Milwaukee, Archdiocese of
MILWAUKEE, ARCHDIOCESE OF
Milwaukee (Milwauchiensis ) was established as a diocese Nov. 28, 1843; and as an archdiocese, Feb. 12, 1875. In 2001 it had a population of 685,004 Catholics, 31 percent of the general population of 2,222,364 in ten counties in southeastern Wisconsin, an area of 4,758 square miles. The ecclesiastic Province of Milwaukee, includes all the Wisconsin dioceses as its suffragans, namely, Green Bay, La Crosse, Madison, and Superior. From 1843, when Milwaukee was erected as a separate see, it was governed by the following prelates: John Martin henni, 1844–81; Michael heiss, 1881–90; Frederic katzer, 1891–1903; Sebastian Gebhard messmer, 1903–30; Samuel A1phonse stritch, 1930–40; Moses Elias Kiley, 1940–53; Albert Gregory Meyer, 1953–58; William Edward Cousins, 1958–77; and Rembert G. Weakland, OSB, 1977–2002.
Wisconsin early formed a center for Native Americans and a goal for French explorers, of whom the first was Jean Nicolet who, seeking a route to China, landed at Green Bay in 1634. In the summer of 1661 the first missionary, René Ménard, SJ, entered Wisconsin at the source of the Wisconsin River, and four years later Claude Allouez, SJ, built the first church between Bayfield and Washburn. But wars, liquor, traders, the official policy of concentrating the Native Americans near Detroit, and the suppression of the Jesuits by the French government in 1762 ruined the Jesuit missions. John Baptist Chardon, SJ, remained at Green Bay until 1728, when it too was given up. With the exception of a missionary or two, no priest entered Wisconsin for about a century. Rev. Gabriel Richard of Detroit stopped off at Green Bay and started a church building in 1823, which was completed in 1825 by Rev. Vincent Badin, also from Detroit. In 1840 the Wisconsin Territory, including eastern Minnesota, had a Catholic population of 14,600 (of whom 11,000 were Native Americans) in a total of 40,000. Before the establishment of a diocese in Wisconsin, it had been visited by several bishops including Edward Fenwick of Cincinnati, who stopped at Green Bay in 1829 and 1831. In 1838 Frederic Résé of Detroit paid a visit to La Pointe and Little Chute, and two years later Mathias Loras's trip from Dubuque, Iowa, included visits at Green Bay, Little Chute, Kenosha, Milwaukee, and Potosi. Charles Auguste de Forbin-Janson, a French refugee bishop of Nancy and Toul, was offered the temporary administration of the Detroit diocese, but after a tour of inspection in 1840, which touched on Wisconsin, he declined the charge.
Difficult Years. From 1840 to 1870 most settlers in the area came from Germany, Ireland, and Norway. Later, the Poles led (1870–1920), followed by the Swedes (1900–20), Italians (1900–10), and other nationalities with lesser numbers. Opposition to the Church took the form of segregation designed to isolate Catholics, especially the foreign-born, and was sponsored in turn by religious sects, Nativists, Know-Nothings, Forty-eighters, Whigs, and Turners. Bishop Henni and his successors had to contend with these external threats, but gradually by the acquisition of property, organization of parishes, schools, and societies, and a vigorous, informed press, they succeeded in making Catholicism respectable.
Nativist Attacks. In 1844, when a Nativist Gospel-Whig, Rev. John J. Miter, launched an attack against Romanism, charging that the hierarchy was dedicated to the overthrow of the government by control of the Irish vote, Henni's Facts Against Assertions (1845) silenced open attacks and offered a basis for respect and understanding. The press attack of Frederic Fratny of the Forty-eighters against the Church as being antagonistic to republican forms of government and intolerant toward personal liberty, principally by its regulation of marriages and burials, was proved a hoax by the Catholic press. Henni recruited F. J. Felsecker for the propaganda war with the Forty-eighters, and he demonstrated that their press was filled with material fabricated in Luther's time. As a result Catholics became more closely organized through societies and much better informed.
Among the other external obstacles to the Church, the problem of religious freedom for inmates of public reformatories and prisons was settled by legislative enactment in 1891, after two decades of conflict. Little encouragement was accorded know–nothingism in the 1850s, but later the american protective association (apa) developed strength in the state, where about 100 branches were organized. Catholics countered the movement through activities of the Milwaukee Columbian League and in their press, especially the Catholic Citizen. The question of reading the Bible in public schools received notice and significance from the Edgerton Bible Case [see church and state in the u.s. (legal history), 3]. In 1891 the state supreme court declared reading the Bible in public schools sectarian instruction and therefore unconstitutional. Credit for making the question an issue was due largely to Rev. James F. Bowe, of Edgerton, whose efforts were financed by funds raised through the columns of the Catholic Citizen. The Bennett Law, enacted in 1889, was a compulsory education act that included provisions for teaching English and going to school in the district of one's residence. Under the leadership of Archbishop Heiss, the bishops of Wisconsin registered an able and effective protest. The Bennett Law became the issue in the gubernatorial election of 1890, with the result that it was repealed in 1891. In the opinion of Archbishop Katzer, the reversal was due to the intelligence and organization of the laity, under the leadership of Humphrey J. Desmond, lawyer, editor, author, and at that time chairman of the education committee in the Legislature.
