St. Bernard’s Catholic Church
This was the prettiest valley I ever saw—standing boldly out in its native grandeur; grand groves of oaks and elms and maples and basswood; the banks of the river on either side fringed with red cedars; resembling hedge fences. Within the forest abounded herds of deer. I have seen at one time over one hundred of these animals gamboling over the very spot where St. Bernard’s Church now stands. Recollection by James Rogan in 1879.
The history of the Catholic Church in what is now the city of Watertown antedates its settlement and Timothy Johnson, its founder and first settler. When Mr. Johnson came to the site of Watertown he found a wooden cross on the ground which has been painted black, a hint that missions among the Indians had been held at this point by French missionaries.
In the year 1840 the Rev. Father Morrissey of the diocese of Detroit made a missionary tour to Wisconsin and visited the little settlement at Watertown twice, being the first to say Mass in this vicinity. Later the Rev. M. Kundig of Detroit came to Milwaukee and took charge of the Watertown mission.
The first Mass in Watertown was celebrated in the Crangle home by Father Kundig in the fall of 1841, and he continued to visit the village at intervals until 1845 when the first little church was completed on the site of the present St. Bernard’s.
Patrick Rogan shared in ownership of some of the land granted to James. Patrick Rogan and his wife presented the land to St. Bernard's where the first frame church was built in 1846. Patrick Rogan was active in community, church and civic affairs.
Toward the close of 1841 the Rev. M. Kundig called a meeting for the purpose of securing funds and aid to build a church and the present site was chosen and work began in 1844 and during the fall that year Mass was celebrated on a temporary altar and floor by the Rev. Father Healy.
The building when completed was 30 by 40 feet and 16 feet high.
Work on first church began in 1844 and during the fall that year Mass was celebrated on a temporary altar and floor by the Rev. Father Healy. The building when completed was 30 by 40 feet and 16 feet high.
In 1846 a parochial residence was erected on the church grounds which, with occasional improvements, served its purpose until 1883, when it was sold and removed.
On the departure of Father Healy the Rev. Fathers Tierney and Mullen followed, but were soon transferred to other fields. Then came the Rev. Joseph Smith, under whose administration matters went along quite smoothly with the people of Watertown until 1857 when it became necessary, owing to the rapidly increasing Catholic population, to enlarge the church.
An addition was therefore built equal in dimensions to the original structure, having galleries on both sides and at the end. The old ceiling was also removed and an arched one substituted, new pews replaced the rough benches formerly used, and the entire building was painted within and without. A bell tower was also elected, in which was placed the same bell which today summons the people to worship.
Still another step was taken, a parish school building was added to the church property.
All these improvements, including new churches at Crawfish, Clyman and Richwood were made during the administration of Father Smith who also engaged the Sisters of Charity to conduct the school.
Father Smith was succeeded by the Reverend Dr. Norris who died while in charge. His successor was the Rev. Father Pettit.
06 22 St. Bernard's Catholic Church of this city was broken into last night, but nothing was secured by the robbers. They used powder in their attempt to affect an entrance, placing it in a key hole, and then igniting it. WD
In March 1871, St. Bernard's church and parish were placed in charge of the Fathers of the Holy Cross. The month preceding this act, a mission opened by the Very Reverend W. Corby, provincial of the congregation of the Holy Cross, was conducted very successfully by the Reverend P. P. Conney, C.S.C., with fathers Peter and John Lauth, C.S.S., as assistants.
At the close of the mission Father Cooney continued as pastor until 1872, when he was succeeded by Father Corby.
This energetic and devoted priest did much to further the interest of the church; a notable undertaking of his would be the establishment of the University of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
1872 Rev. William Corby, C.S.C was pastor of St. Bernard’s 1872-77
Cross Reference: Picture of Rev. William Corby granting last benediction to Irish Brigade, at Notre Dame WG, 03 05 1909
1873 1873 Church Construction Begun; Dedicated in 1876
Under the direction of Father Corby the erection of the new church was begun, in the spring of 1873. This building had an exterior measurement of 152 by 76 feet, the height of the steeple being 213 feet and the length of the cross by which it is surmounted 14 feet. The interior dimensions are nave 96 by 69 feet, chancel 58 by 38 feet, gallery 69 by 47 feet, height of ceiling from floor 60 feet. The seating capacity is 1200 and estimated cost complete $100,000.
The cornerstone of St. Bernard’s was hewn from the celebrated rock of Cashel, which was sent as a present to the people of Watertown by the Town Council of Cashel, Ireland. [Cross Reference: Article on Rock of Cashel]
This was laid and blessed by the Right Rev. Bishop Henni on October 13th, 1873.
