Saint Francis de Sales Seminary plans to move forward with its first major capital campaign based on the positive results of a recent feasibility study.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee seminary retained the Catholic development firm of Lynch Development Associates of Centerport, New York, to conduct the study, which indicated strong support and participation for a campaign to address three critical areas:

  • Expanded facilities, such as lecture space, classrooms, and kitchen and dining facilities, to accommodate a growing community.
  • An infrastructure overhaul to the seminary’s flagship building, Henni Hall, built in 1856 and last renovated in the 1980s. This would include updates and repairs to heating, ventilation, air conditioning and electrical systems, as well as addressing security, masonry and window replacement.
  • Restoration of the Christ King Chapel, grand staircase, dome and other historic elements of Henni Hall.

“The Lord has made it clear that it is now time for us to write the next chapter in the remarkable history of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary. Our facilities must support the growth of each seminarian,” said Fr. Luke Strand, the seminary Rector.

Just 14 years ago, the seminary had 33 seminarians in total. Today, enrollment stands at 81, with 44 of the men in formation for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Saint Francis de Sales Seminary has grown to become the regional seminary for all the dioceses in Wisconsin and several other states.

Enrollment for this fall is at 90 men from 11 dioceses. The seminary is near capacity even with residential renovations completed in 2022 that added 27 rooms to Meyer Hall.

“In our 30 years of conducting feasibility studies and capital campaigns, the love and dedication to Saint Francis de Sales Seminary is amongst the strongest we have ever seen,” said Kevin Lynch, head of Lynch Development Associates. “The community that supports the seminary is energetic, committed and has a contagious hope that the formation of the men at the seminary will, in fact, be the saving grace of our Church for generations to come.”

For the study, hundreds of people were asked for input, either in person or by written questionnaire. These included seminary leadership, including its board; the bishops and staffs of dioceses who send their seminarians to Saint Francis de Sales; foundation donors; and general donors.

With an “outstanding” participation rate, according to a two-page summary of the feasibility study, the study’s key statistical findings included:

  • 99 percent of respondents indicated a good or excellent rating regarding the seminary’s reputation.
  • 93 percent said the case statement proposal was either a good or excellent idea.
  • 92 percent said “yes” or “maybe” when asked if they would consider a five-year commitment to support this campaign.
  • 88 percent responded positively when asked if the seminary should move forward with a campaign.

A planning phase for the campaign is expected to conclude shortly and the “silent phase” of the campaign, during which major gifts will be requested, will follow, Lynch said.

A public launch of the campaign is planned for later this year.

One dramatic example of historical renovations under consideration by Saint Francis de Sales Seminary is this recently uncovered 1888 mural depicting the ordination of St. Francis de Sales as a bishop. The mural, behind the altar in the Christ King Chapel in Henni Hall, was covered with linen in 1952, probably due to water damage. Conrad Schmidt Studios experts who carefully removed the linen were very surprised at the mural’s relatively good condition and bright colors. (Photo courtesy of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary)

The covered mural area appeared as shown for many years, with the first sample area of the mural uncovered at the lower right. The tapestry that had served as the focal point in the seminary’s Christ King Chapel has been rehung in the atrium at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, the mother church of the archdiocese. (Photo courtesy of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary)