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Parish History

For the past 100 years, stewardship has played a critical role in our parish’s history.  From our parish's humble beginnings, individual acts of stewardship have strengthened our parish community.  We serve one another, whether through acts of kindness, generosity, community service or financial aid.  From 1915 until now, stewardship is thriving here at St. Agnes.

 

In May, 1914, Archbishop Sebastian G. Messmer, recognizing the growth in population that was spurred by the opening of the Butler railroad yards, announced that a new parish would be organized in "New Butler."  Father Joseph Delaney was appointed pastor of the new parish which would serve 30-40 families.  Our first stewards, George and Jennie Clarke, donated land for the new church, and St. Agnes was chosen as its patroness in honor of their eldest daughter, Agnes.

 

A barracks church was erected in one day during the summer of 1914. Construction of a permanent church began in late spring 1915 and progressed quickly.  The new church was dedicated December 19, 1915.

 

St. Agnes School began in September, 1915.  Classes were first held in a local hotel and, when the church was completed, in two rooms at the rear of the new brick building.  The first teachers were Agnes Clarke and Jessie Hayes.  Again, the Clarke family's stewardship commitment to promote the parish's viability was demonstrated through their daughter who, not only taught in the school, but also served as the parish's first organist.

 

The Sisters of Mercy taught at St. Agnes from 1921-1926.  Lay teachers were hired until four Notre Dame sisters arrived in 1928. The school was closed in 1934 due to the Great Depression but reopened under the leadership of Father Gabriel Hafford in 1942.  In 1943, a four-room school was erected north of the church to accommodate the need for expanded facilities.  During Father Hafford’s tenure, stained glass windows were donated and installed in the church.  The window donated by the Lewis Gross family survives and is owned by the family.

 

The housing surge and the migration to the suburbs resulted in unprecedented growth for St. Agnes.  Between 1948 and 1951 the parish doubled in size. School enrollment increased from 235 in 1951 to nearly 1,000 in 1963 requiring an ambitious building program to accommodate the growing congregation. The original brick church was razed in 1979 in order to erect a parish activity center.  Parishioners' gifts of time, talent and treasure helped ensure that St. Agnes would thrive and continue to serve Catholic needs in the Butler area. 

 

Following the Second Vatican Council in 1962, the involvement of lay members of the parish increased significantly beginning in 1970 with the organization of the first Parish Council.  The Finance Committee became the Finance Council in October 2013 and now shares equal status with the Parish Pastoral Council.

 

The concept of tithing was introduced in 1989.  Parishioners were encouraged to return the first 10% of their income to God with 5% directed to the parish and the remaining 5% to other charities.  In doing so, the tradition of "fund raising" was eliminated and was replaced by a reliable source of income on which the parish could fund its ministries.  St. Agnes is known throughout the Archdiocese as a "tithing parish" and is cited as an example for others to follow.

 

As we celebrate the Centennial of St. Agnes in 2015, we renew our commitment to welcoming and serving the residents of Butler, Brookfield, Menomonee Falls, Milwaukee and Wauwatosa who form the membership of our parish through our ongoing stewardship of time, talent and treasure.