Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Saint Bernard Catholic Church, Wauwatosa - VIP Milwaukee Preview

Note: This is one in a series of five posts previewing the Archdioceseof 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.


The mother church of Wauwatosa, Saint Bernard’s partakes in a wide range of activities throughout the city. Along with providing a religious base for the local Catholic faithful, the parish offers several community services, collaborates with its neighboring Catholic parishes to enhance their collective mission, and maintains a modern church building that maintains a traditional sense of a worship space.

The interior of Saint Bernard’s, of Modernist design, directs visitors’ attention to the center of the sanctuary, where the tabernacle and Eucharist rest underneath the crucifix.

Special VIP Offerings:
- Raffle to climb up to the church bell tower! You must attend VIP to be in the raffle!
- Mixed-media local art exhibit in the Griffey Parish Hall featuring local residents.
- Numerous tours including the Sacristy, Stained Glass Windows, and Food Pantry.
- Organ performances throughout the event.
- Mass at 4 p.m., Saturday, November 5th

You can climb up to this bell tower, but only if you attend VIP!

Location: 1500 N. Wauwatosa Avenue, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin - Saint Bernard’s holds a commanding hillside view of Downtown Wauwatosa near the corner of Harwood and Wauwatosa avenues. The parish has been present along Harwood Avenue (Wauwatosa’s former Main Street) since 1912 [1]. This location puts the church practically in the center of action near Downtown’s many restaurants and shops and near eastern Wauwatosa’s pleasant neighborhoods. Wauwatosa is a long-established suburban community located just west of the City of Milwaukee.

Detail, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, from the south wall of the church.

Fun Saint Bernard’s Facts:
- Its namesake saint, Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153 A.D.), chose a humble vocation as a monk, but over time was called upon to preach the crusade and is considered a Doctor of Holy Church for his writings [2].
- Founded in 1911, it is Wauwatosa’s oldest Catholic Parish.
- Roughly 550 families call St. Bernard’s home.

Detail, Blessed Virgin Mary.

Why is this Parish a VIP?
1. Parish Activities: Unique among many churches is their contribution to the coffee industry. Bernard’s Blend is a unique concoction of chocolate and hazelnut aromas, with just a touch of a berry fruit influence. Like any good coffee maker, the blend is available for purchase, which helps fund the parish and its work [3]. Try some at VIP!

Beginning in 1980, the parish has held or supported a food pantry for the wider Wauwatosa Community. Today, the Tosa Community Food Pantry continues this service within Saint Bernard’s. Tours of the food pantry will be available throughout the VIP event. Other initiatives that the parish uses to provide a hand to the outside world include their Human Concerns Committee and The Guest House. 

Votive candles and artwork devoted to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

2. Religious Devotions & Enrichment: The parish cooperates with its fellow Wauwatosa parishes, Christ King and St. Pius X, to share classes and religious events beyond Holy Mass. Recently the parishes have met for a Ministry Enrichment Gathering to help parishioners learn more about the Catholic Mass. Within the parish, intercessory prayers and faith formation groups are routine.

Stations of the Cross line both side walls through the nave of the church.

3. Wauwatosa Catholic School: Located just behind the church, Wauwatosa Catholic is an elementary and middle school supported by Saint Bernard and neighboring St. Pius X parish. Opened for the 2011-12 school year, the students, parents, and faculty have just celebrated their 5th anniversary as a school [4]. Over 200 students make up the student body of this Catholic educational option in the Wauwatosa community. The rooftop tour, open to everyone and separate from the bell tower raffle, offers a look within the school.


Guided tours of the stained glass windows will bring to light many off the religious details embedded within!

4. The Church Building: Built in 1963 in an American Contemporary style, some would be inclined to overlook the fine details of this building, to their own detriment. The stained-glass windows, while abstract in nature, hold many religious details and depictions. These windows beg to be viewed repeatedly, with new symbols of the Catholic faith seemingly popping out at the visitor each time. You can learn more about the stories within and about these windows in special tours held on the hour during VIP.

Modest in decoration, the Sanctuary commands attention be devoted to the altar for Holy Mass.

For more information, including the early history of Saint Bernard Parish, check out Bobby Tanzilo’s VIPpreview article at OnMilwaukee.com.

Jesus and His Most Sacred Heart stand near the front doors of Saint Bernard’s.

St. Bernard Catholic Church

Weekend Mass Times
Saturdays: 4 p.m.
Sundays: 8 a.m., 10 a.m.

Special thanks for Christine Meyer, Mary O’Connell, Saint Bernard’s Parish, and Amy Grau for arranging and facilitating my visit to Saint Bernard Catholic Church and for encouraging this article!

View of the Nave and Sanctuary from the Choir Loft.

Additional Sources:
The Saint Bernard Parish website and my conversations with folks at the parish were great sources of information throughout the article-writing process.
[2] Butler, Fr. Alban, Lives of the Saints, 294-5

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