1873 Cornerstone for Old Main, Sacred Heart College
06 16 The Rev. Father Corby has begun the construction of a new building on the college grounds. It is situated on the beautiful ridge, in the Third ward, overlooking the city.
1876 Dedication of 1873 Church – Three years in building
The church was solemnly dedicated on November 12, 1876. The main altar was erected on April 16th, 1877, and soon after the pulpit, a beautiful piece of work, was built and an organ put up in the gallery. In July, 1877, Father Corby was appointed president of the University of Notre Dame, which office he had already held before coming to Watertown.
St Bernard's Church was three years in building. The foundation walls were seven feet deep and the structure rests on three foot walls of native rocks taken from the farms here about. It was a big undertaking, although a tidy sum had been left by Father Petit.
The methods of building now in vogue were not in existence then. All the timbers, stone, and other material were hosted by horsepower, the cross to surmount the steeple was 14 feet in length and stands today defying the storms of half a century.
Albert Bushel, now dead, placed the cross in its socket and placed his arms about it while hundreds of people looked on.
The main plan of the church was designed by a man named Luby, a relative of the O’Rourke family, who were among the early business and social life of Watertown. John Bonney, a prominent mechanic in those days, was the builder and worked under a salary. He built well and the edifice today is a standing memorial to his thorough and faithful service. [ John Booney superintendent of the carpenter and wood work on St. Bernard's]
Toward the close there was some dissension and Mr. Bonney was not allowed to complete the spiral which was erected by a man named Strathern of Milwaukee.
The church was built under a subscription plan and there was no contract. Each one did his share in work or contributed money. It was estimated that the church would cost $100,000 and a mortgage was taken which in years gone by was discharged.
At the laying of the cornerstone, October 13th, 1873, thousands gathered from all over Wisconsin. Special trains were run from Milwaukee and other towns and the Sheridan guards, then a cracked military organization, camped across the street.
Bishop Henni of Milwaukee laid the cornerstone, assisted by clergyman from all over the northwest. It was a gala day and a fine atmosphere pervaded the surging crowds who thronged the streets adjacent to witness the ceremonies preparatory to the dedication of the finest church edifice in Wisconsin.
The cornerstone of the church was hewn from the celebrated Rock of Cashel in Ireland, a token of the esteem from the town council of Cashel to the many Irish immigrants who settled here. It was worked on by the late Thomas McCabe who had a stone cutting shop on West Main Street at the intersection of Warren Street. The chips were made into small crosses and found a ready sale. One of the stonecutters who work on the church is still alive, A. C. Krueger of this city.
Another stone cutter who worked on the church is Nicholas Murphy, still living in this city.
Father Colovin was then named pastor of St. Bernard’s and remained in charge until February 1, 1880, when he was transferred to the Lead City in the Black Hills, Dakota. On his departure Father Cooney was appointed to the pastorate and held that position until the summer of 1881, when Father Colby return to Watertown and resumed charge.
Soon after his return the old pastoral residence was sold and removed, the erection of the present house being begun in October, 1883. In August, 1886, the Rev. Patrick William Condon, for some time previous assistant to Father Colby, assumed the pastorate, continuing to administer the same until the summer of 1895, when the Rev. J. M. Toohey was placed in charge. He was followed by the Reverend James Rogers in 1901, Rev. John S. Boland in 1908, Rev. J. Hennessey in 1909, Rev. W. H. Lavin in 1917, Rev. J. W. Piette in 1921 and the present pastor Reverend William Mahoney in 1921.
10 18 The steeple of the new St. Bernard's Catholic Church is surmounted by a fine cross of the Latin design, cast at the foundry of Mr. J. B. Bennett of this city. The height of the cross is 11 feet 1 inch, and across the arms it measures 6 feet 3 inches. Its weight is 450 pounds. The cross rests upon a lead cap weighing 430 pounds. The cross has a very fine effect to the eye, and, of course, at its great distance from the ground, nearly 200 feet, it looks diminutive compared with its actual size. WR
11 02 The new Catholic edifice of this city will be dedicated, according to the usual formalities, on Sunday, November 12th. The exercises will take place at 10:30 o'clock in the forenoon, during the course of which the dedicatory sermon will form the most important part of the services.
