History of Saint Bronislava Parish - Plover, Wisconsin- Compiled by Mary Ann Sankey
On October 12, 1896 Bishop Sebastian Messmer granted permission to 60 families to start a Catholic Parish at Plover Wisconsin. At this time priests and people agreed to follow the following charter:
1. The building of a "hall" for divine service from the donations of the people.
2. The gift of three acres on the southern edge of the village from the Worzalla family and the purchase of two adjacent acres.
3. The beginning of divine services in the district schoolhouse.
4. The commitment to build a school and a rectory when funds were available.
5. The commitment to pay the salary of a priest as requested by the bishop.
6. The setting of the boundaries of the mission to start at McDill Pond and run south, east, and west as far as parishioners were willing to travel.
Father Xavier Kasperski became the first pastor. Mass was in Latin, but the sermon, confession, and catechism classes were in Polish. St..Bronislava was a mission church, since the Pastor tended three other parishes. He rode trains and buggies to reach his parishes. Parishioners had Mass only on the first and third Sunday of the month.
Frank Lila and John Gleszczynski built the church and Leo Worzalla helped build the steeple. A five hundred pound bell was rung on Easter Sunday 1897.
August 1897, Peter Kuzejka, age 28, became the Pastor. He also had to tend three other parishes located in three counties. Parishioners had Mass on the first and third Sunday of the month.
August Dombrowski and Zavier Kuklinska's child was the first to be baptized 15 Jan 1896. The witnesses were Frances Lila and Leon Worzalla. Francis and Catherine Chojnacki's child was baptized 16 Dec 1896. Sponsors were Bernard Galecki and Frances Lila. John Suski and Catherine Lapreda' s child was baptized 18 Jul 1897. John Wroblewski and Frances Lila were sponsors. The majority of the baptisms of 1897 were sponsored by Frances Lila and Leon Worzalla.
On May 13, 1829 Father Pociecka became the Pastor. A side altar was donated by Father Tomaszewski. August Dombrowski donated a statue of the Sacred Heart and Leon Worzalla donated the statue of St. Joseph.
A school building was completed in 1908. It cost $1200. Parishioners held down the cost by using their own horses and scrapers to excavate the cellar. They contracted the brickwork, carpentry, and roof, but nailed the lathe and spread the plaster on the inside walls themselves.
Parishioners were asked to tithe $2.00 more each week when the average farm income was no more than $1000 a year. One incentive for contributions was seating in the church. As John Wozniak remembered, in the early days of the parish, the parishioner's seat in church was determined by the size of his contribution. Those who donated a large sum received a place of honor closer to the front of the church. Those who gave less sat farther back, with the paupers on the back bench. Each family knew which seat to take, and a few big donors were fond of waiting at the door until the church was all but full, so they could proudly march up the aisle to occupy their space.
Those who did not have ready cash showed their generosity and support in other ways. The church never lacked for women who were willing to sweep and scrub the sand off the floors or who volunteered to wash, starch and iron the altar cloths. Fresh baked bread, eggs from the hen house, produce from the kitchen garden, apples from the orchard, homemade sausage at slaughtering time, all found their way to the rectory and later, to the school convent. These were country people accustomed to sharing the fruits of their labor with each other and their parish.
The new school was blessed by Bishop Paul Rhode, the most prominent PolishAmerican in the American Catholic Church. Although he was assigned to the Chicago Diocese, he was a national celebrity among Polish-American Catholics. His presence at the blessing of the school lent pomp and prestige to the event.
The school opened with 60 children and one teacher, A. J. Rabarczyk. Of necessity, he was a strict disciplinarian who punished misbehaving children by having them kneel in front of an altar along one of the walls of the classroom. Ninety-five year old Frank Lila remembered one teacher who was fond of throwing books at noisy kids, or hitting them across the back with a stick.
Despite the discipline, there was no shortage of students. They came from as far away as five miles. Some spent nights at the homes of friends or relatives, so they could attend school. Some boarded at the school itself. The road that became highway 54 was deeply rutted, thick with dust in summer and covered with snow in the winter. Since the children worked on the family farms no school was held at potato planting time or during the harvest in the fall.
Victoria Skrzypkowski's report card of 1909 reveals students studied Catechism, Sacred History, Polish Reading, and Grammar, as well as English Reading, Grammar, Arithmetic, Geography, American History, and Penmanship.
Male teachers taught in the school until 1918, when the Sisters of Saint Joseph took over. The students, who had been taught by men, and then the nuns, preferred the Sisters. They were better trained as teachers. There were two or three of them. They handled the 60 to 70 students better. Children boarders were more comfortable having Sisters care for them.
