The founder of St. Francis Borgia Parish was Fr. Martin Kundig, a Jesuit priest assigned as a Milwaukee pastor in 1842. He traveled extensively on horseback to minister to mostly Irish Catholic settlers in bordering areas, initially offering worship services in homes, then helping to establish parishes.
Our parish formally began in 1844, in a log cabin chapel on Pioneer Road, north and west of Wauwatosa Road, across from our current cemetery. The log chapel was replaced in 1852 by a larger frame church. In 1870 we built the beautiful stone church at the corner of Hamilton Road and Washington Avenue, on land donated by local, mostly-Protestant merchants; they made the mortgage payments. Fr. Leo Zingsheim was appointed pastor in 1943 and the school was built in 1951 on Hamilton Road.
Parish membership grew steadily over passing decades, and overcrowding at the stone church became an increasing problem. But any building expansion options were limited because of the church’s downtown location, coupled with increasing community interest in historic preservation. Eventually, land was purchased just north of Five Corners in the Town of Cedarburg, becoming the site for the Church of the Divine Word in 1970. Fr. Leo was the founder and pastor. The Cedarburg Catholic community divided its membership between the two parishes.
Over the years, the parishes found various opportunities to work and pray together, with the driving force being the serious and continuing shortage of priests. After learning that we would have only one priest in Cedarburg beginning in 2002, and after much research and discussion, the parish councils of St. Francis Borgia and Divine Word formally requested that the parishes be merged. The request was accepted by Archbishop Weakland and announced in 1999 by the two pastors—Fr. Ed Wawrzyniakowski (St. Francis Borgia) and Fr. George Gajdos (Divine Word).
Beginning September 2001 the members of St. Francis Borgia and Divine Word joined together for worship. Weekend liturgies were held at the larger church (formerly Divine Word), which is known as the North Church. Most weekday liturgies were held at the historic South Church on Hamilton Road. Fr. George and Fr. Ed remained as pastors until Fr. Ed’s retirement in June 2002. Fr. George was appointed pastor of the merged St. Francis Borgia Parish, which he continued to serve until June 2003, at which time Archbishop Timothy Dolan appointed Fr. Tom Eichenberger to serve as our new pastor.
In August 2014, construction began on the North Campus for a new Education & Activity Center, to replace our aging school facility, and to accommodate Christian Formation programs and other parish functions on one campus. The dedication ceremony was held in summer 2015. The South Church remains an integral part of the parish. The old school property and rectory were sold for development.
Fr. Patrick Burns was appointed parish administrator in June 2017 and named pastor in December 2018.
Looking to the future
St. Francis Borgia is a large parish, serving households and families in Cedarburg and surrounding communities. Parish life is vibrant, with strong parishioner support of a variety of ministries. We reach out to those needing help locally in Ozaukee County and in Milwaukee’s inner city. On a global level, we have an active twinning relationship with St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Mukono, Uganda.
Our school is prospering as it embraces the challenge of offering excellent and exciting educational opportunities rooted in our Catholic faith tradition. We also provide a strong Christian Formation program for children through adults.
Our parishioners step forward to offer their time and talent as we work together to bring the Gospel to life in our personal lives and our shared relationships. By continuing this effort, we become Christ’s presence to one another and live out our parish mission to “Share Christ—Celebrate Christ—Live Christ.”
Additional Information: Anniversary Book
St. Francis Borgia formally celebrated its 175th anniversary in fall 2019. The following year, the parish published a 175th anniversary commemorative book. Roughly 90 pages, this full-color, soft-cover, coffee table-style book celebrates our parish, both from historical and contemporary perspectives. For more information, see the 175th Anniversary page.