father Charles Beyerle became pastor. A Catholic school was opened on the property in 1886, and a different home was purchased for Father Beyerle. Father William Van Roosmalen became pastor in 1897. In 1904 Father B. Hugenroth became pastor, as well as the church was annexed to the Diocese of La Crosse.
Father William Reding became pastor in 1907. Renovations of the church occurred in 1906 while renovations of the school took place in 1907. In 1946, Father Charles Gille became pastor. Father Gille was accorded the title of Monsignor in 1949. The present church building was constructed and built by AF. Billmeyer & Son, and was dedicated on November 25, 1951. Through the 1940's and 50's we has several priests that served as assistants. They were the following: Father Richard Hermann, Father Carl Dockendorff, Father Raymond Pedretti.
Father Andrew Karoblis became pastor in 1968. Father George Passehl, served as co-pastor from 1968-1970. In the 1970's Father Robert Streveler & Father Leon Powell served as assistants. Father Zbiegnew Kucharski helped Father Karoblis by taking it upon himself to assist at the weekend Masses. Father James Altman then was appointed to help Father Karoblis during the decline of his health. Father Karoblis served almost 41 years as pastor of SSPP, our longest serving pastor, retiring in Februrary 2009. Father Karoblis passed away a year later on January 30, 2010 and Father Brian Konopa was the main celebrant at his funeral on February 3, 2010 at SSPP.
Father Alan Wierzba, Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish was named Parochial Administrator on March 1, 2009, while Father James Altman served as Parochial Vicar and Father Zacharie Beya-Tshingimba served as Assistant Vicar. A year later, on March 1, 2010, Father James Altman was named Parochial Administrator.
As of November 1st, 2010, Father James Altman was named Pastor by Bishop Callahan, with his installation as Pastor on December 19th, 2010 which included a blessing of the newly renovated church.
"Six months after the CatholicsComeHome.org media campaign ended, a comprehensive analysis was conducted, which revealed the average increase in Mass attendance (returned Catholics, new converts) was 12 percent, even though population growth in the Diocese of Phoenix was flat during that period. This equates to an increase of as many as 92,000 souls who came home!" View Article
Director of Adult Evangelization, Diocese of Phoenix