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Press release, July 17, 2003



St. Henry’s 150th Anniversary


Watertown Church Hosts

August 17 Celebration



The year was 1853 and it was the time when the rate of growth of Watertown was at its peak.  Figures for the population of Watertown in 1853 vary between 3,000 and 4,000.  By 1855 the number of residents would be 8,000, an increase of 7,000 from the count 10 years earlier.  In point of population, Watertown was, for a time, the second city in Wisconsin.


In 1853 there were many businesses in the city, including six dry goods stores, eleven grocery stores, two drug stores, fifteen saloons, two bakeries, three meat markets, two book stores, six cabinet shops, four tinshops, a couple of factories, two printing offices, six school houses, one bank, and the beginnings of several churches.


In 1853 the village of Watertown was incorporated as a city.  In the same year, 150 years ago, St. Henry’s was incorporated as a Catholic parish.  Yet the beginnings of the parish predate its 1853 incorporation.


In 1847 Father Maximilian Gaertner, a Norbertine priest based at a mission house at Roxbury (northwestern Dane County), called upon the German residents of the settlement for the first time.  He was the answer to many a prayer, as those of German heritage had no choice at the time but to worship with the Irish Catholics at St. Bernard’s, on the west side of town, where there was only an English-speaking priest.  These recently-arrived residents wanted to preserve their identity and they wanted to begin a local German Catholic church in which to worship, to hear the Word of God, and to educate their children in their native tongue.  Such desire was not unusual, as many other nearby localities wanted and achieved the same.


The first German Catholics had arrived in the area between 1842 and 1850 from Bavaria, settling in and around Watertown.  But the majority made their homes in the outlying area on the east side.  This area became known as the “Bohemian Settlement.”  Soon other Catholics from Baden as well as from northern Germany, Westphalia, Prussia and Silesia arrived. 


Gaertner assisted in laying the foundation of a number of parishes along his missionary circuit.  Watertown was soon designated as a mission and every six weeks or so the couple of dozen German families were served when he returned to perform Mass, preach a sermon in German, and administer the sacraments.  He sometimes performed these rites in a family house, but most often at St. Bernard’s.


The German Catholics of the outlying Bohemian Settlement joined with others from their fatherland in the attempt to establish a parish to be administered by German priests and placed under the protection of Saint Henry.  This saint was preferred and selected because the Bavarian immigrants who settled in Watertown and wanted a church of their own had come from the area where a German emperor, Henry II, later declared a saint, had been a highly regarded and popular religious king.


Father Gaertner noted in his journal that a frame church was erected and dedicated to St. Henry in 1850.  This structure was built immediately west of where the current church is located, at northwest corner of Cady and North Fourth Streets. The lot upon which St. Henry’s was established was purchased for $56.00.  Every adult member was assessed $1.00.


Still a mission but no longer the responsibility of Father Gaertner, the German Catholics were attended to in their new church on the fourth Sunday of every month by Father Francis Etschmann of Madison, followed by, in 1852, Michael Haider of Jefferson.


As noted in a Jefferson County record entered on May 25, 1853, the trustees of the German Roman Catholic Church deeded the church property to Bishop John Martin Henni of Milwaukee by means of a warranty deed dated September 1, 1852, and recorded as being acknowledged on September 2.  St. Henry’s was part of the Milwaukee Archdiocese until the formation of the Madison Diocese in 1946.


The first parish school was started in 1854 and in 1855 a north-side addition would be added to the frame church building to accommodate in students. 


In 1862 this first multi-purpose church/school building was remodeled to serve only as a school house until another school building was built in 1879. 


With the exception of only a few early years, St. Henry’s parish school was staffed by the dedicated School Sisters of Notre Dame, residents of a convent attached to the school, and conducting its classes up until relatively recent years when replaced by lay teachers. The present school was built in 1953.


