St. John the Baptist–– 115 Plymouth St., Plymouth
Compiled by Ricardo Torres based on information provided by Lisa Schoneman, business manager at St. John the Baptist Parish, Plymouth.
St. John the Baptist, Plymouth, one of the oldest parishes in Wisconsin, is celebrating its 150th anniversary. On Sunday, Sept. 18 the church will mark the occasion with a Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, at 1 p.m. and a reception to follow. There will be a historic display of artifacts and photos at the event.
First church: Before beginning construction on the first church in 1856, Mass was celebrated in settlers’ homes as early as 1848. The first church was completed in 1860 and the first Mass was celebrated that same year. In 1861, the congregation was formally established.
The congregation started with 22 families and has grown to more than 1,550 families and households with roughly 3,000 parishioners. The church itself has been rebuilt three times, most recently in 1987, and holds about 1,100 people.
First pastor: The first residential pastor, Fr. J.P. Van Treeck, served 1888-1900.
Current pastor: Since 1999, Fr. Dennis E. Van Beek has served as pastor.
School: The school was established in 1896 by the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity with 43 children; it now has more than 240 students. The school and parish are the largest Catholic school and parish in Sheboygan County.
Worth noting: In 1955, Road America built a track in nearby Elkhart Lake, and parish members began selling brats and pies to fans. It was the first concession stand at a Road America track and the parish still operates it today as a major fundraiser.
There are two exhibits that display artifacts from the church – one at the church and the other at the downtown Plymouth Historical Society. Some of the items include old pews and parts of the original altar, which have been saved from Dumpsters.
During construction of the second church in the early 20th Century, a chalice was found that dated to 1790. The chalice was used during Mass, however it disappeared from the parish in the mid-1950s.