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Oconto County, Wisconsin
Reprinted with permission of
Oconto County Times Herald
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
 Transcribed and Submitted by: Richard LaBrosse

Sacred Heart Catholic Church


SPRUCE – It is said that the people of the “Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church” were moved to tears at the “First ringing” of the church bell purchased in 1903.  Well, once again the people of “Sacred Heart were moved to tears”.  As of Monday, May 22, 2006, the “Little Church” of Spruce is officially closed.

Bishop David Zubik of the Green Bay Diocese was the main Celebrant.  Concelebrants were Rev. Lawrence Marto, Rev. Harold Beernsten, Rev. William Rickert.  Master of Ceremony was Deacon Larry Mastalish, also from the Green Bay Diocese.  The Choir was led by Karen Tappa and the choir members were from Spruce, Lena, Klondike and Oconto.

Photo taken 1890: 
from "The Catholic Church in Wisconsin"; published 1892

Sacred Heart became a reality in 1892 after several years of trying to establish a Catholic parish in Spruce.  Bishop Sebastian Messmer commissioned Rev. Louis Zielinski from Menasha to organize the Catholics in the Spruce area to start plans to build a church.  The charters members were Francis, Albert, Valentine Teresinski, Simon Neta, Catherine Szmania, Joseph Deresinski, John Benczer, John Zaidel, John Janik, Francis Lusnia, Martin Kniat, John Pawlak, Jacob Grzywna and Valentine Kowalczyk.

In April 1893 Rev. Zielinski obtained clear deeds to four acres of land for the church and two acres of land for the cemetery.

The land was donated by the families of Valentine Teresinski, Simon Neta, Catherine Szmania and Peter Pytleski.

A thirty by forty foot building was built and stands on the exact spot you find the church today.  Financial records of the parish for the year 1893 show that the church was built at a cost of $ 331.56, as all the lumber materials were donated and the work was all gratis.  In 1906, due to the increase in the number of parishioners, the church was enlarged by twenty feet.  The corner stone was blessed by Bishop Joseph Fox of the Green Bay Diocese.

The first funeral in the Catholic church was that of Francis Teresinski in August 1894 and the first wedding was that of Barbara Teresinski (Francis widow) and his brother John in May of 1895.  The church’s last funerals were of Tessie Steffeck, Theophile Markiewicz (descendants of Simon Neta and Joseph Markiewicz) and Robert Hyland in August 2005.  The last wedding was that of Sara Zahn and Shawn Kelly in May 2005.

In 1942 the church celebrated its Golden Anniversary with Rev. Leo Przbyblski serving as pastor.  New pews were bought by the parish as a rememberance of the fifty years.

In June 1992 Sacred Heart celebrated their Centennial Mass with Bishop Robert Banks of the Green Bay Diocese presiding.  As a rememberance of this celebration the Spruce parish purchased new siding for the church.

Sacred Heart parish has been sister parishes with St. Leo’s, Pound.  St. Wenceslaus, Klonkide and in the 1990’s with St. Charles, Lena.  In the late 1990’s Sacred Heart and St. Charles merged as one parish known as “Holy Cross Catholic Community”.  The Spruce rectory was sold in 2002 Rev. Finian Zaucha celebrated the last regularly scheduled Mass for the year 2005.  Parishioners now go to Holy Cross in Lena.

Priests who have served the Sacred Heart Catholic Church were:  Reverends Louis Zielinski, Stanislaus Jeka, Romaldus Magott, Francis Laslow, Ignastius Gratza, Leo Janlowski, Ladislaus Polaczyk, John Pociecha, Ladislaus Slisz, Julius Chylinski, Thomas Bieganski, Ladislaus Stanisz, Joseph Gabrayszck, Francis Bemowski, John Landowski, Peter Kurzejka, Paul Sokol, Charles Strahberger, Titus Tettenborn, Joseph Szupryt, Bernard Hoppa, Boleslaus Platta, John Gruna, Leo Przbybiski, William Rickert, Roy Crain, Thomas Mortell, Richard Keller, Justin Werner, Dennis Boucher, Thomas Mayefski, fridolin Olschowski, Ken VanDeVen, Earl Barcome, Nicholas Johannes, Florian Resheske, Martin Fox, Irvin Udulutsch, Harold Beernsten, Frank Schrage, Peter Taylor and Finian Zaucha.

The bell, bought in 1903 and Blessed “John James” after Rev. Pociecha was inscribed as follows:  Our names are:  Yan, Yazam, Simon, Walenty.  Purchased with the parishioners through the effort of Rev. Pociecha.  Worshipping one God, callin group of people and priest.  Grieving for the dead and joy for the living.

Sadness at funerals also reminds us of Sunday sound of bells flow with the winds.  He also gives joy to the sick.  Joy for everyone.  Sadness for sad people.  I serve God truly now and forever.”

One parishioner wrote for the Centennial Directory:

Over the past 100 years, Sacred Heart Parish, Spruce, has known good times and bad times, lights and shadows.  Good Fridays and Easter Sundays.  When a child was re-born at baptism, they were welcomed with a lighted candle and a white garmet, signifying that the light of faith had been planted in its sould and it was challenged to wear that gift in fidelity, each special way.  First Communion Sunday as a new group of boys and girls were welcomed to share our common Eucharistic Table.

Each time the Bishop came for Confirmation, the young men and women received a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit as they committed themselves to live their faith as adult Christians.  The parish has celebrated children’s graduations and weddings and the baptisms of their children.  The parish has shared socials, Mother Day brunches and Holy Names breakfasts, picnics and pot luck suppers and have bid farewell to those who have left as for the final kingdom all as one family in Christ.

God has been good to the parishioners and they are grateful.  Like ambers in a fire they have kept the faith alive for over 100 years and with God’s grace pledge to continue sharing that faith.

Thank you to “ALL” who have served the Parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church.  1892 – 2006.