The ceremonies throughout will be unusually impressive, and none should fail to be present at an occasion so rare in occurrence. Arrangements have been made by Father Corby to have a special train leave Milwaukee on the day of the dedication, when it is expected that a large number of people will be in attendance from that city. It is earnestly requested that the people living here and in the adjoining towns, be present, as the spacious edifice is ample enough to accommodate a large assemblage. An admission fee of fifty cents will be charged to witness the ceremonies. WD
11 02 A New City Clock -- We have been informed that a committee to consist of a few of our best and most public spirited citizens, intends to canvass the liberal disposed portion of our people for the means to put a clock in the tower of St. Bernard’s Church. It will cost about $709. The dial will be of ground plate glass, and will be illuminated with gas on the four dials, so that the time can be seen at night from the most distance part of the city; and as the bell will be three thousand pounds weight, the hours can be heard as the hammer falls to strike the hours that will usher out this centennial year, while it will be a lasting memorial to all who place their mite in the silver-tongued monitor, which will tell the hour that each one of us will be of earth no more.
We think this latter enterprise deserves the liberal encouragement of our citizens, as Rev. Father Corby has changed the plan of the new steeple at the request of very many citizens, for the purpose of the clock, and as an illuminated clock will add to the imposing beauty of the edifice, while it will impart to the street throughout its entire length a panoramic view, which for rural grandeur cannot be equaled in any other city west of the lakes. Put in the clock by all means. Such a splendid opportunity should not be lost to test our appreciation of the great effort of the pastor and people of St. Bernard's Congregation, to place such a thing of beauty on the sight so prominent, while it looks down from the tallest steeple in the state, from a height of 204 feet over the city, and out over the country, furnishing to the eye of the beholder one of the finest views imaginable. [NOTE: It would not be until 29 years later, in 1905, that a clock would be installed in St. B’s steeple] WD
05 14 St. Bernard's Temperance Society have recently fitted up a hall in the 3d story of the building occupied by Chas. Lynch, in which they will hereafter hold their meetings. They have established a reading room which will be open to the public every evening. This is something that Watertown has long been in need of, and every encouragement should be given the society to sustain it. WG
10 05 More Beautiful Paintings
More beautiful paintings are being painted in St. Bernard's Church by Herman Michalowski, the Milwaukee artist who painted those fine pictures that ornament the walls over the side altars there. The work now being done will consist of a number of figures representing angels, and will be placed over the main altar. When completed St. Bernard's Church will then possess the finest collection of paintings of any church in Wisconsin. WG
Cross Reference: Profile of Herman Heinrich Albert von Michalowski (1860 - 1903). Also painted an 1898 portrait of Jesse Stone. Excellent profile of Michalowski can be found in the book “Built on Irish Faith” by Charles Wallman, pp. 518-522.
03 30 Father McBride has about completed arrangements with St. Bernard's choir for a sacred concert in Oconomowoc shortly after Easter. St. Bernard's choir is under the direction of Edward J. Brandt, and is one of the best choirs in the state outside of Milwaukee . . . WR
04 13 As has been announced, Mr. Wilhelm Middelschulte, the eminent organist, has been engaged for the grand sacred concert to be given by the St. Cecilian choir on Monday evening, April 18. Mr. Middelschulte ranks among the greatest organists in the world today and our music loving citizens will be gratified to know that final arrangements for his appearance on the above date have been made. WR
1905 Clock installed in steeple
07 31 Father Boland assumes charge of the parish. Father Rogers, for seven years pastor, left for treatment at St. Agnes' sanitarium. WG
07 31 Portiuncula services will be held at St. Bernard's church. WG
07 31 Ice cream social, Young Ladies Society. WG
03 19 St. Patrick's Day High Mass celebrated at St. Bernard's. WG
04 09 Passionist Fathers conduct week-long mission at St. Bernard's. WG
05 14 St. First Communion recipients. WG
07 16 Rev. John Boland, pastor, becomes president of St. Edward’s College; Father Hennessey succeeds; Father Phelan his assistant. WG
07 23 New heating system, contract fo.r WG
08 06 Ice cream social. WG
08 27 Cemetery trustees elect officers. WG
09 23 Monument to Father Corby on the Gettysburg battlefield. WG
01 07 St. Bernard’s purchased the old Solliday home on Montgomery St WG
02 11 Father Phelan injured by cutter tipping over WG
02 11 Father Hennessey’s sprained ankle WG
03 25 Cemetery Association By-Laws WG
04 15 Fr. Hennessey sailed Ireland WG
07 01 Fr. Hennessey returned from two months' visit to Ireland WG
07 15 Re-appointed Pastor and President: At the chapter of the Congregation of the Holy Cross recently held at Notre Dame, Ind., Rev. Father Hennessey was re-appointed pastor of St. Bernard's Church for the ensuing year, and Rev Father O'Malley was re-appointed president of Sacred Heart College, with most of the old faculty of the college, which has been one of the best in the history of the college WG
