By Mark Joseph Costello, OFM Cap.
The Finishing Touches
Work started on the renovation of St. Francis of Assisi Monastery in Milwaukee in summer 2020. Now, St. Francis Monastery will once again be home to a Capuchin community. Once spread throughout the city, now for the first time in decades, up to two dozen friars will live together in community.
Senior friars like Fr. Perry McDonald, former director of the House of Peace, will live with postulants like Andy McNally discerning a vocation to the Capuchin Franciscan religious life. The postulants will be the first to move into the new St. Francis Monastery.
The final punch-list items included the installation of new, period-correct windows to replace decades-old, failing vinyl replacement windows. Unfortunately, the window manufacturer encountered pandemic-related delays.
At the same time, the Province retained an art conservator to clean and preserve a mural depicting a scene in the life of St. Anthony of Padua inside the dining room.
The mural is believed to be the work of artist William Lamprecht (1838-1922). Lamprecht was a German immigrant based in Cincinnati who lived with the friars as a guest at St. Francis while painting the mural. It depicts an event where St. Anthony demonstrated the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Unfortunately, the mural had been obscured below 150 years of soot and grime, making it almost indiscernible.
Conservators also restored murals inside the Choir of the Blessed Virgin.
St. Conrad Friary to become St. Josephine Bakhita House
As we move toward consolidating our housing footprint in Milwaukee, some of our legacy friar housing will be sold or repurposed. An example of this is St. Conrad Friary. St. Conrad has been in use by the Province of St. Joseph since 1974. Fr. Perry, a longtime resident at St. Conrad, chronicled the history of the community and documented the building’s various uses over the years, including offices, a fraternity and a formation house. Most recently, St. Conrad served as a friary and as the home of our Capuchin Postulancy Program. In seeking a suitable use for the property, the Province gifted St. Conrad friary to become the home of St. Bakhita Catholic Worker House, named for St. Josephine Bakhita and led by Anne Haines. St. Bakhita Catholic Worker House provides supportive housing and community life for women victims of sex trafficking. We are pleased that St. Conrad Friary will continue to be a vital asset in service of the common good for many years to come.
Many Hands Make Light Work
Lastly, we wish to thank the many laborers, architects and skilled trade workers who, with great skill and dedication, went far above the call of duty in giving the best of themselves to the renovation of St. Francis. There are countless examples of masons, plasterers and others going above and beyond with outstanding craftsmanship and pride to make the building shine. We are grateful for the efforts of those who, for nearly two years during a global pandemic, made this building happen for us. We are also grateful to the parishioners of St. Francis of Assisi and our neighbors in Halyard Park for bearing with the disruption of construction with grace and charity.
And of course, we are ever thankful to the many benefactors who generously made gifts to the Province through our Growing in Community capital campaign that made this project possible.
St. Francis of Assisi Monastery is the cornerstone of our Capuchin life in community that is the wellspring of our ministries in Milwaukee and beyond.