APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – Walking the halls of the old St. Therese School Wednesday afternoon, Fr. Ryan Starks reflected on the history of the building.
“This building is quite large,” he said. “It’s 36,000 square feet, and back in its heyday it had over 1,200 kids in one year.”
Between its opening in 1928 and closing in 1984, thousands of students walked its halls.
Around them, the world changed.
“Family sizes decreased,” Fr. Starks said, “and the culture and other cultural factors, more schools opened up, more churches opened up, and so it kind of declined.”
In the 37 years since the school closed, the Parish found different uses for the building.
These days, it’s down to 5% capacity: used one hour a week for Sunday School classes.
“And so we realized that going forward into our future it made the most sense to take the school down,” Fr. Starks said.
To some former students, the building is more than empty classrooms and coat racks.
“There’s something beautiful about just seeing them walk in the classrooms and their eyes just kind of light up,” Fr. Starks said. “They start to remember all these memories.”
The Parish is asking any former students with memories they’d like to share to stop by for an open house on August 7.
“We were going through the records and we realized there were over 3,600 students that graduated from here,” Fr. Starks said. “You know, some of the early years have maybe gone home to God, but there’s still a lot of alumni out there who we want to have a chance to reconnect.”
The event will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a Mass to follow at 4 p.m.
Those with memories or pictures from the school are asked to bring them along or submit them to the school’s website.
“Our new building that we’re constructing has a history room,” Fr. Starks said, “and we want a big part of that to be memories from our school as well.”
The school can’t follow the parish into the future, but the memories made there can.
“There’s something about remembering the past that helps us to find who we are in the present,” Fr. Starks said, “and as we journey into the future.”