IHM header


Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish History



After months of gathering information about prospective parish members and possible locations for a new church, meetings of the core committee (John Murphy, Fred Floryance, Joseph Kastner, Anthony Schmitz, and Rupert Schmitz) with Father Oscar Winninghoff were held during 1947. By May 7, 1947 about 100 interested "future parishioners" met at St. Aloysius to hear of the available sites, to discuss the facts, and to help decide. Of the three available sites, the Fries farm between 116th and 117th streets and from West Greenfield Avenue to West Washington Street was selected.

All of the community planning saw fruition on May 5, 1948 when the Decree of Erection of the Parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary was issued. The wording of the decree placed trust in the hands of the parish community to bring the parish to birth and growth: The moral certainty of the good will of the parishioners, who will make the offerings necessary for the needs of the Parish.

On June 5, 1948 Reverend Raymond J. Welter was appointed pastor of the newly established parish. Father Welter moved into the farmhouse on the property purchased, and it became the first rectory. Reconversion work started on the barn to make it the first church.

Meantime, all the sacred functions were held at St. Aloysius church. The collection at the early Sunday morning Mass (Immaculate Heart of Mary Mass) was allocated to IHM. Children of IHM attended St. Aloysius, Holy Assumption, or St. Mary, Elm Grove schools on a tuition basis. Father Welter began a series of appeals at various churches for financial support. On September 9, 1948, Fred Floryance was appointed Treasurer and Rupert J. Schmitz was appointed Secretary.

The transformed "barn", through the efforts of a full-time carpenter and many volunteer men and women was ready to be dedicateda5 a church on December 19, 1948. Archbishop Moses E. Kiley blessed and dedicated the church and stated that he believed this to be the first church throughout the world to be named Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Organizations developed for answers to spiritual and social needs and provided financial aid. Corporate Communion Sundays were part of the life of the early organization and the social life was an important aspect of the recreational hours of the parish. With no place on the grounds to hold meetings, dances, card parties and get-togethers, the social life of the "pioneers of the parish" was that of picnics at Greenfield park, dances at Ramstack's Hall in Elm Grove, meetings at Dvorak's Grocery store on 124th street in the basement clubroom, and bake sales at Maciosek's and Miller's Grocery stores. Card parties were held at St. Aloysius Hall or at Dvorak's.

In 1950, a Navy barracks acquired from Marquette University was reconverted to the first Parish Hall. It opened with the First Annual Parish Dance on May 27, 1950. It became the center for all.

Social functions and religious instruction classes were held there on Saturday mornings for those children of the parish attending public schools.

The first annual parish picnic was held on August 13, 1950. By November 25, 1951, the parish debt on the land bought and for loans to do this was paid.

Sunday Masses found people standing inside and sometimes outside the first church, even though the Mass schedule grew from four to eight Sunday Masses. Need for building was quite evident. This was a time of trying to accumulate funds for this through the weekly envelopes, a monthly building envelope, and social activities.

Permission to build was delayed because of insufficient funds and, later, the death of Archbishop Moses E. Kiley. After Father Welter's detailed letter to the new archbishop, Albert G. Meyer, permission was given in February 1954 to let bids for a basement church with provisions made for the future addition of a school on top of the church. Construction began in 1954.

Because of the crowded conditions in the original church, permission to use the new structure before dedication was given. This happened on March 6, 1955 with the celebration of the 6:00 a.m. mass.

Most Reverend Roman R. Atkielski, Auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee, consecrated the main altar and side altars on March 9, 1955. Archbishop Meyer officiated at the blessing and dedication of the new church on May 8, 1955. In addition to having a new church building, the parish had a new parish hall.

Immaculate Heart of Mary continued to grow. A pressing goal and hope was that of building a school and acquiring housing for sisters who might teach at the school. Construction of the school began in 1958; the School Sisters of Notre Dame would be part of the school staff. In September 1959, the school of 12 classrooms and administrative offices opened with Sister Nary Martin Kuntz, SSND as first principal.

