Detailing the lives of every notable graduate of Saint Francis de Sales would fill volumes. For 175 years, the seminary has produced men who went on to become archbishops, bishops, legislators, Civil Rights activists and prospective saints. The building that stands tucked at the end of a path of trees on the coast of Lake Michigan nurtures the discerning hearts that will go on to lead our diocese and strengthen the faith of thousands. The following five graduates of Saint Francis de Sales have blazed the trail for the men who walk those grounds today, praying for guidance, asking God to make them saints.
Aloisius Joseph Muench
Born Feb. 18, 1889, the son of Bavarian-Austrian immigrants, Muench was raised on the north side of Milwaukee in a German-Catholic community, speaking only the language of his ancestors at home. At 14, he entered Saint Francis De Sales Seminary to begin his studies for the priesthood; he was ordained in 1916 and was assigned to St. Michael’s parish. Three years later, he earned a master’s degree in economics at the University of Wisconsin and, in 1921, received his doctoral degree magna cum laude in social studies in Switzerland before continuing on in England, Belgium and France. In 1923, he accepted a position as a professor at Saint Francis de Sales, and served as the rector from 1929-35. Shortly before he left the seminary, in 1934, he was promoted to the rank of monsignor. He then spent 25 years in the Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota, but during the late 1940s was appointed military chaplain for the Catholic priests of the U.S. Armed Forces in Germany, and also served as liaison consultant for religious affairs to the military governor, appointed by the Secretary of War. He accompanied Archbishop Samuel Stritch to Rome in 1946 when he was initiated Cardinal. In a meeting with Pope Pius XII, Stritch mentioned that because of his “sympathy for the suffering of the German People” Muench should be appointed apostolic visitor in Germany. He would prove invaluable to the post-war effort to help German Catholics as they picked up the pieces of their shattered lives. According to historian Michael Phayer, Muench’s dual appointment was extraordinary. “At one and the same time, he was President Truman’s Catholic liaison to OMGUS and Pius XII’s personal envoy to zonal Germany. Serving two masters, he listened to Rome, not Washington from the moment of his arrival in Germany.” He was appointed archbishop in 1950, and the following year assigned papal nuncio to Germany. In 1959, Pope John XXIII elevated him to the position of cardinal priest and he served at San Bernardo alle Terme Church in Rome. A year before he died, he was appointed to the Roman Curia. When he was laid to rest in 1962 in Fargo, he was remembered not only because of the thousands of letters he kept, or his detailed diary of the war and post-war days, but by Germans the world over for his passion and dedication to bringing their broken souls to Christ.
His Eminence Albert Gregory Meyer
Before being ordained as a priest on July 11, 1926, Albert Gregory Meyer was born in Milwaukee and attended Old St. Mary’s School, the son of German Catholics. At 14, he entered into seminary at Saint Francis De Sales, where he discerned his vocation, completed high school, and two years of college coursework before being sent to Rome to study philosophy and theology at the Urban College of the Propaganda. After earning a licentiate in sacred scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, he came home and served as assistant pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Waukesha, before being appointed to the faculty of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary the following year, where he taught dogma and ascetical theology. On Feb 18, 1946, he was appointed bishop of the Diocese of Superior, Wisconsin, and was consecrated in St. John’s Cathedral, Milwaukee, by Archbishop Moses Kiley on April 11. After Kiley’s death, he was promoted to Archbishop of Milwaukee in 1953, installed by the Apostolic Delegate, Amleto Cicognani. During his episcopacy, he launched a $3.2 million building program that marked the greatest period of growth in our diocese’s history. On Nov. 16, 1958, Meyer was installed as Archbishop of Chicago, where he worked for racial equality. In 1959, he was made Cardinal, and a few years later, in 1962, due to his superior knowledge of Latin and other languages, was appointed to the Pontifical Commission for Biblical Studies. He was added to the papal commission for the revision of the Code of Canon Law, where he addressed the council more often than any other American bishop, and stood out as the intellectual leader of all U.S. bishops. When he died April 9, 1965, he left behind him a legacy of reformed liturgy, and to date is the first and only archbishop who was born, raised, and educated in Milwaukee.
