Vacation Church Prizewinner: St. Cecilia’s, Wisconsin Dells

So per my last post, we spent a long weekend/short week up in Wisconsin, including Sunday morning at the Wisconsin Dells, the Waterpark Capital of the World, as it bills itself, claiming the title with America’s largest outdoor waterpark and largest indoor/outdoor waterpark, and with the original Dells boat tours as well as a bunch of ticky-tacky tourist attractions (plus legit attractions like the Circus World museum) for rainy or cold days (if your plan is outdoor waterparks) or just to get out of the hotel (if you’re staying somewhere with an indoor waterpark).  Driving up the main drag is a sight to behold, with waterparks, hotels (promising waterpark entry if they’re too small for their own waterpark), and “museums” vying for your attention, until you get into town, when it’s souvenir shops and candy stores.  And in the middle of it is St. Cecilia’s.

The town’s population is a bit under 3,000, and just south is neighboring Lake Delton with another 3,000.  But I can only guess as to how many visitors it welcomes on weekends, and those visitors were the impetus for a church expansion a few short years ago.  (How much it was funded by those same visitors opening up their pocketbooks vs. the commitment of regular parishioners I can’t say, but the parish history on their website speaks of parishioners putting in manual labor, not just donations, for their renovations in prior years.)  And the church is unassuming outside but stunning inside — it was very unmistakably built to glorify God rather than just meeting the practical needs of a room for assembly people together.

It was also clear that this church was different when I flipped through the hymnal, one I had never seen before, the Ignatius Pew Missal, which emphasized traditional hymns and included Latin chants.  And indeed the congregation sang the hymns, not bringing down the rafters, but, well, with at least as much volume as when our parish pulls out such songs as America the Beautiful.  Other items of note:  the priest used the full-blown Eucharistic Prayer I (the one that’s closest to a translation of the traditional Latin mass), there were an assortment of girls and women in mantillas and a sighting of a Young Nun in Habit, and the altar server, wearing a traditional white-on-black combination, rang bells in the traditional manner.  They had an altar rail, and everyone knelt around it, filling in gaps as the prior communicants left, to receive communion, which was on the tongue.  I had a bit of an impression that this is as close as you’d come to a Latin mass without it actually being in Latin — except, that is, for the Latin hymn the choir sung during communion.  Maybe these were extra touches for a special commemoration rather than being their usual Sunday mass; I don’t know.

Oh, and the church was reasonably full but not packed to the gills, and they have weekly eucharistic adoration.

Which left me wondering:  is this just that this particular church has developed into being more traditional?  Is this a larger difference between Wisconsin and the Chicago area?  How many St. Cecilias are there?

And here are the pictures we took:

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