A new church brick edifice was erected on the east side of the first church/school in 1862 and is the site of the current church building.  By that time the congregation had grown more prosperous and many more families from Austria and Bohemia had emigrated and became part of the religious body.



1870 View   © Watertown Historical Society

Reproduced with permission.     Digitally enhance by Ken Riedl


In the spring of 1891 the parish began a project to substantially enlarge the church.  A sizeable addition on the north side, stretching from east to west, created a transept and the further lengthening of the edifice on the north end by means of a new sanctuary with sacristy transformed the configuration of the church into the present cruciform or cross-shaped building.


A wonderful Norman-style tower on the northeast side of the church was constructed of five courses of cream-colored Watertown Brick and replaced the former tower positioned over the front of the structure.


The parishioners had a beautiful house of worship but also needed a place to socialize.


The parishioners of St. Henry’s dedicated their parish hall in 1912 with formal exercises and appropriate ceremonies.  This old hall was replaced by the current parish center in 1992.


A new rectory was built in 1966.  Today it also serves as the administration center for the parish.


The worship space within the church has undergone several renovations over the years; the most recent in 2002.  The early church was museum-like with an abundance of statuary, murals, and ornate altars.  Today’s worship space contains very few church decorations of the past.  In light of Vatican II, back in the 1960’s, the layout of today’s church reflects the movement to have parishioners involved and become participants of the service, not just observers, as in the past.


Over the past decades there was a plethora of societies and organizations, religious services and devotions, social and communal functions.  A member of the congregation was a member of an active community.


Over the years many priests served the parish as pastors and assistants.  Some were builders, others more so caretakers.  All had the overwhelming responsibility of the spiritual welfare of the parishioners. 


Some young men and women of the congregation entered the religious life themselves, becoming sons and daughters of the parish.


Other sons and daughters stayed on the farm with their extended family while others established new city residences upon marriage, nurturing the growth of both the parish and city.  Some left town and parish, seeking the proverbial greener pastures.  Many went off to fight wars in distant lands and too many were its casualties.


The church cemetery is the final resting place of most of the former members of St. Henry’s. 


The current rectory staff consists of:  Rev. Bernard E. Rott, Pastor; Karen S. Till, Pastoral Associate; Sister Rose Ernst, Pastoral Minister; Barbara Beier, Liturgist; Todd Weissenborn, Religious Ed. Coordinator; Patty Kihslinger, Finance; Sue Haberkorn, Secretary; Jo Schilling, Housekeeping.


The school staff is composed of:  Francine Butzine, Principal; Ida Trimborn, Secretary; Kathy Fortlage, Grade 1; Rose Menzia, Grade 2; Deborah Zache, Grade 3; Brenda Boettcher, Grade 4; Cathy Lemminger, Grade 5; Charlotte Groth, Grade 6; Wendy Jo Smedema, Grade 7; Jennifer Farmer, Grade 8; Tracy Lapp, Kindergarten; Connie Hogan, 4 yr. old program; Dennis Messman, Physical Education; Allison Kemp, Art; Hannah Ehrmann, Music and Band; James Timm, Maintenance Supervisor; Paul Schilling, Maintenance; Mary Jo Olejniczak, Lunchroom Supervisor; Diane Dannenberg, Lunchroom; Mary Ann Novenski, Lunchroom.


Ken Berg is Parish Council President.


The 150-year history of St. Henry’s Parish has been documented in a recently published book, “A Church Built on the Rock,” authored by Ken Riedl.  The book is available at the parish rectory or can be ordered through the website.


St. Henry’s formally celebrated its 150th anniversary with a commemorative Mass at the church at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 17.  Newly-appointed Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison presided.  A number of priests and sisters who served the parish over the years returned to Watertown and joined Father Bernard Rott, current pastor, for the festive occasion.  Also in attendance were former parish members who entered the religious life.  The mass was open to the public.  


Following the mass there was a 5:30 p.m. dinner and program at Watertown’s Turner Hall.  Advance dinner tickets, available at the rectory, were required because of limited attendance.


