St. Mary History - 2000 to Today


2001

In June 2001, Plunkett Raysich Architects LLP was selected to design a new worship space for us as the $8.2 million Campus Improvement Project was launched after months of study and planning.

June 2001 also marked another pastoral transition at St. Mary as Father Greg Greiten moved to a new assignment as pastor of St. Mary's in Menomonee Falls. Rev. Gary Nowicki joined the staff as associate pastor. Father Gary immediately thrilled the younger school children with information about his pet turtles and the parish opened its heart to him as he shared stories about his niece Jessica's struggle with illness and his travels back to Michigan to be with her and his family.

In May 2001, a delegation from St. Mary visited Haiti and, in September 2001, Father Tony paid us a visit, speaking at all masses on the weekend immediately following our nation's tragedy-the attacks of Sept. 11. Father Tony's visit was a joyful event, despite the immense sorrow and uncertainty that all Americans felt. The Haiti relationship was on firm ground.

In this same year, a delegation of 18 high school youth, with adult chaperons including Father Art and Tim Winters, began a relationship with the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Every year since 2001, Tim has organized the trip for high school students. While at the reservation, the teens build homes and plant food-producing gardens.

Joanne Prei became the new director of Child Ministry in July 2001.

Michael Halstead was appointed school principal in September 2001. He brought years of school administrative experience to the assignment. He retired from the Cudahy school district prior to taking the assignment at St. Mary.

Debb Honoré joined the Liturgy department as associate director of music in September 2001.

Concept Drawings

Concept Drawings By December 2001, conceptual design plans for our new church and gathering space were ready and presented to the parish. The entire month of December was devoted to studying the plans and seeking more input not only from the now established Building Committee but from the Parish Council, staff and parish as a whole.

The Building Committee continued to hone the plans and by Father's Day 2002, in our 160th year as a parish, ground was broken for our new church that would seat 1,200 and feature a spacious gathering space. With shovels and hard hats, Building Committee members and Council members joined Father Art Heinze and Father Gary Nowicki as ground was turned over and blessed.

Building Our Faith, Building Our Future was the theme for our construction campaign. The new church would include two chapels -- Eucharistic Chapel and a Reconciliation Chapel. More than 44,000 square feet of new facility space would be added to the parish campus through this project. In addition, the existing church was slated for transformation into a structure that would host a new school and parish library, a computer lab for the school, meeting rooms, and offices and common work rooms for the school and parish.

The project included upgrades to the school, the gym, the heating system in the school, additional meeting rooms for adult education programs, a new school cafeteria, and more. The project was necessary to accommodate the many needs of a large and growing parish.

The former parish office building was removed to make way for a large parking lot, an area that now includes the land once occupied by a frontage road.

Principal Halstead's health forced his retirement so, in the fall of 2002, a new principal rotated into the school office, Ms. Barbara Lee. She was a principal in the archdiocese of Milwaukee for 24 years prior to taking the St. Mary assignment. Most recently she had been principal of St. Rose Academy in Milwaukee.

With the old parish office razed in April 2003, a temporary office was built into a section of the old cafeteria, adjacent to the lower parking lot. The parish staff endured the close, non-air-conditioned quarters while they eagerly anticipated new, functional and pleasant spaces in which to do their work.

Photo of Floor Signing

Photo of Floor Signing By May 2003, the concrete floor of our new church was poured. A weekend was set aside to allow parishioners a first-hand look at the progress being made. Parishioners roamed around and marveled at the size of the new church, now still a shell with just walls and a roof. To add their mark to the project, all were invited to "sign" the recently poured concrete floor with a name or a message. Some wrote personal prayers, others poems. Some attempted to place a name or message where they thought their favorite place would be inside the church.

In August 2003, a new mass schedule was established. The Saturday evening mass was moved to 4 p.m., and the Sunday mass schedule was changed to 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. The noon mass was eliminated and the 10:30 a.m. mass was moved to 11 a.m.

