In 1874 St. Mary of the Lake in Baileys Harbor became the first Catholic Church built in Northern Door County; next came the log construction of St. John the Baptist Church of Egg Harbor (1878); followed by the building of St. Michael the Archangel Church (1882), Jacksonport; in 1910 St. Rosalia Church was erected in Sister Bay; and finally the dream of worshipping at St. Paul the Apostle Church, Fish Creek came true in 1921; all have a rich history with namesakes chosen because of their strength and faith. St. Mary is our loving Mother of the Church; St. John the Baptist our preparer; St. Michael the Archangel represents a protector of the faithful; St. Rosalia a devotional inspirer; and St. Paul a messenger of the Word. Church represents community. People see the need to strengthen their Catholic faith and therefore build a church. Washington Island Catholics are grateful for their ecumenical church site. In 2005, all of these church sites were united into one Stella Maris Parish. Our Lady, Star of the Sea, guides us to continue in a life of stewardship. Church is an Assembly of God’s people trying to live out their lives as closely to modeling Jesus’ life as they possibly can. Ordinary people who realize they are able to let their light shine with the help of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; people who place the role of stewardship as a priority in their lives. Stewardship is a commitment to take on one or many tasks as an usher, a greeter, a Eucharistic minister, an altar server, a monetary contributor, a cantor and/or choir member, a catechist, a maintenance/grounds worker, an organist, a choir director, a lector, a sodality member, a member of church staff, a representative on a church council or committee, a member of the religious life as a nun, deacon, or priest…and the stewardship list goes on. All worshippers are needed and necessary in the functioning of an effective parish. All exemplify our rich church history. All worshippers’/stewards’ names at Stella Maris Parish past and present could not be mentioned in this history, but all are the authors of this history of Stella Maris Parish.
The introduction of Stella Maris Parish history included a prayer about Our Lady, Star of the Sea beautifully written by Father David Ruby. It is fitting to end this history with another prayer honoring our parish namesake. It is titled “Seafarer’s Prayer” and we are all seafarers on a faith journey traveling to our heavenly Father.
O Mary, Star of the Sea, light of every ocean,
guide seafarers across all the dark and stormy seas
that they may reach the haven of peace and light
prepared in Him who calmed the sea.
As we set forth upon the oceans of the world and
cross the deserts of our time, show us O Mary,
the fruit of your womb, for without your Son we are lost.
Pray that we will never fail on life’s journey,
that in heart and mind, in word and deed,
in days of turmoil and in days of calm,
we will always look to Christ and say,
“Who is this that even wind and sea obey him?”
Bright Star of the Sea, guide us!
---Pope John Paul II
Reading through various documents on the six sites of Stella Maris Parish, the one recurring theme was that the focal point of pioneer life was grounded in their Catholic faith and their church. This theme continues today, but with the task of showing unity in one Parish: Stella Maris. These histories do unite us. I am indebted to the editing and unending support of Father Dave. Also, many other resources were available to me, but the most valued were the parishioners who shared their thoughts, their previous writings, or just their words of encouragement. So I recognize the following people at the various church sites: Jacksonport – John Gagnon; Fish Creek – Nancy Sargeant, Andrea & Jim Jauquet; Sister Bay – Jean Casey; Egg Harbor – Lorie Orthober, Terri Madden, and Jeanne Chase; Washington Island – Diane & Larry Kahlscheuer, and Kathi O’Connor; Baileys Harbor – Kriss Schorer, Jannette & Catherine McArdle. I thank our Stella Maris Parish webmaster, Bruce Mielke, who worked many hours editing and providing history website space. Mention needs to be made of the many parishioners who offered contributions to past history writings but whose names are unknown to me, and I express my apologies for citations that have been unintentionally overlooked.
The following resources were also used: The Life Application Bible – New International Version; Door County Advocate writers – Kita Steebs & Lauren Mittermann; John LaDoux, Archivist for the Green Bay Diocese; Washington Island Historical Archives; The Hidden Life of St. Rosalia, Lorraine V. Murray, Commentary, Sept. 4, 2008; Joan Champeau, history article “One of the Earliest Families to Settle in Sister Bay”; History of Door County – Holand, Volume 1; Julie Byrne, Dept. of Religion, Duke University, “Roman Catholics and Immigration in the Nineteenth Century America”; Souvenir Book of the Dedication of St. Mary of the Lake Church - 1936.
It was an honor and a privilege to author and compile the works of the builders of this Parish.