WILMINGTON - St. Margaret's Catholic Church in Wilmington is linked with the Catholic community of Holy Name Church in AuSable Forks and St. Matthew's Church in Black Brook.
It is a quaint little church, in the scenic hamlet of Wilmington, surrounded by wilderness and mountains. The beginning of St. Margaret's, however, was not as tranquil as the current picturesque atmosphere suggests.
St. Margaret's is set in the heart of Wilmington on state Route 86 in close proximity to several churches of various denominations, including the Wilmington Church of the Nazarene and the Whiteface Community United Methodist Church. The parish was incorporated during the Calvin Coolidge administration in August 1926. That same year, a wind storm destroyed the original church. While money was being raised to build a new structure, services were held in the home of local resident John J. O'Leary.
St. Margaret's Catholic Church, Wilmington (Photo — Charles Potthast Jr.)
To intimidate church members, the local Klu Klux Klan burned a cross on O'Leary's property. This did not deter the parishioners or O'Leary, who contemplated taking legal action against the Klan. The Klan soon disbanded, the church was rebuilt, and parish operations returned to normal.
Today the parish has about 75 families. The Rev. Kris C. Lauzon is the pastor of St. Margaret's Church, plus Holy Name and St. Matthews.
"St. Margaret's is a nice little church," Lauzon said. "Parishioners enjoy taking a role in church functions and activities. It has meaning for them."
Lauzon enjoys celebrating Christmas Eve Mass and the May Crowning at St. Margaret's.
"The Christmas Eve Mass, set at night, with the choir and all the people coming together is very special," he said.
In 2000, the Smith-Ott Pavilion was built as an addition to the church. The area is used for celebrations, religious education and ministry. Once a month, movies are shown in the pavilion, and a series titled "Catholicism" is conducted on Thursdays followed by lunch.
Lauzon has been a priest for 23 years and has served in his current assignment for the last four-and-a-half years. Beginning in June, due a shortage of priests, he will also serve as the pastor of the Keeseville Catholic community. As a result, he will minister to two additional churches.
"The diminishing number of priests is in direct correlation to the increasing number of non-practicing Catholics," Lauzon said. "The same percentage of men are still becoming priests compared to the percentage of practicing Catholics."
Lauzon looks forward to the new assignment, although he admits it will be a challenge and that many parishioners will have to step up and help with things such as home visits. He also has two deacons and Sister Yvonne Cusson to assist him with his new duties. Lauzon's new schedule will still allow for one Sunday Mass at St. Margaret's at 7:30 a.m.
St. Margaret's, like all houses of worship, is an integral part of the Wilmington community. It plays a part in the lives of its parishioners holding treasured memories and stories. It is there during the good times - baptisms, first communions, holidays, weddings - and the hard times - the passing of loved ones.
Pastors change, parishioners come and go, even the building will need repairs, but St. Margaret's Catholic Church will continue to serve the Wilmington community well into the future.