15. July, 2005 - Poland on the Prairie

St. John Cantius
St. John Cantius
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Today it’s time to finally catch up on the pictures I took on the Sioux Falls road trip. As I mentioned earlier, on Saturday, July 2, I took some time in the day and drove up to Wilno, MN. When I first got there, I spent a minute or two looking for my great-uncle Frank’s old house, to no avail. I haven’t been there in about thirty years, and nothing looked familiar except the church. So I stopped at the building next to the church (built where the CCD center used to be, I think), where a few guys were loading folding tables onto a trailer, and asked. Turns out that sometime after Uncle Frank died in 1994, the house was torn down. It had fallen apart, and I don’t think Aunt Julia continued living there until her death in 2000, but I’m not sure. Another story I need to track down. In any case, where the house had formerly stood was now part of the parking lot for the church, which is the real star of the town.

St. John Cantius Interior
St. John Cantius Interior
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Wilno (yes, named after the one in Lithuania) is basically a little settlement consisting two or three city blocks. There’s nothing there anymore but the church, a storage building next to the church, and some houses. That’s it. The last post office in town was in Uncle Frank’s house, and that had been closed for at least fifty years. So when I say the church is the star of the town, I’m not exaggerating. It’s over 120 years old, and folks are justifiably proud of it. The other thing about Wilno is that it’s built in something of a hollow. From the county road that runs past the cemetary to the north of town, all you see are the tree-tops. There was a time when you might have seen the spires of the church, but they were truncated in 1959 because it was too expensive to maintain the old 125 foot tall spires, and at least one parishoner had fallen to his death while working on them. Currently the project is repairing or replacing a beam inside the church roof which had cracked. That’s the scaffolding you can see in the interior photo. It sounds like everything is well in hand, but the work is taking longer than expected.

St. John Cantius
St. John Cantius
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The encouraging thing is that this isn’t a dying church. Between St. John Cantius, and the church in nearby Ivanhoe (which share a priest), they have a combined congregation of twelve hundred, with Wilno getting the (slightly) bigger half. Ivanhoe has a population of around 640, and Wilno’s population isn’t listed anywhere I can find it, since it’s not technically a city anymore, but not only is the church still there, but they seem to be doing well, in one of the poorest counties in the state. The thing I need to remember is that they still have their big church picnic at noon on the fourth of July every year, and if I want to talk to more folks from around there, that’s the time to do it.

There’s a lot more to write about Wilno, but it’s going to have to wait for another day. I’ll try to remember to put a link here when I get that writing done.

Copyright 2009, Dave Polaschek. Last updated on Mon, 15 Feb 2010 13:59:13.