||Bishop Robert C. Morlino, with 15 priests concelebrating, celebrates Mass at St. Thomas Church in Potosi on the 175th anniversary of the parish’s founding. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner) To purchase or view photos from this event click here.
POTOSI -- Parishioners and visitors packed the tiny rural church of St. Thomas in Potosi July 17 to celebrate 175 years of worship in this place.
Nestled among the rolling hills of Grant County, this little church has been standing and serving the Catholic community in this southwestern part of the state since 1847. It is the oldest continuously used church in Wisconsin, though its parish, SS. Andrew and Thomas Parish in Tennyson-Potosi, also uses the church building in Tennyson. St. Thomas Parish had its beginnings in 1836 and merged with St. Andrew in 1970.
The celebration July 17 drew Bishop Robert C. Morlino, Fr. Richard Leffler, pastor of SS. Andrew and Thomas Parish, and 14 other concelebrating priests from around the area, as well as emcee Fr. Greg Ihm and Deacon Larry Tranel. Parishioners assisted at the Mass, with servers Madeline Hawes, Logan Schmitz, and Rayne Wolf; lector Machele Schmitz; gift bearers Robert and Rosemary Schumacher and Kathryn Kuster; and music provided by Zita Reuter and the St. Thomas Choir. The Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli Assembly 1202 4th Degree Knights of Columbus served as honor guard, and ushers were Robert Schmitz, Chad Schmitz, and Michael Wolf.
The parish provided a reception afterward in the school building, as well as an opportunity to see snippets of the parish and church’s history. Along with photos of many of the weddings and other sacraments that took place at the church and special Masses, news clippings, and collected memorabilia, the display also included some of the treasures of the church, such as a silver aspergillum and aspersorium (the implements used in the sprinkling rite), a magnificent golden monstrance, and other sacramentals.
Sowing the seeds of faith
The Gospel for Sunday, Aug. 17, was the parable of the farmer who sowed good seed in his field. His enemy came in the night to sow weeds, but the master told his slaves not to pull them out immediately, but rather to wait until harvest to separate them.
This parable of the wheat and the weeds, the bishop said, should be very familiar here in the rural environs of “God’s country.”
In it, the bishop said, “the Lord is telling us very clearly that at Baptism, the seed of eternal life was sown in the heart of every one of us. . . . And yet, because of the mystery of evil, God has competition in bringing that seed to maturity.”
Controlling the weeds
Our hearts are full of both the good seed and the weeds of sin — a good reason for us to go to Confession. We cannot pull out the weeds too soon and uproot the good wheat, the bishop said. “The more the weeds remain with the wheat, the more our personal conversion will subsume, will consume the weeds” by the fire of God’s goodness alive in the wheat.
Rather than pulling out the weeds, then, we must control them through the sacraments of Eucharist and Penance, he said.
“This is a great time, after 175 years, to reexamine our conscience about the Sacrament of Confession,” the bishop said. “That’s the only effective weed control for the really dangerous weeds, and it’s to be received as a gift from Jesus with gratitude and joy.
“Look at how this parish family has grown in 175 years,” he said. “That means there’s been effective weed control and good wheat progress.”