“Being in the Navy for 25 years, I had to transition all of the time. So, I didn’t have any problems with the transition to the new Queen of Apostles Church.”
– Bob Meyer, Parishioner

As a parishioner in this Pewaukee church community since 1991, Bob Meyer is more than familiar with the roots and rich history of the parish that came to be known as Queen of Apostles parish, easily one of the Pewaukee area’s largest houses of worship, and a community of believers that actually first gathered more than 150 years ago.

As the visitor enters the church, a beautiful etched-glass window above the main door features representations of the Virgin Mary and the Apostles. Inside, in the wings on either side of the spacious altar area, are captivating stained-glass windows, one depicting the birth of Christ and the other His crucifixion.

While the current church, so prominently visible along West Capitol Drive was built in 1999, its spiritual cornerstone was actually laid in the mid-1800s in the parishes of Ss. Peter and Paul and St. Mary.

According to official church history, Ss. Peter and Paul and St. Mary each organized a small mission church in 1848 and 1858, respectively. Ss. Peter and Paul constructed a small log church in 1859 that was replaced in 1875 with the brick church that remains today at the Ss. Peter and Paul site on Duplainville Road.

In one early, undated photograph from the church archives, the fascinating image shows the small church with its wooden floors packed for a Mass. But it’s the segregated seating arrangement that stands out as the ladies are seated on one side of the church and the men take their place on the opposite side. Prominent in the center aisle is a wood stove providing heat and comfort during yet another Wisconsin winter.

Duplainville was an unincorporated area east of the village of Pewaukee and records show that the first settlers were the families of Farber, Genz, Jannes, Dick, Nettesheim, Huetgen and Lindner. They formed the new Catholic Society, which bought one acre of land from Wilhelm and Marie Hock for $25 dollars. They used that money to build a meeting house.

The first religious service for this new mission was then held in the home of Peter Bochem and the prayers were often said in German. The congregation grew along with Duplainville, which added a barber shop, hardware store, blacksmith, dance hall, as well as a tavern, post office and grocery store and it became clear that the original log church needed to be replaced.

Ss. Peter and Paul was one of two churches that combined to form Queen of Apostles. (Submitted photo)

Meanwhile, St. Mary built a stone church that stands today on Wisconsin Avenue. It was dedicated in 1868 and reconstructed in 1887 to accommodate more parishioners. In 1883, St. Mary’s was officially incorporated, with Fr. Becker, also the pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul, as the first pastor.

“I know a number of people who had grown up at St. Mary’s, and had kids go through their school, and had to go through that transition to the new place,” Meyer recalled. “We were still using St. Mary’s at that time for weddings and other events, so that made the transition a bit smoother. The original Ss. Peter and Paul property was sold to another church.”

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee formally named it a parish, with Fr. Robert Huettl as its first pastor, with the growing parish going on to build a larger church in 1970. Construction began on the Parish Center in October 1992. On June 26, 1999, Archbishop Rembert Weakland, OSB, dedicated Queen of Apostles Catholic Church. Fr. Charles Hanel has been pastor since Jan. 1, 2014.

The parish has a long history of nurturing its young people in the faith, too. In response to the need for families to have a solid educational base for their children, St. Mary’s broke ground for the school building in 1957 and the first classes were held Sept. 3, 1958. Ss. Peter and Paul grew from 30 families in 1959 to more than 200 in 1968. Queen of Apostles School eventually closed its doors in 2016. Yet, the commitment and focus on youth remains a vital focus as Queen of Apostles Parish moves forward.

“Youth are well-served here and that’s an extreme positive for the parish,” said Fr. Peter Drenzek, who has served as temporary administrator since January with Fr. Hanel away on sabbatical. “Our location is another positive element because we are quite visible along Capitol Drive. If the spirit of this parish keeps being positive and welcoming, little by little that pays off and people spread the word by word of mouth.”

“I think it’s a very active parish and we’re trying to get our youth more involved in the parish while trying to grow the parish from the youth up,” said John Schueller, director of finance since 2015. “It’s one way to grow the parish. If we see someone who’s high school age, we invite them to be part of our organization.”

Whether a parishioner is young or older, one thread that has run consistently through the fabric of Queen of Apostles from its earliest days to the present is its sense of family, its reputation as a welcoming church.

“Coming to this church has been really good for me,” said Meyer. “We feel like we’re part of the family and I’ve certainly gotten to know all of the priests we’ve had here. The people on the office staff are very friendly to work with and we’ve made many wonderful friends in this parish. I’m also involved with baptisms and funerals. I’ve really expanded my knowledge of Christ through the priests here and I’m learning the Bible a lot better than I had ever known in my life. People from outside the parish also comment on what a beautiful, warm and welcoming church this is. I certainly feel that way myself. When you walk in, it feels like you’re home.”

“Fr. Chuck works with the ushers and we have several other people who act as greeters. When people first come in, they try to answer any questions they may have and we distribute pamphlets about the parish. We have many groups that get together, we have a Bible study that meets on Wednesday mornings and we have daily Mass. We also have a prayer shawl committee that makes shawls to offer comfort and prayers to those who need them. The committee has expanded, too. They not only make shawls, but they also make gifts for children at Christmastime, (and) knit various things, including hats for the veterans.”

“I would most like people to know that we are a very open and vibrant parish and they would feel at home in this parish,” added Schueller.

As Queen of Apostles Parish moves confidently into its future, parishioners of all ages can pause and reflect positively on its proud history as well as its foundation for growth, not only in membership but, more importantly, on its mission to reflect the teachings of Christ: “Our two Pewaukee congregations became one to better serve our faith community and provide more opportunities in ministry, outreach, and stewardship. Guided by the Holy Spirit, we came together as a prayerful community with common Catholic values and mission, and continue to grow in closeness to God.”