Church of the Precious Blood (Episcopal)
PO Box 2
County Rd C at County Rd N
Gardner Township, WI 54204
The Rev. Rob Hoppe, Vicar
The Holy Eucharist is celebrated on Sunday at 8:30 a.m.
The Church of the Precious Blood's annual Assumption Festival is Saturday, August 6. Solemn Mass, a traditional Anglo-Catholic worship from the English Missal, will be at 11:00 a.m. The Rt. Rev. Matthew A. Gunter is the Homilist. The Mass is followed by a noon-day meal featuring ethnic Belgian foods, and a bazaar, bake sale and raffle.
Driving Directions from Green Bay
Church of the Precious Blood is 5 mi. N of Brussels, WI on County Rd. C, at the intersection with County Rd. N.
- 1-43 to Hwy. 54/57.
- Exit 185-north on 54/57 (towards Sturgeon Bay).
- Remain on Hwy. 57.
- Turn left (north) at Brussels exit on County C.
- Continue north beyond Brussels for 5 miles.
- White frame church on right at County C and County N.
The community takes pride in this beautiful place of worship. The restoration work has been effective in reaching out to the neighbors, the ancestors of whom lie in our cemetery. The church is once again becoming a spiritual center of this town.
History of Precious Blood Church
The Church of the Precious Blood was begun as the mission of "Le Bon Pasteur" (The
Good Shepherd) sometime in 1885 by the Reverend Joseph René Villatte. The original
location of Fr. Villatte's mission was three miles south of the settlement of Little Sturgeon
fronting on the same bay, and consisted of a two-room house: one room for living quarters,
the other serving as the chapel.
The current church building was built in 1888 and dedicated to "The Precious Blood" to emphasize
the fact that, unlike Roman Catholic practice of the time, communion was given in both kinds.
The building project was supervised by Fr. Villatte, with funding largely provided by the
Episcopal Church. Funds for the purchase of the land were given by Mrs. Chauncey
Waterbury of Brooklyn, New York, as a memorial to her husband. A rectory and barn once
occupied this site as well. Ownership of the land, the building and its contents have always
been vested in the trustees of the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac.
The relationships of Fr. Villatte, Precious Blood Church, the Roman Catholic and Old
Catholic Communions, and the Diocese of Fond du Lac are complex and
fascinating. Not surprisingly, there has oftentimes been much misinformation as well.
Suffice it to say that, in the time before the arrival of the Roman Catholic Norbertine Fathers, the Belgian settlers in the Little Sturgeon area (most of whom were Roman Catholics) had been
all but forgotten. Mass was said perhaps only once in three months, the result being that
many had begun to drift. Villatte, formerly a Roman Catholic religious who had become
a pastor of a French-speaking Protestant congregation in Green Bay, was led in some way to
approach the first Episcopal Bishop of Fond du Lac, John Henry Hobart Brown, about this
matter. If he were to be received into the Episcopal Church, he proposed to minister to and
win these people back to the Catholic Faith, albeit not the Roman Catholic Church.
Villatte was sent to Nashotah House Seminary to begin his preparation for ordination.
Bishop Brown decided that the ordination itself would be done in Bern, Switzerland by
Bishop Herzog of the Old Catholic Church. Bishop Brown's decision was guided by the
advice of several other Episcopal bishops, as well as by the unanimous opinion of the
seminary faculty. It was doubted that the Belgians at that time would understand or accept
the catholicity of the Episcopal Church.
Based on the grounds of Anglicanism's intercommunion with the Old Catholic Churches in Europe, however, it seemed an excellent
opportunity for the Episcopal Church to minister to these people in such a way as would be
outwardly familiar to them. So, while Fr. Villatte was indeed ordained by the Old Catholic
Church, and while Precious Blood Church was known to be an Old Catholic congregation
both in name and ritual, it had always been a missionary outreach of the Episcopal Diocese
of Fond du Lac.
Fr. Villatte went on to establish other Old Catholic congregations in the area (e.g. St. Mary's,
Duvall), which were not official ministrations of the Diocese of Fond du Lac, and all of which
are now defunct. An attempt was even made to establish an Old Catholic Seminary in
Sturgeon Bay, but this was never realized. Following his removal from our communion in
1892, Fr Villatte lived for a period of time at Duvall, during which time he also attempted
to establish his own cathedral (St. Louis) in Green Bay. After foreclosure on these properties
Fr. Villatte left the area. The Duvall congregation was ultimately received into the Episcopal
Church as a congregation of this Diocese. (St. Mary's was closed and the building dismantled in 1940).
St. Louis in Green Bay disbanded, and the building was purchased by the Roman Catholic
Diocese to become the first building for Our Lady of the Angels Church.
Contrary to popular
belief, Blessed Sacrament Episcopal Church in Green Bay was not established by Villatte,
although it was conceived as a mission to ethnic Belgians, many of whom relocated to that
city from Duvall.
The priests to succeed Fr. Vlllatte in residence at Precious Blood were Fr. J.B. Gauthier, Fr.
deVillareal, and Fr. Louis Lops, all of whom were ordained by Old Catholic bishops. These
priests remained faithful to their ministries within the Episcopal Church. Frs. Gauthier and
de Villareal also were to serve at Blessed Sacrament, Green Bay following its establishment
in 1908, as well as at St. Mary's, Duvall, which was ultimately yoked to the former. Also
serving intermittently was Fr. A.P. Curtiss, who is said to have given the rood and figures
sometime after 1900. Fr. Lops remained in residence at Precious Blood until 1922.
then, the church has been supplied predominantly by priests from St. Agnes, Algoma.
Precious Blood Church remains a unique testimony to the breadth of the Anglican experience.
A traditional Assumption Festival, celebrated annually, draws pilgrims from all over
Wisconsin, and continues as an effective witness to the Catholic tradition in Anglicanism.
Many have remarked on the charm of this building, which is lovingly cared for by those who
worship here regularly. Serious, historically-informed, and sensitive restoration continues.
Your prayers, as well as any monetary gifts toward the full realization of
this goal, would be welcomed and gratefully acknowledged. R.D.H +
N.B.- A good reference to such topics as Joseph Rene' Vilatte, Old Catholics, and "Episcopi Vagantes" can
be found in the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford Universi!y Press ), as well as thorough
discussion in the books The Old Catholic Movement by C.B. Moss, and Bishops at Large by Peter Anson.