History of Our Parish
(Anniversary Book – April 2007)
Memory is one of man’s rare gifts. Each one of us acts and works in the light of our past experiences that have been a part of our life story. Consequently, to know and better understand people, we are interested in learning about activities and circumstances that have influenced their progress and welfare.
A parish is a living community that develops and grows, and if we are to come to a real and loving knowledge of our parish, we must go back and find out about the persons and events that have made our parish what it is today. In celebration of our 90th anniversary we now recount and share some highlights of the history of our dear Sacred Heart Parish.
Croatia, a nation situated on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea, can proudly boast of over 1,300 years of loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church and as the first Slavic nation that embraced Christianity. Because of their loyalty and faithfulness to the Roman Catholic Church and the Supreme Pontiffs, Pope Leo X honored the Croatians with the title “Antemurale Christianitatis” – “The Bulwark of Christianity.”
To many Europeans America appeared as a dream-land, a land of opportunities that they never had fulfilled in their native countries. Thus America was hit by waves of European immigrants, especially around the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. Among them were many Croatians and some of them decided to build their future in the City of Milwaukee.
The first Croatian immigrants to Milwaukee were at a disadvantage as far as attending church was concerned, because of the language barrier. The Archbishop at that time, Sebastian Messmer, aware of this threat to their faith, urged the Croatian community to establish a church of their own. It took much time and many hardships before this endeavor became a reality.
This parish was founded by Fr. Placid Belavic in 1917. During that same year a Lutheran Church on 7th & Galena Streets was purchased. He left the parish shortly thereafter because of friction with the parishioners. In 1927, Rev. Charles Jesih was insturmental in bringing the School Sisters of St. Francis from Lemont, IL to the parish. That same year the Sisters started a school which unforunately closed three years later due to an economic crisis. Since 1930 the parish was entrusted to the Croatian Franciscan Commissariat. The first pastor was Fr. Ambro Misetic. When Croatians began moving out of the area, Fr. Ljubo Cuvalo, purchased land for the construction of a new church on North 49th Street (our current location). In 1948, Fr. Silvije Grubisic, the new pastor, began building of the new church, which was completed in 1949 and blessed in 1950. All outstanding debts were paid by 1953. The Daughters of Divine Charity from Akron, OH came to work in the parish in 1954. A parish hall and a school were built in 1957. The sisters staffed the school until 1993 when it closed due to low student enrollment. Since then, the school building has been rented out a private school.
Through the years, neighboring non-Croatian Catholics became parishioners primarily because their children had attended the parochial school. But the Croatian presence continues to remain dominant in the parish today.
From 1917 to 1995…
* 2,998 children were baptized
* 1,768 individuals were buried
* 1,017 couples were married
* 635 individuals were confirmed
* 698 children received First Holy Communion