Farmers led very isolated lives. This isolation was particularly felt by the women. Church services became a social, as well as a religious event for them. After religious services, basket socials, and Communion breakfasts were ways to raise funds for the parish as well as provide visiting opportunities. Venturesome young people attended dances in the village or town hall. The Lila family owned a tavern and was often the center for conversation, beer, and late night poker games.
August 8, 1910 lightning struck the wooden church. Fire engulfed the wooden building, and in minutes everything was destroyed. Father Klosowski's mother had the sense to save the Blessed Sacrament. The loss was estimated at $5000, and only partially covered by insurance. Once again, parishioners rose to the occasion, deciding to build with bricks this time. They used their horses and manpower to haul away the debris. They hauled in bricks from the north side of Stevens Point. The church was rebuilt in six months.
In 1911 the parish received a permanent pastor, Father Klosowski, who conducted services every Sunday. In all, 24 priests served the Parish until the year 1993.
In the early 1930's the Plover farmer experienced the hardest times they would ever know. The economic downturn of the Great Depression reduced farm incomes to less than one-third of their 1920's level. These hard times were reflected in the enrollment of students in the Parish School. Though tuition amounted to pennies during this hard time, many families didn't even have pennies. At this same time, 1932-34, central Wisconsin experienced a most severe drought. Early crops of hay, oats, and potatoes were devastated. Early spring windstorms gouged as much as six inches of sand soil out of the fields.
In 1935 the drought eased, but struck again during the summer of 1936, when the warmest temperature ever recorded in Wisconsin occurred.
Before the hot summer of '36 arrived, the school building was destroyed by fire, during the Sunday Services on a February morning. The parish did not have the resources to rebuild the school. The Sisters had to return to their Motherhouse, and the school children had to attend public school.
The First Communion Class of 1958 included the following names: Loretta Swiander, Dinna Bronk, Thomas Prutz, Dennis Brillowski, Susan Soik, Marlene Hamerski, Irene Wasielewski, John Herek, Suzanne Kaminski, Basil Kiedrowski, Jane Kizewski, Benedict Sankey, Shirley Studinski, Mary Lynn Sniadajewski, Rose Bednarczyk, Thomas Bednarczyk.
A CENTURY OF PASTORS
F. Xavier Kasperski 1896-97
F. Peter Paul Kurzejka 1897-99
F. John Pociecha 1899
F. Stanislaus Anthony Elbert 1900-03
Monsignor Michael Klosowski 1903-15
F. Peter A. Borowski 1915-21
F. Francis Peter Banka 1915
F. Leon J. Janowski 1921
F. Leopold Blum 1921-22
F. Andrew Forysiak 1922
F. Stanislaus Lapinski 1923-32
F. Walter B.Ladislaus 1932-41
F. Leopold Przybylski 1941
F. Boleslaus J. Walejko 1943-45
F. John Gruna 1946
F. Steven Mieczkowski 1947-51
F. Peter Francis Rombalski 1952-53
F. Francis Przybylski 1953-1978
F. David Gilles 1973
F. Robert Streveler 1973-79
F. Charles Hiebl 1979-85
F. Charles Rasmussen 1979-82
F. James Logan 1985-93
F. Patrick Umberger 1993
ST. BRONISLAVA SCHOOL
1908 — St. Bronislava School starts.
1909-17 — Lay teachers on staff
1918-19 — Sisters Mary Carmella (Principal) and Amalia
1919-21 — Sisters Mary Ladislava (Principal), Gracian and Hortensia
1921-22 — Sisters Mary Mathilda (Principal), Bertilla and Gracian
1922-23 — Sisters Mary Irene (Principal), Bertilla and Gracian
1923-25 — Sisters Mary Irene (Principal), Gracian and Hortensia
1925-26 — Sisters Mary Irene (Principal),Gracian and Susan
1926-28 — Sisters Mary Irene (Principal), Deomira and Rolanda
1928-29 — Sisters Mary Ludgera (Principal), Catherine and Deomira
1929-30 — Sisters Mary Emerencia (Principal), Antoinette and Catherine
1930-31 — Sisters Mary Benvenuta (Principal), Isidore and Roselle
1931-33 — Sisters Mary Benvenuta (Principal), Basilissa and Isidore
1933-34 — Sisters Mary Benvenuta (Principal), Celestine, De Sales and Regina
1934-35 — Sisters Mary Irene (Principal), Augusta, and Celestine
1935-36 — Sisters Mary Protaise (Principal), Augusta, Cunibert and Loretta
February 9, 1936 — School building destroyed by fire.
1992 — School starts again with kindergarten classes, one lay teacher and an aide.