In March of 2013, the St Joseph 8th grade boys basketball team was invited to the Padre Serra Tournament, a rarity for the small school.

The Padre Serra Tournament is often compared to March Madness. Boys and girls reminisce about their Padre experience well into adulthood. The tournament is composed of parochial schools across the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and is by invite only. That team made it all the way to the semi-finals and a third-place finish. And history was made.

St. Dominic’s of Brookfield claimed the 2017 Girls Padre Serra title. The boys champions of the 2017 Padre Serra Tournament hail from St. Joseph’s in Big Bend.

What those boys didn’t know at the time is that they sparked a dream in the hearts of some fourth grade boys, to also one day have the opportunity to get invited to the Padre. Being a small school, in a small parish, it would be tough, but not impossible. The team started its career as St. Joseph Knights basketball players in the “small school” league, and ended with an 18-1 record in fifth grade. The next year they moved up to the “large” league and had another victorious season. The boys kept building the team that would eventually get them invited to the 2017 Padre Serra Tournament.

The Knights moved through the first three rounds, and after that victory, a mother from the opposing team asked one of the coaches after the game, “Aren’t you the school that almost closed?”

“Yes, we are.” It was also in 2013 that it was announced that the school would be closing at the end of the year. The parents rallied and called a meeting and later that week the decision was rescinded and the school remained open.

However, unsure of the school’s ultimate future, some parents and teachers found new schools for that next fall. Enrollment was shrinking.

Those that remained grew stronger. Sleeves were rolled up and people worked hard to hold on to the little school they loved so much. Many poured their hearts and souls into the school and parish.

And look at the team now. In 2016, St Joseph School won the participation trophy at the Soles for Catholic Education Walk.  The award given to the school with the highest percentage of participation versus their enrollment across the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

And enrollment is up. A partnership with the Mukwonago School District is also bringing more K4 families into the school. During the Catholic Schools Week Open House in January, families with older children toured the school as well. “We are definitely heading in the right direction,” said one parent.

And sometimes it really does take a village. “It was nice to see so many families attend our games, it was great to look up and see the gym filled with blue shirts. The support was incredible, and I am glad this year’s 8th grade boys could bring home St. Joe’s first ever Padre Serra Championship. It was not only great to see such large student support, but parents and parish members also. It meant a lot to the boys as well as us coaches,” said Head Coach and Athletic Director, Pat Sutherland, in an email to parish and school families.

Principal Jeff Van Rixel also commented, “One of the smallest schools, but some of the biggest hearts!”

And history has been made. Again.

(Submitted article by Shelly Wohler.)