Category Archives: Faith

Dane Priest’s Murder Unsolved 20 Years Later

For years, Father Alfred Kunz said the Traditional Latin Mass at St. Michael Catholic Church in the village of Dane, northwest of Madison. On Saturday, 20 years after the priest was brutally murdered in the adjoining parish school, a Solemn Requiem Mass was said for his soul at St. Mary of Pine Bluff Catholic Church.

Several dozen people attended the Latin Requiem Mass for Fr. Kunz, held in the beautiful St. Mary church west of Madison. It had every bit of the sacred reverence that Kunz brought to the Latin Masses he celebrated at St. Michael’s in Dane. Standing in stark contrast to the beauty of the incense, bells and Gregorian chant was the fact that Fr. Kunz’s killer has not been brought to justice.

Fr. Alfred Kunz, 1930-1998

Father John Zuhlsdorf reminded those in attendance that a Requiem Mass is not a celebration of life, but a funeral Mass for the souls of the dead. He urged the faithful to think of their own deaths, and to pray that they not die without benefit of the sacraments, including anointing of the sick. Dying without the sacraments, known as an “unprovided death,” is a truly frightful thing, Zuhlsdorf said. He prayed that God would admit Fr. Kunz into the Beatific Vision of Heaven. (The photo atop this article shows Fr. Zuhlsdorf blessing the catafalque, which serves as a stand-in for the casket in Requiem Masses where the body of the deceased is not present.)

In the narthex of St. Mary’s stood an easel with a framed photograph of Fr. Kunz, inscribed with the words Ecce Agnus Dei, “Behold the Lamb of God.” It was a testament to Kunz’s 42 years of service as a Catholic priest in Cassville, Waunakee, Monroe and the village of Dane. It also spoke of the wounds left behind by such a violent death, perpetrated on a holy man dedicated to serving others.

Brutal Murder

On March 4, 1998, Kunz’s body was discovered in a school hallway by a teacher arriving for the workday. Kunz’s throat had been cut, causing him to bleed to death from a severed carotid artery. The edged weapon used to cut his throat was never found. Police said the killer might have discarded a knife or weapon that was a treasured possession; something he carried every day. Kunz’s body was found face down, at the foot of a statue of St. Michael the Archangel.

The ensuing investigation is said to be the most expansive, and expensive, in Dane County history. Yet no arrests have been made. On the 20th anniversary of Kunz’s murder, the Dane County Sheriff’s Department has begun releasing new details on the case in hopes someone will come forward with a tip that could break the case open. The department started posting details to a Facebook page set up in Fr. Kunz’s name. Some of the posts were written in first person, as if Fr. Kunz were speaking. After a few days, Facebook removed the page and all related content, with no explanation.

Father Kunz was last heard from at 10:23 p.m. on March 3, 1998, when he made a telephone call to a priest friend. Earlier that evening, Kunz attended the taping of a radio program, “Our Catholic Family,” with his friend, Fr. Charles Fiore. After being dropped off at St. Michael’s about 10 p.m., Kunz eventually returned to his living quarters in the school. The perpetrator, laying in wait, might have gained access through a window in Kunz’s apartment. Police said Kunz defended himself and tried to fend off the attack. Kunz was a former Golden Gloves boxer, in good physical shape despite his 67 years. Here is how the sheriff’s department described what happened:

Inside the school hallway, upon inserting my key into the lock of my private quarters and opening the door, it was then that the killer made his move. I saw and confronted the killer; I wasn’t afraid of him. He attacked, but we both landed some punches. The killer then attacked me with a weapon, and then pulled out a knife. I was knocked to my knees, and the killer then slashed my neck, which caused the fatal loss of blood.

On March 3, 1998, someone in the St. Michael school office overheard Fr. Kunz having a heated phone conversation, the sheriff’s department said. Kunz told the caller he could not see them that day. “Furthermore, I don’t think we have anything else to talk about,” Kunz said.

A criminal profile of the murderer suggested he not only knew Fr. Kunz, he was likely familiar with the layout of the church and the school. A former FBI profiler said the killer was most likely surprised by the amount of blood that resulted from the attack. The perpetrator left the school that night covered in blood. He might have been in an altered state of mind that night, and has lived in with regret, and denial, ever since. Details of the crime indicated a “very strong personal motive,” according to then Dane County Sheriff Gary Hamblin.

Father Kunz’s hands had defensive wounds, meaning he valiantly fought off his attacker. (Dane County Sheriff’s Department Photo)

The sheriff’s department said large amounts of parish money had been moved from account to account prior to the murder. Some “very large checks” were also cut. The week before the murder, collection money was missing from the St. Michael’s sacristy. Four months before the murder, Fr. Kunz told a friend: “Please, please pray for me.”

