John Kasprzak of St. Matthias Parish is developing replica churches that will be used during a 175-mile pilgrimage next year to celebrate the anniversary of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Even though the official celebrations marking the 175th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee won’t begin for several months, organizers are hard at work behind the scenes preparing for a year of special events – and they’re in need of a few (literal) boots on the ground to help out.

Marcy Stone, Soles for Catholic Education Walk coordinator for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, is a member of the planning committee in charge of anniversary festivities, and for almost a year has been working on plotting routes for the 175th Anniversary Parish Pilgrimage, which will kick off in spring.

The pilgrimage will feature 175 miles of walking and biking trails throughout the archdiocese, incorporating churches as stops along the routes. Pilgrims will have the opportunity to explore southeastern Wisconsin both on foot and by pedal and to discover the diverse history of parishes from Holy Family in Fond du Lac to St. Peter in Kenosha ó and 35 other Catholic churches in between.

When the planning committee began to meet, “they were throwing ideas around about what would be some fun ways to celebrate,” said Stone. Staff from the schools office had noticed that the distance between one end of the archdiocese to the other was roughly 175 miles. A pilgrimage was proposed, and Stone took it on as one of her projects, analyzing and researching trails from a variety of different sources to compile the best hiking and biking routes that would include as many parishes as possible.

There are six separate routes planned, the length of which totals 175 miles.

And while websites like MapQuest and have been helpful in creating the routes on paper, Stone still needs help to ensure that the routes are feasible, and is putting the call out to bikers and walkers who would be interested in testing the routes to ensure their accessibility and convenience, before they are finalized and officially announced.

Not only is it a chance to stretch your legs and help shape an exciting initiative for the anniversary, said Stone, but it’s a prime opportunity to experience the pilgrimage before anyone else does, and learn about the history of the archdiocese that will be celebrated over the next year.

“We have a tendency to think of little micro-archdioceses ó but our archdiocese is bigger than just the Racine or Kenosha counties, it’s bigger than Fond du lac or Sheboygan,” she said. “There are so many neat places and so much history out there. I’m hoping people will be willing to go out and learn and explore.”

When the pilgrimage is finally ready to be unveiled, participants will have a chance to get their bearings thanks to dozens of miniature handcrafted “churches” at each parish stop site. The churches will hold informational material about the parish and a stamp to mark pilgrims’ souvenir “passport” book.
The mini-churches are being constructed by John Kasprzak, a carpenter for the city of Milwaukee and a lifelong member of St. Matthias Parish. Kasprzak was contacted in February by organizers of the anniversary festivities who wanted to know if he could create close to 40 small structures in the style of “little free libraries” that are often posted outside private homes or businesses.

Kasprzak is hard at work compiling the 37 structures in his garage. He has completed a basic prototype of the building, square structure that are 16 inches by 16 inches with a gabled, two-sided roof and crosses on both sides. Inside is an angle panel for pamphlets and a door with a plastic pane.

“They had an idea of what they wanted, and I went online and found some simple versions of these little libraries,” said Kasprzak. “The project is a bigger scale but I’m kind of enjoying the challenge of making all the pieces.”

Though he is being reimbursed for the lumber and supplies, Kasprzak is donating all of his labor to the Archdiocese for free. “When they asked me to take it on, I thought, ‘Yeah I can do this.’ It seemed overwhelming at first but it’s worked out.”

Kasprzak will be leaving the structures unpainted so the parishes can customize them according to their own wishes. The structures will then be primed, put on posts and delivered to the parishes, who can fill them with information to distribute about their current parish and its history.

“I’m going to try and find out where they all are and see them,” he said. “I’d like to see how they painted them, what they did with them.”

If you are interested in testing parts of the path, contact Marcy Stone at 414-769-3507 or