St. Adalbert History
The history of St. Adalbert Parish begins with the great exodus of immigrants from Europe to the United States in the latter half of the nineteenth century. These immigrants, specifically the ones from North Central Poland, were the forefathers and builders of Sacred Heart Parish in Polonia, and later our parish at St. Adalbert.
These parishes, along with St. Mary's at Fancher, St. Bronislava in Plover, St. Peters and St. Stanislaus in Stevens Point represented the extent and breath of the great faith that these immigrants had. They came here out of a very basic human need to better their lives. Towards that quest, they built these churches in which to worship. These churches represented such an indispensable part of their lives. It is the history of these people, their church and the manifestation of their faith that we examine here.
In the process of acclimating themselves to the area, these deeply spiritual people soon realized that they needed a church in which to worship. Thus, on May 23, 1870, Fr. Joseph Dabrowski founded a small Polish parish eight miles east of Stevens Point in what would one day become Polonia. This parish, Sacred Heart, grew steadily and flourished along with the rising numbers of Polish immigrants to the area. However, in the span of one generation, the need would arise for another area parish.
The need for another parish arose in response to travel limitations for the immigrants and their families. At the time, the primary mode of transportation was by horse. Thus, the range of people's travels were very limited. Subsequently, people in the Polish American Catholic community who lived further east of Polonia were somewhat restricted in their ability to worship. These people lived in the North and East Sections of the Town of Sharon, the Town of Alban, and the northern reaches of the Town of New Hope.
In 1895, Father Thomas Grenbowski, the Pastor of Sacred Heart, sought to answer this growing problem. On January 14, 1895, Fr. Grenbowski called a meeting for his concerned parishioners. At the meeting, it was decided that a parochial school should be erected to serve the spiritual needs of the area's people. A committee was formulated with Carl Betker, John Zywicki, and Bernard Pionkowski as members. They decided to dedicate the school to St. Joseph. The Town of Alban was chosen because of it's central location. Fr. Grenbowski then suggested that the school include a chapel in which mass could be celebrated on a regular basis. The foundations of St. Adalbert had begun.
Upon making the fundamental decisions for the creation of St. Joseph's school, these people realized that they were, in effect, beginning a new parish. They saw the growth within their community and realized land would be needed for future expansion as well as the immediate site for the school Thus, they bought one acre of forested land from Joseph and Louise Pliska on the north side of Highway 66 for $15 (at that point, Highway 66 ran along the road immediately south of the present day school). The land in question would be exactly on the site of the present day school. By June of 1895, the wooden framed school was completed for $328. Many services related to the clearing of the land and construction of the edifice were provided by local carpenters and farmers.
School commenced the following fall at St. Josephs. The first teacher was Valentine Platta. He began with an enrollment of 15 pupils. He was provided a stipend of 25 cents a month per pupil and a shanty near the building to live in.
By the early spring of 1898, it became obvious to the people who worshiped at the school that a bona fide church was needed. Thus, some 60 families from the townships of Alban, New Hope, and Sharon sought out and petitioned the Bishop of the Green Bay Diocese, Bishop Sebastian Messmer, for permission to erect a church in the Town of Alban. On March 4, 1898 a letter was sent to Fr. Grenbowski granting permission for a new parish located in Alban to be named after St. Adalbert, a patron saint of the Polish people.
The people of the newfound parish immediately began the process of constructing their church. First, they bought some land due south of and across the street from the present day school. They also received some land parcels for future parish grounds via donations from Joseph Sabinas (5 acres), August Kleman (2 acres) and the Ksionsk family (one half acre). Next they hired building contractor John Bigus of Stevens Point to erect the building. By late spring of 1898, construction on the building had begun.
By December of that year, the first building was completed at a cost of $10,000. Local labor and materials were used heavily in the construction of the church, with most of the lumber coming from local sources sawed at Rosholt's own saw mill.
The following year, 1899, St. Adalbert's received its first Resident Priest, Fr. Michael Miklaszewski. During his tenure, he had a small rectory built to live in. He also added a buggy shed and barn to accommodate his parishioner's horses during the winter months. Also, the original wooden framed schoolhouse was moved, at this time, to the south of and across the street from the present day location of the school.
During these early periods, the parish had grown from the original 60 families in 1898, 150 families by 1900 and to over 200 families by 1902. St. Adalbert was flourishing.
By 1900, the parish had a new priest, Fr. Leo Jankowski. During this time, the parish community continued to expand. The existing buildings gradually became overcrowded on Sundays and Holy Day mass celebrations. Thus, in 1906, Fr. Jankowski built a sanctuary addition to the church which added more seating space for the parishioners as well as enhanced the architectural beauty of the Church.
By 1908, the parish again had a new priest, Fr. John Pocheca. Upon his arrival, he recognized the growing population of this parish. He soon enacted plans to construct a red brick schoolhouse containing 4 classrooms. The building was located near the site of the original school (due south of and across the street from the present day school). The building cost $5,000 with many parishioners donating their skills, materials, and labor.
By the fall semester of 1909, two religious sisters from the order of St. Joseph in Stevens Point began to teach and minister at the school. A small convent for their residence was built at the southern end of the school. On October 13, 1909, the school building was dedicated and blessed by Bishop Paul Rohde. Bishop Rohde maintained the distinction of being the first bishop in the United States of Polish descent. It was a great honor for the parish to have the bishop and the large number of guest priests blessing the school.
By 1916, the parish had a new priest, Fr. Francis Nowak. During Fr. Nowak's tenure, the buildings expanded greatly. By 1917, Fr. Nowak recognized the still growing parish and decided to add on another classroom to the school. Furthermore, he requested another nun from the convent at St. Josephs to join the teaching staff. In 1920, Fr. Nowak built the present day rectory at a cost of $21,000. The existing parsonage on the west side of St. Adalbert Road (on the site of the present school) was remodeled and became a convent for the resident nun population.