The murder case exposed biases and hostility in the media and community against the Traditional Latin Mass that Kunz so loved and revered. The TLM is the Catholic liturgy as it has been celebrated for millennia. Fr. Kunz regularly said the Latin Mass, although he also celebrated the Novus Ordo, or new order of the Mass, promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969. Catholics from around Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois drove to St. Michael’s in Dane to participate in the 10 a.m. Sunday Latin Masses offered by Fr. Kunz. This was years before Pope Benedict XVI issued his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which stated priests around the world can offer the Latin Mass without permission from a bishop.

One investigator remarked in 1999 that “people have described Kunz’s followers as cult-like.” This attitude smears traditional-minded Catholics and suggests they are followers of a priest instead of Jesus Christ in his Catholic Church. Latin Mass participants were described in media stories as “extremely conservative,” even rigid or at the fringe of Catholic life. Prior to Vatican II in the 1960s, the Latin Mass was simply Catholic, celebrated in the same way around the world. A profile of the Kunz case published in Las Vegas Weekly magazine in 2002 said the Latin Mass “seems to a visiting outsider like a postcard from some musty, long-forgotten time.”

From Devout Catholic Family

Alfred J. Kunz was born on April 15, 1930 in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. He was one of eight children of Alfred J. and Helen T. Kunz. His father emigrated from Switzerland in 1914. His mother was born in Michigan, although her parents came to America from Baden and Württemberg, Germany. Alfred Kunz Sr. was a cheesemaker. He established his own business, the Fairview Cheese Factory, near Stitzer in the Town of Liberty. The Kunz family was devoutly Catholic, attending daily Mass at St. Mary’s in Fennimore. The senior Kunz died on March 3, 1965, exactly 33 years before the attack that ended his son’s life. Mrs. Kunz died in January 1993 at age 98.

Crime scene tape surrounds St. Michael Catholic School on March 4, 1998. (Dane County Sheriff’s Department photo)

A young Alfred heard a calling to the priesthood after suffering a nearly fatal bout of appendicitis at age 10. As he regained consciousness from surgery, he told his mother, “I want to be a priest.” In 1944, Fr. Kunz entered Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio, for a 12-year course of study. At the time, it was the only seminary in the United States under direct supervision of the Vatican. In November 1950, Kunz was featured in an essay in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, pictured serving Mass for Msgr. Gilbert Schmenck, procurator of Pontifical College. Kunz was ordained a priest at Pontifical College upon his graduation on May 26, 1956. According to his cemetery monument, he also held a canon law degree. He said his first Mass on June 3, 1956 at St. Mary Catholic Church in Fennimore. Fr. Kunz served at parishes in Cassville and Waunakee before becoming assistant pastor at St. Victor’s Catholic Church in Monroe. In June 1967, Bishop Cletus O’Donnell named him pastor of St. Michael’s in the village of Dane.

On a very stormy day in April 1965, Fr. Kunz had a brush with death just outside Monroe. As he was leaving town in his automobile, a tornado blew across the road, spinning his car around. When the winds had passed, Fr. Kunz’s car was pointed back toward Monroe. “I saw the light,” he told The Milwaukee Journal, “so I returned.” The storms that day did damage across a wide swath of southern Wisconsin.

IMG_7958 (1)_HDR (1)
Fr. John Zuhlsdorf reads prayers of absolution at the Solemn Requiem Mass for the soul of Fr. Alfred J. Kunz, held at St. Mary of Pine Bluff Catholic Church.

Fr. Kunz became known as a faithful and tireless defender of the truth of the Catholic faith. This in and of itself would have been unremarkable in another period of history when modernism didn’t have such a hold on an increasingly secular society. He was a vocal opponent of abortion and promoter of the sanctity of human life from conception until natural death. He once held a funeral for an aborted child at St. Michael’s, burying the baby at the foot of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He preached the truth about the sinful vice of sodomy and spoke against no-fault divorce. His introduction of the Latin Mass at St. Michael’s rankled some people, even though the Novus Ordo Mass was offered as well. He said Mass for the school children every weekday. Three times a week those 8 a.m. Masses were in Latin.

Fr. Kunz worked hard to ensure that St. Michael’s Catholic Church was rebuilt in the 1970s after it was destroyed by fire. He handled maintenance tasks at the church and school, and even mowed the grass at the cemetery. He took no parish salary and drove a well worn Volkswagen in order to save money. His presence at monthly fish fry fund-raisers was almost legendary. He slaved in the hot kitchen to make sure enough food was available to serve all comers.