Thus, with the exception of the Civil War period, outbreaks of hatred marked every decade prior to 1900. In 1853 the visit to Milwaukee of Abp. Gaetano bedini, papal nuncio to Brazil, provided an opportunity for Forty-eighters to express their hatred of the Church, particularly in their press. They planned to hang Bedini in effigy, but were forced to drop the scheme, when no Native Americans could be induced to join them. A notable address to Bedini from the Catholic laity did much to silence the opposition. Among the anti-Catholic items in the 1870s was the convent libel case, which involved defamatory remarks in a Protestant weekly, the Christian Statesman, about the Notre Dame Sisters in Milwaukee, and was actually a veiled attack on the Catholic school system. The case was tried in circuit court at Milwaukee in February 1875, and ended in a hung jury over the question: Can a corporation be libeled? The affair was settled when the editor retracted his statement. In 1875–76 hatred for the Catholic Church in the German press and the Milwaukee city council was blamed for blocking a donation of land to the Sisters of Charity for a lying-in hospital and infant asylum. The same sisters were engaged in litigation with the city (1890–1900) for damages when Terrace Avenue was extended through their property. Proceedings in the council and feelings elsewhere were marked at times by charges of bigotry, prejudice, and illegality. The city finally paid $5,000 damages and issued a quitclaim deed. In 1897 the placement of Marquette's statue in the national capitol by legislative action produced an outburst of hostility. Positive apologetics in the press and letters by laymen such as Desmond to the lawmakers helped to steady the latter. At the end of the 19th century socialism began to grow locally and nationally. Archbishop Messmer tried to check its effect on labor unions through the Federation of Catholic Societies, the encyclical Rerum novarum of Pope Leo XIII, and the presentation of lectures by noted speakers.
Messmer was also conscious of the need for a pastoral outreach to the blacks. When Lincoln Charles Valle, a black layman from Chicago, called on Messmer in 1908 to interest him in evangelizing the blacks in Milwaukee, Messmer encouraged the work and lent the assistance of diocesan clergy. The Capuchins took over the work in 1911 and after the building of St. Benedict the Moor's church, the apostolate began to bear fruit.
Internal Dissension. Besides strife arising from the outside, the Milwaukee diocese experienced trouble from within in the form of trusteeism, Fenianism, and nationalism. Lay trusteeism never became a major problem to Church leaders who employed common sense and publicity against it. Henni used indirect methods to curb Fenians by persuading local Irish leaders to eschew all support of an association already condemned by the bishops of Ireland. The choice of a coadjutor for Henni in the last years of the 1870s sparked dissension in the press, correspondence, and discussion among the English and German-speaking elements, particularly clerical, in the archdiocese and elsewhere. The appointment of Heiss, though gratifying to Henni, not only disrupted the archdiocese and its unity, but had repercussions far beyond Wisconsin, especially by opening up the entire nationalistic question in the U.S. By focusing attention on the role of nationality, the debate in ecclesiastical circles awakened a livelier regard for immigrants. The Kuryer Polski, a Polish daily of Milwaukee founded in 1888, advocated the creation of Polish dioceses with Polish bishops. For 25 years the question was embittered by official letters banning the paper and by law suits. Finally in 1916 the Kuryer Polski lost its case in which it charged the bishops of the Wisconsin province with conspiracy and boycott. The state supreme court decided in favor of the bishops on the grounds of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, which the plaintiff acknowledged.
Need for meeting a hostile press and furnishing information gave rise to a German Catholic press. In 1852, the Seebote appeared in Milwaukee, followed by the Columbia in 1872, and the Excelsior in 1883. World War I, and the limitation of immigration after it, presaged the doom of the German press and also the lessening of the appeal of other foreign language newspapers. The Star of Bethlehem (1869) and Catholic Vindicator (1870) appeared in English to counter new antagonisms. Both merged in 1878 into the Catholic Citizen, which in turn became the Catholic Herald-Citizen in 1935. The foregoing papers, particularly the Catholic Citizen, which was well informed and edited, may be credited with much of the unity and aggressiveness of the Catholic laity. Beginning in 1885 three successive attempts to publish a Polish paper failed, but the Kuryer Polski began its continuous appearance in 1888. To counter its nationalistic laicism, a clerical opposition press was started at various times. The Katolik (1895) and the Dziennik Milwaucki (1899) were short-lived but the Nowiny Polskie, founded in 1907, lasted to 1950, when popular interest, as well as income, waned.