Prior to this, in June 1959, Father James Hamann came to IHM as curate (associate pastor).

Housing for the sisters was provided by the purchase of a private home located at the corner of 117th and Madison streets.

Statistics show that during its first eleven years, IHM had grown from 297 families to 670 families. The number of children attending the daytime school was 547; the parish children enrolled in religion classes (CD) numbered 258, in addition to 80 enrolled in the high school level.

Since enrollment was a constant high and there was a hope of more sisters being assigned to IHM, a new convent was built in 1964. There were four sisters on the faculty at this time.

When Father Welter received a new appointment and left IHM in December 1965, there were 1100 families registered at the parish.

On February 2, 1966 Father Leroy J. Dierbeck arrived to assume his responsibility as the newly appointed pastor.

Among the major changes that occurred during his pastorate was the re-location of the sanctuary to the east wall; this facilitated implementations of the directives of Vatican II regarding liturgy.

Ground was broken for a new rectory in May 1967. This was ready for occupancy one week before Christmas, 1967.

Father Dierbeck chose a neighborhood visitation program as a means of unifying the parish and of helping parishioners to become knowledgeable about the changes Initiated because of Vatican II.

Father James Hamann directed the religious education program of the parish, initiating parent-teacher classes for all First Communicants of the parish.

May 28, 1967 was the day on which Father Dierbeck celebrated the 25th anniversary of has ordination with a Mass of Thanksgiving at IHM.

Another call that came from Vatican II was that of establishment of parish councils. Preliminary work for this began in September 1967. On January 25, 1968 an all-parish meeting was held to surface names of possible nominees for the council and to approve election procedures. March 11, 1968 was the date of the first Parish Council meeting. At this meeting these officers were elected: President: Ken Ehlenbach, Vice-President: Jim Hall, Recording secretary: Dick Stoll, Sergeant-at-arms and parliamentarian: Ken Buettner. Five Committees were established: Finance, Buildings and Property, Education, Apostolic Activities, and Inter-parish Coordinating Committee. IHM was one of the first Parishes in the Milwaukee Archdiocese to establish a Parish Council.

This was completed in August 1966. The parking lot was also blacktopped at this time.

After nine years of service, Father Hamann left IHM in February 1968. Other associates that were at IHM while Father Dierbeck was pastor were: Reverends George Hopf (1968), Charles Wheatley (1968-1975), Thomas Marlier (1968-69), Arthur G. Heinze (1969-77), James Pencykowski (1975-80), and Allen Vogt SAC (1977-79).

In 1969 Father Wheatley assumed another service as choir director. This choir had been re-organized by Judy Rafalski in 1968 after years of inactivity. Through donations and fundraisers a pipe organ was purchased and installed in August 1971.

In September 1969, the Parish Liturgical Society became the Lectors' society. The Liturgical Committee of the Parish Council was formed from the Apostolic Committee.

To improve communications, the Parish Council established a newsletter, which received the name "The Heartbeat". Edna Hall and Dave Hutchison were co-editors. Frank Label designed a nameplate for the "Heart-beat" and for the Parish bulletin. These events were part of 1970.

The Parish Council formed a Ways and Means Committee in June of 1970. Planning for the 25th Jubilee Celebration (1973) began in January 1971.

As chairman of the liturgy committee, Father Wheatley enhanced the church environment for the various seasons and celebrations. Through his guidance the women of IHM made Chrisms for the tree that graced the sanctuary at Christmas.

Father Art (Heinze) worked with the teachers involved in the Christian Formation of youth. He guided the CYO members in their productions of "Godspell" and "Fiddler on the Roof".

In May 1971 a major statement, EDUCATION AT IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY in booklet form) was issued by the Education Committee after a two-year study.

Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish celebrated a Silver Jubilee Mass on October 6, 1973. At this Mass the service of extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist was initiated. A dinner was held at St. Aloysius.

