Glimpses: The history of St. Francis Borgia – Roots of our Inner City Ministry

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

The poor and homeless in Milwaukee’s inner city need help daily to survive. St. Francis Borgia Parish has offered that help for years.

In 1996, parishioner Mike Senglaub began his work with the Repairers of the Breach – a homeless shelter in the inner city. He began alone, personally serving the needy with donated food and clothing. The ministry gained volunteers and expanded to serve the House of Peace and other shelters, which now includes MacCanon Brown Homeless Sanctuary, Milwaukee Rescue Mission, VETS Place and St. Benedict the Moor. Most of these are daytime shelters, providing the homeless with a place to relax, counseling, food, clothing, personal hygiene, medical/dental referrals, etc.

Mike stepped back in 2002, handing off the ministry to Rich Knoelke, who recruited about 20 people to do what Mike had done mostly solo. By 2005, Jim Janisse was also a contact, later to lead the ministry. When Mike passed away in 2007, his legacy inspired current and new volunteers to continue his work. Coordinators included Dave Smith, Erv Koch and Jim. They worked with dozens of volunteers, organizing and streamlining the ministry for maximum impact. Dave is the longest serving volunteer, having worked in the early days with Mike.

There are two groups of volunteers. One coordinates distribution of clothing and toiletries distribution dropped off by parishioners at the North Church Inner City Ministry shed. Volunteers pick up donated items daily and make scheduled runs to inner city shelters.

The other group picks up donated food items from local vendors – including Pick ‘n Save, Metro Market, Panera Bread and Piggly Wiggly – every week and then promptly transports the donated food to the shelters.

The ministry continues to have a positive impact on the well-being of the inner city homeless. For them, the volunteers are heroes. But the volunteers strongly believe the real heroes are parishioners and others who continuously donate those items the less-fortunate need the most.