St. Francis Seminary (Wisconsin)

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Henni Hall
St Francis Seminary.jpg
Henni Hall
Location 3257 S. Lake Dr.
St. Francis, Wisconsin
Architect Victor Schulte
NRHP Reference # 74000103
Added to NRHP July 24, 1974

St. Francis Seminary is a seminary for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee, located in the Milwaukee suburb of St. Francis, Wisconsin. Its main building, called Henni Hall, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The seminary was dedicated to Francis de Sales, seventeenth-century Bishop and saint of the Roman Catholic Church.


The Seminary was founded in 1845 in the home of Archbishop John Henni, two years after the Archdiocese was established in Milwaukee. It is one of the original Roman Catholic seminaries in the United States, and the oldest in continuous existence.

Henni Hall was dedicated on January 29, 1856 after a new location was chosen for the seminary along the south shore of Lake Township. This building was expanded in 1868 and later renovated in 1989. Christ King Chapel within Henni Hall was consecrated in June 1861 by Archbishop Henni. Archbishop Michael Heiss, who served as rector, is buried beneath the chapel.[1]

Over the past 160 years, St. Francis Seminary has graduated over 4,000 priests, and over 400 deacons and lay ministers. The institution is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) and offers a broad range of programs, from masters degree level formation to certificates in lay ministry.

Church land accounts for a significant portion of the City of St. Francis. On the grounds of St. Francis Seminary is a large undeveloped area known as the Seminary Woods. It is open to the public and hosts a small cemetery and grotto honoring Our Lady of Lourdes, which is shared with the neighboring Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. Archbishop Frederick Xavier Katzer is also buried here.

Forty-nine tall maple trees line the long road that leads up to St. Francis Seminary. Planted by Austrian immigrant Siegfried Wegerbauer in the 1930s, their canopy now forms cathedral arches shading the path. [2]

Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto

Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto[edit]

The Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto was built by German born Paul Dobberstein while training at the seminary in 1894. During his studies he contracted double pneumonia and promised the Blessed Virgin Mary he would build a grotto in her honor, once he recovered. This monument can be found in the St. Francis Seminary wooded area. It is free for anyone to view.

Standing a mere ten feet tall, this grotto was Dobberstein's first attempt at grotto building. He used the knowledge and skills gained during its construction to build other grottos in Wisconsin and Iowa, including the massive Grotto of the Redemption found in West Bend, Iowa. It is believed to have inspired Mathias Wernerus (who also attended St. Francis Seminary) to build the Dickeyville Grotto in Dickeyville, Wisconsin in 1930 and started the grotto building movement in America.

Notable alumni[edit]


External links[edit]