Bells of St. Mary’s group to break ground

After whirlwind $250,000 fundraising campaign, organization dedicated to preserving vestiges of Lake Church parish is ready to begin work on memorial

THE THREE BELLS from St. Mary’s Church in Lake Church will be the focal point of a memorial to be constructed in the church cemetery as shown in this rendering.
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

Less than six months after kicking off its capital campaign for the St. Mary’s Catholic Church of Lake Church bell memorial, shovels are ready to be put into the ground.

Bells of St. Mary’s is holding a ground-breaking celebration at 1 p.m. on the east end of St. Mary’s Cemetery next to the church.

The public is invited to bring shovels to participate in the event.

The memorial will include three bronze church bells that were manufactured in the 1880s by the Henry McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore,  shipped by train to Belgium Station — the original name for the Village of Belgium — and then put on wagons and hauled by horses to the then new church in Lake Church.

The bells were rung for daily Mass and funerals and rang the noon-time Angelus for 100 years. Silenced in 1985 when the parish bought an electronic carillon system, the bells will ring again through a new technology — an app. 

St. Mary’s Church was closed to worship in 2018 due to a priest shortage, and the building put up for sale. A couple of years ago an idea was floated to send the bells to Africa where Father Jim Weyker had done mission work for half a century.

But parishioners, upset that the church’s closing wasn’t done with proper reverence, emotionally pleaded to keep the bells at a meeting at Holy Cross Chapel in fall 2019 that drew about 60 people, which led to the formation of the Bells of St. Mary’s headed by Bob Hubing.

It was decided that a fourth bell — the 130-year-old, 120-pound one from St. Mary’s School that closed in 2009 — would be sent to a new Salvatorian Catholic secondary school in Masasi, Tanzania.

The school bell was dedicated in May at St. Mary’s Cemetery, and a $250,000 capital campaign was kicked off to refurbish and electrify the church bells, as well as for cemetery improvements.

Belgium native Kevin Wester, who last year published a book on the history of Lake Church and helped lead the effort to save the bells, coordinated several sessions to clean the more than 1,200 gravestones at the cemetery. That initiative will continue in spring.

Other cemetery work includes resurfacing pavement and paving a new portion, resolving a drainage issue and replacing and adding new landscaping.

A dedication of the bell memorial is planned for Aug. 13, 2022.

For more information, visit http://thebellsofstmarys.org or contact Wester at 262-355-5758 or by email at kevin.wester14@gmail.com.

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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