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History of St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, Leopolis

St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church - LeopolisThe Village of Leopolis was founded in 1865, by Nathan Leopold. The first settlers of sixteen families were mostly of Bohemian and a few of German Heritage. They settled on an area of land where there wasn't much of anything, next to the Embarrass River, and used the river for their livelihood.

The first trades consisted of logging and farming. This band of pioneer settlers pitched their tents and began to clear the land, built log homes, homesteads, farms, and their town. They named this settlement Leopolis, a Bohemian name. They soon built a sawmill and divided the land into 80 acres for farms. Always staying next to each other, neighbor helped neighbor, giving, sharing and helping each other, so no one was in need.

Because of oppressions, these Bohemians followed their visions and dreams of a new world that promised freedom and new opportunity. Being robust of body and spirit with a lot of courage and strong faith and trust in God, they set forth and survived their exodus to America. With them they brought their many professions, trades, skills and talents. Some were skilled farmers. They built beautiful farms. The new founded Leopolis community grew and prospered and soon became a self-contained town and community.

These new immigrants never forgot to worship, give honor, praise, and thanksgiving to their God. There was no church building in which they could congregate to worship and pray so they gathered under the open sky. Soon, as development took place, they began to gather in local private homes. Their faith in God was always strong. After eleven years, on Sunday, June 5, 1876, a missionary Friar from the mission of Keshena arrived on horseback. Rev. Amandus Masschelein, a Franco-Belgian priest, celebrated the first official Mass using the kitchen table in the log home of Matthias Cerveny. He also administered the sacraments that day. What a day of celebration, jubilee and rejoicing there was! Henceforth he would come once a month. He made his headquarters in Keshena where he also kept the first records of this new congregation. Soon he encouraged this small congregation to build a small church.

The present church property was purchased by The Right Rev Francis Xavier Krautbauer, Bishop of Green Bay, for $1.00 from N.M. Edwards to build their first church on a hill overlooking the town. In 1886 and 1887, a 40' long 24' wide log church was built. The inside was plastered and whitewashed. Siding was put on later and painted gray. A small steeple housed a bell. Matthias Cerveny built the new altar. They named their church Saint John Nepomucene who was the patron Saint of Bohemia and also the patron Saint of Travelers. At first, missionary Friars from the mission of Keshena celebrated Mass and administered the sacraments at St John's every 2nd and 4th Sunday. They were served by many other priests, most only staying for 2 years. St John's grew, consisting of 45 families, 32 Bohemian, 12 German, and 1 French. Outgrowing this church building they needed to build a larger church. The new frame church was 80' long and 32' wide with a basement.  It had a tower that terminates in a spire which houses the bell from the old church, with a cross at the top. The congregation wanted to place the new church under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Right Rev. Bishop Fox of the Green Bay Diocese blessed the church. St Mary of the Assumption, titled today St Mary's. The new main altar was purchased in 1911; the two side altars and two statues were purchased in 1928. The beautiful stained glass windows were installed in 1920.

During those early years the Leopolis congregation was shuffled from one mission to the next: From 1876 - 1888 a mission of Keshena; 1888 - 1890 a mission of Sacred Heart, Shawano; 1890 - 1893 a mission of St Rose, Clintonville; 1893 - 1909 a mission of Sacred Heart, Shawano; 1909 - 1946 a mission of St Francis, Gresham. In 1946 St Mary's became an independent parish with it's own resident pastor, Rev Anthony Baier who served from 1946 -1954. During the years 1954 - 2006, St Mary's had nine other resident pastors. Two members of St Mary's became nuns, Sister Roslyn Muraski, Sister Mary Brunner and one Deacon, Francis Asenbrenner.

Over the years, St Mary's was active in four societies. A Bohemian Benevolent Society, The Holy Name Society, The Sacred Heart Society, (notice the Sacred Heart Statue on the side altar) and St Mary's of the Assumption Altar Society now known as St Mary's Council of Catholic Women. The Altar Society began in the early years of St Mary's parish. However, early records were destroyed in a house fire. From the beginning, all parish women 16 years and over were automatically members. The women became well known for their good bakery, tasty chicken and ham dinners. These well-known chicken dinners were held in the town hall. People would come from miles around to be part of this all day festival and eat this homemade ethnic food. This was the main fundraiser for the parish. This tradition is continued today as St Mary's Autumn Fest. Past and present, our parish women have been a vital part in the life of St Mary's parish, displaying strong leadership and stewardship and a symbol of courage and faith.

In 2006, St Mary's Leopolis celebrated 130 years and the dedication of a newly finished handicap addition. Now all Gods children are welcome; none are left out. Since 1876 our parish has seen many changes. The year 2006 brought a different kind of change-the linking of St Mary's, Leopolis to St Mary's, Marion, St Anthony's, Tigerton, and Holy Family-St William, Wittenberg. More history is in the making. We stand with the 3 R’s, Remembering, Rejoicing, and Renewing.