Glimpses: The history of St. Francis Borgia – A Blossoming Diocese

As St. Francis Borgia Parish approaches its 175th anniversary (1844-2019), we will share some short articles about our congregation’s growth through the 1800s into the present. Thanks to Marty Moore for his diligent research for these articles.

A Blossoming Diocese

In 1844, the Diocese of Milwaukee was being organized by new Bishop John Martin Henni. It’s difficult to think of a better team than Bishop Henni and his friend, Martin Kundig. They understood each other and little could slow their progress. With exuberance, Kundig expanded the Church in our area organizing one parish after the next. One might imagine Kundig’s surprise while saying Mass at St Peter’s on a May morning in 1844 when turning to impart the blessing – there in the first pew stood his oldest friend Henni, who had just arrived from Detroit.

Milwaukee was a bottleneck to immigration, with many moving to its outskirts. Nearly half Milwaukee’s residents were German. After Bishop Henni arrived, Kundig began memorable building efforts that kept him away from Milwaukee until 1859. Also a civic leader, Kundig was respected by all religious denominations which later influenced his acquiring the property on which our stone church would be built.

With two able men and plenty of wood, a log church could be built in about a week. In 1843 alone, 10 log churches were erected. In January 1844, Kundig wrote that there were 17 chapels in Wisconsin with 13 more to be erected before year’s end. One of those was the log chapel of St. Francis Borgia in Newland. By the end of 1845, Kundig would erect 12 more.

Kundig was chastised once by his Bishop for creating debt related to 17 new churches, erected while failing to clear them with church authorities as is Church law. In lieu of adding to the Church debt, Rev. Kundig used promissory notes signed by the settlers.

These examples provide us with a glimpse of how Rev. Kundig managed to successfully accomplish so much in so little time. Rev. Martin Kundig possessed great influence, amazing organizational skills and a business savvy that well suited his goals. From his efforts, Cedarburg Catholics were now worshipping in their own log cabin chapel, honoring St. Francis Borgia.