Bishop James P. Powers celebrated Mass at St. Theresa of Avila on Aug. 28 in honor of the parish’s 127th anniversary. (Submitted photo)

On Aug. 28, St. Theresa of Avila, Three Lakes, celebrated a Festival of Thanksgiving marking 127 years as a parish.

Bishop James P. Powers of the Diocese of Superior presided over the celebration, along with St. Theresa’s pastors, Fr. Ron Serrao and Fr. Rich Reinhart. The celebration began with a Mass of Thanksgiving and was followed with a luncheon, presentation, slideshow, video and the sharing of stories by parishioners young and old.

In the 1890s, Three Lakes was a community of Polish residents, primarily farmers and lumbermen. Because there was no church, priests offered Masses in private homes. In 1894, St. Theresa’s parish was born when the bishop of Green Bay granted his permission for a church to be built and a parish to be established.

Residents of Three Lakes organized a raffle to raise money to purchase three lots. The goal was to raise $120; they sold $1 tickets raffling off a horse.

By 1899, a small wooden church was completed and stood in the present church’s location. In 1905, the Diocese of Superior was established, and the parish was transferred from the Diocese of Green Bay. St. Theresa welcomed priests from St. Peter’s Parish in Eagle River for the next 10 years. Early Masses were said in Polish, and the first church documents were also written in this language. By 1909, St. Joseph Parish was established in Rhinelander, and St. Theresa became a mission church of the larger parish.

By 1943, however, Three Lakes had evolved from an agricultural and lumber town to a resort town. With an increase in Mass attendance, St. Theresa’s welcomed its first resident pastor, who oversaw the construction of the present-day church.

During construction, Masses were said in the Three Lakes Theater. The first Mass in the present day church was said on March 25, 1956, and the dedication occurred on June 28, 1956.