St. Mark Parish
Our Vision and History
In 1922, the Archbishop of Milwaukee asked Fr. Alfons Berg to call a meeting for the purpose of selecting a committee to charter a parish. With no actual headquarters, the prospective members met at such locations as the front porches of the Richard Snowhook and John Anglim homes to deliberate. The charter was recorded February 28, 1924.
Mass was first celebrated at the Knights of Columbus hall. Fr. Berg was pastor, but continued for a time as assistant at St. Mary's in Racine, Wisconsin. Soon a temporary home was established in an old frame Baptist church on 16th Avenue north of 68th Street. Construction of the frame church on 14th Avenue, site of the present rectory, began in 1924. Progress was disrupted when a tornado destroyed the framework during construction, but the building was completed in 1927.
Fr. Berg firmly believed in Catholic education, and he opened St. Mark School in 1931. It was staffed by the School Sisters of St. Francis. When Fr. Berg died suddenly December 3, 1942, Fr. Ralph Altstadt was named to succeed him.
Fr. Altstadt began a parish-wide effort to reduce the $200,000 debt. The membership grew and the little wooden church could no longer contain the number of people. Many had to stand on the steps or out on the sidewalk to hear Mass. The excessive load caused the walls of the building to buckle, resulting in its condemnation after a Sunday Mass in September 1947. Meanwhile, plans had been made for a Silver Jubilee celebration to be held October 7. Following condemnation of the frame church, two-thirds of the invitations to clergy and guests had to be rescinded due to lack of space.
Mass was subsequently offered in the basement of the school building, with parishioners sitting on folding chairs. A pair of Quonset huts was erected on the playground to provide space for weddings, dances, special events, and storage.
A long-range building program began with the purchase of all available land in the vicinity of the present site. Twenty-nine houses were purchased through the years, and some streets were closed or extended. Construction of a temporary church in the school basement, six additional classrooms, and a rectory was completed in 1951. An auditorium-gymnasium, additional classrooms, and a conference room were housed in the building on Sheridan Road, which was dedicated in 1956. The convent, which supplanted a group of homes on 73rd Street as housing for the sisters, was completed in 1964.
The parish continued to grow. Parishioners numbered 1,500 families, and plans were made for the final phase of the building program, a church to glorify God. The church was dedicated April 11, 1970, with Archbishop Cousins officiating at the celebration for clergy, parishioners, and friends. Msgr. Alstadt, whose new title and elevation to the rank of Domestic Prelate, had come in 1959, announced his retirement in February 1972. At his farewall reception, 2,000 people honored him for his service to St. Mark and Kenosha.
In 1973 Fr. Joseph Strenski was named pastor and arrived in March. Fr. Daniel Schroeder continued as associate pastor, and after his ordination the following June, Fr. Norman Oswald joined the pastoral team. This marked a new liturgical chapter in the history of the parish, as the documents of Vatican II were implemented on a broad scale. Growth in the celebration of the liturgy has been evidenced in the family-centered First Communions and Confirmations; communal Penance and communal anointing of the sick; Corpus Christi procession; revival of a folk group for Saturday Mass; and special liturgies of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
At the mandate of the archbishop, a parish council was formed early in 1973 to participate in the decision-making process of the parish. On November 20, 1973, the council voted to honor Fr. Berg and Msgr. Altstadt for their long years of service to the St. Mark community by renaming two of the parish facilities Berg Hall and Alstadt Auditorium.
During the next 11 years, Fr. Strenski was joined by other priests as the parish continued to develop. In 1983, Fr. Joseph Hornacek replaced Fr. Strenski. One of the more important events in his pastorate at St. Mark was the establishment of the Latin American Center at St. Mark. Previously the needs of Hispanic Catholics were met at St. James Parish. When that was no longer feasible, St. Mark opened its arms to the needs of its fellow believers. Also during this time, the convent became available for remodeling into the St. Mark Junior Academy, our preschool contribution to the community. Just before the completion of his 12-year term, Fr. Hornacek was called to pastor another parish. In 1995, Fr. Kenneth Metz came to join the parish after having worked for seven years in charge of International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services in Vatican City. In 2009, Fr. Stephen Forrest became our Parish Administrator and was installed a year later as our pasrtor. In 2012, Fr. Vince Kobida became our Pastor.