St. Mary's Web site was upgraded in mid-2003 with the addition of audio files of recent homilies, and photo albums of the construction project. The Haiti Ministry used the site to post committee agendas, meeting minutes and photos of its recent medical mission.

A new parish logo was introduced in August 2003 as well. Three diverse designs were presented to parishioners for their input. The logo featuring the image of Mary and the Christ Child from our stained glass window won the popularity contest. New letterhead, envelopes and business cards were produced.

In September 2003, the school welcomed a new principal, Jeanne Siegenthaler. Energetic and full of creative energy, Mrs. Siegenthaler earned a Masters of Arts in School Administration from Edgewood College, Madison, and a Bachelor of Science degree in education from the University of Wisconsin - Platteville. She also has earned a wide range of certifications. Prior to taking the assignment at St. Mary's, she was a K-12 special education teacher in Mineral Point, Wis.

Photo of Church Entrance - Sept. 2003

We took occupancy of our new church in late August 2003, and dedicated it the weekend of Sept. 27-28, 2003, with Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan presiding during the Rite of Dedication, at the 11 a.m. mass on Sunday. We dedicated our new church to the Assumption of Mary. Special activities after all of the masses and the entire weekend marked the special occasion and milestone in the parish history with a heightened sense of community and faith building. Often, the joy was expressed through tears, as the parishioners marveled at the beautiful new space. A Sunday evening Vespers service concluded the dedication weekend.

Oct. 26, 2003, Deb Honoré, associate music director, and her husband, Jeff, performed a special concert on a new grand piano, which was donated by a generous parishioner. The concert in our church was part of a yearlong series of concerts to help celebrate and dedicate the new space.

In 2004, the next phase of construction went into high gear: to transform the former church in a two-level building that would provide much-needed meeting rooms, an expanded library and new computer lab for the school. On the main floor, offices for parish and school staff were constructed.

The transformation of this former church space into a highly functional space for child and adult education, and parish and school administration, marked another new beginning for St. Mary Catholic Faith Community.

The Date Your Mate series was introduced as part of adult formation, allowing couples to set aside time to be together in a focused environment free of real-world distractions.

The staff welcomed Jim Beuscher as director of Child Ministry in the Christian Formation department in July 2004, succeeding Joanne Prei who retired June 30, 2004. Jim brought to us 15 years of parish experience. He is a graduate of St. Francis Seminary. Jim and his wife, Kathie, met here, were married here and their son, Aaron, was baptized here.

In Spring 2004, school parents and staff installed new playground equipment adjacent to the lower level parking lot.

A debt reduction campaign, with the theme Sustaining Our Faith, Securing Our Future, was planned and launched in 2004 as well. The appeal was part of the original plan when the construction project was conceived.

Shelving and furniture for the new library arrived and was installed by a team of parish volunteers.

In June 2004, Father Gary Nowicki left St. Mary for his new assignment as pastor of a parish in Elkhorn, Wis., in Walworth County. As we thanked Father Gary for his service to our faith community, we welcomed Rev. Todd Budde as our new associate pastor.

A new symbol began to take shape in fall 2004 in the courtyard adjacent to the cafeteria - a Labyrinth. The Chartres-styled Labyrinth was completed in October 2004, and blessed by Fr. Art Heinze on a cold, rainy November in 2004. The idea of the Labyrinth caught the imagination of Mark Wimmer and his family, and their generosity along with the work of the people from Trees On the Move permanently offers this beautiful and ancient prayer path to the people in our Community. The Labyrinth is open to anyone who wants to take its quiet, prayerful journey to seek the Lord.

2005

Transitions characterized 2005 as the parish experienced leadership changes for pastor and the adult formation director. We said farewell to Fr. Art Heinze and welcomed back Fr. Chuck Schramm, who had served the parish after his ordination in 1971. Sr. Josephe Marie Flynn resigned as the adult formation director to pursue the call to write a book about the successful campaign for asylum for Regina Bakala, who fled the horrors of life in Congo. We welcomed Wendy Rappé as Josephe’s successor.

