St. Mary Parish Community       ...since 1860
118 Church Street Algoma, WI 54201-1033                                        
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St. Mary Parish and School History Through 1985

In 1860, Mass was offered at Matthew Simon’s house, better known as “Fox’s House, located in the third ward near the beach. The first Catholic Church for Algoma, named in honor of the Archangel Raphael, was constructed in 1863. In 1864 the parishioners purchased the first bell, it rings today in our present church. A priest would ordinarily come on horseback from the Catholic Church in Kewaunee until 1869 when the Bishop of the new dioceses of Green Bay, established in 1868, appointed Algoma’s first resident pastor. The congregation outgrew the original church soon. In 1872 began construction of the second, larger Catholic Church, named in honor of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


In 1876 the parish family established a parochial school. Father Adalbert Cipin became pastor of St. Mary’s on October 19, 1878. In the same year he established a church choir, later the school library. In 1881 Father Cipin began work on the main altar, carved by hand. The Manitowoc Franciscan Sisters arrived in 1884, to teach in the parish school. The same year the congregation was renamed St. Mary. Also in 1884 Father Cipin built St. Joseph’s altar shrine. In 1886 the largest of 3 bells for the church was purchased weighing 1500 lbs.


Father Cipin built St. Ann’s altar in 1890. Father Adalbert Cipin’s total expense for the 3 altars amounted to $802.04, not including labor. It was 1904 when pastor Father William Kraemer supported the wishes of the parish to build a new larger church. The farmers were asked to bring stones for the foundation during the winter. On Easter Monday, April 6, 1906 the cornerstone was blessed and laid by Bishop Joseph Fox, during this time in the parish’s history, Pius X was pope (later canonized a saint). The new church cost $24,938.53.


Mr. Joseph Svoboda of Kewaunee, in 1922, remodeled the side altars, making them match the style of the main altar.


Fr. Cyril Kabat became the first assistant pastor assigned to St. Mary’s Parish on July 4, 1935. Msgr. William Kraemer, pastor since September 9, 1896, died on June 11, 1944. Burial took place in St. Mary Parish Cemetery. Very Rev. Francis C. Heimann was appointed to succeed Msgr. Kraemer as pastor on June 23, 1944.


By the year 1951, the number of Catholic children in Algoma had exceeded the capacity of the old school. The school was a combination of the old two-rooms, two-story building, erected in 1893 and the old church, erected in 1872, which also had been remodeled into four additional classrooms and a hall. On April 12, 1951, the parish decided to build a 12-room school and gymnasium. In order to connect the church to the school via an underground tunnel, a new side entry to the church and sacristy were made, adding a 12 by 33 foot entry to the church. Shortly before the closing of school in 1956, the new Sisters’ convent was completed (we have no Manitowoc Franciscan Sisters here now, so the former convent was Lakeshore Heritage Home). In 1960 the grotto in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes was erected on the lawn between the school and church buildings. All work was done on this shrine after normal working hours.


On May 5, 1970, priest-son of St. Mary, Father Mark F. Schmitt, was appointed as auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese. He was later installed as the 10th Bishop of the Diocese of Marquette, Michigan, on May 8, 1978.


Msgr. Heimann retired as pastor of St Mary in June of 1970. His nephew, Father Wilbert Buhl, had the longest tenure as associate pastor in our parish history 1960-1970.


In 1973 the rectory renovation was complete under the guidance of Pastor Father Robert Gulig. During Father Richard Kleiber’s pastorate, the Reconciliation Room was remodeled in February of 1977. In the fall of 1982, adult Christian education began at St. Mary’s, four hundred and fifty people signed up for small groups of RENEW. During the summer of 1985 the church underwent major renovation and redecoration.


October 27, 1985, St. Mary Parish celebrated it’s 125th anniversary.

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