Bishop Jeffrey R. Haines celebrated Mass on May 27 to dedicate the chapel in the St. Francis of Assisi Monastery in Halyard Park. (Submitted photos)

The Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph dedicated the altar inside historic St. Francis of Assisi Monastery in Halyard Park. The dedication of the altar marks the official completion of a two-year, top-to-bottom renovation to bring the 38,000-square-foot complex up to modern building and accessibility standards. The monastery includes office space, dining hall, recreation room, full kitchen, library, guest rooms and other amenities. The altar in the restored Chapel was dedicated May 27 in a Mass celebrated by Most Rev. Jeffrey R. Haines, Auxiliary Bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

For many years prior to this renovation, the monastery had been only partially occupied and used as office space.

“The completion of St. Francis of Assisi Monastery and the construction of the new St. Francis of Assisi Capuchin Center represent our recommitment to our historic home in the city of Milwaukee,” said Br. Mark Joseph Costello, O.F.M. Cap., provincial minister of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph. “Our Capuchin presence in Milwaukee serving those on the margins goes back 150 years. With this investment, we will continue to accompany our sisters and brothers in Milwaukee for generations to come.”

Begun in 1869, St. Francis of Assisi Monastery was constructed on what was then the outskirts of the city on a full city block bounded by Brown, Vel R. Phillips, Reservoir and Fifth Streets. Built in an eclectic, Romanesque-inspired style with Cream City brick, the Monastery was expanded several times in the years that followed. St. Francis of Assisi Church, attached to the monastery building, opened its doors in 1870 to the then mostly German-speaking faithful of the neighborhood. As the neighborhood changed, the parish continued to serve as a focal point for worship and community.

Among the residents of St. Francis of Assisi Monastery were Servant of God Br. Stephen Eckert (1869-1923), a pioneering advocate for racial justice and pastor at St. Benedict the Moor downtown, and Wisconsin native Blessed Solanus Casey (1870-1957), beatified by Pope Francis in 2017.

The project was financed by the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph with the assistance of generous donors to the “Growing in Community” capital campaign. The monastery brings together active and retired friars of all ages, some of whom minister in Milwaukee at Capuchin Community Services at its two locations: the House of Peace and St. Ben’s Community Meal. Before the re-opening of the renovated St. Francis Monastery, Capuchin friars lived in smaller houses scattered throughout the city. One of these, St. Conrad House in Harambee, will be reborn as the St. Bakhita Catholic Worker House. The house was gifted by the Capuchins and will serve as housing for women survivors of sexual exploitation and trafficking in collaboration with Franciscan Peacemakers.

St. Francis of Assisi Monastery houses the Capuchin Postulancy Program, the entry point for young men from the Midwest and other parts of the country discerning a vocation to the Capuchin Franciscan fraternity.