Saint Francis de Sales Seminary 175th Anniversary

This year’s annual Seminary Dinner will be virtual, as opposed to previous years, such as 2019 when Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki made the rounds and circulated with donors and guests. (Photo by Pete Fenelon)

The annual Seminary Dinner holds a favored place in the calendar of many Milwaukee Catholics. It’s the chief fundraiser for Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, and on a normal year up to 1,200 people will flock to the Wisconsin Center for an occasion that celebrates the very best of the future of the Catholic Church — the men who will one day serve as her priests.

This year should have been no different, especially considering that the seminary is celebrating its 175th anniversary in 2020. But, as with every other large-scale function this year, thanks to COVID-19, the seminary dinner has had to be reimagined.

“It would have been great to have 1,200 people together to celebrate this anniversary,” said Fr. John Hemsing, Rector of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary. “But of course, that’s just not happening.”

But that won’t stop the seminary from celebrating its mission and its history this September. Though it is still being called “the seminary dinner” out of respect for the tradition of the event, it will not be a dinner, and it will not be held at the Wisconsin Center. Instead, it will be a mostly virtual affair hosted on Friday, Sept. 25, from the seminary’s iconic front porch, with the option for a very small group of people to register for in-person, socially distanced attendance.

The theme of this year’s dinner is taken from the Book of Joshua, Chapter 24, verse 15: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

“This is our house, and we are going to be standing on the front porch of our house,” said Fr. Hemsing.

The event will be held from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. and will incorporate many of the traditional elements of the annual dinner, including remarks by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki and a seminarian testimonial. The seminary’s esteemed alumnus, James Cardinal Harvey, archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Paul’s Outside the Wall in Rome, will deliver a recorded message. There will also be a virtual tour of the seminary and a performance from the schola (choir).

A short history of the seminary is being commissioned for publication, and a copy of the book will be distributed to all who donate, said Fr. Hemsing.

“It’s not ideal, but I think this is going to be unique and really something we will look at in years to come and say, even though it was during a pandemic, it really was a wonderful event.”

For more information on the seminary dinner, visit