St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Our patron saint is a saint known for his love of Jesus, devotion to Mary, and loyalty to the Holy See. He was born in 1090 at Fontaines near Di jon in France. He joined the Cistercian Order. After three years he was sent with 13 monks to found a new monastery at Clarivaux. He became one of the most influential men of his time, preaching crusades to free the Holy Land from the Turks. He fought against the Albigensian heresy of that time and guided Popes, particularly, one of his former monks, Eugene III who as named to the Papacy in 1142. He spent much of his time settling local disputes among civil rulers as well as those that arose among church leaders. He died on August 20, 1153. This is the day in the universal church that we celebrate his feast day. Bernard was canonized in 1174 and in 1830 was formally declared a doctor of the Church and given the title Doctor Mellifluus, or Honey-sweet teacher, because of the beauty and poetry of his writings and sermons.
The late Joseph Cavanaugh in his will said, “I then give and bequeath to the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WI, a religious corporation, to be used for the building of a Roman Catholic Church to be located in the southwestern part of the City of Appleton, WI. Said church to be named St. Bernard Church in honor of my deceased father, Bernard Cavanaugh”.
And so we have the beginnings of how we, St. Bernard Catholic Church, came to be. St. Francis Xavier High School sits on Cavanaugh property as well as many homes in close proximity to us. While site work was going on, Fr. Janssen, appointed by Bishop Bona, began his work first in his mother’s house and then at 1600 Orchard Drive, which is still our Rectory.
Fr. Janssen contacted the Manitowoc Franciscan Sisters to find two sisters within their order to begin our School of Religion.
The first Parish Mass was offered in the Xavier Commons on Sunday, September 25, 1966 and continued until December, 1968 when our church building was ready to receive its first worshippers. At the same time, the sisters were teaching religious education classes at Xavier High School.
I think you would agree, that St. Bernard’s architecture was and is truly unique. Architects III of Milwaukee was awarded the contract because of their careful use of wood, great attention to detail, and their experience designing Religion-type buildings. Ground breaking took place on November 12, 1967 and on December 22, 1968 we celebrated our first Mass in our new church.
Among its most unique features would be the seating pattern in church, the beautiful use of wood and the beautiful marble on and around the Altar. Two additions were erected, one in 1977-78 being the Activity Center and Religious Education classrooms and then in 1985, additions to the office, construction of the library, music room and lower conference room began. In 1981, a bell tower was erected. The three bells on the tower were donated by different individuals. The first bell is dedicated to St. Therese. The middle bell dedicated to St. Bernard and the smallest bell is dedicated to St. Edwin.
Twenty years later plans were made for the purchase of an organ. On August, 1986 we installed a tracker pipe organ made by the JW Walker Company of Sussex, England. It is a 28 stop, 39-rank instrument ranking it with the largest and best organs in this community.
Over the years we have had many fine priests, sisters and deacons serving in our parish. For them, we are extremely grateful. As a parish, we have grown and changed. The life of our parish carries a history of our Founding Pastor, Fr. Orville Janssen (1966-1998) and Fr. John Bergstadt (1998-2005) With that said, we have also said “Hello” to so many new and vibrant people that have blessed us with their individual gifts. Because as we all know, a parish is about the engagement of its members. We the Staff, led by Fr. Dennis Ryan, (2005-present) our current pastor are here to serve you.