The parish continued its support of the people in Haiti, with visits by parishioners and a medical team. This support was recognized in 2005 by then Archbishop Rembert Weakland who presented a Vatican II award to Beth and Pam Lownik for their commitment to our sister parish in Haiti. Sr. Josephe also received this award for her work with the Bakalas and her ecumenical work with the “Bridge,” an effort to help those struggling with employment in the post 9/11 years.

The Royal Affair, a fundraising event to benefit the school and the parish, observed its 10th year in 2005 with a gala at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Milwaukee.

A parish variety show features performances from several parish members. The Friday performance was preceded by a spaghetti dinner; soup and sandwich set the stage for the Sunday matinee.

After experiencing our new church environs for a short while, the decision was made to move the sanctuary light from its initial place over the tabernacle to a location just outside the doors to the Eucharistic Chapel, thus calling greater attention to the chapel of reservation for the consecrated Body of Christ. The Art and Environment committee also reported that it was in the process of securing a near life-size statue of Mary, the patron saint of the parish. It initiated the search after several generous donors stepped forward.

The image of Pope John Paul II graced the front cover of the bulletin in early April to commemorate the pontiff’s death on April 2, 2005.

The parish website content now features select recordings of homilies. 

2006

The new year started with a pulpit exchange with pastors from Greendale, Greenfield and Hales Corners, as part of the ecumenical dialogue.

In February, the parish congratulated Father Dominic, the faithful help-out priest, on the 40th anniversary of his ordination. He received gifts and a special blessing that was sung at the end of all of the weekend liturgies. In June, Father Chuck celebrated 35 years as a priest and associate pastor Father Todd Budde celebrated five years of priesthood. June 2006 also marked the first year of Father Chuck’s term as pastor.

Sixteen-year staff member Carolyn Rausch retired in March. Carolyn was an anchor in the office and also volunteered for the fish fry and Spring luncheon. Barb Schwartz, a 15-year employee, retired later in 2006 from her duties as child catechetics director. Barb formed thousands of children during her tenure.

In March, the school held a winter carnival in the gym and cafeteria as a community builder.

Living the Gospel, parish members dug into their pockets for the Archdiocesan-wide Katrina relief drive to help those in the Gulf Coast region.

The festival marked its 25th year of building the community through fun and hard work.

As the parish celebrated the third anniversary of the new church, a statue of Mary was dedicated on Sept. 23. Artists Anna Koh-Varilla and Jeffrey Hanson Varilla were on hand for the dedication and reception.

2007

A Mardis Gras organ concert, featuring David Brackley and the parish’s beautiful Rodgers organ, brightened the days of the lingering winter.

In March Father Chuck announced that associate pastor Father Todd Budde was being tapped to serve as a pastor and would be leaving the parish in June. We sent Father Todd off in true St. Mary’s fashion, as he accepted his role as pastor at St. Bonifice in Germantown. Succeeding Father Todd was Father Stephen Forrest, a priest who quickly endeared himself to us.

The school went wireless in 2007 thanks to funds provided by the Home and School Association. New laptops and a color, wireless printer also were added. The school also learned it had achieved Exemplary Status in the area of mission, community and climate -- recognition from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

We had been following the drama of the asylum quest for Regina and David Bakala and in April, the hearing in Chicago was successful. The immigration judge granted asylum to both, saving them from deportation to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The parish rejoiced with the Bakalas on April 15. Kudos to the Save Regina Committee for their steadfast focus. For its leadership in the campaign to save Regina, the parish received the Rev. Herbert Huebschmann Urban Ministry Award. Sister Josephe Marie Flynn accepted the award on behalf of the parish at the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee on Dec. 6.

Francis Rainer day was observed May 12 as parishioners turned out to clean up the parish grounds, in the spirit of Francis who daily picked up trash and debris for years.

A feasibility study was launched to determine interest in a columbarium.

A special collection was held to offset a budget deficit of nearly $75,000. 