08 12 Musical Comedy “Mother Goose Up To Date" WG
01 26 The ladies of the sewing circle of St. Bernard's Church will give a social card party at the church hall on Thursday evening, January 26, 1911, the third of the series. Suitable prizes will be awarded. Admission 25 cents. The public is cordially invited. WG
03 16 St. Bernard’s Church Junior Choir Entertainment. Next Sunday evening at 8 o’clock the junior choir of St. Bernard’s Church will give a musical and literary entertainment at Masonic Temple Hall, to which the public is cordially invited. A small admission fee, 10 cents, will be charged. An excellent program has been arranged and all who attend can count on being well entertained. It was the intention to give this entertainment on either Thursday or Friday evening of this week but as it would conflict with the Sacred Heart College entertainment and the Knights of Columbus lecture, it was decided to have it on Sunday evening. WG
04 13 Holy Week at St. Bernard's. Following is the program of services at St. Bernard's Church for holy week: Wednesday evening confessions. Thursday morning at 8 o'clock High Mass followed by procession of the Blessed Sacrament, exposition all day. Thursday evening at 7:30, sermon on the Holy Eucharist. [Good] Friday morning, services at 8 o'clock; Way of the Cross at 3 p. m.; evening devotions at 7:30. Saturday morning, services begin at 7. Thursday and Friday evenings the Cecilian quartette under the direction of E. J. Brandt will sing the "Lamentations," "Benedictus" and the "Stabat Mater." The Cecelian choir are rehearsing a special musical program for Easter Sunday. WG
07 13 Church Alms Boxes Robbed. Last week the alms boxes in St. Bernard's Church were broken into and robbed of their contents, making this the second time this summer. Suspicion rests on a local party, and the possibilities are he will be arrested and receive just punishment. WG
07 20 The members of St. Bernard’s Church will hold a picnic on the Sacred Heart College grounds on Tuesday, August 15, to which the public is cordially invited . . . Years ago it was the custom of this congregation to hold an annual picnic on August 15th and it was always a fine social affair and conducive to much social good, hence Father Hennessey, at the suggestion of several of the members of the congregation, has decided to revive the custom. WG
04 11 Apron Sale and Lunch. By the ladies of St. Bernard's Sewing Circle, on Wednesday, April 24th, at the church hall. Lunch, consisting of sandwiches, coffee, ice cream and cake will be served from 2 pm until 8:30 o'clock. The public is cordially invited. WG
06 06 One of the largest congregations that has ever heard Mass at St. Bernard's Church was present last Sunday at the 8 o'clock Mass and hundreds of people received Holy Communion. A large class of boys and girls received their First Holy Communion, the different ladies' sodalities of the church and most of the men of the congregation and Council No. 1478 Knights of Columbus received Holy Communion in a body. The council was well represented, members being present from Milwaukee, Waterloo, Jefferson, Oconomowoc and Madison. WG
06 06 Confirmation. Next Sunday morning at 10 o'clock Mass at St. Bernard's Church, Archbishop Messmer of Milwaukee will administer the sacrament of confirmation to a large number of children, and in the afternoon at 2 o’clock at St. Henry's Church. As the archbishop leaves the pastoral residence before the 10 o'clock Mass at St. Bernard's, the men of all the Catholic societies in the city will line up fronting the house and church in open ranks, and in the afternoon will escort the bishop from St. Bernard's to St. Henry's church. WG
12 12 First Annual Donation Day – Citizens Help Hospital. The management of St Mary's Hospital and Training School for Nurses take this means of expressing their heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to the good people of Watertown whose generosity went to make the hospital's first annual donation day a success. The interpretation of our citizens’ attitude on this occasion can only incite the superintendent and management to emphasize their willingness to even better care for the poor and afflicted ones who come under their care during the year. The committee who assisted by giving their time and efforts to this work can rest assured that their unsolicited services will be rewarded by the personal satisfaction they must know could only be consummated by this self-sacrifice on their part. The hospital authorities feel especially indebted to the press for their persistency in bringing this matter before the public. Following is a list of the donors . . . WG
12 26 Everybody seemed to be blessed in Watertown on Christmas day. The weather was ideal and rich and poor alike seemed to enjoy the day in its true Christian spirit. There were special services in all the churches and all were beautifully decorated for the occasion. The midnight Mass at St. Bernard’s Church was largely attended. There was a large attendance also at all the churches of the other denominations and a more than usual religious spirit seemed to prevail with everybody in the city. The day was given over to religious exercises and family reunions and spiritual joy, the most consoling of pleasures was apparently in most people’s hearts on that glorious day. WG
1921 E J Brandt composed a "Festival Gloria" for church choir which he directed for nearly fifty years.
1923 Church Jubilee Revives Styles of 1873
(Picture in paper)
Below – Mrs. E. J. O’Byrne, Mrs. G. A. Gallman, Mrs. Richard Irving, Sr. and Mrs. Hannah Griffin.
