Ashton parish holds sesquicentennial of faith in St. Peter’s Church Print E-mail
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Written by Kat Wagner, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011 -- 12:00 AM
Parishioners fill the pews at St. Peter Church in Ashton during the celebration of the Mass in honor of the parish’s 150 years. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner). To view or purchase photos from this event go to:

ASHTON -- St. Peter Parish is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year and held a Mass and dinner November 5 to mark the occasion.

Bishop Robert C. Morlino came to the parish, located in rural Dane County about 10 miles outside Madison, to celebrate Mass. Concelebrants included Fr. Brian Dulli, pastor of the parish, Fr. Laverne Meier, Fr. John Meinholz, and Fr. Henry Kalscheuer.

The parish has grown considerably since it was founded by 20 families as a mission church of Cross Plains and Martinsville. It currently has over 300 registered families.

“Many other people have been positively impacted by the Holy Spirit’s generous outpouring in Ashton,” said Father Dulli in his homily during the Saturday evening Mass which packed the church’s pews. “Extended families count many members who have moved on to have a positive impact on our state, our nation, and on our world. The parish has been the origin of priests and consecrated women religious for several generations. We are grateful to the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity of Manitowoc for the positive impact that they had for many years on the parish school. Our faculty and staff at St. Peter’s continue the legacy of Catholic education for good in the community.”

Following the example of St. Peter

The parish, Father Dulli said, follows in the tradition of its patron saint, St. Peter, the rock on which Christ built his Church. For the occasion of the parish anniversary, the Jubilee Mass used the Votive Mass of St. Peter, which included the passage in which Simon Peter reveals Christ is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” and Jesus says to him in reply:

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:17-19).

St. Peter Parish history

The following is information on the history of St. Peter Parish, Ashton, supplied by Shaun LeVeque for the soon-to-be-published parish history book. Much of the history of St. Peter Parish here related has been drawn from several sources, including the St. Peter’s Centennial book of 1961 and the booklet referred to as “Upon This Rock” by Angeline Coady.

• Before St. Peter’s was a parish, the 20 families in the Ashton area were a mission of Cross Plains and Martinsville. The first church was built in 1861, and the first parish priest was Fr. Michael Deisenrieder.

• The parish school was founded in 1866. The Franciscan Sisters of Manitowoc, currently at Silver Lake College, provided the teachers for the school. The first lay teacher was hired in 1966 when the current school building was completed.

• The current church was built in 1900 under the direction of Fr. Franz Ruhrman. Peter Kessenich donated the land — with the parish patron saint his namesake — and other items including the tabernacle, Communion rail and pulpit, high altar, statues, and stained glass were donated by other individuals and groups from the parish.

• In the rear of the church is a shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, the stones for which were taken from the Edmund Acker farm and hauled by horses and wagons donated by the Hubert Meinholz family. Because so much of the labor and materials were donated, this tribute to the Catholic religion was built in a relatively short period of time for $24,000, paid for in full, with an extra $1,000 left over to go towards an organ.

• St. Peter’s is adorned with no less than 26 statues and has seven full-length stained-glass windows depicting St. Anthony of Padua, St. Barbara, St. George, St. Francis Xavier, St. Aloysius, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and St. Ludwig. n St. Peter Church has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Our patron, St. Peter, reminds us all of the Catholic Church’s call to remain united upon the rock of Peter’s faith,” Father Dulli said in his homily.

St. Peter was and is a very real man, he said, who dealt with the real struggles of being a believer and a sinner. But it was through his voice that Jesus was revealed as the Christ, the son of the Living God, and it is through the Church, founded on Peter, that Christ lives personally in his Church.

Therefore, it is by Peter’s example that we must rely on the Church. His ministry and all the Church is a needed bulwark against the despair that is threatening to overtake so many bright, talented, and spiritual people today,” Father Dulli said.

Prayerful and joyous spirit

“As Catholics, we are called to return together to the same prayerful and joyous spirit that characterized the Church in the days of Peter,” Father Dulli said. “This means we fight despair and generate hope. Living with or without Jesus Christ is not simply a personal difference on the part of some folks here and others there.

Being Catholic calls us to exhibit such confidence. Confidence in ourselves, for we have our place in the kingdom. Confidence in others, because each other person is made in the image of God. We show confidence in the Father for making us like Christ. Jesus Christ reveals all that is true and valuable in our lives. If we have this confidence in God, we cannot help by contrast to show the hopelessness of trying to live without reference to God.

“By living our faith, we help others who are farther from the Church to know that the Father cares about them just as we do,” he said. “We are not to be concerned or worried about who is in or out. In the Father’s house there are many places to live, and everyone is invited in. Our souls long to recognize Jesus no less than Peter’s did on the day when he declared that Jesus is the Son of God.

“Today, we are celebrating an abundance of God’s favor today and forever,” Father Dulli continued. “It is a gift to belong to the Catholic Church and be part of the living message of Christ’s love to the world. May our individual lives amplify this message through joyful practice of the faith in all its aspects. May the grace of this Eucharist renew our faith and our intention to follow Christ for so many years to come.”

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