2008

A parish revival in mid February set the stage for Lent. The three-day event included presentations by Mary Matestic, pastoral associate; Father Chuck Schramm; and Dan Scholz, chair and assistant professor in the Religious Studies department at Cardinal Stritch University. Father Stephen Forrest also taught a yoga class as part of the series.

The annual Evening for Couples had a Valentine’s theme.

Holz Chevrolet employees collected food and supplemented that with the purchase of a large amount of food, resulting in truckloads for the parish food pantry. The St. Vincent de Paul society was grateful to the Holz family and team for their generosity.

Financial turmoil in the Archdiocese led to a meeting for St. Mary’s parishioners with the archdiocese’s chief financial officer in attendance as well as parish trustee, director of administrative services, a member of the finance committee and Father Chuck Schramm. Parishioners learned about the financial state of the archdiocese and the parish and also received answers to questions.

Faithful Citizenship was the topic of a two-part program about voting your conscience featuring Father Chuck Schramm and Father Andy Nelson, an instructor at St. Francis Seminary.

The middle school forensics team captured third place in a state competition.

St. Vincent de Paul member John MacGillis was recognized by the Archdiocesan Council of SVDP with the Ozanam Medallion, which is awarded to the individual who does an outstanding job of living out the ideals of being a Vincentian.

Changes in the composition of the adult choirs took place in 2008 with the combination of the two choirs into one. The action was driven by the loss of one of the choir directors and resulted in a larger choir with a broader range of voices.

Teen SPARC (Social-Positive-Active-Real-Community) was formed to shape the spirituality of the church’s future leaders.

More than 700 people from 21 parishes attended an evening of reflection at St. Mary’s for all liturgical ministers and parishioners in October. The event featured Father Richard Fragomeni, who teaches at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and chairs the Department of Word and Worship. 

2009

Gina Brown joined the staff as the new principal of the school.

Father Fragomeni returned for a prelude to Lent, conducting a session that journeyed with St. Paul through Lent. He returned again in October for a session to answer “questions from the pews” about the Catholic faith, traditions and the liturgy.

Members of the parish assembled 60 brown bag lunches for those served by Repairers of the Breach.

The Columbarium Committee conducted a survey to determine the level of interest in adding a columbarium to the cemetery grounds.

The 14th annual Royal Affair featured denim attire and was held at the Harley-Davidson Museum. Arriving via motorcycle was optional.

In June, Father Stephen departed to take on the assignment of pastor of St. Mark Parish in Kenosha where his bilingual skills were needed. “I hope it won’t be goodbye because prayer and friendships go beyond Hales Corners and Kenosha,” he wrote in a bulletin letter of farewell. Absent an associate pastor, the parish continued to serve the people with good liturgy and sacraments through help-out priests, deacons and lay people.

The Archdiocese acquired an acting interim bishop -- Bishop Callahan -- as Archbishop Dolan was selected by the Holy Father to head up the Archdiocese of New York City.

The Young at Heart group announced plans to put on a murder mystery play with members of the parish as the acting troupe. The call for talent started in 2009 with auditions in September for the play to go live in 2010.

Handel’s Messiah was performed by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in the church on Dec. 16, continuing the commitment to use the church space for a music and arts series.

Jerome Listecki was installed as Archbishop of Milwaukee in November 2009.

2010

Newly ordained, Father Matthew Widder joined the staff as associate pastor. Father Matthew quickly endeared himself to all generations in the parish. Along with his devotion to Christ, he brought a conviction to physical well being.

Brigid O’Donnell joined the staff as pastoral associate as our long-time pastoral associate Mary Matestic moved in a new life phase – retirement. Brigid managed the RCIA program and also organized several initiatives to help adults grow in their faith, among them the First Fridays for Women series.

2011

The parish joined Father Chuck Schramm in celebration of his 40th anniversary of ordination.

Father Chuck Schramm and Father Matthew Widder hosted a six-part series to explore pressing issues in our faith as well as in today’s culture. Topics included conscience; prayer; God, sex and religion; politics and war – whose side is God on; different religions; who is this awesome God?