Blood spatter on the student lockers at St. Michael Catholic School show how violent the attack on Fr. Kunz was. (Dane County Sheriff’s Department Photo)

The case of Fr. Kunz has at times been dominated by conspiracy theories and harsh assessments of the murdered priest. Because he was an exorcist, some contend Kunz was killed by Luciferians, or someone under Satan’s influence. The sheriff’s department contends Fr. Kunz had “intimate” relationships with women in his parish, although it has never provided details or indicated the source of this information. One former St. Michael parishioner questioned by the sheriff’s department said she felt Fr. Kunz’s name was dragged through the mud with such unsubstantiated allegations.

In a social media dispatch on the case, the sheriff’s department said, “Father Kunz taught that sending children to public school was a mortal sin. Father Kunz didn’t like his teachers socializing with the parishioners. Could someone have disagreed with Father Kunz’s views?” There was no source information offered on the claim that Fr. Kunz taught that going to public school was a mortal sin. The department also said Fr. Kunz was viewed as “very controlling; he had disbanded the church council and didn’t have a finance committee.” Police now say former St. Michael Catholic School Principal Maureen O’Leary was uncooperative during the investigation, even though she and Fr. Kunz were close. O’Leary suggested that the Dane County Sheriff’s Department should call off the the investigation and mark it “unsolved,” police said. “Could something she knew have been a motive for the killer?” the sheriff’s department asked on Facebook March 7, 2018.

Kunz’s friend Fr. Fiore was an early critic of sexual abuse committed by Catholic clergy and covered up by U.S. bishops. Fr. Kunz was a canon-law adviser to The Roman Catholic Faithful, a now-defunct nonprofit group dedicated to exposing sexual misconduct among priests and bishops. Because of this, some believe Kunz might have been killed to keep him from identifying priests or bishops who sexually abused boys or teenagers. Kunz was said to be helping Fiore prepare a report on sexual abuse by clergy, for delivery to Pope John Paul II. Father Malachi Martin said he believed Kunz’s killing was a “deliberate attempt by those who hated what he represented and what he was doing, to silence and disable him permanently.”

A tribute written on the 10th anniversary of his murder described Fr. Kunz as “completely faithful to Christ and the sacraments.” Written by Toby Westerman of Tradition in Action, the tribute continued:

“Like Christ the High Priest, he poured himself out for the love of God and the good of souls. In the words of his close friend and one of the founders of the pro-life movement in the United States, the late Fr. Charles Fiore, ‘in the end Fr. Kunz even poured out his own blood for Jesus and His flock.’ “

An appearance Fr. Kunz made at a public memorial service in 1967 seems in retrospect almost prophetic. Kunz was among five clergy members who spoke words of comfort at Juda High School for nine seniors killed when a plane crashed into the motel where they were staying on a class trip. More than 1,500 people attended the service in the Green County community, located between Monroe and Brodhead. Fr. Kunz spoke of the hope for the Christian dead, reading words from St. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.

“We who live, who survive to the Lord’s coming, will in no way have an advantage over those who have fallen asleep. …The dead in Christ will first rise.”

At the conclusion of the March 3, 2018 Solemn Requiem Mass for Fr. Kunz, the faithful spilled into the narthex of St. Mary’s. They shared memories of Father Al, and wondered aloud if his murder will ever be solved. They spoke most of his love for the Traditional Latin Mass, and how his work helped lay the foundation for traditional Masses now said at St. Mary and other parishes across Wisconsin. Father Al would have been very much at home here in Pine Bluff. On this sunny March day in 2018, in fact, he was at home. ♦

—This article was updated at 9:07 p.m. and 11:26 a.m. CST March 7, 2018, 11:00 a.m. CST March 6, 2018, and at 9:35 p.m. CST March 4, 2018, with new case details from the Dane County Sheriff’s Department.

Anyone with information on the murder of Fr. Kunz should contact the Dane County Sheriff’s Department tips line, 608-284-6900, or via email, The department set up a Facebook page in Fr. Kunz’s name, but Facebook has removed the page. The Fr. Kunz Twitter page is still being used by the department to share information on the case. Use the hashtag #whokilledfatherkunz.

God Bless America – A Beacon and a Promise

It was just after daybreak on a Saturday when Father M.W. Gibson climbed to the spire of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Racine, Wisconsin. In a bold sign that faith and patriotism go hand in hand, he hoisted an American flag onto the spire, where it waved in the breeze for all to see. It was April 20, 1861 and the War of the Rebellion had just broken out. Father Gibson wanted to remind area Catholics what was at stake in defending the country’s sovereignty.

Later that same day, a crowd of 1,000 people gathered in Racine’s Market Square (now called Monument Square) and marched north across the Root River to St. Patrick’s. They sought to thank Father Gibson for his patriotic statement. Gibson implored the crowd to recall that the country for which their forefathers lived and died was calling to them. The time had come, he said, to answer that call.


