St. James in Kenosha to mark 175 years

St. James in Kenosha to mark 175 years


Before Wisconsin was established as a state and when Kenosha was known as Southport, Irish Catholic immigrants living in the Racine and Kenosha area met at various homes for Mass when missionary priests were in the area.

In 1834, the Rev. Martin Kundig of Detroit was the official missionary for the village, celebrating Mass in his room when he was in the area. By 1844, residents wanted a spiritual home of their own and began planning for a permanent church location.

A few of the men began digging the church basement. The first Mass took place in the basement of the new, partially constructed church.

The parish was incorporated under the name St. Mark and would be one of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s first churches, as they also celebrate their 175th anniversary this year.

By Aug. 15, 1846, the completed building was dedicated.

More than a decade later, the first Catholic School was erected under the pastorate of the Rev. James D. Roche. Lay instructors served as the school’s teachers until 1870, when the Dominican Sisters from Sinsinawa began serving the school.

Three years after the Rev. James Cleary was called to serve St. Mark’s in 1880, the parish began growing and plans were made to erect a new, larger church building along 10th Avenue (now 58th Street and 10th Avenue).

To commemorate the patron saint of Cleary, the new parish was changed to St. James. On June 3, 1883, the parish cornerstone was laid, with the first Mass in the new church on May 10, 1884.

Yearlong celebration

To kick off St. James’ yearlong 175th anniversary celebration, there will be a Lenten presentation at 7 p.m. March 12 at the parish. Guest speaker Charles Craigmile will present “The Fall and Restoration of Saint Peter as a Model of Conversion.” Craigmile will delve into sin and forgiveness in light of recent clergy abuse situations.

On Saturday, March 16, St. James hosts its annual St. Patrick’s Day Dinner with Irish music in a heated tent in the parish parking lot. There will be an “Irish Hour” from 4-6 p.m., followed by an authentic Irish dinner at 6 p.m.

The following day, March 17, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki will celebrate Sunday Mass at 2 p.m., followed by a dinner catered by Alyce’s Catering. According to parish administrator the Rev. Sean Granger, the catered event will include roast beef au jus, Italian baked chicken, parsley potatoes, mostaccioli a fruit platter and two anniversary cakes made by Paelli’s Bakery.

“We will have music by the Sentinels and House of Gerhard is donating their time and other items toward our event,” said Granger. “We are very excited for this kick off to our anniversary year. We have these major events for the weekend followed by a lot of smaller celebrations going on throughout the year.”

Well-known church

The original St. Mark’s building is what is known as the rectory now. The small community of 300 families is home to what is architecturally the most beautiful church in the city, according to Granger.

“It is an English Gothic church built and very conducive to private prayer,” he said. “The parishioners are very close knit, and everyone loves being members there. A lot of St. James people hang out, spend time together and are invited to each other’s homes and out to dinner. In other parishes, members go to Mass and don’t always have a sense of extended community. St. James seems to have much more appreciation for each other’s presence.”

Mary Gullo, longtime parishioner and president of the Women’s Club, agreed and added that she is amazed at all the tiny parish, especially Granger, has been able to accomplish over the years.

“Father Sean works hard and makes impossible things possible,” she said. “If it weren’t for Father Sean, St. James in the physical mode would not be here. So many things needed to be done when he came; for instance, we needed a new boiler system and he did it. I am not sure how, but he had people step up with their expertise and did the renovations and consult with him on what needed to be done. He was able to raise some money for it so we could have heat in the church. He was also able to do tuckpointing on the church when we put on our new roof and fixed the tower bell. He did a lot of these renovations himself and does so much behind the scenes that not even the parishioners are aware of. He is a wonderful guy. God gave him a gift — how can you not believe in God when you look at that man and see what he has done?”

After being a member of St. James for more than 35 years, Gullo said she has a heart for the parish and the community. She attended the parish school, which closed in 1974, and said no matter where she goes, her heart will always be with St. James.

“I know God is everywhere, but when you walk into St. James, you can feel the history as you walk through the doors,” she said. “It is a different world in there, a special kind of silence that you know you are there with God. It is a treasure, truly.”

With the backing of parishioners, Granger is excited that there is a push to preserve the history of the oldest parish in Kenosha. He said he is happy to continue the traditions that his predecessor, the Rev. Frederick Heuser, did when he served as pastor of St. James.

“Being the oldest parish in Kenosha, Catholicism has been lived out in this parish for 175 years and we look forward to 175 more,” he said. “I am grateful for the passionate and great parishioners who are helping to mark this celebration.”

Key dates in the history of St. James the Apostle Catholic Church

March 12, 1844 Parish was incorporated under the name of St. Mark

Sept. 29, 1844 First Mass in St. Mark Church — held in the basement because the walls were not yet completed.

Aug. 15, 1846 St. Mark Church was completed and dedicated.

June 3, 1883 St. James cornerstone was laid.

May 6, 1884 Grand opening of St. James church — featured a concert and a lecture on “Religion and Art” by the Rev. Thomas O’Gorman (this same date is given as the first funeral).

May 10, 1884 First Mass at St. James Church

June 22, 1884 St. James Church dedication

Oct. 29, 1884 First two weddings at St. James Church

Nov. 4, 1884 First baptism at St. James Church

Dec. 31, 1886 St. James Rectory was completed.

September 1892 St. James School was completed.

Lenten presentation

What: “The Fall and Restoration of Saint Peter as a Model of Conversion,” presented by Charles Craigmile, who holds an undergraduate degree in philosophy, with minors in Latin and Greek from the University of St. Thomas, an MA in philosophy from DePaul University, and an MBA from JL Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Craigmile has also completed three years of course work toward a graduate degree in Theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Ill. Over the last 25 years, Craigmile has taught Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) programs across the Chicago area, most recently at St. Mary’s in Lake Forest, Ill. He is founder and CEO of Revenova, a transportation and logistics technology company.

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 12

Where: St. James Catholic Church, 5804 Sheridan Road

St. Patrick’s Dinner

What: St. James’ annual St. Patrick’s Day Dinner

When: Saturday, March 16: Irish hour 4 to 6 p.m.; dinner 6 p.m.

Where: St. James Catholic Church, 5804 Sheridan Road

Tickets: $20 for adults, $10 for children 12 and younger, available at St. James or St. Elizabeth churches, or contact Ann Collin at 262-705-6128{/li}

Mass, dinner with archbishop

What: Sunday Mass and dinner with Archbishop Jerome Listecki{/li}{li class

When: 2 p.m. Sunday, March 17. Dinner immediately following Mass.

Where: St. James Catholic Church, 5804 Sheridan Road{/li}{li class

Tickets: $20 for adults, $10 for children 12 and younger, available at St. James or St. Elizabeth churches, or contact Ann Collin at 262-705-6128


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