When Brenda Cline began working at St. Joseph Parish in Grafton in the summer of 2000, construction was already underway on the parish’s state-of-the-art, 21st-century renovation.

“It was very exciting,” Cline said “There was a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, sort of a movement into the new era of St. Joseph Parish.”

Now almost two decades later, Cline, who started as the director of youth and young adult ministries, has been the parish director since 2001. She is one of less than a dozen lay parish directors in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

The renovation included a large gathering hall, connected the parish and school and came with an electronic sign that can broadcast its message along Highway 60.

“We use that as a messaging tool, a communications tool,” Cline said.

All of the modernizations have St. Joseph embrace and live out its mission statement, “The hands of Christ, open to all.”

That directive flows through many of the parish’s outreach endeavors, including a sister parish relationship with Los Toros in the Dominican Republic, work with meal programs at St. Ben’s and All Saints, and a summer farmer’s market on site where the proceeds go Los Toros and the leftover produce is donated to a food pantry in Grafton.

“It really drives us,” Cline said. “We really want to celebrate all that humanity is and bring them into the faith.”

In an affluent area like Ozaukee County, it can be hard to remember sometimes the problems and poverty in your own backyard, both literal and metaphorical.

“There’s more need here than people realize, but it’s not the same kind of need,” Cline said. “Unfortunately, when someone is homeless in Ozaukee County, there aren’t the resources. We are seeing a significant rise in people with need here. But, it’s not the same as in the city. It is really important to help people understand that as Catholics, it’s universal. We care for the greater Church, the greater community around us, the world around us. Having that relationship with our sister parish in the Dominica Republic helps.”

In November, the parish, founded by Fr. Joseph Salzmann and Fr. Joseph Sadler, will celebrate the 170th anniversary of its founding on Nov. 7, 1849.

The parish roots can be traced back to the 1840s in Town Ten, a few miles west of Grafton, where the first Catholic Church in the area, St. Francis Xavier, was established. Years later, the population shifted to Grafton and St. Francis Xavier was closed.

A Mass celebrating this unity of faith was held at the Grafton Courthouse. In 1860, a permanent place for worship was built; in honor of its founding fathers, it was named St. Joseph. It was a simple stone church with a small wooden steeple and cross to distinguish it from the ordinary schoolhouse. In 1864, lightning struck and most of the building and furnishings were destroyed; a mission society from Bavaria sent money to help defray the expenses for rebuilding.

In 1897, a new church was erected to accommodate the growing population. Its architecture was similar to the styles of Western Europe.

Cline is looking forward to seeing what the future holds.

“I think continuing to celebrate the rich tradition that St. Joseph has been in this community, and continues to be,” Cline said. “Looking ahead to see how we can meet the needs of this parish community and the greater community going forward.”



St. Joseph Parish

1619 Washington St.

Grafton, WI 53024



Mass Schedule

Saturday: 4 p.m.

Sunday: 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

Spanish Mass at 12:30 p.m. the second and fourth Sundays of the month



The Bible pays Joseph the highest compliment: he was a “just” man. The quality meant a lot more than faithfulness in paying debts.

By saying Joseph was “just,” the Bible means that he was one who was completely open to all that God wanted to do for him. He became holy by opening himself totally to God.

It is no contradiction of Joseph’s manly holiness that he decided to divorce Mary when she was found to be with child. The important words of the Bible are that he planned to do this “quietly” because he was “a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame.” (Matthew 1:19)

Saint Joseph is the Patron Saint of Belgium, Canada, carpenters, China, fathers, happy death, Peru, Russia, social justice, travelers, Universal Church, Vietnam and workers