One of the most interesting features of the golden jubilee celebration of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church was the grand march at the dinner dance held at the Turner Opera house on the last day of the four day celebration, and which was led by eight persons who have been members of St. Bernard’s congregation for fifty years. The four women wore costumes of 1873 and with the rest of the brilliant assemblage the scene was one of the most impressive on record here.
Four generations of singers have taken part in the choir programs of St. Bernard’s Church, it developed at the celebration of its diamond jubilee. At the laying of the corner stone fifty years ago, Mrs. August Wiggenhorn, then a prominent singer and musician in this community took part in the service. The four generations included Mrs. August Wiggenhorn, Mrs. Edward J. Brandt and Mrs. Earl W. Quirk, who are at present leaders in the choir and Catherine and Lillian Quirk, great grandchildren of Mrs. Wiggenhorn, who are members of the children’s chorus.
All but Mrs. Wiggenhorn took part in the jubilee exercise last week.
1923 St. Bernard's Church holds Golden Jubilee
50 years ago the cornerstone was put in place, WDTimes article
Today the golden jubilee of St. Bernard's Church is being celebrated in Watertown and the day will close with a congregational dinner served in Turner Opera House followed by music and dancing. The day also closes a 40 hour devotions service which began November 16th under the direction of the pastor, the Rev. William Mahoney, while committees of the congregation look after the social events planned for today and in which all members of the congregation took a lively interest. Great interest is being taken in the social mixer, which follows the elaborate dinner this evening and the occasion will long be remembered by those participating.
05 02 First Communion
02 24 New school and gymnasium, construction bids on WDT
05 11 Rev. Delbert D. Klink, solemn High Mass WDT
06 23 The Rev. Patrick Dolan, C.S.C., pastor of St. Bernard's parish, will mark the 40th anniversary of his ordination as a Catholic priest on Monday. Father Dolan has served as pastor of St. Bernard's for the last 10 years, coming here in 1950 from North Easton, Mass. He received his education at Notre Dame University and Washington University. He was ordained at Notre Dame in 1920. WDT
08 27 The cornerstone laying ceremony for the new school of St. Bernard's will be held after the 11 o'clock mass Sunday morning. Among the items to be placed in a copper box in the cornerstone will be copies of the Watertown Daily Times, pictures and a copy of St. Bernard's centennial booklet. The ground breaking ceremony for the new school was held on March 17 with the pastor, the Rev. Patrick Dolan, C.S.C., turning the first spadeful of dirt. The general contractor for the school is Maas Bros. Construction Company, Watertown. Others are: Heating, Kehr Bros., Watertown; electrical, Gregory Electric, Oconomowoc, and plumbing, H. Golden and Son, Oregon. WDT
10 05 Exterior Renovations
Work has begun on altering the steeple and the front of the church. Raue [Edward S. Raue] and Sons, Inc., of Watertown, has the contract for the work. The steeple work will include giving it a spire appearance, following removal of some of the steeple windows, installing new sheet metal work, new shingles and painting it. The contract also calls for removal of dangerous masonry and improving the front of the church. The project is of about three weeks duration.
