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Glimpses: The history of St. Francis Borgia – Early Clergy

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.

Early Clergy

In earlier years, travel was limited and ethnic groups tended to settle within their ethnic communities. Ease in communication and familiarity with their homeland and culture drew the groups together – including the Irish community of our parish founders in the Newland area. Congregations were typically led by clergy of the same ethnicity, who understood their customs and language.

The first Catholic church in our area was St. Francis Xavier, which later became a mission of St. Joseph-Grafton. These congregations were served by European circuit-riding priests from Milwaukee who spoke their language.

The St. Francis-Newland Congregation was served by 15 consecutive Irish priests until 1916. Following World War I,
our congregation became a blend of Irish, German and other groups. Then, with a common English language, as time
passed, the “ethnic” parishes faded away – blending into what became, in many cases, a single congregation of mixed

Some ethnic congregations still remain, serving Hispanic, Filipino and other communities. But most have now blended into mixed cultures celebrating together and sometimes interjecting the unique cultural atmosphere and traditions of the ethnic groups from which they emerged.