St. Catherine Parish is unique among the Roman Catholic congregations born in the first quarter of this century. It was formed, not as the focus of a specific nationality’s worship, but to place the house of God where the people had built their houses. The northwest side of Milwaukee in 1922 was in its early stages of development; a few homes were built, many streets were unpaved and improvements, incomplete. It was here that Father Peter Flasch, under the direction of Archbishop Sebastian Messmer, found approximately one-hundred Catholic families interested in the formation of a new parish.
St. Catherine of Alexandria Church was incorporated as a parish of the Milwaukee Archdiocese on November 13, 1922. Forty-one families pledged $10,000 to be paid over a period of five years to help establish the parish. The land at 51st & Center cost $16,000; it consisted of one-half of a city block. (Shortly afterward the parish extended its property to two-thirds of the block.)
A pine-board barrack-type building was erected to serve as a temporary church and school. During the week pull-down canvases divided the church into three classrooms outfitted with desks made of twelve-foot planks placed atop of wooden horses for the one hundred-twenty children enrolled in the fall of 1923. By the following spring parishioners worshipped in a new church and sent their children to the new school, both housed in the basement upon which would be built the permanent school. In the next twenty-five years the school, convent, rectory and an American Gothic church were erected and various religious societies and youth groups organized.
As the neighborhood has grown and changed, the original focus on the needs of the neighborhood continued to be the lens through which St. Catherine viewed its mission. In the 70′s parishioners helped organize the still-vital Sherman Park Community Association.
Outreach to neighborhood religious communities has been facilitated through SPARC (Sherman Park Area Religious Communities) and shared inter-denominational prayer services. Our long-established Food Pantry and our St. Vincent DePaul Society offer a helping hand to the needy. And our exemplary parish school continues to serve the children of the neighborhood.
More recently, outreach to the neighborhood has taken a giant leap forward. Parishioners knocked on the doors of homes in the neighborhood, and from that outreach was born St. Catherine Neighborhood Connection, a block club that encircles the church; an open gym program for the youth of the neighborhood; a summer basketball league; a summer weekly playground activity and yearly block parties which celebrate with over 200 neighbors. Those in recovery are welcomed to meetings in the Community Center six days each week.
On June 26, 2011 Blessed Trinity Parish merged with St. Catherine Parish to form one new faith community. We embrace and extend a greeting of peace to our brothers and sisters as we continue to blend our faith communities.
Today the Congregation of St. Catherine stands on holy ground in the center of the city striving to live the Gospel message, proclaiming we are “Here to Stay, Here to Serve.”