Several priests associated with the parish returned for the August 17th celebration.  Those previously assigned to the parish and present were:  Father David Runde (1957-67), Father Cy Weisensel (1967-69), Father Thomas Gillespie (1971-72), Monsignor Michael Burke (1973-77), Monsignor James Gunn (assigned to St. Henry’s from 1976-77), Monsignor Douglas Dushack (1982-85), Father Philip Krogman (1985-87), Father William Nolan (1985-87), Father Michael Richel (1987-93), Father Bart Timmerman (2000-01).


Father David Timmerman, son of the parish, as well as Father Thomas Marr, pastor of St. Bernard’s and close friend of the parish, were also in attendance.


A special anniversary concert of sacred music, “God With Us,” was held on Friday evening, Aug. 15, at 7:00 p.m. in the church.  The musical program was performed by area instrumentalists and singers, accompanied by dramatic readings. The concerts were open to the public (see review below).


The parish had much to be proud of and reason to celebrate.



Portfolio of anniversary images


150th Anniversary Committee



Catholic Herald contacts:  Audrey Mettel Fixmer, Abby Henderson and Julianne Nornberg




“God With Us”

Concert Began

150th Celebration Weekend




Friday evening in Watertown is, almost by decree, the designated time set aside to patronize one of the numerous area establishments for their fish fry, perhaps imbibe a couple of drinks, and to socialize after a week of labor “in the vineyard.”


The sweltering evening of Friday, August 15, 2003, was the exception to the above ritual, this break with the expected behavior made even more significant in the light of a Green Bay Packer football game on the tube at prime time that same summer night.


For on this Friday, at 7 p.m., a public sacred concert began the weekend’s observance of the 150th anniversary of the founding of St. Henry’s Catholic Church, culminating two days later, on Sunday, August 17, with a commemorative Mass, a grand celebratory dinner and a memorable festive program.


The presentation of the musical “God With Us” was composed by Don Moen and those familiar with this work were not disappointed by this performance.  The uplifting theme of the piece pervades and never falters; when combined with the chosen narrative the blend is a memorable mix of uplifting music complemented by inspiring text.  In other words, it is liturgy.


The purpose of liturgy is to honor God and, by so doing, to transform oneself.  The impression of all who attended was that this performance certainly accomplished its intended purpose.


The parade of banner bearers at the beginning of the concert was particularly effective in adding a note of modest solemnity to such a public event.


"God With Us," composed by Don Moen with Tom Fettke as vocal arranger and Camp Kirkland the orchestrator, is the work of Integrity Music Inc. and was presented by the Praise Choir and Vita Voce of St. Henry parish, other singers from the surrounding area and professional instrumentalists.  Directing the sacred concert was Barbara Beier, liturgical minister and musical director at St. Henry's


The musical was written for a four-voice choir and a four-voice praise team, with an additional solo line, orchestra and readers. The program was three years in the making. Moen expresses the thought behind the music, ".. what God is looking for is our hearts. God wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives. Even though as worshippers we face difficult times, God will not forsake us.  He has been, is now and forever will be with us."


Performing in the concert was St. Henry's Praise Team, including Dave Fork, Gayle Grau, Dick Leonard, Katrina Ellenberg, Annette Hallada and Joseph Woolfolk. Performing solos were Francine Butzine, John Janke, Patty Kihslinger, Ron Kihslinger, Kathleen Kostuck, Mary Jane Longstreet, Peter Von Rueden, Sara Woodard and Todd Weissenborn.


Chorus members included Rudi Batzell, Megan Fork, Ramona Hackbarth, Sharon Kreuziger, Steve Menzia, Nancy Rennhack, Brenda Boettcher, Bill Grau, Gloria Higgins, Corine Lorian, Donna Nimm, Carmen Sommers, Patty Wackett and Tanya Von Rueden.


