Bells of St. Mary’s to remain in Lake Church

Parish to keep what may ultimately be last vestiges of church instead of giving them to mission in Africa

THE BELLS IN St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Lake Church, one of which is shown above in a photo provided by local historian Kevin Wester, are to become part of a monument on the church property.
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

Whether the bells of St. Mary’s Catholic Church toll again in Lake Church remains in question, but the rest of their fate has been decided.

They will stay in Lake Church and be placed in a monument instead of being sent to Africa, the Divine Savior Parish Council recently decided.

“They agreed to let us remove the bells and install them in the cemetery at Lake Church,” said Bob Hubing, a former St. Mary’s member who is now part of the merged Divine Savior Parish and head of the Bells of St. Mary’s Committee.

“Of course everybody was elated,” he said.

Longtime missionary Father James Weyker had suggested sending the church’s three bells to Tanzania, which ignited the St. Mary’s Church community.

Hubing started the Bells of St. Mary’s Committee to keep the bells. So many parishioners felt the same way that the parish thought there was a need to hear from its members and held a listening session in October. The vast majority of those who spoke said the bells should stay.

Weyker, who lived in Africa for 48 years and now lives in Milwaukee, said he wasn’t aware of the decision until the Ozaukee Press told him.

“If they decided to keep them, that’s good. They’re their bells. They can do what they want,” he said.

 “I just got this idea because I thought the bells were going to be discarded or not used. I wasn’t looking for bells. It wasn’t my idea ahead of time. I took advantage of the opportunity to try and get them.”

The issue, however, goes deeper than saving the church’s three bells, and one from the former school.

When St. Mary’s was closed and merged with Divine Savior in 2018, many members felt the parish was not given appropriate reverence.

The church is for sale and the fear is it may be torn down. The bells are among the last connection the former parishioners have to their beloved church.

Kevin Wester, who’s not a parish member but said during the listening session that he has close personal ties to the church and has led four church closings.

“It’s like a death,” he said, and added that the final Mass at St. Mary’s could have been handled better.

“I feel like perhaps it wasn’t done as respectfully or perhaps with enough adieu to help people through the grief process,” he said.

Wester was living in Spain at the time and read about the Mass in the Ozaukee Press.

“It killed me not to be there,” he said. “And the feeling was, a morning Mass?”

Other former members who moved away said through social media that they would have come back for the Mass, he said.

“I felt like it was a treasured family member who died and we really didn’t have a funeral celebration,” he said.

Hubing said the church is in the process of selecting an architect to create preliminary designs for the monument. A sign with the history of St. Mary’s will be included.

A budget will be developed for the project, and a fundraising campaign will follow. Any money left over will be given to the St. Mary’s Cemetery Association that maintains the cemetery.

The project will be quite an undertaking, and Hubing hopes it will be completed in summer. The heaviest bell is estimated to weigh about a ton with a diameter of four feet.

“These bells haven’t seen the sunlight for 130-some years,” he said.

The benefits of the monument goes beyond saving the bells. The issue got parishioners engaged in the church and will allow for a proper farewell.

“We are working together and that’s the positive thing for the Catholic community as a whole,” Hubing said. “I think it’s going to present more of a final closure that we all needed.”

Weyker supports the plan.

“As long as they’re going to use them, this memorial seems to be a good idea,” he said.

“I’m anxious, too, to see what kind of memorial they create. It’s going to have to be pretty big.”

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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