Fr. Joseph Walijeski
Fr. Joe’s mother prayed three consistent prayers as her stomach swelled with life: that she would have a boy she could name Joseph who would grow to become a priest, that he would one day build a church to honor St. Joseph, and that she would die on one of the saint’s feast days. As she closed her eyes on March 19, St. Joseph’s feast day, it was with the peace of knowing that each one of her prayers had come true. Her son, known in his life as Fr. Joe, had struggled to make his mother’s dreams come true. He was first rejected by St. Bonaventure Seminary in Sturtevant, Wisconsin, after beginning his studies and then being told he could never become a priest because he struggled with Latin, Greek and French. It was recommended that he remain a Franciscan brother. He persevered, knowing that his call was to the priesthood and was accepted by the Diocese of La Crosse, which was looking for Polish-speaking priests for the numerous Polish immigrants making their way into Wisconsin. He finished his studies at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee, and was ordained on April 16, 1950. As he served the Polish community, his desire to be a missionary burned inside him and he asked to be sent to South America, a request that was granted. Soon, he found himself standing shoulder to shoulder with the bishop in Bolivia hacking through the jungle with a machete until they found the perfect place to build their church. In Peru, he built a church dedicated to St. Joseph, as his mother had prayed for. His work kept him in Peru the rest of his life, working with children, the poor, and building orphanages where locals lovingly called him Padre José and where he fulfilled the work of his life, and his own prayer, to be, “a pencil in our Lord’s hand.” Fr. Walijeski is listed as a “Sevrant of God” as the Congregation for the Causes of Saints studies his case for possible canonization.
Blessed Solanus Casey
It’s said that Blessed Solanus Casey’s prayers could cure sickness and bring an unearthly peace. He spoke softly to all who came to him for counsel and offered up the quiet assurance that God answered every prayer. On Nov. 25, 1870, Bernard Francis Casey was born the sixth child of 16 to immigrant parents who fled Ireland after the famine, and settled on a farm in Oak Grove in search of a better life. Barney, as he was known to his family as a young boy, played catcher for the baseball team that he and his 10 brothers formed, called The Casey Nine. His love and devotion to the sport was marked by the fact that because there was no money for a glove, uncomplaining, he did without. After leaving home, he worked as a logger, and later as an orderly, a prison guard, and a streetcar operator. When he was 21, while working on a streetcar, he saw a drunk man assault a woman on the tracks. In that moment, a sense of duty was stirred up in him and he realized that what he wanted most was to make the world a better place. This desire, and the faith his family instilled in him at a young age led him to enter into Saint Francis High School Seminary and begin his studies for the priesthood. As an English-speaking Irishman in a German-Speaking school, schoolwork was difficult for him and it was recommended that he enter into a religious order. He was invested in the Capuchin Order in 1897 in Detroit, where he received the religious name, Solanus and was ordained to the priesthood on July 24, 1904. Blessed Soloanus Casey spent the first 20 years of his service in New York. Known for his gift of prophecy, healing, and kindness, he built a legacy of love that lasted well past his death in 1957, remembered for saying often, “I have two loves: the sick and the poor.” As he breathed his final breath as he used his dwindling strength to sit up and cry out, “I give my soul to Jesus Christ,” ensuring that the legacy of a holy life well lived points forever back to God. He was beatified at Ford Field in Detroit in November 2017.
James Cardinal Harvey
According to his mother, James Cardinal Harvey wanted to be a priest from the time he was young. The eldest of five children, he was born in Milwaukee on Oct. 20, 1949, to his Ruth and Robert Harvey, a former golf pro who taught the sport at Shorewood High School. Cardinal Harvey learned to read and write before most of his peers, showing an early aptitude for learning that would later help him earn a high school scholarship to De Sales Preparatory Seminary in St. Francis. He began his studies at Saint Francis De Sales Seminary before continuing on to Rome, where he was ordained on June 29, 1975, by Pope Paul VI and earned a doctorate in canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University and studied diplomacy at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. In 1980, he entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See and served first as attaché and then as secretary in the apostolic nunciature in the Dominican Republic for two years. From 1982 to 1998, he served in the central administration of the Holy See’s Secretariat of State, and 1998 to 2012, he managed the Pope’s household, first for Pope John Paul II and later for Pope Benedict XVI. In 1998, he was named a bishop, in 2003 an archbishop, and in 2012, a cardinal but despite his tireless service to The Church, Cardinal Harvey remains close to his family, all of whom still live in Milwaukee. Every summer during the pope’s vacation in northern Italy, he returns to his hometown to visit with his family, last May laying his beloved mother to rest at the age of 94. Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki once said of Cardinal Harvey, “He is rooted in the love of family and the love they have for Jim is the basis and foundation that allows him to devote himself to the Church.”