This true story is from a ceremony I wrote for the Knights of Columbus in 2009 to honor the American flag and those who have died defending it.

“Let us commit to always honor our flag and protect it. Protect it from enemies without – and within – who seek to diminish its honor, lower its stature or desecrate it in protest.”

Those words were used in a ceremony providing a reverent retirement by fire for American flags that were no longer fit for service. On this Independence Day, they also offer a look at how previous generations viewed the United States and the symbol of its freedom. We quoted the stirring words of Father Raymond Mahoney, who as chaplain of the Racine Knights of Columbus penned a poem in May 1920 honoring the American flag:

“Heaven itself is unfurling the flag of the land we love, and I hear Columbia telling her children the story of how the flag came to be”

In the blood that they gave for the cause of right
A thousand true martyrs lay
And the angel that tends on hero souls
Came down at the close of day
To gather them in, and to carry them
Before the Lord of all
Then as over their forms she kindly stooped
Her snow white wings let fall

On the ground that their blood had incarnadined
And it left on them a stain
And she feared that the Master would chide her
When she came to His presence again
Because on those wings once so undefiled
Now glowed that crimson stain

But as she passed on through the evening skies
The souls to her bosom clung
She tore from the skies a bit of the blue
And over her shoulders flung
That azure so deep, that was star begemmed
In thought perhaps it might
When she came to the throne of the Master, hide
The stain of blood from sight

So she lay at his feet those hero souls
And bent low with wings outspread
And he saw that those wings were star sprinkled blue, and white, and bloody red
He asked what it meant, why the wings were stained
In fear the angel said
“Oh, the red is the blood that theses heroes spilled
The blue is Your own fair sky
And with it I have sought to hide the stain
Lest it displease Your eye”

“The stain on your wings,” he answered her
“Is truly a blessed one
And is always the mark of a crimson tide
That for liberty has run

“For it tells of service and sacrifice
Of a life and a death or right
And the blue speaks of hope, the white as truth
Sends forth a welcome light
To gleam for mankind as for travelers beams
The building star of night

“Spread out your wings o’er the universe
That all who behold may see
The flag that speaks of love, truth and hope
The virtues that make men free”

You can watch the entire flag retirement ceremony below.

Read More: Flag Retirement Ceremony Script

Read More: Father Mahoney’s Flag Tribute


Mulqueens Major Donors to Build St. Patrick’s in Askeaton

The Mulqueen family that came from Ireland to settle near Askeaton, Wisconsin, donated today’s equivalent of $15,000 to help build St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in 1908. The donation amounts from four Mulqueen family members are etched into a marble monument in the narthex of the church in southern Brown County, Wisconsin.

A recent visit to the tiny hamlet of Askeaton unearthed more details of the Mulqueen family that settled there in the 1850s. These pioneers are the ancestors of Earl J. Mulqueen Sr. (1895-1965), who grew up on his grandparents farm just a couple miles from St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.

The names of Mary, James, Daniel and Thomas Mulqueen are etched into the donor monument at the back of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Askeaton.

On the southern wall of the narthex of the church is a beautiful marble monument with the roll of donors who put up the funds to build the new St. Patrick’s that was dedicated in 1908. It replaced the previous church structure that had been across the road on land that is now part of the parish cemetery. The family matriarch, Mary (Corcoran) Mulqueen, donated $100, while her sons Daniel Jr., Thomas and James donated a total of $500. The $600 Mulqueen family donation represents at least $15,000 in 2017 dollars. For this hard-working farm family, this was no doubt a major sacrifice. Overall, parishioners raised the 2017 equivalent of $475,000 to build the church.

One thing is clear looking at the monument and examining some of the early church books: the family name was Mulqueen, not the McQueen that appears on headstones in St. Patrick’s Catholic Cemetery across the street. The two surnames seemed to be used almost interchangeably, but the Mulqueen spelling is what appears in church records.

The old St. Patrick’s Catholic School on the edge of cemetery property in Askeaton, Wis.

St. Patrick’s is a stunning church with an arched ceiling and a collection of some of the most beautiful stained glass windows you will ever see. The windows depict saints and scenes from the New Testament, including Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, the Resurrection, the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes, St. Michael the Archangel, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a Guardian Angel, St. Patrick and more. Mass is still said here twice a week.

It is very clear looking at the church, the two former school buildings and the well-kept cemetery that the Catholic Church has always been at the heart of life in Askeaton. Even before the Irish immigrants could build the first church in Askeaton, they attended Mass in each other’s homes. Before long, though, they built the original St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and had a full-time resident priest. Earl Mulqueen and his  younger sister Elizabeth no doubt received First Holy Communion and Confirmation in this church.

