Holy Name of Jesus Parish celebrated its 175th anniversary on Sunday, Aug. 22. (Photos by Tim Townsend)

Holy Name of Jesus Parish, one of the Sheboygan North Parishes, culminated its 175th anniversary yearlong celebration with several activities in August, such as Little Lourdes Day Mass and anointing, a family movie night, vespers and an anniversary Mass on Sunday, Aug. 22, with Auxiliary Bishop James T. Schuerman.

The oldest parish in Sheboygan began Aug. 24, 1845, when Fr. Casper Rehrl and 10 Catholic families gathered around a dining room table that served as a makeshift prayer altar in rural Sheboygan. Two years later, under Fr. Rehrl’s guidance, members constructed a tiny wooden church measuring 30 feet by 20 feet. Dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, Fr. Rehrl and other traveling missionaries served the little church.

By 1860, Sheboygan grew to more than 4,200 residents, and members were outgrowing St. Mary Magdalene Church. To accommodate the growth, a new pastor, Fr. Michael Haider, a 42-year-old from Austria, designed the plans for Holy Name Parish. He was gifted in music, medical knowledge and architectural design.

After purchasing a parcel of land south of St. Mary Magdalene, Fr. Haider acquired the Pigeon River Limestone Quarry and began fundraising for the church, to the chagrin of the area Catholics who were not on board with building the new church. The priest sought funding from non-Catholics to construct the church and, finally, local Catholics began to support his efforts.

On Nov. 10, 1872, Bishop John Martin Henni blessed the new parish under the patronage of the Holy Name of Jesus.

According to Mary Petrie, pastoral and administrative assistant for the Sheboygan North Catholic Parishes, the parish hoped to have a large-scale celebration in August 2020 on their official anniversary date, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, they opted for smaller festivities throughout the year.

“We thought it fitting to celebrate because the archdiocese also celebrated its 175th year, and we are almost as old as the archdiocese,” she said. “We began listing all of the things we could do throughout the year. Our pastor, Fr. Matthew Widder, created an anniversary prayer that we read on the fourth Sunday of the month. Each time we read it, it brings a deeper and greater meaning to our parish and the Holy Name of Jesus and what his name means to us.”

For Christmas, Joe Leonard, a parishioner skilled in die-cutting, created the prototype for their anniversary Christmas ornament. Ornaments were sold during Advent and given away with each purchase of the parish’s 175th anniversary book.

As another aspect of the anniversary celebration, in June, Dr. Sam Eatherton, organist and choir director at Trinity Lutheran Church in Sheboygan, presented a free organ concert at Holy Name.

Built by the Austin Organ Company in 1917, the parish’s pipe organ was donated to the parish by the family of Fr. Dominic F. Thill in honor of his 50th anniversary of priesthood. Dr. Eatherton’s concert highlighted many of the organ’s beautiful sounds and included some singing. He also played several pieces composed by Professor August Zahlen, a long-time Holy Name organist.