On DAY THREE of the Wisc Way pilgrimage, we visit St. Lawrence Church Stangelville WI, Curran Spirituality Center and the Carmelite Monastery in Denmark, WI.
START: Stangelville | END: Cooperstown
13.7 mi/22.1 km | 4h 28m | Farm Section | Services: Konop’s Meat Market, Stengelville
This is another section where it is challenging to find accommodations. Although there are a few AirBnBs in Denmark, they are too expensive for the solitary pilgrim. However, they are large enough for groups, and that makes them more affordable. You could do as I did, and contact a church to find members of the congregation who might host you for the night. Another alternative is Devil’s River Campground, an awesome place to camp.
DAY THREE of the WI Way in Pictures
Visiting St. Lawrence Church Stangelville WI
Sometime between 1855 and 1863, Irish settlers honed a road through the thick forests that enveloped the land at the time. One day while felling a huge tree, they miscalculated their cut and a virgin timber fell on six Bohemian bystanders. Although the axe handle of one of the Czechs was broken in three places, he miraculously suffered no injury. It is said that the only casualty was the hat lost by one of the Czechs. The Bohemian immigrants were so thankful for the miracle that they decided to build a church on the spot where God spared their lives.
[Remember that during the same period, Adele Brice’s father built a log chapel at the spot of Mary’s appearance.]
St. Lawrence, the patron saint of their church in Mrakov, Bohemia
In 1864, they dedicated the first log church to St. Lawrence, the patron saint of their church in Mrakov, then Bohemia in the Austrian Empire and now the Czech Republic. 30 years later the church that you see today replaced the early log structure.
Importance of the church to the ethnic identity of the people
The exterior of the church is built in the Gothic Revival style of the day. The sophisticated design includes lancet windows and brick corbelling. Jon Paulu, a noted Czech architect from Milwaukee, designed the church. He used the cream-colored bricks that were also popular during the time. The ubiquitous use of the light yellow bricks earned Milwaukee the name ‘Cream City.’
Old-world Customs and Craftsmanship at St. Lawrence Church Stangelville
Old-world artisans decorated the interior of St. Lawrence Church Stangelville with Bohemian symbols and saints. It is really worth the time to go inside the sanctuary to mediate and pray. Bohemian-born woodcarver Joseph Swoboda shaped the exuberant tall spires of the three Gothic-style altars. Church builders throughout the Midwest sought Swoboda for his superb artistry. Three Bohemian saints adorn the altars:
- Saint Ludmilla,
- Saint Adalbert and
- Saint Wenceslaus.
The Vienna glass windows depict two of these, Saint Adalbert and Saint Wenceslaus. Another Bohemian saint, John Nepomucene is also portrayed in the stained glass.
More Czech influence
Make sure to look up at the ceiling and arched sidewalls for murals and symbols originally painted by another old-world craftsman. William Scheer, German-born artist created the images at St. Lawrence Church Stangelville WI in 1912. If you’re looking for more Czech influence, check out the marble baptismal font. It is inscribed with: “Jeden Pan Jedna Vira Jeden Krest,” meaning “One God One Faith One Baptism,” and “Kdo Vreri A Pokrten Bude Bude Spasen” or, “Who Believes and is Baptized, Will Be Saved.” The beautifully adorned church on the National Register of Historic Places brings back memories of small, country churches in Europe.
While I was at the Stangelville church, a COVID funeral was going on for a man about 48 years old. “He had physical and mental issues all his life,” said the funeral coordinator. “He never spoke, so when he was ill, he couldn’t let people know that he was sick. They took him to the hospital and he died there of COVID.” Although I did not know the man, his life and death moved me, and I wiped unexpected tears from my eyes.
“This is going to get much worse than it is today,” she said. I thought she must know something about the COVID spike that I hadn’t heard yet. (While I’m on pilgrimage, I try to ignore the news.) “Oh yes,” she added, “It’s going to be way below zero with lots of wind and snow up to here. It’s going to get a lot worse pretty soon.” Thank goodness, she was talking about the Wisconsin weather.
Stengelville derives its name from Martin Stangl
The village derives its name from Martin Stangl, one of the area’s Bohemian settlers. Don’t miss the Konop Meats renowned for its smoked sausages encased in sheep gut. “People come from all over for their brats,” said one Stangelville resident about the third-generation sausage makers. I bought a handful of delicious smoked sausages for my picnic lunches.
Next Spiritual Hotspot: Curran Spirituality Center
The Curran Spirituality Center is an oasis of peace and serenity for me. The open spaces and religious statues had me humming, “Jesus, remember me, when I come into your kingdom,” in Taize repetition.
The spectacular crucifix reminded me of the Cruz de Faro on the Camino Frances in Spain. I wish that I would have brought a stone from home–as symbol of a burden–to leave at the foot of the cross at Curran Spirituality Center. Maybe I should check with Fr. O’Brien before suggesting that you do that. Fr. Bill O’Brien transformed his family’s farmland to create this holy hotspot.
Carmelite Monastery Denmark WI
I walked to my next spiritual hotspot along the Wisc Way, the Carmelite Monastery near Denmark, WI. The doors are open to visitors but you will not interact with the sisters who live here. They are cloistered. The chapel was open for silent prayer.
Fellow pilgrim Rita and I unexpectedly ran into each other here. We were both so excited to see each other that we totally forgot about the request for silence. Sorry, sisters!
Dairy Farm Stay with Host Family
I was blessed to be a guest at Jim and Josy Wavrunek’s dairy farm. Fr. Santy at the Cooperstown church lined this up for me. What a blessing it was to stay with a family that has such a gift of hospitality. Josy had walked one of Fr. Kurz’s pilgrimages a few years back. So she understood the practice of Christian pilgrimage.
Jim gave me a tour of the dairy farm and I learned so much. I even was privileged to bottle feed a 2-day-old calf.
The Wavruneks supply milk to my favorite cheese makers, BelGioioso. I was introduced to this cheese in Green Bay, WI before I started my pilgrimage.
DAY THREE Walking Route
I walked country roads during the day’s journey. Most had very little traffic. Check out my route on Google Maps.
For Meditation: Guide Me, Lord
For DAY THREE meditations, ask the Lord to guide you. Read Psalm 139
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