15,000 Attend 1918 Field Mass at Camp Dix

More than 15,000 Catholic soldiers, along with friends and relatives, took part in a May 1918 field Mass at Camp Dix at which they heard the president of Fordham University declare the Allies would win World War I because “God wills it.”

I don’t recall exactly where I obtained my photo of this incredible event. Nor do I know how the photo was captured. The panoramic view made for a photo print that is easily 3 feet wide. It stretches from the Knights of Columbus hospitality hall all the way to the end of the crowd.

1918 Field Mass at Camp Dix
More than 15,000 Catholic soldiers and their families took part in a field Mass at Camp Dix.

Held on the parade grounds of Camp Dix, N.J., the Mass was read by Father Patrick J. Hayes, who would later become a cardinal and archbishop of New York. Mass included a patriotic sermon by Rev. Dr. Joseph A. Mulry S.J. of Fordham University. “Dr. Mulry assailed the slacker who uses religion as a cloak for his cowardice,” wrote The New York Times. “He declared it was not only the country that is calling the men of the fighting nations, but God also.”

“We must not enjoy a dishonorable peace,” Mulry said. “Go forth, Christian men, to aid the boys who are in the trenches. They are holding them for you. Victory will come. God wills it.”

Bishop (later Cardinal) Patrick J. Hayes said Mass at the Camp Dix parade grounds in May 1918.
Bishop (later Cardinal) Patrick J. Hayes said Mass at the Camp Dix parade grounds in May 1918.

Mulry had long supported the Allied war against Germany. At a Knights of Columbus field Mass in May 1915, Mulry said 20 million Catholic men were prepared to back President Woodrow Wilson should the United States join the war. His sermon stressed the idea of a patriotic Catholic, something that was often under attack by Protestants.

“The Catholic of today puts into the state not the wavering intellectual culture of Athens, not the physical splendor of Rome, nor the deadly energies fostered by materialistic evolution,” Mulry said. “Not the ungodly tendencies  of modern mechanical idealists, but the undying strength featured by the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God.”

“If the crisis were to come today, the Knights of Columbus would be the first to rally to the flag,” The New York Times wrote, quoting Mulry. While he gets his religion from Rome, Mulry told the gathering, “the Catholic soldier will lay down his life for his country and as he clasps the cross in his hands, his heart blood will ebb for faith, for country and for God.”

Soldiers take advantage of free newspapers, candies and other personal items at a WWI Knights of Columbus hut. (Library of Congress)
Soldiers take advantage of free newspapers, candies and other personal items at a WWI Knights of Columbus hut. (Library of Congress)

The Knights of Columbus put its young men up to fight, but that was only part of the expansive, unprecedented war work carried out by the K of C locally and abroad between 1917 and 1921. The Order pledged an initial $1 million to establish a war relief fund. The money helped establish a vast network of more than 300 war relief centers in the U.S. and across combat zones in Europe. These Knights of Columbus “huts” offered a place to unwind, but also supplied soldiers with scarce creature comforts like chocolates, cigarettes, candies and hot chocolate. (The large K of C hut at Camp Dix is visible at left in the panoramic photo.) Soldiers from many countries and religious denominations came to know the K of C emblem as a welcome sight. Each K of C war center hung a prominent sign for all to see: “Everyone Welcome. Everything Free.” The nickname “Casey” became synonymous with the Knights of Columbus staff at the relief centers. A typical soldier’s response upon meeting a K of C worker was, “Hello, Casey. Have you got any chocolates and doughnuts?”

Father Mulry attempted twice to retire from his job at Fordham so he might go to France and enter war work. On the third attempt in 1919, he did retire from his post at Fordham. He was so anxious to go overseas that he offered to pay $5,000 a year toward the salary of his successor. He died in Philadelphia in August 1921 at age 47 after a long illness.Two of his brothers were also priests. His other brother, Thomas M. Mulry, was a bank president, philanthropist and 1912 winner of the Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame.

Sadly, Father Mulry’s patriotism isn’t always remembered fondly. Fordham University’s archivist in 2014 described Mulry as “sort of a warmonger” whose speeches did not sound like those of a Catholic priest. The patriotic fervor in his talks, she contended, “was all for image.” This modern attitude fails to appreciate the deeply held patriotic views of many priests during World War I. Men like Father Raymond Mahoney, former pastor of St. Rose Catholic Church in Racine, Wisconsin. Father Mahoney was known for  his patriotic sermons, including a memorable talk on liberty and the American flag. That will be the subject of a forthcoming article.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

Remembering the Real Christopher Columbus

It seems every year the politically correct trot out a growing list of indictments against the great explorer Christopher Columbus. As we observe Columbus Day in the United States this October 12, some will claim Columbus was an oppressor. Others will wrongfully accuse him of racism. To get a real sense of why Columbus is under constant attack, remember that while he was a great explorer, he was first and foremost a faithful Catholic.

Some of the greatest minds in the history of the Church and the have spoken eloquently about the meaning of Columbus and his discovery of the New World in October 1492.

Christopher Columbus was "the destined herald of the true faith," according to Rev. John Hardon S.J.
Christopher Columbus was “the destined herald of the true faith,” according to Columbus scholar Rev. John Hardon S.J.

Father John M. Naughtin, who served as Wisconsin state chaplain of the Knights of Columbus in the opening years of the 20th century, preached an eloquent sermon on Columbus on October 16, 1910 at St. Rose Catholic Church in Racine. Naughtin’s audience at that 8 a.m. Mass was a large gathering of Racine Knights of Columbus and their families. (See below for the full text.)

“The very name Christopher is symbolic of the man’s character and deeds — Christopher mean- ing ‘Christ bearer’ — a messenger of peace,” Naughtin said. “Our great patron was a messenger bringing the knowledge of Christ from the old world to the new. What better name could God have selected for the man who was to do so much good for the universe?”

Pope Leo XIII issued an encyclical, Quarto Abeunte Saeculo, on the 400th anniversary of Landing Day. The Holy Father said this of Columbus: “The greatness of his mind and heart can be compared to but few in the history of humanity.”

The late Father John Hardon, S.J., an expert on Columbus, said the Genoa native  “was the instrument of extraordinary grace.” “It is one thing to say that Columbus discovered America,” Hardon said in 1992 on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World. “It is something else to realize that he opened the door to the most phenomenal spread of Christianity since the time of St. Paul.”

Hardon said Columbus’s “phenomenal career on earth was a heroic response to a sublime vocation. He was the destined herald of the true faith to half of the human race.”

Let’s remember this year to celebrate the real Columbus and ignore the nattering of the revisionists.

Homily of Rev. John M. Naughtin, October 16, 1910:

In the annals of history and tradition, no man stands forth more prominently than the man whose deeds we are commemorating today. For although Columbus has been dead about four hundred years, he is just beginning to be appreciated now. Only the infinite knowledge of God himself can grasp the meaning of the work of Columbus.

Father John M. Naughtin said Columbus "worked that the whole world might benefit from his deeds."
Father John M. Naughtin (1854-1921) said Columbus “worked that the whole world might benefit from his deeds.”

Think of what this western world has developed into since Columbus’s time — the home of millions and the homes of millions yet to come — all the work of a simple, practical Catholic man, Christopher Columbus, the Genoese. A man who was not understood in his own country; who many times did not have enough to eat. Italy would not have him; it jeered at him and practically turned him out to find in Spain a welcoming hand and the substantial aid that made his great work possible.

America owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Spain. We are told of the deeds of the Caesars, of Napoleon and of Wellington, but all these figures were simply national — striving for one country, but Columbus is a worldwide character; he worked that the whole world might benefit from his deeds.

The very name Christopher is symbolic of the man’s character and deed: Christopher meaning ‘Christ-bearer’ — a messenger of peace. Our great patron was a messenger bringing the knowledge of Christ from the old world to the new. What better name could God have selected for the man who was to do so much good for the universe? In his youth, Columbus often sat by the seashore and wondered where and whence the great white winged ships came from. No doubt some had been on trips to the Holy Land and the Sepulchre and to follow in their footsteps became his one desire and that one thought dominated his life.

The Racine newspaper carried the account of Father Naughtin's sermon in its Oct. 17, 1910 editions.
The Racine newspaper carried the account of Father Naughtin’s sermon in its Oct. 17, 1910 editions.

Columbus did not belong to the 20th century class of explorers; he did not seek for material gain, but his great Catholic heart was filled with an overwhelming charity and love of God. He founded a home for people from every part of this world’s surface—for all colors, all races and conditions of men. His first act, upon reaching land, true, to his faith, was to fall upon his knees in devotion, dedicating this new world to the Almighty God. He did not crave acres of this new country, but rather that to the souls of these strangers might be brought the knowledge of God. Columbus was great — there have been none greater — but Columbus the Catholic was still greater. It was his faith which gave him the strength and the courage to undergo the trials of his explorations; to undergo, as Christ had undergone, the misrepresentations, the calumnies, the backbiting of his enemies and even to his returning to Spain in shackles after his wonderful trip which resulted in the discovery of a new land.

It is a good thing in this world of ours to have some model. The model we, the Knights of Columbus, have to imitate was, to be sure, a mere man, but great enough and powerful enough to do as God willed. The name Knights of Columbus is very appropriate—the word “knight” typifying everything that is admirable in a man, embracing all the manly qualities and this coupled with the name Columbus, has a wonderful significance.

