Every parish has a legacy: A legacy of Faith. A legacy of service. And even a legacy of preservation—the safeguarding of what the Lord has entrusted to His faithful of a particular congregation. If we are at all willing, there is certainly a part for each of us within that legacy. Our personal time, talent and treasure are needed to maintain, grow and pass on the Faith and tradition of our unique parish community for future generations.
Within the tiny town of Sigel, a beautiful little church, dedicated to the Holy Rosary of Our Blessed Mother, rests serenely on Chapel Road. This unassuming parish, which treasures its ornate back altar and stunning statuary, has an interesting history and parishioners dedicated to preserving that legacy and heritage. David and Louise Hamus of Rudolph are two of those working to keep up with the needs of their beloved little parish.
Having both grown up in rural, central Wisconsin—Louise in Milladore and David on his family’s farm between Milladore and Rudolph—the couple met at a wedding dance when they were just 15. They started spending time together with a group of other neighborhood kids. As time went on, they began dating and were married at age 18.
“Good things have happened because of the good people of Holy Rosary coming together not only to pray but to work and enjoy each other just as God would want it.”
David was raised Lutheran, but began to take instruction to enter the Catholic Church from Father Robert Agnew of St. Wenceslaus, the parish in which they were married and were parishioners at the time. For David and Louise, Father Agnew “laid the groundwork” all those years ago, preparing them for their journey of Faith to come.
The couple had three children: Tina, Tania and Shawn. David worked in the maintenance field and Louise in accounting at the local paper mill. “We worked and watched our family grow, trying to be good parents and God-loving people the best we knew how to be, doing what our Church asked of us when we could,” Louise shared.
Holy Rosary Parish, to which the Hamuses belong and where they raised their family, had its beginnings in the late 1800s. As new timber settlements spread from Grand Rapids and Centralia (now combined and known as Wisconsin Rapids), a large number of Polish homesteaders came to call the Sigel area home. The Catholics of the area traveled to Rudolph or Grand Rapids to attend Mass.
By 1881, the number of Catholics in Sigel warranted a parish of their own and an agreement was drawn up between Joseph and Anna Jogodzinski and Bishop Kilian Flasch, the second bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse, for the purchase of five acres of land for $25 on which to build the church-school building and cemetery. In 1901, the current brick structure was built.
Since its founding, Holy Rosary has been served at times by resident pastors but more often as a mission of other local parishes. Therefore, it has mostly been a parishioner-led effort to keep up with maintenance and improvements.
Two years before David and Louise’s 2012 retirement, changes began happening at their parish all at once. “Little did we know that God was preparing a new path for us,” they shared. Holy Rosary received a new pastor, Father Bob Nelson, and David was asked to help with maintenance of the church cemetery by Pat Jagodzinski and her daughter, who, as descendants, had been caring for it ever since the land had been bought from their family. Louise was asked to be trained in the role of the Parish Council of Catholic Women (PCCW) president at a time when their parish was experiencing too many expenses and not enough income, especially after they had stopped having annual fundraising events.
Louise and David have been serving in their roles as PCCW president and head of buildings and grounds, respectively, with the help and support of their fellow parishioners. “Our retirement years have not been boring,” they laughed.
Louise’s responsibilities include organizing and serving parish socials and funerals. The parish, helped in large part by the PCCW, reinstated their parish picnic/chicken dinner in August, and have continued each year since, along with a Thanksgiving stuffing sale and their famed Fat Tuesday lasagna dinner.
David is most often found tending the cemetery with other volunteers or doing maintenance projects on the church grounds. But more often than not, no matter what the project, David and Louise are at one another’s side working together to get the job done.
The couple is careful not to take all the credit but give it where it is due. “We can’t stress enough that there have been so many good people before us who have held these jobs and took the lead at maintaining and getting things done. We are now just taking our turn,” they explain. “Two people cannot possibly do all of the work in the parish. We need all of the great people who work right along with us every day, at every event, young and old, who work with us to take care of the church and put on the events. We feel that God continues to guide us, allowing us to help be some of the current keepers of His house and land at Holy Rosary Church.”
They also champion their two most recent pastors, Father Bob Nelson and Father Amalanathan Malaiyappan (Father Nathan). “God blessed us with two wonderful priests who continue to guide us in various ways,” David and Louise said. To them, their priests have been good friends and spiritual guides, especially last year when the couple and their family had to say goodbye to their beloved son Shawn, who was called home to eternal life.
Not only have David and Louise found friendship and camaraderie with their fellow parishioners and their pastors through their work, their marriage has become stronger amid their shared work of preservation. Each parish event, each day spent working together in the cemetery has been an opportunity to grow as a couple.
Louise said, “Over these past 50 years [of marriage], during those years of joys and sorrows, my Faith has been my guide, my support and the glue that holds it all together. It has been there, not just in asking for help but in thanking God for help and many blessings. My rosary and the Blessed Virgin have been a support I don’t know how I could have lived without.”
In staying close to our Blessed Mother and clinging to their church’s namesake, this couple takes their turn as stewards of Holy Rosary Parish and its long legacy of Faith. In parting, David and Louise said, “Good things have happened because of the good people of Holy Rosary coming together not only to pray but to work and enjoy each other just as God would want it.”
Story and Photography by Amy Eichsteadt
Published July/August 2019 Issue