The annual women’s retreat in autumn, led by Mary Matestic, pastoral associate, featured the theme: Breaking Open the Word, Breaking Open Our Hearts.

Thanks to the generosity of a parishioner, the parish replaced the outdoor sign with a digital model that displayed rotating messages to promote events and invite the community to join us.

The parish, along with Catholics around the world, learned that the third edition of the Roman Missal was soon to be introduced. A committee prepared and executed a comprehensive plan to introduce the new language so that parishioners would be able to adopt the changes easily.

Father Matthew Widder journeyed to Haiti with other members of the parish as part of the parish’s ongoing relationship with sister parish Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Latiboliere. He returned with new inspiration for the richness of a community gathering together to celebrate the Eucharist.

The annual Thanksgiving food drive demonstrated again the generosity of our parish. Sixty-six baskets of food were prepared for needy families and three other parishes received bags of food for their food pantries as well.

2012

It’s been a year since our parish began a partnership with Prince of Peace Parish in Milwaukee. Our members have been helping Prince of Peace parishioners learn how to speak English. Another appeal for volunteers was issued in early 2012 to continue this work.

Our mission week featured Bishop Richard Sklba who presented Spiritual Growth: Roots and Harvest Riches; and performances of The Handmaid of the Lord and Claudia (Pilate’s wife) & The Three Trees by Acacia Theatre.
SOUPer Bowl Sunday, Feb. 4, found parishioners bringing hundreds of cans of soup to feed the homeless and veterans in need.

Young at Heart held their third annual murder mystery dinner theater, presenting “Murder Stalks the Reunion.”

Associate Pastor Father Matthew Widder formed a running group.

Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota was the site for the high school mission trip in June.

Father Chuck Schramm, Father Matthew Widder and Debra Schneider of Catholics for Peace and Justice presented the topic of faith and politics on two nights before the spring election.

Ongoing promotion of the Columbarium to generate a sufficient number of reservations before building could start continued. With enough commitments in hand, the parish filed a formal request with the Archdiocese to proceed. Permission was granted by the end of the year.

Mrs. Kosmider, who taught in our school for 32 years, retired.

The Honorés, Debb and Jeff, played a concert in our church featuring “favorites and hymns.”

Our first communicants numbered 109, celebrating First Eucharist over two weekends in Spring.

The Faith in Action series was launched. This monthly column in the bulletin featured various volunteers who work behind the scenes to help our parish thrive.

With many helping hands, the Labyrinth Courtyard was re-landscaped with beautiful plantings and a retaining wall on the perimeter to prevent soil erosion.

A goal was set to raise $100,000 to offset maintenance costs. By June we were two-thirds of the way to the goal, thanks to the generous response by parishioners.

Deacon Bill Goulding started a Gay and Straight in Christ (GASIC) group for monthly discussion, education, faith sharing and support.

Father Matthew mobilized a group of teens to help with festival set-up. Faith in action!

The theme of the annual Women’s Retreat was Blessed, Broken and Shared: The Eternal Grace of the Eucharist.

The Go Make a Difference initiative was launched, bringing an opportunity to the entire parish to be involved in the outreach activities.

The Good News People program was launched, a 14-session small group, community-building process. The First Thursday and Fridays for Women series continued as well.

Sixty-six youth were confirmed on Oct. 14.

The Royal Affair, a fundraiser for the parish and school endowment fund, featured a Moonlight Masquerade Ball at the Sheraton Milwaukee Brookfield Hotel.

Father Chuck hosted a dinner for all men and women who served in the military as part of the Veterans Day observation.

Sixty-two families and three food pantries benefited from the St. Vincent de Paul food drive collection.

Thanks to a grant from the Jerome J. and Dorothy H. Holz Foundation, a new video camera was mounted in the church; a projector and drop-down screen was installed in the Gathering Space, and the sound system in the Gathering Space and board room was upgraded.

