POYNETTE -- St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Poynette celebrated the centennial of the dedication of the first Catholic Church in Poynette recently.
The parish was dedicated by Archbishop Sebastian Messmer of Milwaukee on February 10, 1908. Bishop Robert C. Morlino presided at a 4 p.m. Mass, followed by a dinner, on Sunday, Oct. 19.
Beginnings of parish
Poynette had a population of less that 900 in 1906, when only six resident Catholic families resided in the village. In 1906 or early 1907, realizing the time had come when Poynette might have a Catholic church, Thomas Eagen and John McCartan, Sr., went to Milwaukee to confer with Archbishop Messmer. As a result of the conference Archbishop Messmer gave his approval for a Catholic church to be built in Poynette.
Fr. John Morrissey, then pastor of St. Mary Parish of Portage and dean of the district, appointed Thomas Whalen from St. Patrick Parish in Lodi to go to the archbishop to have permission for five or six families from St. Patrick Parish to transfer to the Poynette parish. The request was granted.
Others, being nearer to Poynette, came from St. Joseph Parish of Rio and St. Mary Parish of Portage. The parish was organized as a mission to St. Mary Parish of Portage
Transfers and expansions
In 1927 a new epoch in the history of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish began when the parish was transferred from a mission of St. Mary Parish in Portage to a mission of St. Patrick Parish in Lodi. For some time Masses in St. Thomas the Apostle Church were on every other Sunday.
In 1934 the State Game Farm was established in the community, and, a little later, the Fur Farm was added. With the establishment of this institution many new families were brought into the community.
When the Diocese of Madison was established on March 12, 1946, Columbia County, of which Poynette is a part, was transferred from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee into the new Diocese of Madison.
Because of the increasing population of the Poynette area and the addition of new parishioners, St. Thomas Church in Poynette was enlarged. The church was rededicated April 15, 1951.
In June 1956 the third epoch in the history of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish opened with the transfer of the parish as a mission from St. Patrick Parish in Lodi to a mission of St. Olaf Parish in DeForest.
Two Masses were celebrated each Sunday, and the pastor, Fr. William DeBock, and a Pallottine priest from Queen of Apostles Seminary in Madison alternated every Sunday.
For the parish’s 50th anniversary in 1958, the interior of the church was redecorated. Bishop William P. O’Connor gave the homily at the Solemn High Mass celebrated November 2, 1958. A dinner followed in the Poynette High School auditorium.
In 1966, Fr. Leo Joyce was the first resident priest to be assigned to St. Thomas Parish. During Father Joyce’s leadership, plans were begun for construction of a new church and parish center to serve the growing parish family, as well as summer visitors from the Lake Wisconsin area.
New church built
In September 1967, Fr. David Runde was assigned to St. Thomas the Apostle Parish. During his pastorate, plans for the new church building went forward and by the autumn of 1969 the parish was ready to move into its new home. Dedication ceremonies were held on November 2, 1969, with Bishop Cletus F. O’Donnell officiating.
In October 1971, Fr. Anthony Young was appointed pastor. During his tenure a new rectory, next to and complementing the church hall, was completed in 1979. Father Young, after leading the parish for 23 years, retired from active priestly duties in 1994. Father “Tony” was especially sensitive to senior citizens, actively involved in ecumenical activities, and retired all parish debts. He died April 24, 2006.
Fr. August Buenzli accepted the pastorate and was the pastor for one year. He died September 27, 2004. Fr. Raymond Dischler was appointed pastor in June 1995.
Over the years the people of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, as everywhere in the universal church, have become accustomed to changes, both large and small, in long-held patterns of worship and custom.
Looking back with pride and thanksgiving for the foresight of our predecessors, the wise council of our pastors, and asking God’s blessing on our future efforts, the Parish of St. Thomas the Apostle looks forward to many more years of service to the family of God.