Thursday, November 3, 2016

Our Lady Guadalupe 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.

One of Milwaukee's oldest churches, but perhaps not as well known as some of its brethren Downtown, Our Lady of Guadalupe is worth a visit during VIP.

Mid 19th Century architecture, an old German parish, Milwaukee's Mother Hispanic parish, Our Lady of Guadalupe (formerly Holy Trinity) parish has plenty of designations. Over 150 years after its founding, it is still as important for its community as it was at the start. 

Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church looks strikingly similar to Milwaukee’s Old St. Mary’s Catholic Church. This should come as little surprise, as they were designed by the same architect [1].

You too can toll the bell ropes at Our Lady of Guadalupe if you make a visit during the VIP event!

Special VIP Offerings:
- Beer! Beer! Beer! Not many church tours come with free alcohol! Use the coupon attached to the VIP Event Guide to get a free tour at nearby Brenner Brewing at 3 p.m., exclusive to VIP attendees.
- Milwaukee’s first Spanish-language Mass was held in adjacent Holy Trinity School. Hear about the genesis of this important ministry in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
- Ring the bells! Guided and self-guided tours are open throughout the day, and ringing the church bells is allowed.
- Special dance and children’s choir performances throughout the day.
- Mass at 4:30 p.m., Saturday, November 5th

The Holy Trinity School building was witness to the first Spanish Mass in Milwaukee and is open for tours during the VIP event.

Location: 605 S. 4th Street, Milwaukee, WI – Tucked away off the local main corridors, Our Lady of Guadalupe is effectively an anchor tenant of an anchor neighborhood in Walker’s Point. Walker’s Point is one of Milwaukee’s original three settlements dating from the mid-19th Century. With the church building present on this site since 1849, it has seen waves of ethnic cultures come through its doors and shape the neighborhood [2]. Today, Our Lady of Guadalupe sits in the middle of a neighborhood that is revitalizing itself through a mix of business and housing developments. 

Why is this Parish a VIP?

1. One of the Oldest Churches in Milwaukee: While Bobby Tanzillo’s article at does a great job of sharing the early story of the Our Lady of Guadalupe church building, it is best to check it out in person at a Mass or this Saturday at VIP!

The variety of saints depicted on the altars here is astounding.

2. Bilingual Teachings of the Faith: Our Lady of Guadalupe offers religious education in both English and Spanish for its students. This year, the parish Confirmation classes are packed full of soon-to-be confirmed disciples of the Catholic faith. 

3. One Parish, Two Histories: When Our Lady of Guadalupe and Holy Trinity merged in the 1960s, a precedent for many south side Milwaukee parishes was established. This neat essay comes from Our Lady of Guadalupe’s website:

The Unification of Holy Trinity and Our Lady of Guadalupe Parishes
It's the summer of 1966. Not quite three years after the assassination of President Kennedy. Two hours south of Milwaukee, in Cicero, Illinois, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. is very active in community organizing. The British rock-n-roll band The Beatles is an international sensation. And the Packers stars are named Hornung, Nitschke, and Starr.

St. Therese of Lisieux

Six months have passed since the final gathering of Catholic bishops in Rome to conclude the Second Vatican Council. Until the 1960s, the priest has had his back to the congregation, and celebrates Mass in Latin - a language heard and spoken only in Church.

This artwork of St. Augustine was due to be repaired from water damage that impacted the church a decade ago.

Meanwhile, on the Near South Side of Milwaukee, a big change of its own is about to happen . . .
One parish needs more room. It's the only Spanish-speaking church on the South side, located on the southeast corner of 3rd and Washington. The other parish needs more members. It's located six blocks way at 4th and Bruce. Many of its German-and Slovenian-Americans members are passing away, and their children and grandchildren are moving to places like Cudahy and West Allis. Both churches are staffed members of the Franciscan Order-the friars of St. Francis.

Nuestra Señora de San Juan de los Lagos
Our Lady of St. John of the Lakes

The parishioners at Our Lady of Guadalupe have been told about the move a few weeks in advance by Fr. Bede Phelps, OFM Conv. At Holy Trinity, many people know what is going to happen-certainly the altar servers, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and the daily Mass goers - but also the parents of children at Holy Trinity School, where, since 1960s, the students enrollment has been at least one-third Hispanic.

But still, it is a surprise to some, when on Sunday, August 28, 1966, nearly 200 people arrive in procession to the front steps of Holy Trinity. They are from Our Lady of Guadalupe, and they carry banners with the likeness of La Morenita, Mary, the Mother of Our Lord, as she appeared to Saint Juan Diego in 1531 on the outskirts of Mexico City.

XI, Jesus is nailed to the Cross.

Some Holy Trinity members of Hispanic origin are on the steps waiting to greet the newcomers, encouraged to do so by the longest-standing service group at HT - the Christian Mothers. Everyone enters together for a Mass that starts shortly before 2 p.m.

The merger transformed the complexion of the parish. Indeed, as one former Milwaukee, "My marriages and baptisms are now of Mexicans and Puerto Ricans; my funerals are of Germans and Poles."

From 1966 until 2000, the parishes will be known as Trinity-Guadalupe, then simply as Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church

Weekend Mass Times
Sundays: 10 a.m.
Spanish Sunday Mass: 12 p.m.

Special thanks for Father Tim Manatt, S.J., Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, and Amy Grau for arranging my visit to Our Lady of Guadalupe!

Go see some Very Important Parishes in Milwaukee, Wauwatosa, or wherever you are!

Additional Sources:
The Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish website and my was a great source of information throughout the article-writing process.

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