To live rooted in the Gospel as modeled by St. Francis of Assisi, the Province of St. Joseph re-commits to historic St. Francis of Assisi Friary in the heart of Milwaukee
With a first wing completed in 1869, St. Francis of Assisi Monastery in Milwaukee is the oldest Capuchin friary in North America. As described by Bishop Messmer, the area where the friary and church now stand was sparsely developed and had a frontier flavor when the founders of our province first purchased land with the intention of establishing a community and worship site in the 1860s. The city of Milwaukee was scarcely 20 years old at the time. The founders of our province, Brothers Bonaventure Frey and Francis Haas, nevertheless set down roots.
Today, we are approaching completion of a top-to-bottom renovation of historic St. Francis of Assisi Friary, recommitting to our Capuchin presence in Milwaukee for many decades to come. For generations, St. Francis was the center of community life for Capuchins ministering in Milwaukee. Servant of God Stephen Eckert and Blessed Solanus Casey walked the historic halls of the friary. St. Francis will once again be a thriving hub of community, a focal point of community life for friars as they continue the work of the friary’s namesake and founder of our Franciscan charism, St. Francis of Assisi.
Carl Elefante, past president of the American Institute of Architects, coined the phrase: “The greenest building is one that is already built.” In preserving and restoring the friary, many tons of building materials are saved from going to a landfill. Imagine truckloads of cream city brick and old-growth timber being hauled away to be buried in the Wisconsin hinterlands. Instead, future generations will be able to enjoy the friary's classic 19th century Milwaukee cream city brick architecture. The St. Francis of Assisi project is both ecologically and economically sound.
Once complete, the 38,000 square-foot friary will house up to 24 Capuchin friars. It will serve as an intergenerational home for friars in ministry, senior friars as well as our Postulancy Program. The renovations will bring the building up to current building, safety and ADA-accessibility codes, including new mechanicals and historic replacement windows. New amenities will include an elevator and nurse's station.
The project also includes the construction of a 16,200 square-foot St. Francis of Assisi Capuchin Center to serve as a focal point for the parish and surrounding community. The Capuchin Center includes a large gathering space, meeting rooms, offices and classrooms to serve the current and future needs of a vibrant urban parish.
You can learn more and, should you feel called to do so, make a pledge to support this capital project by visiting growingincommunity.org.