In 1923, the parish celebrated it's silver anniversary. In the year leading up to it, Fr. Nowak upgraded several facets of the church when he purchased a pipe organ for the choir for $2,000 and installed numerous stained glass windows. The primary event of the anniversary was the hosting of a parish mission, a time of renewal and inspiration led by the priests of the Order of St. Francis.
By June of 1924, the parish had a new priest, Fr. Michael Klosowski. He soon grew to become one of the most popular priests St. Adalbert ever had. The early part of his tenure was marked by tragedy, however, when the church burned in the summer of 1934. On August 2nd of the drought year, lightning struck the wood-framed church building and completely immolated it. A week later, the tenacious parishioners met and began the process of construction for the next church. Keep in mind that this occurred in the depths of the Great Depression.
Father Klosowski, upon the advice of the parishioners, decided to build a larger and, this time, fireproof church. He hired Mr. Frank Spalenka, an architect from Stevens Point, to design the church. Mr. Spalenka had already designed St. Stanislaus Church in Stevens Point. Mr. Spalenka designed our church in the Baltic Romanesque style so prevalent in the churches back in Poland. This style is highlighted by the domed bell tower and stout red brick and stone construction. Many of the other Polish churches in the area reflect this style as well.
The overall cost of the church was $57,000, inclusive of bells, organ, and sanctuary furnishings. The building measures 113 feet long and 57 feet wide, with a seating capacity of 725 people. The bell tower rises to a height of 91 feet. The bronze bells are dedicated to St. Adalbert (the larger) and Fr. Klosowski's patron (the smaller). The church was proudly dedicated on May 3, 1935. Four sandstone shrines were added to the west lawn of the church at this time.
According to available records, the construction of the church was a parish wide effort. Given the hard times and clear objectives of the situation, the parish clearly banded together to rebuild their church. Many members of the congregation gave whatever they could to help the cause, be it labor, services, materials, etc.
In 1948, the parish celebrated it's golden anniversary. Fr. Klosowski also celebrated his 25th anniversary as a priest. He had already been elevated to the level of monsignor back in 1945 by Bishop Bona of Green Bay. He was formally recognized then for his priestly zeal, dedication, and accomplishments at St. Adalbert. Acclaimed to be a humble man, Monsignor Mike guided the parish with a humble dignity until his untimely death in 1957.
Before Monsignor Klosowski died he was ill for a time. Fr. Moczarny served St. Adalbert parish during this time and performed many of the duties that Msgr. Klosowski was unable to carry out. Fr. Moczarny was with the parish during 1956 and 1957.
In June of 1957, Fr. John Nowak replaced Monsignor Klosowski. He continued the high standards put forth by Monsignor Klosowski. In 1958, he built the current parochial school and convent. The school was managed by the Sisters of St. Joseph and was built to accommodate grades K-8. Today, St. Adalbert is the only parish besides Sacred Heart to maintain a school outside of Stevens Point in the county. Fr. Nowak also built the shrine to the Blessed Mother to the southeast of the school at this time.
In 1973 the parish celebrated its diamond anniversary. Fr. John began to undertake some redecorating within the church. Father John acquired a new marble altar still in use today, as well as repainted and remodeled the church interior. He installed the statues of the Apostles and Saints. He also acquired more land for the cemetery, remodeled the rectory, and landscaped the grounds.
The parish was especially blessed in August 1976, by a visit from Cardinal Karol Wojytla of Cracow, Poland (Cardinal Wojtyla would go on to become Pope John Paul II in 1978). The cardinal was deeply fascinated with the plight of the Polish immigrants that had come here so long ago from his country. He was deeply moved by our area and its people.
In 1981, Fr. John retired and was succeeded by Fr. Don Walczak. During Fr. Don's tenure, many of the beautiful traditions beloved to the parish were maintained. Fr. Don worked to maintain the integrity of the parochial school. In 1994, Fr. Don oversaw the addition of the expanded front entrance, complete with elevator, bathrooms, and handicap access. In January of 1991, the parish was awarded the first of its contracts to run the meal site for the Portage County Commission of Aging. The meals were served in the Legion Hall and in the basement of the church. After the completion of the updated church entrance and the addition of an elevator, the site moved permanently to the basement of the church and meals began being served there on a daily basis.
In 1995, Fr. Joseph Konopacky replaced Fr. Walczak. He was given the mission by Bishop Burke to jointly serve both St. Adalbert's and Sacred Heart parishes. In 1998, Fr. Marcin Mankowski was assigned to serve St. Adalbert after the departure of Fr. Konopacky.
Father Marcin had brought many wonderful new things to the parish since he was assigned as it's pastor. Father renovated the sanctuary with the new high altar and side altars. Father has also been instrumental in the revitalization of our Catholic School with the implementation of a new, fully Catholic, high academic standard curriculum in the fall of 2008. The enrollment at the school is once again on the increase with families traveling as far as 30 miles one way to attend this school.
On July 1, 2011, Father Gregory Michaud was assigned to St. Adalbert. In addition to his duties at St. Adalbert, Father Michaud is also pastor at Sacred Heart, Polonia and St. Mary Immaculate Conception Parish, Torun. Father Michaud remained with the parish for five years. In June of 2016, Father Michaud was re-assigned. He remained with Sacred Heart, Polonia while additionally being assigned to St. Mary, Custer.
On June 30, 2016, Father Jeffrey Hennes became the Parochial Administrator of St. Adalbert Parish and School, with an additional assignment at St. Mary, Torun.