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Sacred Heart Parish in Manawa celebrates 150 years

Bishop David Ricken is joined on the altar by Fr. Krishnarao Mekala, left, Fr. Matthew Rappl, Fr. Xavier Santiago, Fr. Charles Hoffmann and Gerard Hall, master of ceremonies, during the consecration at the 150-year anniversary Mass for Sacred Heart Parish, Manawa, celebrated on June 16. (Michael Cooney | For On Mission)

New Holy Family statue is blessed in honor of Fr. Hoffmann, priest-son of the parish 

By Jeff Kurowski | On Mission

MANAWA — Sacred Heart Parish members were recently invited to take a heart-shaped slip of paper from a basket at the main entrance of the church and asked to write down a memory or a phrase that best describes their parish. The hearts were then placed in a time capsule as part of the parish’s sesquicentennial celebration.

The faith community added to its memories on Sunday, June 16, when an anniversary Mass was celebrated to mark 150 years. Bishop David Ricken was the main celebrant. Fr. Charles “Charlie” Hoffmann, who is from Manawa, and Frs. Matthew Rappl and Xavier Santiago, who formerly served at Sacred Heart, concelebrated. A brunch event followed at Cedar Spring Golf Course in Manawa. 

Sacred Heart dates back to 1874 when Mary Day offered a parcel of land for a church on which a 24-foot by 40-foot frame structure was built. The name of the original church was Mary Help of Christians.

Nearly 20 years later, a new church was needed to meet the worship needs of the people, so, under the leadership of Fr. Francis Steinbrecher, construction began. 

Sacred Heart was incorporated on April 14, 1894, with Fr. Steinbrecher named resident pastor.

Improvements and renovations to the church were made over the years, including rebuilding the church basement in 1958 and the construction of a parish center, which was dedicated in 1988.

Statue blessing

A new Holy Family statue at Sacred Heart was blessed at the anniversary celebration on June 16 in honor of Fr. Hoffmann, one of three priest-sons of the parish. 

Bishop David Ricken blesses the new Holy Family statue outside Sacred Heart Church in Manawa. The statue was blessed in honor of Fr. Charles “Charlie” Hoffmann, a priest-son of the parish.
(Michael Cooney | For On Mission)

The statue is a gift from the Hoffmann family.

“Growing up in the 1960s and 70s, our parish was very vibrant,” said Pat Hoffmann, Fr. Hoffmann’s nephew. “There were these big families of 12, 13, 16 kids. The parish was very much about the families.”

“It’s a very special place for our family, and (Fr.) Charles, in particular, is very important to our family,” said Pat, who is the oldest of seven children in his family. “When the opportunity came along, tying (Fr.) Charles to family to the parish was an easy decision. Let’s take this opportunity to honor him for what he’s done, not only for our (faith) community, but for the broader Green Bay Diocese.”  

Fr. Hoffmann, former longtime pastor in Antigo, was baptized at Sacred Heart. His parents settled in Manawa for their jobs. His father, Charles, who worked in banking, was from Bear Creek. His mother, Mary Virginia (O’Neill), a teacher, was from Lafayette County, Wis.

“When I was a kid in the ’40s, we didn’t have church dues. We paid pew rent,” said Fr. Hoffmann.

He added that he and his brothers (Tom and John) “lived on the altar” as altar servers growing up.

Three priest sons

The other two priest-sons from the parish were Fr. John Quigley and Norbertine Fr. Gerald Nolan. Fr. Hoffmann knew Fr. Nolan during his college days.

“I was a student at St. Norbert (De Pere) in the fall of ’53 and the fall of ’54. (Fr. Nolan) would come to Manawa to his home on weekends. There was a mission out of Manawa in Royalton, St. Bridget Parish,” said Fr. Hoffmann. “He would stay with his family and have Mass in Royalton. I would come home on Saturdays and go back with him on Sundays. Not every weekend, but a few times.”

Sacred Heart was also the home parish of a number of religious sisters, said Fr. Hoffmann. He pointed to the late Sr. Lisa Lucht, a Racine Dominican, as an example. Sr. Lisa served as chancellor of the Diocese of Green Bay from 1995 to 2000.

Fr. Hoffmann was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Green Bay on June 1, 1963. He celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving at Sacred Heart Church on June 2, 1963. His younger brother, John, who now lives in South Bend, Ind., was an altar server at the Mass of thanksgiving.

Fr. Hoffmann said that he’s been back to celebrate Masses at Sacred Heart over the years, including the funerals of his parents and the funeral Mass for Fr. Gerald Ilk, who served as pastor in Manawa. He was also the celebrant at weddings for his nieces and nephews at Sacred Heart.

The statue dedication was kept a surprise for Fr. Hoffmann.

Family history at Sacred Heart

“Our family goes back to the 1930s at the parish,” said Pat. “There are (current) families that (trace back) 150 years.

Members of the Hoffmann family gather with Fr. Hoffmann around the Holy Family statue blessed in his honor at Sacred Heart Church in Manawa. Fr. Hoffmann’s nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great nephews joined together to donate the statue. (Michael Cooney | For On Mission)

“I sit in the same pew at every Mass. That’s the pew that my grandpa sat in. That’s the pew that my dad (Tom) sat in. Now I sit there,” he said. “When I sit down there and put my hand on it, I know that’s my grandpa’s hands, my dad’s hands and my hands that are wearing out that little area. It’s just such a special place and means a lot to us as a family.”

Jim Quinn, who arrived in Manawa in 1973 for a teaching position, echoes the sentiment that the Sacred Heart faith community is special.

“That’s why I didn’t leave here,” he said. “When I started my job here, I said, ‘If I’m here two years, that will be amazing.’ Here I am starting my 51st summer in Manawa. I’ve been very active (in the parish). I’ve done just about everything I can do.”   

Quinn, who retired in 2006 as a middle school principal in Manawa, serves as the chair of the finance council at the parish. He’s also a lector and extraordinary minister of holy Communion. He formerly served as chair of the parish council, as an usher and taught religious education.

During his teaching career, Quinn taught vocal music, so, for several years, he organized a choir for Christmas Masses at Sacred Heart. He also fills in as a song leader at Mass when needed.

He recalls teaching religious education in the furnace room in the church basement.

“We would look at what’s going on in the world and see how we can approach that through our faith,” he said about the focus of the class. “That was always good.”

Quinn credits one of his former school students, JoAnn Schuelke, for her work at the parish.

“She does everything. She’s the bookkeeper, the religious ed director,” he said. “She’s the parish administrative assistant. She does it all well. We’re lucky to have her.”

Sacred Heart Church in Manawa. (Michael Cooney | For On Mission)

“JoAnn is all about helping people with their faith,” said Pat, who serves on the finance council.

Vibrant parish community

Pat and his wife, Karen, both grew up in the parish. They lived in Milwaukee for 30 years. The tradition at Sacred Heart was one reason they returned to the area.

 “We’ve been so fortunate over the years to have such beautiful music in the church,” he said. “Many of the musicians date back to the 1960s.”

Pa added that he is happy to see the church full for most Masses. He credits the recent priests who have served at Sacred Heart and continuing with Missionaries of Faith Fr. Krishnarao “Kris” Mekala, current parish administrator, who also serves SS. Peter and Paul Parish, Weyauwega.

“The priests have increased attendance at church and have connected with the community,” said Pat. “It’s been vibrant for around the last seven to nine years. It’s wonderful seeing people coming back to church.”

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