St. Hugh of Lincoln Church
Jesus said to Peter – ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I shall build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’
But let us skip ahead a little bit. Since 1980 the congregation of St. Hugh of Lincoln Church, composed of Catholics who remain true to the traditional Latin Mass and the traditional faith of the Roman Catholic Church had been meeting in various locations around the Milwaukee area. During that time the church members were looking for a church in a convenient location and adaptable to the requirements of Catholic worship.
In 1987, we purchased the building at our current location, 2401 S. 12th St. in Milwaukee. The church building had been used by a Polish speaking Protestant congregation. When we purchased the church, we started a lengthy refurbishing program to make the church a fitting place to celebrate the true Catholic Mass and a worthy home for Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Of course, prior to the changes of Vatican II and the institution of the New Mass, there was no need for such a group. Catholic churches throughout Milwaukee (and throughout the world) all celebrated the same, true Catholic Mass. The Mass was said in Latin, with the priest facing the altar. Priests and nuns abounded in the churches and schools, and large, Catholic families would all dress up in their Sunday best to attend mass in their parish church. The mass was reverent, and people generally knew their faith.
After Vatican II, however, changes were being made to the mass. Many good Catholics went along with the changes, but many sensed something was wrong. Those who saw serious problems with the New Mass began flocking to St. Lawrence Church on 27th Street in Milwaukee. There, Fr. Hugh Wish continued to celebrate the Mass in Latin, according to the same rite that had been used in Catholic churches for hundreds of years. He encouraged and strengthened these faithful Catholics by his word and example. He was especially kind to seminarians destined to one day, like him, offer the traditional mass.
In 1977, with the introduction of communion in the hand, Fr. Wish resigned his post as Pastor of St. Lawrence and took early retirement. He publicly offered the traditional mass in various parts of the Milwaukee Archdiocese, proclaiming that Pope St. Pius V had forever guaranteed the rights of priests to celebrate the mass and the rights of the faithful to assist at it. Archbishop Rembert Weakland, one of the most radical and ‘progressive’ of the American bishops ‘suspended’ Fr. Wish for his stand. Fr. Wish denounced the act as null & void because of the ancient principle in church law that the salvation of the soul is the supreme law.
Fr. Wish died an early and untimely death on July 19, 1979. It is perhaps no coincidence that July 19th is the anniversary of St. Pius V’s decree ‘Quo Primum’ promulgating the traditional Mass.
While Fr. Wish was celebrating the traditional Mass at St. Lawrence, two young seminarians started assisting at his masses. Fr. Wish encouraged Anthony Cekada and Daniel Dolan to leave the Milwaukee seminary and attend the seminary of Archbishop Marcel Lefevre in Econe, Switzerland, which was resisting the Vatican II changes and continuing to train priests according to the traditional methods. (Econe was the location of the main seminary for the Society of St. Pius X – SSPX.) They followed his advice, and with his support, both became traditional Catholic priests. Fr. Cekada is now the pastor of St. Hugh of Lincoln Church, and now Bp. Dolan continues to ordain new priests throughout the world using the traditional rites.
In 1983, Frs. Cekada, Dolan, and several other priests left the Society of St. Pius X. This was due to requirements that Archbishop Lefebvre attempted to impose on members of the Society. (This included a “liturgical reform” – imposing the 1962 Missal of John XXIII – on SSPX’s American priests. At the same time, the Archbishop insisted that the American priests accept the scandalous marriage annulments granted by modernist tribunals, and work with priests ordained according to the protestantized ordination rite promulgated by Paul VI in 1968.) In all, 13 priests left the Society over these issues (9 were expelled at the time, and four others later left.) In recent times, St. Hugh of Lincoln Church has been run independently of other traditional Catholic societies. However, we maintain a close affiliation with other traditional Catholic organizations that adhere steadfastly to the Roman Catholic Faith.
Fr. Wish left a bequest for the establishment of a church in Milwaukee, where the traditional Mass could be continued. His generosity made the purchase of our current church building possible. It was quite fitting, therefore, that our new church be dedicated to his patron saint, St. Hugh of Lincoln.
The renovation work on the new St. Hugh of Lincoln Church still continues. The design of the church employs some simplified elements of the Gothic Revival style, popularized in the last century in England. Given that the patron saint, St. Hugh of Lincoln, completed the construction of a beautiful medieval cathedral, the style seemed appropriate.
We could not find a statue of St. Hugh to put above the altar, so we decided to incorporate the symbols of St. Hugh in the new gothic ceiling that was constructed over the sanctuary. The symbols are the bishop’s mitre (representing his dignity as a bishop), the letter ‘h’ (for Hugh) and a swan. The swan recalls St. Hugh’s pet swan, and is his own ecclesiastical symbol, just like St. Luke’s symbol is an ox.
You will notice how colorful the church furnishings are. Much of the color comes from the Riddel curtains that surround the main altar and side altars. These riddels (from the old English word for curtain) are common in Gothic Revival churches.
One of the most beautiful statues in the church is the corpus on the main crucifix over the rood screen. The rood (old English term for crucifix) screen is another common feature in Gothic Revival churches.
The church has been almost completely refitted with a new sanctuary, altars, communion rails, pews (with kneelers) and a choir loft. While, just like the renovation of the great cathedrals, the renovation work at our humble little church never seems to finish either. We are currently completing the renovation of the church hall and the church vestibule. If you take the time to look through the pictures posted throughout the website to see that the church has become a beautiful place to offer the beautiful sacrifice of the Mass.
Check the mass schedule on this website for times when the church is open. Come take a look for yourself at all the beauty that exists, even in a small and humble church, when it is dedicated to the true Roman Catholic faith and follows the rites of the traditional Latin Mass.
Throughout the history of St. Hugh of Lincoln Church, you will find people living the principles of the Catholic Church, and resisting compromise. With God’s grace, the Traditional Catholics at St. Hugh of Lincoln Church will persevere, and be like a rock that will provide the Milwaukee area with the true Catholic faith in the modern world.
For more information please contact us.