Although Mass was celebrated for the first time in its new building on Sept. 11, 2004, St. Anne Catholic Church in Pleasant Prairie was far from complete. Finances had precluded the parish from finishing the interior, including a crucifix, pews, kneelers and pipe organ.
Wooden pews with kneelers — a gift from a shuttered church in Kenosha — replaced the folding chairs that rattled along the concrete floor. The hanging crucifix was a combination of a hand carved corpus and hand hewn cross.
Behind each stage of completion are generous benefactors, and the same is true for the new Divine Mercy devotional area, which Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki blessed on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 3. The devotional area consists of statues of St. Faustina, St. John Paul II and a large print of Divine Mercy in the northeast area of the church.
The idea for the statues came from a Knights of Columbus member, Gordon Gerstner, and his wife, Pam. While in St. Petersburg, Florida, they attended Mass at St. John Vianney Parish where they saw a Divine Mercy area in the church.
“We initially saw it at the church where our granddaughter, Jaidyn Gerstner, had attended school for the last six years and is very active in her parish. She is now 11 years old and has been a cantor and altar server for over two years now and sings in the adult choir,” said Pam, president of the ladies auxiliary.
“Jaidyn was severely abused and suffered horrific injuries at the age of five weeks. We rushed to Florida and stood by helplessly as she clung to life, praying for God’s mercy. He heard our prayers and she is thriving. Her life is a testimony to our loving Father.”
During this Year of Mercy, the Gerstners brought this vision to St. Anne to share with the parishioners and community.
“Gordon talked to the Knights and they were supportive of this project, but the cost was prohibitive and would take the Knights a couple of years to raise the funds,” said Pam.
According to Richard Mich, Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus Divine Mercy Council 16022, an anonymous donation helped fund the $7,500 for the statues.
In December 2015, with the approval of their pastor, Fr. Robert Weighner, the statues – handmade and hand painted in Italy – from T.H. Stemper in Milwaukee. When they arrived in March, several Knights and auxiliary members uncrated the statues. They will rest on shelves built by a parishioner, Ed Burnett.
In addition to blessing the devotional area, Archbishop Listecki concelebrated Mass and blessed the newly completed gathering space in the church. Members of the Knights and ladies’ auxiliary presented pictures of Divine Mercy to those who wanted one.