Small Parish has a Big Heart
Apple River St. Joseph
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
February 4, 2021
APPLE RIVER—Apple River is a small community located on the border of Wisconsin in the northeastern part of Jo Daviess County, in the Freeport Deanery.
With 60 households, St. Joseph Parish in Apple River is “small, but mighty,” says Tammy Goken, a parishioner there for 40 years.
In this Year of St. Joseph, she and several other women gathered in late January to begin plans to celebrate their parish patron for the feast of St. Joseph on March 19. 
The group included Joanne McFadden, 53 years a parishioner; Lavonne Spillane, 56 years; Lynnette Diedrich, 54 years; Susan Bondra, 31 years; and Lisa Holland, 35 years.
St. Joseph, Apple River
Freeport Deanery
105 W. Webster St. 
Father Andrew Skrobutt, pastor
Phone: 815-745-2312
Mass times:
Thursday: 8 a.m.
Saturday: 6 p.m.
Holy Day: See church bulletin
or website.

Saturday: 5:35-5:50 p.m.
After morning Mass
or by appointment
When asked what is special about her parish, Holland says her “first thought was how welcoming the church has always been and the emphasis on family ... (including our own) families, and everyone is welcomed as ‘family’ as they walk in the door. Prior to COVID, we had lots of visitors.”
Parish secretary Monica McGivney, a 27-year parishioner, notes that St. Joseph Parish welcomes many “regular lake visitors” summer after summer. “We see their children growing,” she says.
McGivney mentions a phone call she received recently from Thomas Benbennick of Huntley whose family spent summers at Apple Canyon Lake from 1971-1979. 
“They read about The Observer’s Year of St. Joseph articles and just called to say they (still) miss the parish so much,” she says happily.
That long-lasting sense of parish family can be found throughout the year with pre-COVID events such as regular potlucks after Mass, talking faith and farming, and a regular Christmas pageant with homemade costumes.
“It was always fun for our kids to grow up” in the parish, with “time to spend as an extended church family,” McGivney says. 
Parishioners watch little altar servers grow into high school altar servers. “Particularly the young men,” she says, “served all through high school.”
The parish prayer chain is a resource where it “doesn’t matter the time or day, we know we can call, any of us,” McGivney says. 
One of the women present “lost her husband and knows she can depend on us. If someone needs shoveling or mowing, we get the younger kids to help.”
The parish’s oldest parishioner, Lucille Brown, reached 100 years of age last September. She’s been a member of the parish for 75 years. 
Although she now is homebound, communion is brought to her every Saturday.
“We celebrated her birthday with a parade by her house, and she was sitting outside,” McGivney says. “We all keep in contact. I call her twice a week. So I think that’s what makes us special too.”
Diedrich points to all the different priests who have served the parish over the years (see history on page 3). 
“We’ve been fortunate for who we’ve had,” she says gratefully.
Pre-COVID parish traditions include an annual Christmas party organized by the Altar and Rosary Society that includes musical guests and that welcomes women from other churches in town. 
Other events include a Mother Daughter Banquet, and a fish boil that began nine years ago on Labor Day weekend. It is held in the Apple River Events Center by the parish and welcomes “everybody, extended family,” they say.
Through her work at the parish, McGivney knows that St. Joseph parishioners demonstrate a special generosity of their time and talent. 
“We are very fortunate that everything that we do comes from love and volunteers,” she says. 
From music to custodial duties, “everything is pretty much volunteers ... and we have a lot of people who just come in and check on the church (and) our cleaning comes from us. We’re very faithful.”
“We’re just amazing is all!” says one of the women in the group, and they all laugh. 
“Apple River is amazing!” another adds. 
“But we’re humble too.”


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