Even as the attention of the stranger entering New York harbor is arrested by the Statue of Liberty towering for hundreds of feet and standing for the freedom of the new land, so does the greatness of Columbus tower im- measurably above that statue so that the whole world may gaze upon him, and gazing upon him, do him honor.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive


16 Years Later, Welcoming Young Jane Home Again

I had the honor and privilege on July 21 to be a witness as we welcomed a special young lady home. She is called Jane, but one day we hope to know her real name. Sixteen years to the day after her beaten body was found in rural Racine County, Jane Doe again found rest at Holy Family Catholic Cemetery in Caledonia, Wisconsin.

In my day job as director of Racine Catholic Cemeteries, I had the task of making sure this little country cemetery was looking its best for the noon committal of Jane’s body. From October 1999 until October 2013, Jane lay at rest on the western edge of Holy Family Catholic Cemetery.

This composite image shows what Jane Doe might have looked like.
This 2012 composite image from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children shows what Jane Doe might have looked like.

But for the past 22 months, she was at the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office as police gathered new forensic evidence and conducted new tests. The murder investigation is still very active. The Racine County Sheriff’s Department is determined to not only identify Jane, but to arrest her killer or killers. Investigators say Jane was serially abused and tortured in the weeks leading up to her death. She was found on July 21, 1999 at the edge of a cornfield in the Town of Raymond.

The most poignant scene on this beautiful sunny day was that of Tracy Hintz standing alongside the casket throughout the committal service. Hintz is the Racine County Sheriff’s Department lead investigator on the Jane Doe case. She is much more to Jane, who was between 18 and 25 when she was murdered. Tracy is her advocate, protector, guardian and champion. She rode in the hearse from Draeger-Langendorf Funeral Home in Racine to Milwaukee, then back again to Holy Family Catholic Cemetery. It seemed she did not want to let Jane go; not without a proper goodbye. That goodbye can’t come until the day the world know’s Jane’s real name.

Tracy wiped a silent tear and momentarily stepped away from Jane’s casket. This case is deeply personal for her. Thank God for that. Look at Tracy’s face and you can see it. She will identify Jane. She will arrest her killer. Then she can return to this beautiful place, point Heavenward and whisper a goodbye and a thank you.

It was a special day to welcome this young lady back. You are loved, Jane. Be assured of that. And you are home.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

Click here to watch a soloist sing Amazing Grace at the committal service for Jane Doe.


Eye on the Past: Rudolph Grotto Shrine 1958

As many times as I’ve traveled to central Wisconsin, I was not aware of a beautiful, sprawling religious shrine built by a Catholic priest in thanksgiving for having his health restored after a visit to Lourdes, France in the early 1900s. The Rudolph Grotto Gardens near Wisconsin Rapids were the dream fulfilled of Father Philip Wagner, who developed and dedicated the site to the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1927.

I learned of Rudolph Grotto Gardens while researching a photo of my grandmother, Ruby V. Hanneman, standing near a statue of St. Philomena in 1958 or 1959. St. Philomena, who was martyred at age 13, is known as the Patroness of the Living Rosary. Her shrine at Rudolph Grotto Gardens was built in 1957 by Edmund Rybicki, Father Wagner’s right-hand man.

The first grotto shrine at the Rudolph site, dedicated to the Our Lady of Lourdes, was completed in 1928. When a young and sick Philip Wagner visited the famous shrine at Lourdes, he promised the Blessed Virgin Mary that if he were healed of his illnesses so he could become a priest, he would build a shrine to her in America. And so he was healed, and was ordained a priest in 1915. He was assigned to St. Philomena Catholic Church in Rudolph in 1917.

Ruby V. Hanneman stands at the St. Philomena shrine in Rudolph in the late 1950s.
Ruby V. Hanneman stands at the St. Philomena shrine in Rudolph in the late 1950s.

Over the years, the site expanded to include the Stations of the Cross, the Ten Commandments, a Last Supper Shrine, A “Wonder Cave” modeled after the catacombs, a Shrine of the Resurrection, a soldier’s monument and more.

Father Wagner and Rybicki labored on the site for decades. After Father Wagner died in 1959, Rybicki became the site caretaker. In 1961, St. Philomena Church was rededicated and renamed St. Philip the Apostle in honor of Father Philip Wagner. The last project at the grotto gardens was finished in 1983. Read more about the site here.

Lavonne Hanneman stands near an arch at the Rudolph Grotto Gardens in 1958 or 1959.
Lavonne Hanneman stands near an arch at the Rudolph Grotto Gardens in 1958 or 1959.
Ruby V. Hanneman at Rudolph Grotto Gardens in 1958 or 1959.
Ruby V. Hanneman at Rudolph Grotto Gardens in 1958 or 1959.


