Local stories, events, and Catholic inspiration in northeast Wisconsin

St. Martin, Cecil, marks 125th anniversary

By Deacon Todd Raether | Special to On Mission

CECIL — On Nov. 11, the feast of St. Martin of Tours, the parish named for him in Cecil, celebrated 125 years as a parish community. 

The celebration included a banquet in the parish hall on Nov. 12. Reminiscent of when Jesus fed the multitudes on the mountainside, everyone had plenty to eat and there was plenty left, so that they could be shared with the clients of their food pantry. This was in the spirit of their patron, who was a champion of the poor.

First served by Fr. Florimond Bonduel (after whom the present town was named) in 1850 and, later, by the Franciscan friars who served throughout the area, the Catholic community of Cecil decided to build a church. It was completed in 1898.

(Submitted photo to On Mission Media)
St. Martin Parish, Cecil, in Shawano County marked its 125th anniversary.

The church — with a vestibule, choir loft and a few pews — wasn’t much larger than the current church’s sanctuary. As with many of the country churches, they were served by priests who would travel by train, and so Mass times were dependent on the train schedule.

In 1939, the church was expanded to meet the needs of the growing parish community. Many people tell stories of how they would celebrate Mass by standing outside the open windows of the church, especially during the summer, because of the large attendance. This is due to Cecil’s location on the east end of the popular Shawano Lake.

Expansions in 1962, 1980 and most recently, in 2010 have seen the worship space and parish hall grow into what you see today. 

Currently, there are plans to move the parish food pantry into a separate building on campus by the end of 2024.

The anniversary celebration began during the annual summer picnic on Aug. 6. It included the opening of a time capsule that had been buried behind the cornerstones just outside of the church’s front doors. Inside the capsule were many little treasures and news articles from ages past.

(Submitted photo to On Mission Media by St. Martin Parish)
Deacon Todd Raether, pastoral coordinator of St. Martin Parish in Cecil, opens a parish time capsule during the annual picnic on Aug. 6. The parish marked its 125th anniversary on Nov. 14.

A team of parish members and staff worked hard to publish a book on the history of St. Martin’s, tracking down photographs of every clergy member who had served the parish. They also located a trove of photographs and newspaper articles about the parish and the local community. 

Books were given to each person in attendance, along with reprints of the cookbook published by the Council of Catholic Women for the church’s centennial.

Cecil may be a sleepy little lake town, but St. Martin of Tours Parish aims to keep the mission of the church alive by serving the poor and bringing people to discipleship in Jesus for many years to come through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Deacon Raether is pastoral coordinator at St. Martin Parish.

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