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Whittemore parish celebrates 125 years

By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
(Email Renee)

WHITTEMORE – “Oh God, let all the nations praise you.”

The responsorial psalm was quite fitting as there was an air of praise and thanksgiving at St. Michael Church in Whittemore as the parish marked its 125th anniversary.

Father Ed Girres, pastor, celebrated the 2 p.m. Mass on Aug. 17. Concelebrants included Father Victor Ramaeker, senior pastor at St. Michael’s; Father Merle Kollasch, native son; Father Larry McCarty, former pastor; Father Tom Hart, pastor at West Bend and Mallard and Father Cecil Friedmann, past superintendent of Bishop Garrigan Catholic Schools. Deacon Gerald Streit, a native of Whittemore, assisted at the altar.

In opening comments, Father Girres, said, “We are really glad to be here to make this celebration a great thanksgiving for all of the great things that have happened through the parish and for all of the great people who have done so much for the parish.”

During the homily, Father Ramaeker spoke of the many changes since 1889. He named the popes that served during that time.

“Some of you might be old enough to remember the time of one or more of these popes. Having been born in 1935, I have personal memory of seven of these. All of these popes of the 125 years in the history of the parish served God, the universal church and St. Michael Parish with good and holy leadership,” he said.

In those 125 years of the parish, Father Ramaeker said hundreds of St. Michael parishioners lived their lives of faith through personal and family prayer, participation in Mass and helping neighbors in need.

“Jesus founded the church in the year 33 A.D. - 1,981 years ago,” said the homilist, who added that the Catholic Church will continue for all time.

Father Ramaeker offered thanksgiving for the gift of faith and for the parish life at St. Michael’s.

Among the congregation were Sisters of the Presentation of Dubuque – Sister Benjamin Duschner, Sister Kay (Magdalen) Cota, Sister Rosanne Rottinghaus and Sister Herman Platt – who had ministered in the parish. Sister Emily Bormann, a native of the parish, also attended.

“The Presentation Academy, the liturgy of St. Michael – all of those things were extremely influenced by the Presentation Sisters. They formed you well,” Father Girres told the parishioners.

As Mass drew to a close, the pastor shared a letter from Bishop Walker Nickless as he was unable to attend the celebration.

“Within the Diocese of Sioux City and even beyond its boundaries, St. Michael Parish in Whittemore is well-known for its vibrant faith life,” the bishop wrote. “Far beyond many parishes of much larger size, it has produced an abundance of priests and sisters to minister in our parishes and schools. Its laity have always been steadfast and supportive of Catholic education.”

Bishop Nickless offered a word of congratulations to Father Ramaeker for his many years of faithful and tireless service to the people of St. Michael.

“May God richly bless everyone at St. Michael Parish this day and always,” wrote the bishop.

Following the ceremony, Sister Benjamin said the sisters wanted to return for the celebration because the parish meant so much to them.

“We loved it here because the people were so gracious,” said the Presentation Sister, who had served as principal at St. Michael School. “We always had a wonderful time with all of the wonderful people.”

She recalled how the men of the parish, Society of the Holy Name, always brought a meal to the convent once a month. That is one of their great memories.

Anna Kollasch was cantor for the celebration. A college student at Mount Marty in Yankton, S.D., Kollasch said it meant a lot to her to be involved in the Mass.

“I’ve grown up here at St. Michael and I’ve been cantoring since I was in the third grade,” she said. “Now whenever I get the chance to come home and sing, it’s very special especially for the 125th anniversary.”

Norma Lane, who is the sister of Msgr. Louis Kollasch and cousin of Father Kollasch, was lector and an extraordinary minister of holy Communion for the anniversary Mass.

She spoke of the strong support of Catholic education in the parish, recalling how the grade school closed in 1993 but now the parish is one of five affiliated with Bishop Garrigan Catholic Schools in Algona.

The parish, she stressed, “means everything to me.” She is a life-long parishioner as were her parents. “I was very appreciative of the number of priests who came to help celebrate today. It was a very nice ceremony.”

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