St. Francis Xavier Church (and directions)

          Directions. LakeMills is 30 miles east of downtown Madison and 60 miles west of downtown Milwaukee on interstate highway 94.  Use the Hwy 89 exit off of Hwy 94, and drive south on Hwy 89/Main Street for 0.7 miles.  At the second traffic light turn right on Madison Street and drive 0.1 mile or two blocks to College Street, and turn left there.  testDrive 0.4 miles to 612 College Street.  There is a large parking lot across from the church.

          St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552), a Spaniard, was one of the great missionaries in Church history, perhaps second only to St. Paul.  He was one of the six companions of Ignatius of Loyola who made vows together in Paris and became the original Jesuit community in 1534.  His boat left Lisbon, Portugal in 1541, his last time in Europe.  He spent the remainder of his life preaching and ministering to peoples in India, Malaya, and Japan, sometimes going where no Christian missionary had gone before.  He is known for his sensitivity to other cultures, learning their languages and ministering to their poor.  He is also known for his joy amidst great hardship.  He died on an island off the coast of China, never realizing his dream of evangelizing on the mainland.  His body was moved to the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa, India, where it is highly venerated as incorruptible.  His feast day is December 3.  We have a statue of him in our parishCenter.

          History.  Our parish received its name from Fr. Francis Xavier Hess, who was the pastor at St. Joseph’s in Waterloo.  A group of Catholics from Lake Mills made the difficult 10-mile journey to his church every weekend.  Finally, in 1911, he started making trips to Lake Mills, offering Mass in people’s homes on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month.  The small community, upon being designated a parish in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, had its first Mass offered on Christmas day in 1911.  It was in the Atwood’s home on Franklin Street, the dining table was used as an altar, and Mrs. Atwood played organ.  The community obtained its first property, on College Street, in 1915.  The house (where today’s CatecheticalCenter is) became a rectory, and the second floor was converted into a worship space with room for one hundred, with the first Mass there in 1916.  In 1933 the church was built, with its dedication in 1934.  The priest serving the parish was now coming from St. Henry’s in Watertown.  The fifty-family community had Masses on Sunday and Wednesday.

          St. Francis Xavier’s received its first resident pastor, Fr. Robert Hoeller, in 1944.  He started daily Mass and purchased the home next to the church.  St. Mary Magdalene’s of Johnson Creek became a mission of St. Francis Xavier’s when the Madison Diocese came into existence in 1946.  The current rectory, dedicated in 1958, came into existence after the old house on that site was razed.  In 1964 the parish bought property across the street and razed the house there, turning the site into the present parking lot.  The CatecheticalCenter was built in 1966 on the site of the old rectory.  The colorful windows “Bursting Pomegranate” were installed in the sanctuary in 1972.  Air conditioning was added to the church in the late 1980s.  In 2005 a new front entrance was constructed, including more space and a wheelchair lift.

         On the sunny afternoon of Sunday, August 19, 2012, we celebrated our centennial with special food and outdoor tents.  For that occasion, Pastor Emeritus Fr. Robert Hughes prayed “that our efforts may bear fruit unto good as have the efforts of the parishioners who have gone before us,” and pastor Fr. David Wanish wrote “We open wide the doors to the future, welcoming fellow worshipers to join us.”