BY KATIE MATTESON
St. Edward Parish, 1401 Grove Ave. in Racine, will commemorate its 100th anniversary with back-to-back celebrations.
All graduates of St. Edward Grade School and Our Lady of Grace Academy (since 2011) are invited to an All School/All Years Reunion on Friday, Oct. 11 from 6-10 p.m. School tours are available from 6 – 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the reunion cost $20 and include heavy hors d’oeuvres and soft drinks, including a copy of the commemorative centennial booklet. A cash bar will be available.
The next day, parishioners will gather for a Centennial Mass and Dinner, concelebrated by Archbishop Jerome Edward Listecki and former pastors and priests from St. Edward Parish. The Mass takes place at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 12, followed by dinner in the church hall. Tickets for the dinner cost $25 each or $40 for a pair, which includes a full buffet dinner with beverages, wine and dessert, along with a copy of the booklet.
Tickets for both events can be reserved by calling the parish office at (262) 636-8040.
The commemorative booklet is the work of Dr. Laura Gellott, a St. Edward parishioner and Professor of History, Emeritus from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.
Her initial dive into the parish’s history came in 1994 when she produced and narrated a video documenting the first 75 years.
For the 100th anniversary she updated the story and, in addition to the booklet, presented the history in rotating displays in the church and in the weekly bulletins.
Incorporating artifacts and memorabilia contributed by fellow parishioners, the displays highlighted the parish, clubs and organizations, sacramental life (baptisms, First Communions and weddings), pastors and priests, the school, the Racine Dominican Sisters, Scouts and parish festivals.
Dr. Gellott’s written historical account takes the reader from the parish’s beginnings through the decades to the present, noting how the history of the parish mirrors the changes of not only the church but also in Racine and wider American culture from a point 100 years ago up to today.
The following are a few highlights from the early history of the church to spark interest in reading the entire publication (available with the events tickets or for $5 at the parish office):
- St. Edward Parish was established in the Fall of 1919 when Milwaukee Archbishop Sebastian Messmer appointed Fr. John Bott to establish a parish in a new neighborhood on the west side of Racine. Fr. Bott, a Racine native, had recently returned from France where he served as an army chaplain during the First World War.
- The first St. Edward Church was a wooden frame chapel, purchased from Gethsemane Lutheran Church in 1919 for $900 and would be the site for worship until 1927 when St. Edward School was built. All Masses, weddings and funerals were celebrated in the school basement until the present church was built in 1953.
- St. Edward Church was dedicated on Oct. 18, 1953 – a Sunday close to the Oct. 13 Feast Day of St. Edward the Confessor.
- The history of building the church, written by Fr. Ron Crewe, a priest-son of St. Edward Parish, states: “As early as the 1920s St. Edward’s [planned] to situate a church seating 600 on an east-west axis with the sanctuary at the east end, the traditional spot. Because of the parish’s rapid growth after World War II, the proposed capacity for the new church was increased to 900. To meet that change, it was decided to place the church along Grove Avenue with the sanctuary to the north and the main entrance to the south…”
- In 1942, St. Edward Parish welcomed as its new pastor Fr. Richard Schaefer. Fr. Schaefer (raised to the rank of monsignor in 1965) would serve the parish for an unprecedented and unequalled 26 years. And as the years of World War II drew to a close, the parish – now 3,000 members strong – stood on the brink of its greatest period of growth.
- From the beginning, the story of St. Edward School, and of religious instruction in the parish, is linked to the Racine Dominican Sisters. Even before the school was built, Racine Dominicans came to the parish every Saturday and Sunday, traveling by streetcar from their motherhouse on Park Avenue (across from the present site of St. Catherine’s High School) to teach catechism classes, train the altar servers (all boys in those days), prepare the First Communion classes, and conduct a children’s choir.
- St. Edward School, established in 1927, became Our Lady of Grace Academy in 2011 following a directive from the archdiocese to merge with St. Sebastian School. Further change took place with the 2018-19 school year, when OLGA became part of the city-wide Siena Catholic School System, a mini-system within the archdiocesan Catholic school system.