St. Charles Parish in Hartland is continuing work on a new 33,800-square-foot church. The project is expected to be completed next April. (Submitted photo)
When St. Charles Parish in Hartland built its current building in 1993, it was home to approximately 800 families.
Since then, they have been bursting at the seams with the rapid growth of the faith community. Parish membership has nearly tripled, with 2,500 families calling St. Charles their home.
The growing Catholic community broke ground in April 2021 for a new, 33,800-square-foot building for worship that will hold more than 1,100 people and will include a belltower and a dome with a cupola.
During most weekend Masses, many parishioners are packed into overflow seating and participate by watching Mass on television screens, said Mike Cattani, the parish’s facilities manager who is overseeing the project.
“The current church severely limits our ability to worship together as a unified parish family in one space. In addition, many parishioners have expressed a desire for a more aesthetically pleasing and traditional worship space befitting our community,” Cattani said. “In 2015, our pastor, Fr. Ken Omernick, formed a strategic planning committee to assess and address the current and future needs of the parish to worship together as a community of faith. The committee sought input from parishioners, volunteers and staff to formulate and implement plans for a new church and an expansion of our school, including fundraising and design.”
In February 2021, after six years of early morning meetings with the building and planning committees, Fr. Omernick told parishioners that Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki had signed their proxy to build a new church.
The new building will have 24,800 square feet dedicated to worship space, will stand 120 feet tall and be visible in the overall community. The belltower and dome with cupola will each be adorned with gold-gilded crosses.
“We will have a 24-hour Eucharistic Chapel containing 40 relics, identified by wooden, hand-carved saints or symbols,” said Cattani. “The new church will feature six beautiful Tyrolese Art Glass Co. stained-glass windows depicting various saints and biblical scenes.”
Cattani added that the windows were made in Innsbruck, Austria, and crafted in the early 1900s for the construction of Sacred Heart Church in Michigan City, Indiana. Sacred Heart Parish donated the windows to St. Charles Parish upon their closure.
“These six windows will be complemented by two new stained-glass windows created by the Conrad Schmitt Studio of New Berlin,” Cattani said. “Two calming rooms for families with babies, including a lactation room for nursing mothers, and a connecting corridor to the existing building for fellowship and events will also be added.”
According to Mike Berendes, the chairman of the parish building committee, the parish began a capital campaign in 2016.
“This campaign also raised funds for a badly needed addition to our school,” Berendes said. “Our parishioners responded generously, and the campaign exceeded all benchmarks and expectations, raising more than $12 million. The first stage of the parish expansion project was completed in 2017 for a growing school that included the addition of four multi-purpose classrooms and a concessions area, including a STEM classroom and a music/choir room.”
With visible construction taking shape, Berendes said parishioners are exhibiting renewed excitement for their new Romanesque, North-Italian-style church.
“The parishioners are overwhelmed with enthusiasm as we see our hopes and dreams actually becoming a reality,” he said. “The exterior scope, size and beauty of the partially completed structure are truly impressive, and the interior will only enhance the holiness of our new church. We have received lots of positive feedback and can’t wait for the completion of the project.”
St. Charles Parish and School is the fifth-largest and fourth-youngest Catholic parish in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The school had 287 students enrolled in the 2021-22 school year.