Thursday, November 3, 2016

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Milwaukee - VIP Milwaukee Preview

Note: This is one in a series of five posts previewing the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s Very Important Parishes (VIP) event on Saturday, November 5th. To view the other preview posts and learn more about VIP, check out the first post in the series.

Immaculate Conception Catholic Parish is an institution in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood. The church building, while over a century old, has adapted over time with numerous renovations and looks fantastic today. Being a well-established parish, Immaculate Conception has generated its own history and traditions that cement its meaning locally and for the Archdiocese as a Very Important Parish.

Immaculate Conception has one of the more eclectic church interiors around stylistically.

Special VIP Offerings:
- Learn how to play dartball! This fun game has been an Immaculate Conception tradition for years, and local experts will be available to talk about it.
- Choir and organ performances throughout the day, including special choir performances at 12:15 and 1 p.m.
- Guided and self-guided tours highlighting the high altar, sacristy, stained glass windows, and many more features!
- Mass at 5 p.m., Saturday, November 5th, with Confessions at 4 p.m.

Location: 1023 E. Russell Avenue, Milwaukee, WI – Immaculate Conception sits near the center of the Bay View neighborhood, and fronts its most famous street, Kinnickinnic Avenue. Bay View is one of Milwaukee’s most vibrant neighborhoods, with an eclectic mix of homes, restaurants, and shopping opportunities. Being one of Milwaukee’s largest neighborhoods by geographic area, Immaculate Conception is one of two Catholic churches in the neighborhood, along with St. Augustine.

The church is a sizable landmark along Kinnickinnic Avenue’s business district.

Fun Facts from Immaculate Conception:
- You may have heard of Flip this House, but at this parish they have flipped the church, quite literally! One of Immaculate Conception’s largest renovations was flipping the altar of worship from the south end to the north end of the church in the late 1950s. The tours at VIP and Bobby Tanzilo’s article at cover this in more detail.
- For a long time, the parish hosted its own Catholic school on parish grounds. Today, Atlas Preparatory Academy keeps the school buildings a hub for learning in the City of Milwaukee.
- The parish’s namesake, St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, is considered a patron saint of the United States [1].
- Roughly 700 families make Immaculate Conception their place of worship.

Even the Infant of Prague needs to check His mail once in awhile!

Why is this Parish a VIP?
1. Parish Activities: The parish is an active member of a six-parish collaborative group on the southeast side of Milwaukee. This group organizes religious education courses for kids and adults alike. A variety of ministry groups add to the energy of parish life, including Human Concerns, Prayer and Worship, and St. Vincent de Paul. Immaculate Conception also supports St. Thomas Aquinas Academy, a south side Milwaukee Catholic school for grades K4 – 8.

Father David Ryan

2. Priests Have To Go War Too: Hear the story and see some of the artifacts of one Immaculate Conception’s parish priest, Father David Ryan, who served in World War II as a Chaplain in the 82nd Air Borne Division. Some of his artifacts from his service in the Army will be on display at VIP.

Some of Father Ryan's vestments, including his reversible garment in the bottom photo. Check them out at VIP!

Corinthian capitals run along the sides of the nave.

Detail, Mosaic of the Jesse Tree, revealing much of the genealogy of Jesus.

3. A Church Building Goes Eclectic: The minds who have gone through Immaculate Conception over the years seem to have enjoyed mixing artistic styles. While the church was built in the mid-1900s and altered numerous times since, it is easy to see artistic motifs from throughout the 20th Century. Some things, like the Corinthian capitals and columns inside and out, evoke the Roman era. The 1950s mosaic depicting the Jesse Tree in the Sanctuary, blends the traditionalist concept of having a high altar in a church to a more contemporary context. Some stylistic moves came about as recently as the 1980s, with the communion rails shifting to the side altars and pulpit. Just a few years ago, the tabernacle was moved to the center of the sanctuary behind the altar in a nod towards more traditional liturgical design.

Part of the original communion rails were adapted for use in front of the side altars, including this one with St. Joseph.

"In memory of Father Fagan, Father Pierce, and Father Ryan. Pray for them."

Left: The Annunciation
Right: The Nativity

4. Ohh, but Look at those Windows!: I’m hoping for all of you that the day of VIP is sunny so you can check out the Marian-focused stained glass windows in all of their glory! Most of the windows were added to the church during the 1950s and represent an elegant Modern finish. One exception to this is the richly detailed window of Christ the King, which is believed to date from the church’s 1907 construction. Even if it’s cloudy outside, be sure to give them a look. You can always go back on a sunny day to enjoy the windows some more!

For more photos of Immaculate Conception, check out an earlier Roamin’ Catholic Churches article from December 2014:

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church

Weekend Mass Times
Saturdays: 5 p.m.
Sundays: 9:30 a.m.

Special thanks for Heidi Minikel, Reverend Philip J. Schumaker, Immaculate Conception Parish, and Amy Grau for arranging and facilitating my visit to Immaculate Conception and offering a great deal of subjects to write about!

Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

Additional Sources:
The Immaculate Conception Parish website, print materials, and my conversations with folks at the parish were great sources of information throughout the article-writing process. 

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