03 18 Holy Cross Fathers announce they no longer will provide priests for St. Bernard's parish WDT
03 27 St. Bernard's Church Cecilian Choir will celebrate its 95th birthday on Easter Sunday, April 19, with a concert at 9:30 a.m. followed by a special program during the 10 a.m. Mass. The concert will include sacred and traditional works by Bach, Handel, Beethoven and John Ness Beck. The choir has been directed by Clifford Lueck for the past seven years. He is a part-time student in his senior year at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, majoring in music education. Organist for the group is Erma Large. WDT
10 25 Stained glass window repair, 14 year project completed
The heart of a church is its parishioners, but the beauty of the building shows the pride and commitment of all who worship there. At St. Bernard's Catholic Church, much of its beauty shines through its large stained glass windows which have been refurbished to ensure their enjoyment for future generations. After 14 years, the stained glass window repair project has been completed, with 30 windows restored. “I have been very impressed that this project has been completed in this short a time,” said the Rev. Thomas Marr, pastor of St. Bernard's. “I never expected this to happen this quickly. It is a wonderful accomplishment.” WDT
09 13 Parishioners of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church are closely following the progress of restoration of two large murals on the sides of the sacristy that have been covered up since the 1970s. At the time the murals were painted over, the Catholic church was in the midst of an updating era, modernizing facilities to comply with mandates of Vatican II. It was not an easy task to cover the murals because of opposition from parishioners when the church was renovated, and the process of undoing the updating of the two full-figure saints is a slow process. WDT
03 12 St. Bernard's Catholic Church will dedicate two restored murals in the sanctuary of the church on Sunday at 2 p.m. as part of its yearlong celebration of the church's 160th anniversary. The recently uncovered murals will be dedicated in memory of the late Charles Wallman, who initiated a drive to uncover the murals which were painted over in 1978-79 during an extensive renovation of the church. Wallman died Nov. 15, 2001, before the restoration work began on the murals, which are full-length figures of St. Patrick on the south side and St. Elizabeth on the north side. WDT
09 14 Josephine “Jo” McFarland is still singing, but the Watertown soprano is no longer gracing the balcony of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church where she has been a member of the Cecilian Choir for the past 55 years. “After all these years, the time has come for me to sit downstairs with my husband (John),” said McFarland, who joined the choir at age 22. “The activities are getting to be too much,” she added, referring to weekly practices, except in summer when the choir does not meet. “I will miss it, but I will also appreciate the extra time with my family,” said McFarland. She and John were married Oct. 29, 1949, at St. Bernard’s Church and raised eight children. They have 15 grandchildren and will soon welcome their first great-grandchild. The McFarlands are retired from farming but maintain a large vegetable garden which produces extra food that they share with others. WDT
07 20 Examination of the church's finances and records needed WDT
The Diocese of Madison has taken a preliminary look at the economic affairs of St. Bernard's Catholic Church and concluded that a careful and independent examination of the church's finances and records is needed.
Concerns at St. Bernard's include the borrowing of funds from parishioners, the parish itself and the overall handling of parish business affairs.
As a results of its preliminary investigation, the Madison Diocese placed the Rev. Tom Marr on administrative leave effective July 16. Monsignor Daniel Ganshert, vicar general of the Diocese of Madison, has been named administrator of the St. Bernard Parish. WDT
Church members get update on finances
10 12 Parishioners of St. Bernard's Church were told at church services on Saturday and Sunday that approximately $55,000 in church funds is missing. In addition to church funds, parishioners were told over $340,000 was collected from 31 individuals or family units, including members and others outside the parish.
Monsignor Dan Ganshert, vicar general of the Diocese of Madison offered the information during services in lieu of the homily. After services, questions asked by parishioners were answered by Ganshert, the Rev. Brian Wilk, pastor of St. Bernard's and St. Henry's, and also Harold Laufer of Madison, attorney for the diocese and St. Bernard's.
The Rev. Tom Marr, longtime pastor at the church, has been on a six-month leave of absence since July while the church investigated irregularities in its bookkeeping. Marr has served the parish since 1985 as pastor and administrator. The priest was ordered by the diocese to take a leave of absence after concerns over parish finances were raised in May and confirmed in mid-July through an audit.
Investigations are being done by the Watertown Police Department and the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation independent of the diocese.
Marr invested the money in a “non-traditional alternative investment” that allegedly would greatly benefit the church. Marr conducted the unauthorized borrowing of funds through the church's bookkeeper, who is no longer employed by the church. Neither Marr nor the bookkeeper informed or consulted the church finance committee about the borrowing of the funds.
A civil suit to recover funds has been filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court by Laufer on behalf of St. Bernard Congregation against Arthur Eith of rural Juneau, who is a member of the parish. The case is listed on the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access Web site, commonly known as CCAP. Ganshert invited parishioners to follow the progress of the case through the Web site. The case was filed Sept. 8 and has a class code description of Intentional Tort.
Wilk said he has agreed to continue as administrator of both churches until the end of the year, and St. Bernard's is seeking a pastoral associate. WDT
St. B’s sues member for alleged fraud
10 13 St. Bernard's sued one of its members for allegedly ensnaring parishioners and the church itself in an investment opportunity that was "fraudulent and non-existent," according to a lawsuit. Fallout from the matter is proving widespread. More than 30 individuals are thought to have lost about $400,000 combined, and the church is out another $55,000, according to church and Madison Catholic Diocese officials.