2013

Change in pastoral leadership was the big news in 2013 as we bid farewell to Father Matthew Widder in June and welcomed Father Brian Mason as our new associate pastor. And even bigger news for worldwide Catholics as Pope Benedict stepped down from his position for health reasons, the first resignation of a pope in centuries.

Fire Up Your Faith was the theme for the Parish Mission before the start of the Lenten season. As Lent unfolded, Fuel the Fire of Your Faith was the theme of sessions held in the mornings and evenings. The Bible Timeline Scripture study continued during Lent as well.

The Young at Heart produced The Flapper Affair, a murder mystery for the audience to solve. The event was held at Serb Hall in February.

Newly elected Pope Francis gave his first blessing March 13.

The 8th graders collected blue jeans for Lissy’s Place, Pathfinders, Repairers of the Breach and the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative.

We collected items that were in great need in Haiti such as ibuprofen, aspirin, soap and other hygiene products. We filled a sea container; confirmation was received in May by our sister parish that the container had arrived. We have been in relationship with Haiti for 13 years now.

We said farewell to Father Matthew Widder, associate pastor on the weekend of June 15 and 16 with a program and reception following the 4 p.m. Saturday liturgy and a reception after all masses on Sunday. The following weekend we welcomed Father Brian Mason as our associate pastor.

A campus-wide security upgrade was installed, making our buildings more secure.

The new columbarium was under construction and the sale of niches continued.

Planning began for our 175th anniversary.

United Hearts Scripture Study with members of the Repairers of the Breach Community continued. Parish members spend part of a Saturday morning reading the Sunday readings with the homeless.

We celebrated the 10th anniversary of the dedication of our new church on Sept. 29. 

The Bread ministry kicked off this year. Day old bread donated by a local bakery is brought to the parish in bulk. Loaves are bagged and then taken to a local food pantry in the inner city for distribution to the hungry.

The Columbarium was dedicated in November with a special liturgy. Families who purchased niches brought the cremains of their loved ones and placed them in the niche during a ceremony. Phase 2 of the columbarium project was announced, expanding the number of niches that will be available.

Father Chuck hosted the Pastor’s Thanksgiving Meal on Thanksgiving Day in the cafeteria. All were welcome.

Taize Prayer, which includes sung and chanted prayer, meditation and silence and readings and icons, was held in the Gathering Space during Advent. We were filled to capacity with attendees.

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra performed Handel’s Messiah in a concert in our church on Dec. 18.

2014

The year was marked with change as we helped Father Chuck Schramm move gracefully from active ministry to his new role as a senior priest. With the announcement of Father Chuck’s retirement, we received the good news that Father Brian Mason, associate pastor, was named parish administrator, a position he would hold until December when he was appointed pastor by Archbishop Jerome Listecki. Two weeks after we sent Father Chuck into his new lifestyle we welcomed newly ordained Father Gideon Buya to our faith community.

The columbarium in our cemetery was expanded with Phase II to provide additional resting places for parish members, family and friends.

Our SOUPer Bowl Weekend found parishioners toting large cans of vegetable beef soup. The kitchens at Milwaukee Homeless Veterans and Repairers of the Breach were restocked, thanks to the generosity of St. Mary.

The parish mission kicked off the Lenten Season with Fr. Domenic Roscioli, an entertaining and captivating speaker who helped us find God in our everyday life experiences.

The school hosted a winter carnival, offering fun for the entire family.
Young At Heart continued its schedule of amazing trips, from the UW Band concert in Madison to Sister Act in Appleton, and more.

We welcomed 20 new altar servers and 13 cross-bearers who were trained in January and February.

Parish teens helped at the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans warehouse where they painted rooms and organized the food pantry. Middle school students participated in the Just 5 Days program, enriching their spirituality.

Father Brian and school chef Dennis LoPiparo hosted the third annual parish Thanksgiving Day dinner in the cafeteria. All were welcome to enjoy a tasty feast.

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra filled our church with the beautiful sounds of Handel’s Messiah in mid-December.

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