During the spring of 1975, a Human Concerns Committee was formed. A Ministry to the Sick program was begun in the fall, 1975.

IHM welcomed its first permanent deacons, Dennis Fietz and Walt Henry in June of 1978. Tom and Joyce Jakubowski originated the formation of the IHM Kazoo Band for the Fourth of July parade, 1978.

In September 1978 Father Dierbeck received an assignment to St. Joseph Parish, Grafton.

Father Bob Surges came to IHM on January 16, 1979 to be its third pastor.

During Father Bob's years of ministry, IHM continued its Gospel commitment in various ways and degrees. Some of these were: welcoming the first Laotian family (The Lungraths)(November, 1979); the Bread Making Ministry (coordinated by Ron and Mary Ellen Gallun); welcoming a second family (Khampane family) in December, 1980; installation of a new sound system (a memorial given by Jim and Edna Hall, Hazel Yockey, Russ and Colette Stone, Jack and Pat Gallo, and one anonymous donor); appointing Kay Brown to be the first History-chairperson (December 26,1980) the co-operation of all was solicited for the gathering of IHM history; introduction and preparation for RENEW to be scheduled from fall of 1981 to fall of 1983.

During these years Dan Andrae directed the athletic program. In November 1981 Ruth Kropidlowski received the St. Anne's Award (highest honor paid to an adult in Catholic Girl Scouting) for her outstanding participation in Girl Scouting.

Father Joseph Aufdermauer was associate pastor, coming to IHM in June 1981.

New holy water fonts were purchased in April 1982 through the generosity of the Sacristan Ministry who donated this money as their Lenten sacrifice. The Resurrection choir had its first practice on September 14, 1982. A two-year effort to beautify the parish grounds was begun by Father Bob.

In 1983 support groups for unemployed and underemployed to help people find work, medical help, financial help or whatever was needed to live in dignity were developed. The "Sharing Table" in the former sanctuary had become the Food Pantry in 1982.

Significant fund raising events during this time were: the ROOF-A-THON (June 12, 1982 [Committee heads: Diane Neubeck and John Sheets]; SPIRIT-A-THON (June 11,1983) for debt reduction chairpersons: Diane and Jim Neubeck; another IHM SPIRIT-A-THON (October, 1984) [chaired by the Neubecks. These "thons" were a BIKE-WALK-or RUN for 15 miles.

In April 1983 parishioners Virginia and Robert Broderick received the highest papal award available to clergy and laity - being named Knight and Lady of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. In 1984 the Youth Program was re-named GENESIS.

The beginning of ICC (Interparish Collaboration Committee St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, IHM, St. Aloysius, and Mary Queen of Heaven parishes) took place in spring, 1985.

IHM bid farewell to Father Bob in June 1986 and welcomed Father Joseph Coerber as its fourth pastor. The associate, Father Joseph Aufdermauer was re-assigned in August 1987. Father Paul Steinmetz, S.J. became the associate pastor. Father Coerber is remembered especially for his visits to and concern for the sick and homebound. He was successful in his efforts to reduce the debt. In September 1986 176 parishioners signed up to PARTICIPATE IN PREPARATION for the Archdiocesan SYNOD: "WALKING TOGETHER". Plans to renovate the parish hall were begun in September 1987.

In June1 1988 the parish bade farewell to Ralph Robers who had been the Director of Religious Education for the past 13 years. In August, Father Steinmetz received a new assignment. IHM was 40 years old. A printing of a Pictorial Family Directory (1989) and a Mission in February 1989 were part of this anniversary observance. At an old-fashioned ice cream social on August 20, 1989 the parish gave Pat and Ted Fischer a 'send-off' for their missionary service to the people at the Ganta Leprosy Center in Liberia, AFRICA.

Raymond Kaczmarek was ordained to the order of Permanent Diaconate on April 28, 1990.