Institutional Growth. Father Martin kundig introduced the first parochial school at Milwaukee in 1842 with lay teachers, and four years later Henni secured the Sisters of Charity from Emmitsburg, Md., to do the teaching. Milwaukee's first public school opened in June 1846 in the basement of St. Peter's Cathedral by an arrangement with Henni, who agreed not to teach the catechism in school hours. By the 1850s the needed churches had been built and a supply of priests assured by the new seminary (1856). Nothing was closer to the heart of Henni than parish schools wherein the required languages were available. The Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, founded by Rev. Samuel Mazzuchelli, OP, in 1847, provided a partial fulfillment of Henni's plan to obtain teachers for English-speaking congregations. Mother Karoline Gerhardinger of the School Sisters of Notre Dame from Bavaria, who had settled in Pennsylvania in 1847, arrived at Milwaukee in 1850. By 1860 her sisters had charge of 13 diocesan grade schools, and operated Mount Mary College, established 1872, in Milwaukee.
The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi arrived in 1849, and undertook their first teaching assignment in 1864 at Jefferson. Founded, 1937, by the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi for the education of novices and sisters, St. Clare College was renamed Cardinal Stritch College in 1946. In that year, it admitted laywomen and became a women's college. In 1970, Cardinal Stritch College went coeducational and in 1997 it attained university status.
The School Sisters of St. Francis came to Milwaukee from Baden in 1873, and after some migrating finally settled there in 1888. In 1963 they taught in 44 archdiocesan grade schools. German Dominican sisters staffed numerous parish schools in the archdiocese, and established a motherhouse at Racine in 1863, where they conducted coeducational Dominican College (1935). The college was closed in the 1970s.
The Sisters of St. Agnes, founded at Barton, Wis., in 1858, to teach in rural district schools, in addition to having charge of grade schools, established Marian College for women (1963) in Fond du Lac, Wis. St. Thomas College, opened by Mazzuchelli at Sinsinawa in 1847 and chartered in 1848, had a competent faculty and adequate equipment, but was closed in 1865 because of the death of its founder and other factors.
Two high schools opened by the Jesuits in Milwaukee were suppressed by 1872. In 1881 Marquette began as a college; its transformation into a university began in 1907, and its graduate school was organized in 1922. A branch of the Capuchins was organized in 1856 at Mt. Calvary, where St. Lawrence Seminary was started in 1860 and has since graduated many young men destined for the priesthood. Holy Cross Fathers from Notre Dame, Ind., set up a college at Watertown in 1872, which ceased operation as such in 1911, when it became a training school for their brothers.
A normal school, started in 1870 to supply lay teachers and organists, was located in St. Francis and is associated with the work of John Singenberger, composer and organist. The Catholic Summer School of the West was organized at Madison in 1895. In 1906 Rev. Henry Hengell was named chaplain of the Catholic students at the University of Wisconsin, becoming the first to so serve at any secular university in the U.S.
The Sisters of Charity from Emmitsburg, Md., opened the first hospital May 15, 1848, in Milwaukee, which since 1858 has become well-known as St. Mary's. In 1963 there were also St. Joseph's Hospital, conducted by Franciscan sisters, and four lesser general hospitals in Milwaukee, as well as ten others within the archdiocese. Special hospitals were conducted by the School Sisters of St. Francis, the Sacred Heart Sanitarium (1893), and its annex for mental cases, St. Mary's Hill (1912). St. Rose's orphanage for girls was started in 1848 and St. Aemilian's for boys in 1849 at the residence of the Sisters of Charity. In 1855 the boys were put under the charge of the Sisters of St. Francis. In 1908, when there were 17 Polish parishes in the archdiocese, the need for a Polish orphanage was met when St. Joseph's orphanage was opened at Wauwatosa. St. Vincent's Infant Asylum, opened in 1877 by the Sisters of Charity to care for foundlings, uncared-for babies, and unwed mothers, ceased operation Oct. 1, 1958, because of the use of foster homes for small children. The sisters at once adopted a project to aid girls with emotional problems in a group home. In 1877 the Good Shepherd Sisters came to care for delinquent girls, while boys went to an industrial school which was an annex to St. Aemilian's orphanage, probably the earliest predecessor of St. Charles Boys' Home, a protective institution. St. John's School for the Deaf was opened in May 1876. A Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, formed at Milwaukee in 1849, lapsed from 1874 to 1908, when it started anew. The Little Sisters of the Poor have been active in serving the destitute and aged since 1876.
