A 161-year-old Pewaukee church holds its last Sunday service before possible demolition
PEWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58)-- Plans to build a senior living community in Pewaukee could result in a 161-year-old church building being demolished.
Agape Community Church has occupied the St. Mary's Catholic Church building for nearly three years, and Sunday morning marks the last service held there.
It was an emotional day for the congregation as they say farewell to the historic St. Mary's Catholic Church building. Built in 1858, people say the St. Mary's Catholic Church building is a community gem.
"This Pewaukee treasure, it's hard for me to imagine what it is worth, to me it's priceless," said Florin Docea, Senior Pastor of Agape Community Church.
The pews hold memories of many sitting in them.
"My wife's family was part of this for more than 50 years,” adds Docea. “Her sisters grew up here, her sisters got married here, and we have individuals that remember as children walking through these doors.”
"The founders of our village and our community built this church. I mean it's the heart of our community, it really is," said Jeannette O’Toole, founder of Citizens for Saving St. Mary’s Church.
Those memories are what brought O’Toole to start a group, advocating saving the church.
Designs submitted by Capri Senior Communities show plans to build four-story condos on the site. Capri told O’Toole they're willing to preserve parts of the church building as a facade.
"That’s what they told the community, but when you look at their plans that they've submitted to the village it's all brand new materials,” said O’Toole. “They will just literally demolish the church.”
Agape Community Church tried to purchase the St. Mary's Catholic Church building but was unsuccessful. Efforts to put the building on the national and state register of historic places may also be unsuccessful.
The building is owned by Queen of Apostles in Pewaukee, who submitted the raze order. The application was denied because it was incomplete.
“They just submitted it so that it was on file that they had submitted it, and now when we get the historic preservation ordinance in place, we may not be able to protect it," said O’Toole.
Pastor Docea says the word ‘agape’ means selfless love, and even though they are moving locations, he says it's important to remember to remain in 'agape.'
"I wish everyone was operating in Agape, in selfless love, because money only takes you so far, but the treasures that we all built, you can't really put a monetary amount on it," said Pastor Docea.
A petition to save the church has gotten nearly 5,000 signatures.
Pewaukee Village Board President, Jeff Knutson, says the Queen of Apostles will need to re-submit a completed raze order before the building is demolished. As of Thursday, a building permit for the demolition of St. Mary’s Church has not been issued.
Starting next week Agape Community Church will hold their services at the Pewaukee High School. You can find the petition by clicking this link to Change.org: https://www.change.org/p/save-historic-st-mary-s-church-and-stop-big-development