St. Cecilia's Catholic Church in Wisconsin Dells has outgrown its building built in 1902, and in an effort to raise money for a new facility the church has created an amazing raffle with nearly ½ million dollars in cash and other great vacation prizes.

Check out St. Cecilia's website here!

The first Catholic Priest to visit the area now known as Kilbourn City (now Wisconsin Dells) was Fr. J Bondue in 1847. The organization of the Catholic church began in 1850. The Parish was known as St. Simon the Apostle. Included in the organization were Catholic's who resided in the towns of Easton, Quincey, New Haven, Dell Prairie, and Lyndon Station. Mission stations in Olin, Point Bluff, and White Creek were served by Priest's in the Kilbourn City. In 1851, Father Anthony D. Godhardt arrive in Kilbourn City from Fort Winnebago (now Portage) and completed the organization of the Parish. In 1855 the Parish was renamed Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

In 1866, Father George Strickner became Pastor and started planning the erection of the first church on the corner of Bowman Road and Wisconsin Avenue. His successor, Father Reindle saw the program through to its completion and dedicated it to St. Cecilia in 1868. Under the direction of Fr. Thomas Keenan, the parish continued as a mission of Lyndon Station and later of Portage.

During 1871 - 1873 Fr. William De Kelver was appointed the first resident pastor of St. Cecilia Parish. During his pastorate, the first rectory was built and it remained the rectory until February 2005 when it was demolished to make room for Worship space expansion. Calvary Cemetery was established during his tenure. Calvary Cemetery Association was formed July 27, 1869. Land for the cemetery was purchased August 6, 10869 for $30.00. View the Articles of Incorporation and Warranty Deed as copied from the Columbia County (State of Wisconsin) records: Calvary Cemetery Papers from Columbia County\Calvary Warranty Deed & Article of formation.htm . Frs. Gallweiler, Gonthyn, Scholter, Hackle, John Ryan, Henry Siner, and William Rice served as pastors from 1873 - 1882. Click on thumbnail for full photograph, user the browser button to come back.

First Catholic Church in Kilbourn 1868

1910 postcard of Church & Rectory

On January 20, 1882, Fr. Martin Smits became pastor until his death February 27, 1897. His successor, Fr. John Holzknecht, became pastor and oversaw the planning and building of a new church and school. The next Pastor of St. Cecilia, Father Kobe, assisted Fr. O'Brien, delegated by the Bishop of Green Bay, in the laying of the cornerstone. The July 10, 1902 edition of the Dells Reporter carried the following story:

"The greatest attraction of this Fourth of July celebration was the laying of the new cornerstone of the new St. Cecilia Church; the ceremony by Rev. Fr. O'Brien of Green Bay, delegated by the bishop, assisted Fr. Kolbe, who was the pastor at this time. The hundreds who witnessed his step in God's cause bowed their heads in deep reverence, and all who were gathered about the foundation of this beautiful structure in progress were brought more within God's teaching, and the reverence bestowed upon the faces of the innocent and all alike during these services must have been an hour of rejoicing to the angel in Heaven as they looked down with heavenly love upon the scene."

On August 12, 1902 the tolling of the new 2,200-pound bells in the tower announced the blessing of the bell ceremony at St. Cecilia Church. St. Cecilia was officially dedicated on June 22, 1903 by Bishop S. G. Messmer of Green Bay.

The Shrine "Our Lady of the Dells" was erected due to the efforts of Fr. L.F. Strofer. Presiding at the dedication ceremony on August 28, 1955 was Bishop William P. O'Connor, the first Bishop of the Madison Diocese created in March, 1946.

In September, 1963 with Fr. Joseph Dreis as Pastor, St. Cecilia School opened and staffed by Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa. Ten years later the school closed because of financial difficulties. The parish rented the facility to the school district until 1991. Then a day care center opened until June of 2000. The building currently is used for Religious Education, preschool, and rental of the gym to a basketball club, the cafeteria is used for special events and meals. The gym is used in summer and special religious days for a chapel to seat 500 for over-flow mass with a visiting priest officiating.

In November, 2004 the Parish Offices moved across the street to 603 Oak St., our school building, now know as the "Parish Office Center". The former nuns quarters in the school were remodeled into office space. Most work was done by volunteers. The former main office of the school has become the Religious Education Office, 605 Oak St. The Priest living quarters have changed to a home built circa 1992, purchased by a few parish members and gifted to St. Cecilia Congregation. The gym will continue to be our back-up chapel.

The membership of St. Cecilia Congregation has grown, with the increase in summer tourist business we need the Parish Center gym to accommodate well over 800 persons attending a given mass. With Fr. Felix G. Oehrlein now serving as Pastor, the Parish is involved in a fund raising campaign to fund the expansion of our worship facilities so that we may have a single church that will accommodate the large number of persons attending mass. This become extremely important as the number of available priest's decreases.