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100 Years of Jesuit Involvement on the Near South Side

By Fr. Timothy Manatt, SJ

On the third Sunday of Advent, I led parishioners of St. Patrick’s Parish in Milwaukee through the meditation on the Trinity and Jesus’ Incarnation from the Spiritual Exercises. At its conclusion, I asked, “What difference does it make that this parish has been staffed by Jesuits since 1982? I hope the preaching and teaching of my predecessors — Frs. Cletus Pfab, the late Bill Pauly, Rick Abert, Jim Flaherty, Joe Spieler, and José Moreno — have inspired you to embrace a personal connection to Jesus, drawing on your memories, imaginations, and personalities.” The cultivation of a uniquely personal relationship with Christ is a hallmark of Jesuit spirituality, which we Jesuits have shared with

Click here for more photos of Fr. Manatt, St. Patrick’s, and Our Lady of Guadalupe. 

Hispanic Catholics in Milwaukee since the early 20th century.The Midwest Jesuits have had a connection to St. Patrick’s since the early 1980s. The parish hosted the first baccalaureate Mass and graduation ceremony of then-Nativity Jesuit Middle School, whose trailblazing eighth-graders I taught in 1995–96. Decades earlier, Fr. Louis Fusz, SJ, a pastor at Church of the Gesu, advocated for the “Spanish-speaking people” of Milwaukee and helped the first storefront church — “Guadalupe Mission” — get established in 1926.

Assigned as pastor of Gesu by Archbishop Sebastian Messmer in 1919, Fr. Fusz was also named vicar to Milwaukee’s Hispanic population, which at the time numbered roughly 750 and mainly consisted of railroad and leather workers from Texas and the Mexican state of Michoacán. A Gesu council of the Knights of Columbus paid to bring a Spanish-speaking priest, Fr. Emanuel Sandoval, SJ, from Chicago. He preached evangelizing “missions” to Hispanics, sometimes in a Slovenian/Croatian parish a stone’s throw from St Patrick’s. Subsequently, Fr. Fusz stepped aside in favor of priests of the Mercedarian Order, who staffed the mission (1926–46), followed in turn by Franciscan friars.

The first Spanish Mass at St. Patrick’s was celebrated Thanksgiving 1969 after persistent lobbying by Puerto Rican parishioners. Eighteen months later, a diocesan pastor with missionary experience in Paraguay was appointed, and a weekly Spanish Sunday Mass started.

Eventually, the archbishop turned to the Jesuits. In 1982, Frs. Cletus Pfab and Bill Pauly assumed pastoral care of the parish. Both learned Spanish through a Creighton University-sponsored health care program in the Dominican Republic.

In 2006, Fr. José Moreno, pastor of St. Patrick’s, assumed responsibility for a second parish — Our Lady of Guadalupe — after the sudden death of its diocesan pastor. It was in the parish school’s gymnasium that the first weekly Sunday Masses with Spanish homilies took place in 1926, prior to the fledgling parish’s move to its nearby storefront location.

Many factors converged to involve the Jesuits in Hispanic ministry in Milwaukee, including facility with Spanish and availability to the needs of the local Church. To be sure, new forms of solidarity with immigrant families will emerge. Some parishioners are making the Spiritual Exercises in everyday life, bringing them into closer relationship with Christ. Our involvement with Nativity Jesuit Academy, Marquette University High School, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, and Marquette University provides both a kindergarten through college educational pipeline and encouragement for religious vocations.

As Guadalupe and St. Patrick’s are now the only Jesuit-sponsored, majority Spanish-speaking parishes between Cleveland and Rapid City, one wonders what might constitute the next frontier for our work in Hispanic ministry.

Fr. Timothy Manatt, SJ, was installed as the seventh Jesuit pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish and the second of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish on March 26, 2017. He will be joined in ministry for the summer by the newly ordained Michael Rossmann, SJ.

Click here for the Spring 2017 Jesuits magazine index. 

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