Performing in the orchestra were Kimberly Hoffman and Vicki Larsen, flute; Pauline Bemis, oboe; Kim Anderson-Hereth, bassoon; Ron LeRoy and Mariann Werner, clarinet; Jeff Kossmann, Jordan Matthews, Mark Nienow and Bill Edington, trumpet; Tim Anderson-Hereth and Alex Rambo, trombone;, Chris Noe, tuba; Wanda Doughty and Ben Pirkel, percussion; Brad Klot, drums; Hillary Mess, string bass; Eric Chesney and Pammy Truitt, viola; Alicia Isaacs and Theresa Janke, horns; Rachel Powell, Mandy Reichertz and Candace Sumner, violin; Juanita Edington and Melissa Szymkowski, cello; and Carol Erickson, piano.


The narrators for the sacred program were Rose Menzia and Phil Nachazel and they were also particularly effective in creating a most memorable evening.


Selections included "I Want To Be Where You Are," "Crown Him King of Kings," "All We Like Sheep," and "Be Strong and Take Courage."


Unfortunately, all good things have to come to an end . . . and this sacred music concert was, without qualification, certainly one of them.


A reception in the parish center followed the concert.


A CD recording was made of the concert.


- Review written by Ken Riedl



08 21 2003   /   Editor, Daily Times:


What a wonderful weekend it been for the members of St. Henry's Catholic congregation as they celebrated their 150th anniversary as a parish. Festivities began with a beautiful sacred concert on Friday evening and culminated on Sunday with a solemn Mass concelebrated by Bishop Robert Morlino, the Rev. Bernie Rott and many of the priests who once served our parish, and then ended with a dinner and program at Turner Hall.


Those who braved the extremely hot and humid weather Friday evening to attend the sacred concert "God With Us" at St. Henry's Catholic Church were treated to a moving and spiritual experience indeed. Ms. Barbara Beier, St. Henry's liturgist and music minister, directed a talented group of singers who raised their marvelous voices in praise to God. Accompanied by a large orchestra assembled by Wanda Doughty, they did all but raise the rafters of the church.


I would like to publicly thank and show my appreciation to Barbara Beier for planning and directing this presentation, and also to the talented voices of the choir, the, praise team and soloists who worked on this concert for nearly two years.


The two readers were articulate and sincere in proclaiming that God wants to be and is involved in all of our lives.


Thanks to Wanda Doughty and the marvelous group of instrumentalists for all the time they put into making the concert extra special. The standing ovation everyone received -was evidence of the enjoyment and impact that was made on the audience.


Thanks are also due to those who took part in the solemn procession of colorful ceremonial banners, which was a sight to behold, and which made a beautiful backdrop for the occasion, and to those who helped to put the church in, order again following the concert. Special thanks to those who donated and served the refreshments at the fellowship gathering after the concert.


And, last but not least, I would like to thank the approximately 250 people who attended this concert in spite of the hot weather and the televised Packer game. We hope that your hearts were lifted in the realization that God is indeed with all of us at all times in our lives.


A CD is being made of the concert for a $15 donation.


It was also taped for presentation on our local cable station. Watch the cable schedule to see when it will be aired.


Congratulations to the parishioners, ministers and staff of St. Henry Catholic Parish, past and present, for 150 years of living faith in our community.


Marie Wanke

St Henry's Liturgy Committee and proud parishioner





Father Bernie:  Bishop Morlino.  It is indeed a privilege to welcome you to St. Henry’s Parish in celebration of our 150th anniversary.  I would also like to extend a welcome to all of the priests and religious sisters and everyone else who is gathered here to celebrate with us.  Indeed it is a very special day for us, thinking that so many years ago this church, this family, was established.  Welcome.