Paul Colloton, former organist and music director of IHM and now a Dominican, was ordained to the priesthood on May 12, 1990. Father Colloton celebrated the Eucharist at IHM on May 19. This was followed by a dinner/dance/reception at St. Aloysius.

In June Father Coerber left for a new assignment and Father Charles J. Wheatley returned to IHM as its fifth pastor. Father Art Heinze helped as a weekend presider at the Eucharist from August 1990 until December 1, 1991.

In 1991 Kathy Stone, a member of IHM, had a book published: The Unsinkable Stone. Deacon Ray Kaczmarek suffered a stroke in August 1991. As of December 1, 1991 each parishioner had a personal mail folder located in a designated area of the church room.

Father Leroy J. Dierbeck, IHM pastor (1966-1978) died on December 31, 1991. The IHM parish community celebrated a memorial Eucharist for him in January 1992.

In March 1992 Father Wheatley moved to an apartment; this meant that the rectory provided more space for administration, for parish functions, and for the deacons. Don Marek and assistants, especially Norb Heindl, painted the Interior of the church.

There was a continuation of the meetings of the special ICC Task Force to study the possibility of parish collaboration regarding the parish schools in 1992. This group began to meet in 1991. The recommendations of the Task Force concerning a consolidated school system by September, 1994 and adopting a unified tuition scale for the year 1993-1994 was not unanimously accepted by St. Aloysius and Mary Queen of Heaven parishes. With great sadness the IHM PARISH COUNCIL reached consensus in its decision to discontinue the day elementary school program at IHM because only 48 students were registered at the time (1/93). There was no financial possibility for continuance. IHM parish would subsidize the education of any IHM students who would attend either St. Aloysius or Mary Queen of Heaven schools.

Marian College, Fond du Lac was interested in renting part of the IHM School building when it learned of its availability.

A part of the Archdiocesan 150th anniversary included the visitation of Archbishop Rembert Weakland and Bishop Richard Sklba to each parish in a cluster group. This visit to the ICC cluster took place on October 17-18, 1993.

Parishioners of IHM and of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton presented "Tales of Wonder" in the IHM church room in November 1993.

In February 1994 Father Wheatley was granted a sabbatical to be followed by reassignment. Father Tom Volkert became the Temporary Administrator of IHM.

In May parishioners received the announcement that Father Karl J. Schneider was appointed pastor of IHM and would be coming on June 21, 1994.

September 1994 was the time of the beginning of seminars for Strategic Planning. Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish was a participant.

On November 1, 1994 Marian College began its classes on the IHM grounds.

As a phase of Strategic Planning a Parish Survey was conducted in January 1995 to collect some of the necessary data.

Landscaping of the 117th street side of the IHM property was undertaken by the parishioners in June of 1995.

January 21, 1996 was "Super Sunday" at IHM. All parishioners were invited to be part of planning the future of IHM based on shared information gathered in the various phases of Strategic Planning.

On July 1, 1997, Dennis Fietz became the first Business Manager of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish (on a part-time basis).

A 50th Jubilee Committee has been organized after having considered the suggestions and ideas gathered as result of the PARISH NIGHT OF "REMINISCING" on May 21, 1997.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary Website (http://cyberdiem.com/ihm) is launched in June, 1998 to communicate to our parish members and to anyone in the world who may wish to find out more about IHM. It is part of Project IHM 2000 to help IHM Parish into the new milenium.

And so the IHM story continues through the present faith community and those yet to come. We sing our 'ALLELUIA!' in praise to God, joining our song with those CHARTER MEMBERS who have already entered into the GLORY OF ETERNAL LIFE.

Driving Directions | Upcoming Events | What's News | Photo Archives | Fundraisers
 Immaculate Heart of Mary Church
 1212 S. 117th St.
 West Allis, WI 53214

Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish Office
1121 S. 116th St.  West Allis, WI 53214
(414) 453-5192    info@ihmwestallis.com
copyright © 2014
Design by NPMm