Welfare work became more closely organized, beginning with the appointment of a superintendent in 1920. Since its establishment the welfare bureau has arranged the adoption of 3,000 children into Catholic homes. Its other services include family counseling, homemaker guidance, care for unmarried parents, resettlement help, care for children in foster homes, group homes, and child-care institutions. In 1917 Rev. Joseph Hurst established St. Bernard's Workingmen's Home, a refuge for migratory workers, and before it was closed in 1932 it had fed and lodged 200,000 men. The archdiocese also engaged some notable clerical economists in 1910; these included F. J. haas and A. J. muench, who won international fame, and P. dietz, who influenced labor councils in the American Federation of Labor and ran a school for workers in Milwaukee, mainly to combat socialism. Dietz also led a campaign to legalize parish credit unions in Wisconsin.
Post-War and Post-Conciliar Years. In the years after World War II the archdiocese of Milwaukee had to come to grips with the growth and mobility of the Catholic community. The number of Catholics swelled in proportion to the general population increase, and many were moving to new suburban developments. Milwaukee-born Albert G. Meyer, installed as archbishop in 1953, addressed the expanding needs of a growing population, establishing new parishes, building, and watching the Catholic colleges and universities in the archdiocese expand. When Meyer succeeded Cardinal Stritch as archbishop of Chicago in 1958, he was succeeded by the Most Reverend William Cousins, the bishop of Peoria. Installed in January 1959 as the eighth archbishop of Milwaukee, Cousins continued Meyer's building program. He attended all the sessions of the Second Vatican Council, and moved swiftly to implement its decrees and recommendations. Archbishop Cousins retired when he reached the age of 75 in 1977. (He died Sept. 14, 1988.)
Cousins successor was Rembert G. Weakland, former abbot of St. Vincent's Archabbey in Latrobe, Pa., and Abbot Primate of the Order of St. Benedict in Rome. Already well known throughout the country as a spokesman for monastic renewal, he transferred his activism, tireless zeal, and broad vision of the Church in the modern world to Milwaukee when he was installed as archbishop in November 1977. He reorganized the archdiocesan curia, closed the preparatory seminary built by his predecessor in 1963, turning it into diocesan offices and a retirement home for clergy. In his weekly column in the Catholic Herald, the diocesan newspaper, Archbishop Weakland addressed timely topics, sometimes taking controversial positions on social issues, foreign policy, and the role of women in the Church. Under his direction the archdiocese intensified it pastoral outreach to the Hispanics, ministered to Hmong and Laotian refugees, and established the first urban parish for Native Americans.
Weakland met opposition on a number of fronts and for a number of reasons but none stirred more furor than his plan to remodel the cathedral. The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, consecrated in 1853, had been the focus of controversy before, when in the 19th century, the German Zwiebelturm (onion dome) of the original structure was removed, a gesture that was interpreted as an effort to placate Irish Catholics. In January 1935 a fire completely demolished the interior and the roof, weakened the walls, and destroyed the stained glass windows. The restoration of the cathedral, slowed because of the war, was finally completed just prior to the centennial of the archdiocese in 1943. In the 1960s Archbishop Cousins authorized a new design and reconstruction of the main altar to bring the sanctuary space into conformity with liturgical directives of Vatican II, and in 1977 he initiated a more extensive remodeling. Twenty years later Archbishop initiated the Cathedral Project, a comprehensive plan to preserve historical legacy of the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist and to make the environment and furnishing better serve the spirit of the liturgy. In addition, the plan called for the property north of the Cathedral church to be developed as a center for social outreach to the poor and homeless. A vocal opposition denounced the Cathedral Project and even won a favorable hearing from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Nonetheless, the project went forward and on Feb. 9, 2002 bishops from throughout the state joined the priests of archdiocese and representatives from each of the parishes in a liturgical celebration dedicating the renovated Cathedral. Archbishop Weakland reached mandatory retirement age later in the year.
Bibliography: h. r. austin, The Wisconsin Story (2d ed. Milwaukee 1957). p. l. johnson, Crosier on the Frontier: A Life of John Martin Henni (Madison 1959). b. j. blied, Three Archbishops of Milwaukee (Milwaukee 1955); The Catholic Story of Wisconsin (Milwaukee 1948). a. steckel, "The Catholic Church in Wisconsin," Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia 7 (1896) 225–233; 8 (1897) 20–27. l. rummel, History of the Catholic Church in Wisconsin (Madison 1976). p. wilkes, The Education of an Archbishop: Travels with Rembert Weakland (Maryknoll 1992).
[p. l. johnson/eds.]