Catholic Herald staff
“St. Catherine’s is not a parish, it is a family.”
This statement of the parish’s parochial administrator, Fr. Bala Showry, sums up the Centennial Celebration for St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Sarona, as well its 100-year history.
Approximately 300 people attended the outdoor Mass held Sunday, June 25, at 8:30 a.m. Celebrants were Bishop James Powers; Fr. Bala; and former pastor Fr. Dean Buttrick, assisted by Deacons Joe Wesley and Jim Stroede. They wore embroidered vestments brought from India as a gift from Fr. Bala. Music was provided by the newly formed parish choir and accompanied by students from St. Francis de Sales School, Spooner. Knights of Columbus in full regalia added an air of solemnity.
The liturgy for June 25 fell on the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time. In his homily, Bishop Powers reflected, “Today, for the first time since Ash Wednesday, way back on March 1, we celebrate a Sunday of Ordinary Time.”
After recounting the seasons of Lent, Easter and various feasts of the previous Sundays, he said all of those times and celebrations, “play a very important part in what Ordinary Time is all about and what we are about as we gather in celebration today. When we hear the word ‘ordinary’, I think many of us hear ‘ho-hum’, unimportant and common. And there is nothing ‘ho-hum’ about Ordinary Time.”
He continued, “Ordinary Time is where we live out the repentance we began in Lent; those changes in our lives that hopefully became the new good habits; our ‘ordinary’ way of life rather than the less desirable and sinful habits we turned away from through our Lenten journey.”
Bishop Powers spoke of the important continued work of turning away from selfishness.
“The message of Jesus is never going to be popular because it calls each of us to an accountability before our God, it calls each of us to understand, believe and accept the fact that it’s not all about me,” he said. “Jesus says to us as he said to his apostles, ‘Be not afraid’… he says it in light of what we have been about since March 1; he says it in light of the foundation of this parish 100 years ago.”
The Bishop recounted some of the stories collected in the Centennial history book and made the parallel with the hard work, dedication and sense of family remembered through the generations.
“My brothers and sisters,” he said, “this is what Ordinary Time is about. Not a ‘ho-hum’ anything, but the ongoing battle, the struggle of good versus evil.” He concluded, “As we go forth from this place, let us not be afraid. Let us never forget that the Spirit of our God is in us! The love of Christ surrounds us, and our God will never abandon us.”
Hovering dark clouds did not dampen the celebratory family spirit, although those present were wet by the end of Mass. Bishop Powers jested that God must have felt his sprinkling during a rite of rededication of the church building had not been enough. Long time parish member Rosemary Zaloudeck, who acted as emcee for the celebration, commented the rain was, “our ancestors’ tears coming down from Heaven.”
The offertory gifts were presented by descendants of the founding families, including the Sauer, Drahota, Zaloudek, Machka, Pavlas, Yecha, Kubista, Wenzel and Zimmerman families. Towards the end of Mass, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the Frank Sauer, Sr. family, were called to the altar and presented with memorial clocks as a thank you from the parish for all that the family has contributed over 10 decades.
Great-grandson Mark Sauer was asked what it meant to him to be a part of this Centennial celebration. He said, “I was humbled, and honored, as well as my brother, sisters, aunt, and uncle, to receive the beautiful clock gifts from our parish family in recognition of church founder Frank Sauer, our great-grandfather and grandfather. I could definitely feel the presence of our many other relatives who have passed on who were involved at St. Catherine of Alexandria over the past 100 years. The inclusion of descendants of the other founding families of the parish in the Centennial Mass was also a very special part of the celebration.”
Though some of the outdoor games and planned activities for after the Mass were derailed by the weather, the months of detailed planning were apparent. An additional 100 people came for the meal prepared by parishioners. Copies of a history booklet prepared by Mary O’Donnell were available, and various items and photographs were on display, as well as a slide presentation. Even classic cars were on display, marking the decades lived through by the parish family and history made on the Sauer family’s donated land.
Founded in 1917 as a mission church of Holy Trinity Parish in Haugen, the St. Catherine’s faith community had already been active for years beginning with the settlement of Frank Sauer, Sr. and his family in what is now Sarona. Beginning in approximately 1908, a neighboring priest would travel to say Mass for the growing number of Catholic families settling in the area, often in the Sauer home. The construction of the first church building in 1917 was made possible with local monetary gifts, a donation of land by Mr. Sauer and funding by the Catholic Extension Society located in Chicago. It was the Catholic Extension Society which proposed the martyr St. Catherine of Alexandria as the patron saint.
From a history of St. Catherine’s in Sarona written by Mark Sauer: “As our parish moved on to the next century of continuing to worship together at our ‘Little Church on the Prairie’ as it has been affectionately called … we hope to preserve the 100 years of history and worship that the Lord has blessed and our predecessors with, and to pass on to future generations.”
Fr. Bala acknowledged in a congratulatory message in the cluster bulletin, “I can clearly see that you model the same spiritual vitality of the founding 15 families. Your roots are deep and strong as your current 64 families grow in faith where others may fade away. I pray to God to continue to abundantly bless this community as you seek to serve Him and others.”