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St. Bernadette's
Rich History

Bernadette Soubirous was born at Lourdes, France, in 1844. Her parents were very poor and she herself was in poor health. On Thursday, February 11, 1858, when she was sent with her younger sister and a friend to gather firewood, a very beautiful Lady appeared to her above a rosebush in a grotto called Massabielle.

The lovely Lady was dressed in blue and white. She smiled at Bernadette and then made the sign of the cross with a rosary of ivory and gold. Bernadette fell on her knees, took out her own rosary, and began to pray.

The beautiful Lady was the Blessed Virgin Mary. She appeared to Bernadette seventeen other times and spoke with her. She told Bernadette that she should pray, do penance, and have a chapel built there in her honor.

About St. Bernadette, our patroness

Many people did not believe Bernadette when she spoke of her vision. She had to suffer much. But one day Our Lady told Bernadette to dig in the mud. As she did, a spring of water began to flow. The next day it continued to grow larger and larger. Many miracles happened when people began to use this water.


When Bernadette was older, she became a nun. She was always very humble. More than anything else, she desired not to be praised. Once a nun asked her if she had temptations of pride because she was favored by the Blessed Mother. "How can I?" she answered quickly. "The Blessed Virgin chose me only because I was the most ignorant." 

Bernadette died on April 16, 1879, at the age of 35. Since her death, her body has remained internally incorrupt. The chapel where she lies in state continues to be a pilgrimage site for many faithful.

Feast Day: April 16


When Archbishop Albert G. Meyer purchased the St. Bernadette property from Joseph Spartz in July 1957, he surely could not have imagined the faith our Catholic parish could bring to our community. Saint Bernadette Catholic Parish continues to serve the northwest communities of Milwaukee and the surrounding areas as a welcoming place of prayer and worship.

The formation of St. Bernadette Parish was announced in June 1958 and Fr. John Arens was appointed our first pastor. We have had a total of six pastors throughout our history, each with a unique and sacred calling through which he has served our parish. 

We have come a long way from the first Mass, which was celebrated in a tent on July 13, 1958. The tent was used for Sunday Mass from July through October 1958, after which cold weather required moving Sunday liturgies to neighboring St. Catherine Church. We hosted a tent Mass during our festival weekend to remember these moments of our heritage. The simple ways people gathered for the sacraments continue to inspire us to come together as one parish in service to one another. 

In the first six months, our parish grew to 446 families. Our parish members and friends throughout our history have made a great impact on our space. We have continued to build to meet the needs. 

Our Heritage: A Story of Faith

We invite you to come see our space, which has great spiritual meaning to us. Sit near our outdoor grotto to pray. It has been an inspiration to many since it was built in 1961. Take a moment before our Marian mosaic. It is a stunning piece that once adorned the inside of our church, but is now hanging outside so all passersby in the neighborhood can appreciate its blessing and beauty. Come early to Mass (or stay afterwards) in our beautiful gathering area or lobby entryway, which serve as great places to gather with friends and neighbors. 

We know that 20, 50, 100 years from now, St. Bernadette parishioners, neighbors, and friends will be remembering how we served our community, and how we came together in prayer and to share the sacraments. They will remember how our church contributed to raising our children and revered the wisdom of our elders. We are empowered to do great ministry today and we have great faith in our future.

50th Anniversary Celebration

The 50th anniversary celebration in 2008 marked a half-century of faith, community, and service, embodying the enduring spirit of our parish.


For decades, parish festivals hosted by St. Bernadette were a cherished tradition, weaving the fabric of our community together in joyful celebration. These vibrant gatherings served as moments of unity, where families, friends, and neighbors came together to enjoy delicious food, lively entertainment, and the warm camaraderie that defines our parish family.

Parish Festivals

The parish festivals at St. Bernadette have not only been occasions for merriment, but also pillars of support for our parish's mission and outreach efforts. Through the generous contributions and participation of volunteers, vendors, and attendees alike, these festivals have enabled us to fundraise for important charitable initiatives, support local causes, and strengthen our bonds of solidarity within the wider community.


As we look back on decades of these cherished events, we recognize the profound impact they have had in fostering both spiritual fellowship and supporting the mission of St. Bernadette Parish. 

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