About St. Mary's Oratory of the Immaculate Conception
In early 1999, the then-Most Reverend Bishop of La Crosse, Raymond L. Burke, now Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, graciously permitted the Institute of Christ the King to move to St. Mary's on Grand Avenue in Wausau, Wisconsin.
The beautiful century-old neo-Gothic church dates from 1893 and is the original mother parish of Wausau. St. Mary's was formerly a German-speaking parish into the 1930's when the Sunday sermons were delivered in German. The church is one of the most beautiful examples for American neo-Gothic architecture in Wisconsin and has also been very ornate in its interior. In 1953, a terrible fire destroyed not only the high and side altars but also the complete interior of St. Mary's. In the following years, it was restored to a more modern style, combining the taste of the time with some elements taken from the original neo-Gothic features.
Even though the fire destroyed the antique beauty of the building, and though other Catholic parishes were being founded in Wausau, St. Mary's remained the most prominent old ecclesiastical edifice in the city of Wausau.
The Institute and a Successful Restoration Project
The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest and the faithful attached to the Traditional Latin Mass received the good news of Bishop Burke's permission to move into St. Mary's, which was unoccupied because of a recent parish merger in Wausau.
The Scholz Family Foundation obtained a long-term lease from the diocese for St. Mary's and immediately began a complete restoration of the whole church. With a very generous donation, the Scholz Family Foundation opened the possibility of bringing to St. Mary's the splendor of the high Gothic architecture achieved by exactly copying three beautiful altars of the Blutenburg chapel in Munich, Bavaria. American and European artists, craftsmen, and architects collaborated in this successful and unique project. In May 2003, St. Mary's Church was consecrated by Bishop Burke, who wholeheartedly fosters the developments at the church.
A Public Oratory
Shortly after the consecration, Bishop Burke gave St. Mary's the dignity of a public Oratory, completely confiding its care to the Institute of Christ the King, whose Prior General appoints its rector.
At the same time, St. Mary's Oratory enjoys the privilege of ecclesiastical records so that the faithful who have chosen to participate at the Traditional Form of Mass have the right to receive all of the necessary sacraments according to the same Traditional Form. This exactly follows the expressed wishes of the Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, who have encouraged the wide availability of the Traditional Liturgy to all the faithful who desire it.
St. Mary's Oratory is a thriving apostolate in the Institute of Christ the King, and the number of attending faithful visibly grows every Sunday. Many people have decided to move from other locations to Wausau to be able to assist at the solemn liturgy in St. Mary's, where three priests of the Institute take great care of the liturgical and pastoral work needed by the faithful.
As at all of the places where the Institute of Christ the King is present, there are many young families with a great number of children of all ages. It is touching to see how the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite attracts the younger generations and how diligently our altar boys serve the Mass.
The future of St. Mary's Oratory is thoroughly under the protection of the Blessed Mother, and with her help, St. Mary's Oratory will certainly attract many more people in the years to come.