Howells parish celebrates 125 years of faith, fellowship

Elsie Konsel, 89, helped clean the sacristy, organize volunteers and made a favorite Czech pastry – kolaches – with two other women to help St. John Nepomucene Parish in Howells celebrate its 125th anniversary with a June 24 Mass and noon meal.
“I still helped with the jubilee,” Konsel said, referring to her most recent efforts as a slowdown compared with her past contributions. She came to the parish 70 years ago and served many times as president of the altar society, and helped run the social hall for nearly weekly weddings and other events. 
Konsel is one of many parishioners who through the years have faithfully cleaned the grounds, provided music, planted flowers and in so many other ways served the parish of about 300 people, said Father Stanley Schmit, pastor. Parishioners also help one another with other needs, such as rides to church when someone needs a lift, he said.
“It has a definite rural flavor to it, where you’ll help your neighbors,” he said.
Archbishop George J. Lucas helped celebrate that spirit of faith and service, presiding at the anniversary Mass and visiting with the more than 200 people who gathered for the event.
The Czech community in Howells founded St. John Nepomucene Parish in 1893, only about six blocks from Ss. Peter and Paul Church, founded in 1890 by the Germans of Howells. 
Both parishes built their own schools, but merged them in 1968 to form Howells Community Catholic School, which annually serves about 50 students in first through sixth grade. The parishes cooperate in other ways, as well, under the guidance of Father Schmit, who as pastor serves both parishes as well as Holy Trinity Parish in Heun. 
St. John Nepomucene and Ss. Peter and Paul have their own pastoral councils, but they always meet together to help coordinate efforts, Father Schmit said. The parishes share a religious education teacher, a common Knights of Columbus council and a “Fun Fest” party each March, which helps raise money for the school.
Wayne Molacek, a member of St. John Nepomucene since 1970 and the parish music director, said he took on the additional duty of playing piano and organ for about three months several years ago at Ss. Peter and Paul to help fill a need at that parish. And the parish choirs routinely work together for funerals and other events, Molacek said.
“Both parishes still have a great amount of pride and respect for their own parish and community,” he said. “We also share things.”
Traditions unique to St. John Nepomucene, particularly in its first decades as a parish, have included a Corpus Christi procession, the May 16 feast day of St. John Nepomucene when train loads of people came from east and west and local bands joined the procession in front of the church, and an annual bazaar known as the Duck Supper.
Konsel grew up in Dodge about eight miles from Howells and in 1948 married her late husband, Vernon, a St. John’s parishioner and farmer. 
Their faith and service to the parish continue with their son, Randy, who runs the family farm. He remembers attending meetings as a teenager with his father that centered on decisions for building the current church in 1965. 
Randy served his own stint as a trustee of the parish, for about a dozen years in the 1980s. It stems from a common sense of service in the parish, he said.
“Everybody takes their turn,” he said.
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