Unpublished Chapter a Portrait of Sainthood for Fulton J. Sheen

From my just-published article in Catholic World Report:

Driven and sustained by his daily holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen lived an intense life of holiness, zeal to save souls and Christian love that helped make him the most influential Catholic in 20th century America, biographer Thomas C. Reeves says.

Reeves has released a previously unpublished conclusion to his 2002 Sheen biography, America’s Bishop: The Life and Times of Fulton J. Sheen. The conclusion chapter, titled “Living Intensely,” covers Sheen’s spirituality, his inspiration and how others viewed his life. While Reeves does not directly promote Sheen as a candidate to be raised to the altars, his book’s concluding chapter is a very tidy summation of Sheen’s merits for sainthood. Reeves is making the chapter available for free on the internet, and has donated it for inclusion in his papers at Marquette University.

Fulton J. Sheen had a long tenure on radio hosting the Catholic Hour on NBC.
Fulton J. Sheen had a long tenure on radio hosting the Catholic Hour on NBC.

“To an extraordinary degree, his mind was on God,” Reeves wrote of Sheen (1895-1979), the prolific author and Catholic evangelist best remembered for his 1950s television series, “Life is Worth Living.” “This supernatural approach to life activated and sustained his enormous energy. He said late in life, ‘the secret of my power is that I have never in fifty-five years missed spending an hour in the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. That’s where the power comes from. That’s where sermons are born. That’s where every good thought is conceived.’ ”

Read the rest at the Catholic World Report web site.


Catholic Faithful Plant the Cross on Wisconsin Ground in 1863

In every community you will find inspiring stories of courage, faith and perseverance. And so it was the case when I researched the 1863 founding of my hometown parish, Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. The project lasted several months, and turned up many fascinating stories from the mission-territory days of Wisconsin in the mid-1800s.

Stained-glass depiction of St. Paul, from Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church.
Stained-glass depiction of St. Paul, from Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Church.

Full confession (pun intended): I served as an altar boy for years at Sacred Hearts in the 1970s, and graduated in spring 1978 from the fine Sacred Hearts School. The current church, the third edifice in parish history, has some of the most stunning stained-glass windows you will find outside of a cathedral. That’s what initially drew me to the history of Sacred Hearts.

So what did I learn?

  • The church was founded during the second expansion of Catholicism in Wisconsin (the first being black-robed Jesuit missionaries who explored the territory in the 1600s). Much of the area at the time was untamed wilderness, now being colonized by immigrants from Ireland, Germany and other parts of Europe.

    Rev. Francis Xavier Etschmann said the first Mass in Sun Prairie at the home of James Broderick.
    Rev. Francis Xavier Etschmann said the first Mass in Sun Prairie at the home of James Broderick.
  • The early missionary priests rode circuits hundreds of miles long, often saying Mass in private homes or rustic buildings with no roof. Father Martin Kundig, an indefatigable traveler and founder of many Catholic parishes in Michigan and Wisconsin, had an uplifting experience in 1843. The faithful gathered in a private home for Mass overloaded the floor, and everyone except Father Kundig crashed into the cellar. The people reached up and supported the priest, standing on a narrow plank, so he could finish saying Mass.
  • These pioneers led often difficult lives. The John Sprengel family lost three children to diphtheria within one week in 1882. Emerand Aschenbrucker lost his first wife during the birth of their daughter, Anna, in February 1867. Nicholas Mosel lost his wife to typhoid fever at age 54. The church brought comfort to these grieving families, offering the sacraments and a reverent burial for the departed.

    Founding Sacred Hearts parishioners Mary and Michael Conley.
    Founding Sacred Hearts parishioners Mary and Michael Conley.
  • The Civil War affected every aspect of life during Sacred Hearts’ early years. Two young parishioners died during their wartime service, including one who was wounded in the 1862 Battle of Shiloh and died in a Confederate prison camp. Another died on a furlough in 1864. He was just 15. A third was wounded in the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia, in June 1864.
The 28-page e-book can be found at
The 28-page e-book can be found at

When you set out to research a topic, you never know just what you will find. I found a very fascinating story in the “Catholic Pioneers on the Prairie,” which is what I titled the 28-page e-book that grew out of my research. I invite you to read the whole thing at Catholic Pioneers. View it online or download the e-book as a PDF file.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

New Video Trailer for ‘The Journey Home’

The book about my father’s battle with lung cancer and his final months on this earth has been in print for nearly five years. It seems a good time to update the book’s official video trailer. The new version, posted below, is in high definition. Back when the original trailer was created, HD video was still fairly novel. But now HD is the norm on home televisions and computers, so it was time to upgrade this important promotional video. You can also view the video in a larger format here.