Bishop Morlino:  How beautiful the faith is in Watertown.  One hundred and fifty years today at St. Henry’s.  And Father Bernie tells me this year 160 years at St. Bernard’s.  What a beautiful history the faith has.  From Father Conrad Beck down through all of the pastors.  Father Phil Krogman is here.  Right to this moment under the leadership of Father Bernie.  With the wonderful help and pastoral care of the other priests, my other brothers priests who are here, so many of whom served as associates.  We’re grateful for your presence; we’re honored by your presence. And as I said as I was passing the sisters, with so many sisters here everything will have to go right.  So don’t worry about anything else. With that many sisters it will go right.


And when I look at the parish family today and I think of your forefathers and your foremothers on whom the faith of this parish has been built. And we’re so filled with gratitude today.  We pray especially for our loved ones who have gone to see the face of Christ and who worked hard at their own life of faith.  Who worked hard to build up this wonderful faith community at St. Henry’s.


So we’re grateful all around.  Grateful to everyone who has provided or contributed to our celebration today.  Those who sing, those who serve, the ushers, everyone.  Those who prepare our dinner later.  Thank you so very much.



Fr Bernie welcomed Bishop Morlino to St. Henry’s.


The welcoming remarks of Bishop Morlino acknowledged the 150 years of St. Henry’s and the lineage of priests beginning with Father Conrad Beck in 1853.  He also recognized the 160th anniversary of St. Bernard’s, the fellow priests and sisters that were present, the choir, servers, ushers and all those present.


Karen Till, Pastoral Associate, delivered the first and second readings.


Sun steaming through the west-side stained glass windows.


Priests occupy front rows, both sides.


Sisters, two rows, left side.


Pat (Anniversary Committee Chairman) and _____ Ebert presented offertory gifts to bishop.


Father Bernie reads Gospel    Who do people say that the Son of Man is .... upon this rock  ..... loosened in heaven.


Homily delivered by Bishop Morlino [paraphrased].

Holy Father, today the direct successor of Peter, the Rock, is completing the 25th year of his papacy.

God will never forget or forsake his temple, a temple made of living stone,  You are that temple.  Peter was THE rock; all of us are called to be living stones.

Somehow the Church isn’t everything is should be right now.  Am talking not only of the effects of the scandal.

We are not the temple we ought to be - the Lord challenges all of us to change so to become living stones.

Just as there was confusion as to who Jesus was (who do you say .... peter / you are the Messiah, the son of the Living God  /  Jesus: You are the Rock ...) so too, at this time, confusion abounds as to what the Church is today.

People talk about how hard it is to discern a call to the religious life.  It is no more difficult than to discern the call to marriage.  Discernment is not like doing a math problem where on works on it for a time, scratches his head, and comes back to it later.  Discernment is the call to be a priest, deacon, married person .... a living stone means I look God in the eye as Peter did and say You are the one that can change my life.  If one can say it and mean it, discernment is a piece of cake.

When 150 years of living faith that says with God’s grace we can do better than mediocrity in the Church.  Free us from any confusion as to who Jesus is.  I am not confused.

Jesus is not a role model.  Not an idea.  Not a spark within me.  You are the Messiah, the only one who can and will change me.


Karen Till and the General Intercessions.


Twelve visiting priests move from front row seating to position behind altar to co-celebrate the Consecration.


Bishop, Father Bernie, and a number of visiting priests distribute Holy Communion.


After Mass homily [paraphrased]

Are there any priests here hailing from the parish?  Father David Timmerman recognized with applause.

Where are the other 99?

We need priests, especially in this diocese.

We need the support of mothers to encourage vocations to the religious life, to encourage their sons and daughters to give one’s whole self to Christ.

I cannot be a priest because I like girls.  Nobody buys this.  I encourage boys to like girls so that one knows what he is giving up.

There is no marketing gimmick to encourage vocations.

I am the new Director of Vocations, but I need some help.




GOD WITH US ...........

I Want To Be Where You Are


Overture and Pageantry


Crown Him King of Kings


All We Like Sheep


Be Strong and Take Courage


He Is Faithful


Come, Celebrate Jesus


God Will Make A Way


Name Above All Names


Thanksgiving and Praise