The church's priest, the Rev. Thomas Marr, has been removed from the parish and put on administrative leave by the diocese while his role is sorted out. Watertown Police Chief Tim Roets said his department is conducting a criminal investigation with the assistance of the white-collar crime unit of the state Department of Justice.
The parishioner at the center of the lawsuit, Arthur Eith, 66, of rural Juneau, told the State Journal on Monday he is "just sick" about how everything is playing out and that he will be vindicated once a windfall he's anticipating comes through.
"I still intend to make good on all this," Eith said, adding that he knows he "looks like the heavy."
According to the lawsuit, Eith approached Marr, his parish priest, about three years ago regarding a "purported investment opportunity." Eith claimed he was owed millions of dollars from the Nigerian government for consulting work he'd done there but said he needed money up front in order to retrieve his paycheck.
Eith promised to make "substantial contributions to the congregation and various Catholic entities and charities upon his receipt of the funds allegedly due him," according to the lawsuit, filed Sept. 9 in Jefferson County Circuit Court.
Marr then apparently took about $55,000 from the church's account and gave it to Eith. He also solicited money from parishioners and others and delivered it to Eith "supposedly in order to increase the return Eith was promising to pay the congregation," the lawsuit said. All of Eith's representations "were untrue," the lawsuit said.
Monsignor Dan Ganshert, the diocese's second in command, said that Marr "inappropriately borrowed" the $55,000 from the church without the knowledge of the parish's various councils and trustees. In addition, the diocese believes Marr borrowed the other money directly from parishioners, friends, family and other priests, perhaps giving different reasons for needing the money.
"Each of these persons (was) unaware of others that Father Marr had approached," Ganshert said. Marr was placed on leave July 16 due to concerns about parish finances.
Eith told the State Journal he has done international agribusiness consulting work for 30 years, primarily in the area of restoring land following the extraction of oil. He currently is owed several millions of dollars from the Nigerian government, he said.
Eith denies that he proposed an investment scheme to Marr. He said he went to Marr because he didn't know where else to turn and needed money to pay taxes and legal fees in order to get his Nigerian paycheck. He said he told Marr that if the church could somehow help him, he would donate $1 million.
"As self-serving as this sounds, I really wanted to do something for the parish," he said.
Eith said he has been a member of St. Bernard's for about eight years. He said he never asked Marr to take money from the church or from parishioners and had no idea where the funds were coming from. He said he used the money for business expenses, not personal spending.
Eith said he expects to be paid soon by the Nigerian government, perhaps within a week or two. Wisconsin State Journal article
Parishioner being sued has twice
been convicted on felony bank fraud charges
10 13 Arthur Eith, 66, pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud in 2007 and was placed on probation for five years, according to federal court records. The 2007 case references a prior conviction in 1991 for federal bank fraud for which Eith spent two years in prison.
Records from the 1991 case were not immediately available for review due to the age of the case.
Eith is at the center of a lawsuit filed by St. Bernard's Catholic Church in Watertown. The congregation alleges that Eith convinced his parish priest, the Rev. Thomas Marr, that he needed a large sum of money up front in order to receive a paycheck he was due from the government of Nigeria.
The lawsuit says Marr provided Eith with at least $55,000 from a church account and another $400,000 or so from parishioners, priests and others. Eith allegedly had promised to donate $1 million to the church once he secured the Nigerian money.
Eith told the State Journal on Monday he did not pitch the idea as an investment opportunity but had simply turned to his parish priest for help. He maintained his innocence Tuesday and claimed again that he has been to Nigeria "many times over the years to do (consulting) business." He declined to provide proof to a reporter of his trips there.
In the 2007 conviction, federal prosecutors said Eith's wife, Barbara Haase, obtained a $305,000 loan from M&I Bank in 1998 to purchase cows. As collateral, she pledged to maintain a herd of at least 100 cows.
In March of 2002, Haase filed for bankruptcy and disclosed to the court that she possessed 77 cows. In June of 2002, M&I Bank seized 32 remaining cows.
Haase, principal of Saint Katharine Drexel School in Beaver Dam, a Catholic grade school, was not charged. Although Eith was not a co-signer of the loan, federal prosecutors say he handled the loan negotiations and sought to deceive inspectors about the number of cows in the herd.
