Compiled by Brian T. Olszewski, using resources provided by Christine Schwenck, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s archives, and the parish’s website.
First church: The parish’s first church was a 20×30 foot log structure built in 1843
near the corner of Calmar Road and Highway W in the Town of Calumet. By 1850, the parish had outgrown the church and the congregation voted to build a new one.
However, membership was divided as to where to build – on the existing site or on a site south, along a branch of the Manitowoc River. The discord reached the point where Bishop Martin Henni, bishop of the then-Diocese of Milwaukee, came to arbitrate, eventually opting for the new site. The church was dedicated on the Feast of St. John the Baptist in 1857.
First pastor: Bishop Henni appointed Fr. Casper Rehrl, known as the “Apostle to the Holyland,” as the parish’s first resident pastor in 1845. Prior to that time, priests from Little Chute and Green Bay ministered in the area.
Current pastor: Capuchin Fr. Gary Wegner is pastor; Capuchin Fr. Zoy Garibay is associate pastor. Capuchin Frs. Oliver Bambenek and Larry Abler serve as sacramental ministers.
School: St. John the Baptist School opened in 1845. In 1969, schools from St. Mary, Marytown; St. John the Baptist, Johnsburg; Holy Cross, Mt. Calvary; and St. Cloud, St. Cloud consolidated into one school system. It was named the Consolidated Parochial Elementary School (CPES). In 2015, it was renamed Holyland Catholic School.
Worth noting: The Capuchins have served the “Wisconsin Holyland,” of which St. John the Baptist Parish is a part, since 1857. The Holyland includes Mt. Calvary, where the Capuchins’ St. Lawrence Seminary is located. Capuchin Fr. Michael Bertram, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi, Milwaukee, grew up in the Johnsburg area.