Saving St. Stanislaus

It is the story of so many Catholic churches in the West. As parish numbers declined in the 1970’s and 80’s, the future of landmark St. Stanislaus Church in an old Polish neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin became uncertain.

Fortunately, the Latin Mass community, which had a strong presence there, had several dedicated older priests who requested assistance. In 2007, then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan gave St. Stanislaus Parish to the care of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest (ICKSP).

Today, new life has come to the venerable old church. St Stanislaus offers both the Extraordinary Rite of the Mass (1962 Latin Rite) on Sundays and the Ordinary Rite Mass (English) on the Saturday vigil. Hundreds of families regularly attend the Extraordinary Rite Mass here on Sundays and weekdays. The choir loft is adorned with a medallion of St. Cecelia, patroness of musicians. Here, the choir sings Gregorian chant and other beautiful ancient Masses.

Canon Olivier Meney was the first Rector, succeeded by Canon Benoit Jayr, who spent eight years in his first Apostolate in Mon Pelletier in the south of France and then 10 years in Port Marly in the diocese of Versailles. Canon Jayr spoke with Regina Magazine about St Stanislaus, which he calls his ‘home away from home.’

VISIBLE SIGN OF FAITH AND DEVOTION: Although Poles had been trickling into the south side of Milwaukee for years, it was not until 1866 that they were numerous enough to organize a parish. Thirty families bought a small brick church, formerly owned by Lutherans, and dedicated it to St. Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr. (PHOTO CREDIT: James Berry)

Canon Benoit Jayr: “Our congregation comes from everywhere! People come from all parts of Southeastern Wisconsin, including Sheboygan/Kohler, Kenosha, Hartland, Oconomowoc and all points in between.”

REGINA: What was the condition of the church when you arrived?
St. Stanislaus Parish was in drastic need of repairs from the past 50 years. Repairs included several years of extensive water damage and the bad renovation from the 1960s!

REGINA: What was the size of the parish?
About 100 families.

REGINA: What is the size now? Can you give us some indications of the activity at St Stanislaus?
Currently St. Stanislaus is at about 150 families. We have between 550 – 600 people in attendance each Sunday. There are about two-to- four parishioner weddings per year and we have 50 + baptisms each year.

There are two Latin Masses each Sunday. One low mass at 8:00 a.m. and a High Mass at 10:00 a.m. Confessions are offered before each Sunday Mass, before each daily Mass and available by appointment.

REGINA: Any vocations from your Parish?
There is one priestly vocation from the Latin Mass (Abbé Luke Zignego) and one religious vocation to the Sister Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus (ICK) ( Marie Zignego) and one from the English Mass (Fr. Brad Krawczyk) .

REGINA: We noticed from the (terrific) video that there are many young people there at Mass.
Yes, we definitely see that young people are especially attracted to the Traditional Latin Mass. They are searching for that deep understanding of spirituality and are sensitive to the reverence which is expressed in TLM. They are touched by the atmosphere of adoration, silence and also Gregorian chant, the constant, unchanging tradition. For them the Mass is not a “theatrical show” given by a smiling actor. The Traditional Latin Mass is a reverential sacrifice to Almighty God.

REGINA: So what are the next steps for St. Stanislaus?
Through extensive fundraising and having faith in the generosity of the people who attend St. Stanislaus and those sensitive to the most famous historical landmark in Milwaukee we are working to raise the remainder of these funds to complete the renovations!

IN 2016, THE PARISH OF ST. STANISLAUS WILL BE 150 YEARS OLD. The care and preservation of this venerable building will continue so that new generations of Catholics will be able to give glory to God within its hallowed walls. (PHOTO CREDIT: James Berry)

ST STANISLAUS OFFERS SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE, including the Confraternity of Christian Mothers, Altar & Rosary, Sursum Corda for young adults, Holy Name Society, choir, teen groups, Blue Knights for young boys, the Company of the Immaculate.

Canon Benoit Jayr and Abbe George Baird: “Our next project is the sanctuary, main altar, and communion rail. This will be a reconstruction to the original design of the church by the Polish Catholics when it was first built before the renovations in the 1960s. We also have extensive repairs to the body of the church due to years of lack of maintenance.”

ALL-PARISH ACTIVITIES DURING THE YEAR: The Spring Fundraising Dinner and Auction, Church Picnic, Movie Night, All Saints Day Parade, a St. Nicholas visit, a monthly doughnut social, and a big celebration for St. Joseph’s Feast Day.

AT ST. STANISLAUS, THERE IS A LARGE SENSE OF COMMUNITY WITH LIFE AFTER SUNDAY MASS. There are many groups and activities, Catechism for young and old, which provides the people the spiritual food that is necessary for the increase and love of the Catholic faith.

WE DEFINITELY SEE THAT YOUNG PEOPLE ARE ESPECIALLY ATTRACTED to the Traditional Latin Mass. They are searching for that deep understanding of spirituality and are sensitive to the reverence which is expressed in TLM.

FOR YOUNG PEOPLE THE MASS IS NOT A “THEATRICAL SHOW” GIVEN BY A SMILING ACTOR. The Traditional Latin Mass is a reverential sacrifice to Almighty God.

YOUNG PEOPLE ARE TOUCHED BY THE ATMOSPHERE OF ADORATION, silence and also Gregorian chant, the constant, unchanging tradition.

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  • 1872: Cornerstone laid
  • 1873: Established first Polish parochial school in America
  • 1882: Celebrated 96 marriages, 589 baptisms, and 520 confirmations
  • 1894: Four immense 10 ton bells with the names of all the donors inscribed are hung
  • Early 1930’s, under the direction of Fr. Jurasinski, the church and several other parish buildings were renovated. The current 4-story school was also built.
  • 1960: extensive renovations of dome and towers
  • 1962: Fire causes significant damage
  • 1963: Rectory renovated
  • 1964: All stained glass windows which had depicted events in the life of St. Stanislaus were removed.
  • 1965, Interior renovated – altar destroyed, pulpit moved, all but two small portions of the communion rail removed and sanctuary extended. Baptismal Font moved and exterior shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa added, believed to be the largest mosaic image of the Miraculous Virgin in the world.

This is the story of St. Stanislaus Church in Milwaukee, administered by the Institute of Christ the King. The video keeps a special eye on the restoration that is in progress. See how 19th century immigrants’ work is being carried on today through the miracle that is the Traditional Latin Mass. [Video Produced by Bolder Pictures]

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