In two instances, federal prosecutors say Eith approached other farmers about short-term loans, suggesting to them that if they bought cows from him, Eith would buy them back within a couple of weeks for a greater sum. Eith allegedly told the farmers he needed money fast to "participate in an overseas investment opportunity," according to court records.
Tuesday, Eith called the case old news and not relevant. WDT
2011 Former Watertown priest ordered to jail
02 23 A former priest at St. Bernard's Catholic Church in Watertown was ordered Tuesday to serve seven years probation with nine months in jail after being found guilty in Jefferson County Circuit Court in December 2010 on one count each of theft in a business setting in excess of $10,000 and theft of more than $10,000 through false representation.
Thomas Marr, 66, now of Madison, will be permitted to serve the jail sentence in Dane County with Huber work release privileges. The first six months of the sentence will begin March 14 and after Marr completes the first three months in jail his time may revert to house arrest.
Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge J.R. Erwin on Tuesday accepted Marr's guilty pleas to the charges. The maximum penalty for each of Marr's counts was imprisonment not to exceed 10 years or a $10,000 fine, or both, relating to each count. Marr apologized Tuesday for the crimes.
A criminal complaint in the matter stated, between 2007 and 2009, Marr took money from various parish accounts. In addition, Marr also allegedly solicited funds from members of the parish, family members, other clergy and friends, representing that he intended to use the funds to assist parish members in financial distress. Marr promised he would repay these people quickly.
During this period, Marr provided the funds he obtained from the parish and others to assist Arthur Eith in recovering money Eith claimed was owed him from an overseas business transaction. Eith had financial dealings in Africa.
Marr and Eith's methods of funding became tangled up with numerous members of the church. It was believed by investigators that Marr borrowed amounts as small as $800 and as much as $47,000 from particular individuals.
Officials from the state's Department of Justice said, at the request of the Watertown police, they investigated allegations of misappropriated funds from St. Bernard's, where Marr had served. Church bills went unpaid for a period of time that is when an investigation began.
The problems with finances began to be noticed around November of 2008 when St. Bernard's administrative assistant Sue Nampel reported bills were unpaid. Thomas Levi, president of St. Bernard's Church at the time, indicated to investigators he had learned the church had approximately $100,000 to $125,000 in unpaid bills. St. Bernard's bookkeeper and business manager Alan Reinhard could not provide a good explanation for the unpaid bills and an IOU from Marr was subsequently discovered.
The books were reviewed by Thomas O'Connor, an independent CPA and member of the church, and discrepancies were found. That led to getting authorities involved.
Marr's charges were the overall result of investigations by the Watertown Police Department and the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation. Assistant Attorney General Donald V. Latorraca represented the state.
A civil case involving the congregation of St. Bernard against Eith was dismissed in July in Jefferson County and any criminal charges against Eith relating to the St. Bernard's matter are not reflected in information provided by the state.
St. Bernard's recovered about 60 percent of its lost funds through payments from its insurance company.
Erwin also ordered Marr to pay restitution to St. Bernard's Parish of Watertown in an amount to be determined by the court within the next month. She specified, as well, that Marr pay back various amounts of money he had taken from parishioners. The amounts ranged up to $27,500.
Marr must also pay a 10 percent restitution processing fee and Erwin set a prohibition against any fiduciary responsibility in Marr's future employment. He is to comply with a DNA sample provision and was directed to pay court costs totaling $210. WDT story
2011 Exterior Renovation Project
The current project at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church includes the repair and reshingling of the steeple and church roof and repairs to the clock faces and original downspouts. It is being handled by Langer Roofing and Sheet Metal Inc. in Milwaukee, its cost is estimated at $976,825.
The church had originally planned for cedar shake shingles on the spire, but Langer’s cost on a copper alternative was only slightly higher. Given the estimated 100-year life of copper roof and less maintenance costs, the church decided to go with that material for the spire. Grand slate shingles, which have an estimated life span of 50 years, will be installed on the church roof.
The exterior work will also include making the entire steeple water- and air-tight once again. The deterioration over the years has included some missing boards and damage to the wood faces of the clock. This has allowed both water and wildlife to enter through cracks and small openings, further causing deterioration of the structure.
The contractor is expecting to have the majority of the project completed by Nov. 1st.
Dr. Edward Johnson gave largely of his means toward the support of St. Bernard’s. Most of the fine statuary in the church was donated by him, and he also presented to the church a number of costly sacred articles used in connection with the Catholic services . . the erection by him of the fine school in West Main St, now the property of St. Bernard's.
St. Bernard’s Cemetery Association, chapter on
History of Watertown, Wisconsin