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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

St. Sebastian marks 100 years of faithful service

St. Sebastian Parish on North 54th Street celebrates 100 years. Photo by Emily Waller / [email protected]

While many Milwaukee-area Catholic parishes and schools have been consolidating or closing over the past decade, St. Sebastian’s parish has managed to remain a strong, vital asset to the Washington Heights neighborhood. The church is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

St. Sebastian’s, located at 1747 N. 54 St., was founded by Archbishop Sebastian Messmer in 1911. He saw the need to create a new parish, and bought 5 acres of land on which the parish is located today, according to the church’s website.

Barbara Haig, a coordinator of the 100th anniversary celebration, said the diverse and collaborative community is made up of individuals with a great deal of spiritual warmth and fun.

“It has really taught me the value of open community and to have a lot of fun collaborating with diverse people,” Haig said.

Haig, along with two other coordinators, has been planning a year’s worth of events to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of St. Sebastian’s, including a St. Sebastian’s Night at the Marquette basketball game on Feb. 15.

Also, they plan to have mass in Washington Park over the summer and are holding a special gala in October for all involved with St. Sebastian’s.

Gerald Leow, a former trustee of the parish, first got involved with the parish when he and his wife sent their son to St. Coletta’s Day School, a school for children with cognitive disabilities that is housed in St. Sebastian’s school.

He believes the church has been such a valuable part of the neighborhood because it houses the school for children with cognitive disabilities.

“The church plays a very important part in keeping up the neighborhood,” Leow said. “It’s a cornerstone of the neighborhood.”

Father Dick Aiken, the pastor of the church, feels that the church has been so successful because of the people’s commitment to the church. Aiken is proud to be the pastor of a church that is celebrating 100 years.

“There are members who have been around for 5 or 6 generations,” he said. “To carry on that tradition of faith we hold in Jesus is very important.”

Norm Swaglik, a parish trustee, has been a part of the parish for 40 years and feels the church is still very strong and very vibrant.

“People who grew up with my daughter moved into the community and send their children to school there,” he said. “I think that’s a good testimony to the quality of the school, parish and neighborhood.”

Haig would like to see a bigger role for lay volunteers in the future, but feels they need professional coordination to make that happen.

“It is really important to have a lot of volunteers,” she said. “They are not always going to have hired staff or nuns and ordained people.”

She wants to help people make the best use of their time and service their parish.

“What has kept us so vibrant is all of the different walks of life that come through the door,” Haig said. “My spiritual and social needs are met through this great community.”

The parish continues to work hard to be a part of the community and works in a cluster with other parishes around the neighborhood, according to Aiken.

“This church is a place of true faith that has been connecting the community since 1911,” Aiken said.

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