St. Mary Magdalene Church (and directions)

          Directions.  Johnson Creek is 38 miles east of downtown Madison and 52 miles west of downtown Milwaukee on highway 94.  Use the Hwy 26 exit off of Hwy 94, and drive 1.0 mile south on Hwy 26.  Turn right (going west) on Milwaukee Road/County B.  Drive 0.5 miles to Union Street/County Y.  Turn right (going north) and drive 0.3 miles on Union Street.  Turn left (going west) on West Street.  Drive 0.3 miles on West Street to the church’s parking lot, which is on the left.

          St. Mary Magdalene.  She is a great witness of the resurrection.  In all four gospels, she is the first person to see the empty tomb (in varying accounts, by herself, or with one or two other women).  She is the first person to see the risen Lord Jesus in three of the gospels (Luke reserves that honor for Peter, as does Paul in I Cor 15:5).  She was unquestionably a person of hospitality and generous service to Jesus.  She was one of a group of women who provided for Jesus and his disciples on the final journey to Jerusalem (in Matthew, Mark, Luke) and even during the earlier ministry in Galilee (Mark 15:40, Luke 8:2).  She was one of a group of women who stayed in the vicinity of Jesus on the cross (all four gospels) and stood before the closed tomb (Matthew, Mark, Luke).  Later tradition wrongly identified her with the sinful woman of Luke 7:37.   Scripture describes her as a committed and caring disciple who accompanied Jesus, perhaps wherever he went.  Her feast day is July 22.  We have a statue of her by the tabernacle.

          History.  Our parish’s first Mass was celebrated on November 1, 1906 at Daly’s Hall in Johnson Creek.  The celebrant, Fr. Joseph Schroeder, travelled from St. Coletta in Jefferson by horse and buggy.  Immediately after that, the decision was made to build a church.  The parish bought property in the “northwestern part of the village” from Wilhelm and Mary Stiehm, one and a half acres for $400.  Members did the excavating, John Spangler of Jefferson did the masonry, and Crist and Lindl of Jefferson did the carpentry.  The church was built in the Gothic style, the spire to a height of 100 feet.  Fr. Schroeder, the pastor, supervised all the work.  Just about everyone in the entire village helped.

          An article from the Jefferson Banner in December of 1907 tells us much about the church dedication, which was Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 28, 1907.  It was a “perfect autumn day” with an estimated 700 people in the church.  Archbishop Messmer of Milwaukee was unable to attend, due to illness, so Fr. Norbert Dieringer of Milwaukee presided.  Archbishop Messmer would have given a German sermon.  Instead, Fr. Schweitzer of Watertown delivered in English.  There were 8 priests, one deacon, and one sub deacon.  The ladies of the altar society made “an elaborate dinner,” and a local band provided music.

          The church was built with two classrooms in the rear, each 20×39 feet.  The school was open from 1907 until 1964.  Nuns lived in the upper classroom until a home was built for them in 1923.  After 1964, sisters from St. Coletta came once a week.

          The spelling of the parish name was changed from “Magdalen” when the parish became part of the Madison Diocese in 1946.  Also at that time, the parish switched from being a mission of St. Lawrence and St. Coletta in Jefferson to being a mission of St. Francis Xavier in Lake Mills.  There were 40 families in 1907 and 140 in 1981.

          At the 75th anniversary in 1981, the pastor, Fr. Roger Nilles, wrote “We have not lost the spirit of a close family.  St. Mary’s is truly a family of God.”  At the centennial in 2006, it was noted that the monstrance which was donated by the Peter Spangler family in 1907 was still being used.  The pastor then, Fr. Robert Hughes, wrote “We ardently thank God … for the love for their parish of the people who worshiped and gathered and labored here.  From the beginning down to the present day, it is they who have breathed life into St. Mary Magdalene Parish.”