New St. Cecilia Church in Wisconsin Dells Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015 -- 12:00 AM
st cecilia construction
Fr. Eric Sternberg, pastor of St. Cecilia Parish in Wisconsin Dells, stands in front of the construction site of the new church — on the same site as the old church razed this year. (Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

WISCONSIN DELLS -- “Every person who comes to the Dells and wants to worship the Lord God in spirit and in truth will find a house of God that moves their hearts in that direction,” said Fr. Eric Sternberg, pastor of St. Cecilia Parish in Wisconsin Dells on its new church, currently being built.

As a large banner states outside the construction site -- the new church is expected to open in the fall of next year.

With the exterior walls up, most of the roof installed, and the concrete floors about to be poured, the project is well on schedule, which Father Sternberg called “truly astounding,” especially with the warmer weather helping the crews from Kraemer Brothers Construction make excellent progress in their work.

Finishing the exterior in a timely manner helps the project stay on schedule during the colder months.

‘Heart of the old’ in the new

The actual construction on the new church began in June of this year -- shortly after the final Mass in the more than 110-year-old original St. Cecilia Church.

Stained glass windows and other church artifacts, including relics of St. Cecilia and the True Cross, were removed from the church to be used in the new building.

The “heart of the old church will be in the new,” said Father Sternberg.

“We are building old St. Cecilia’s --just bigger and if I dare to say it, better,” he added. “It very intentionally retains all of the architectural and artistic characteristics of the old church.”

The need for a new building -- a process itself more than 15 years in the works -- came from an increasing number of church-goers in the summer months during the busy tourism season in Wisconsin Dells.

The old building could hold 350 people, whereas the new one, upon completion, will be able to hold 1,000 people -- accommodating vacationers who want to attend Mass.

The parish is currently holding Masses in the school gymnasium -- where overflow seating had been housed while the old church building was still being used.

Parish and community reactions

“I am thinking about a bright spiritual future for the Wisconsin Dells and for anyone who comes here,” said Father Sternberg. He sees the new church, “as a welcome to all our visitors.

“There is a very positive parish and community reaction to this,” said Father Sternberg.

Some parishioners have told him they miss the old church, and “this Christmas will be kind of tough,” having Mass in the gym, however “the amount of excitement and energy and anticipation is truly special,” added Father Sternberg. “This is a very special project for the parish and for the community.”

Father Sternberg also said parishioners are “relieved” the design of the new church is faithful to its tradition and almost looks like a larger, expanded version of the old church -- 2.5 times the size of the old one.

“I am extremely proud of the manner in which the parish of St. Cecilia’s has preserved its tradition in the new church,” he said.

Despite there being a 30 to 40 percent drop in churchgoers during the tourism off-season, there will not be issues with upkeep or utility costs during those months.

“We’re building a church that takes into account modern technologies, modern efficiencies,” said Father Sternberg.

Looking ahead

After the start of the new year, St. Cecilia Parish will be communicating with the Diocese of Madison to determine an exact dedication date for the new church. The parish is aiming for a late summer/early fall dedication.

Donations are still welcome to help the project.

“Our fundraising is at an excellent position,” said Father Sternberg, especially when it comes to additional goals such as building a shrine to Our Lady of the Dells.

As for the project as a whole, Father Sternberg said, “We’re doing things to glorify God and bring people closer to the Sacrament [of the Eucharist].”

“The way it has been designed in great fidelity to its own tradition as well as the tradition of the Church, and the decisions made to put our Eucharistic Lord at the center, to surround that with artistic beauty and then to enshrine properly the great relics of the parish . . . will make this a place that is of great spiritual power to everyone,” he added.

For more information on the building project and St. Cecilia Parish, go to or the parish Facebook page at