CATHOLIC HERALD STAFF
While southeastern Wisconsin is the population center of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, one has to look to the north to find the largest parish in the 10-county region.
To Fond du Lac, to be precise.
Holy Family, which now has Mass and ministries at four locations in Fond du Lac, came about after the merger of six parishes in the city in the early 2000s. A new building, “home base” so to speak, was built in 2008 and had its $13 million mortgage paid off last year.
The combining of parishes came after some of the schools in Fond du Lac began joining forces.
“All of this was done with some solid strategic planning in mind,” said Fr. Ryan Pruess, who has been with Holy Family since he was ordained in 2012 and became administrator of the parish at the end of 2015. “They had this all planned out well in advance. It was really impressive how much they thought about this ahead of time.”
The new building, which seats 900 and can be expanded to about 1,100 for Christmas and Easter Masses (and often is), sits on Fourth Street Way and serves a staggering 5,200 families and almost 15,000 members.
“They were incredibly generous in raising money for that project,” Fr. Pruess said. “We were very grateful that last year we were able to pay off the mortgage, so we own that building Scott-free. On top of that, we were able to complete a stained-glass window project.”
To accommodate all of those parishioners, the parish has 12 Masses on the weekend spread throughout its four locations, including St. Peter in the rural area outside Fond du Lac, St. Mary in downtown Fond du Lac and Sacred Heart on South Peters Avenue.
“They’re great, vibrant celebrations of our communities and the worship sites that we pray in,” Fr. Pruess said. “We do need to have that many Masses to accommodate the number of Catholics that are coming to Mass on the weekend up here. It’s really amazing how alive the faith is up here in Fond du Lac. We would always like more people to attend, because like most places, we struggle with attendance. Things are going well.”
Because of its vast resources, Holy Family is able to offer more than 120 ministries and Fr. Pruess said the parish is able to draw some well-known speakers because they know they will be able to draw large crowds.
However, it can be difficult to form a tight-knit community, but Fr. Pruess is willing to help in that regard.
“I always say to them, ‘Well, give us a call. Call me up. We can go to lunch, we can go to coffee,’” Fr. Pruess said. “I want to get to know you. Or, I invite them to get involved in a ministry. We’ll get you plugged into something. If you can’t find something at Holy Family to do, you’re not looking hard enough because we have an immense amount of opportunity to get involved in their Catholic faith.”
The parish also has a strong relationship St. Mary’s Springs Academy, a 4K through 12th-grade school that serves the city and has 856 kids enrolled. Fr. John Mitchell, one of four priests on the staff, is the chaplain at SMS as part of a formalized partnership.
PLAN A VISIT
Holy Family Parish
271 Fourth St. Way
Fond du Lac, 54937-7508
(Along with three other locations)
4 p.m.: Sacred Heart
4 p.m.: St. Peter
4:15 p.m.: Holy Family
7:15 a.m.: St. Mary
8 a.m.: Holy Family
8:30 a.m.: St. Peter
9 a.m.: Sacred Heart
9:30 a.m.: St. Mary
10:15 a.m.: Holy Family
11 a.m.: Sacred Heart
Noon: St. Mary (Spanish)
7 p.m.: Sacred Heart
WHAT IS THE HOLY FAMILY?
The Holy Family is Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
The Gospel from the infancy narrative section of Matthew’s account gives us a vignette of a family grappling with a crisis. Joseph has to take Mary and Jesus to safety to avoid the clutches of Herod, the ruler who seeks to take the child’s life.
Matthew is reflecting on Old Testament references, which lead us to see Jesus as the “new Moses” and the “new Israel.” Matthew’s audience had a special need to understand this—a Christian community struggling to focus its identity in relation to its Jewish origins.
We celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family on the Sunday following Christmas.