In Clear Lake, there’s clearly a sense of community

Categories: Around the Diocese

St. Marcus Parish to mark 125 anniversary July 21

July 19, 2013, edition
By Lynette Thelen

St. Marcus Parish in Clear Lake will celebrate 125 years of fellowship on Sunday, July 21 with 10 a.m. Mass and a picnic in the fellowship hall.

earlystmarcus Established in 1888, after 18 Catholic families in the area decided to build a place to worship, St. Marcus Parish of Clear Lake was officially named after being St. Mary’s Assumption, St. Marc’s and St. Mark’s.

Prior to building a local church, Catholics in Clear Lake attended church services in St. Cloud, Duelm or St. Augusta, which required fortitude from the entire family. To get to St. Mary, Help of Christians Church in St. Augusta, one had to drive his family by team to the Gohman farm on the east bank of the Mississippi, put up the team, cross the river by row boat and then still walk two miles. It would be late in the afternoon before they would get home again.

Some of the early families who forged together to build a local church included Eilers, Goenners, Gohmans, Hertels, Hoffs, Hollers, Imholtes, Juenemanns, Kaufmans, Powers, Stimmlers Varleys and Witschens. Most of these families have descendants still active in the parish today.

In 1899 Father John Kicken became the first permanent pastor. In 1910 a new church was built under the leadership of Father Francis Zitur.

Father Victor Siegler “introduced the early ideals of liturgical reform to St. Marcus parishioners during the time that Vatican II was convening in 1962 through 1964,” wrote Pat Witte in the 90th anniversary book, Church of St. Marcus, Story of a Community. “Without haste, he carefully explained the new rites and made initial changes in liturgy as they were promulgated by the Commission on Sacred Liturgy following the Council in 1965.”

When Father Wilfred Illies was assigned to St. Marcus upon Father Siegler’s retirement in 1969, the building commission he and his parish council organized made plans for a complete renovation of the church, making it conducive to liturgical reforms, according to Witte, and by late summer 1970 the job was completed.

Howard and Oreta Gray have been parishioners at St. Marcus since moving to Clear Lake in 1967.

“The first thing I remember is they renovated the inside of the church,” recalled Howard, who also served as a trustee at St. Marcus for several years. “The altar and everything. The altar was all taken down and the kneeling benches were taken out. We put all new carpet and all new pews in. Everything was new. We put in a new altar. The old statues were taken out. And it surprised the bishop when he came out for a visit, with no kneeling benches. He didn’t know that we had done that.”

“Since we’ve been here, there have been two priests ordained from this church,” Oreta said. “Father Nicholas Doub and Father Jeremy Ploof.”

Other sons of the parish have been ordained priests as well, Fathers Doub and Ploof are the most recent.

recentstmarcusTo offer a sense of community the parish has been hosting Saturday Night Socials after the 5 p.m. Mass, shared Linda Nordang, a parishioner at St. Marcus.

“People weren’t staying for doughnuts and coffee so we changed the gathering to be wine and cheese,” Nordang said. “We serve a variety of wines, cheeses, crackers and pop so people can socialize and enjoy a glass of wine with friends and family. We average thirty to fifty people at the social which is the first Saturday of the month.”

“Today we have more input by the parishioners, I think,” said Doris Arnold, a lifetime parishioner who was baptized at St. Marcus in 1923. “And even to teaching religion, at one time the priest did most of it. Now it’s a whole group. I was the head of it when it was called CCD here.”

Three of Arnold’s sons and their wives are parishioners today at St. Marcus, Bob and Linda Arnold, Tim and Diane Arnold, and Pat and Shelley Arnold.

“It is quite a vibrant parish,” noted Father Virgil Helmin, pastor at St. Marcus. “There’s a sense of community. If someone is in a world of hurt here, they will come together to help. It’s been very pleasant being the pastor here. The programs we have in place here have been supported well. The parish looks beyond itself and works with the community.”