In 1954, a “Newman Union” opened at the Platteville State College. The Newman Club was officially formed during the following academic year through the efforts of professors William Nikolai and George Bullis, advisors for the campus organization. Fr. Joseph DeStefano, Associate Pastor at St. Mary, served as Chaplain of the newly formed a group.
On April 29, 1959, Bishop William P. O’Connor formally blessed the ‘Cunningham’ house as the St. Augustine Newman Center, which then served for several years as the campus Newman Center. Subsequently the ‘Risic’ House and property at the southeast corner of Pine and Hickory was also added to the Newman Center property.
Fr. John Flanagan was the first campus minister starting in 1959 and served as advisor, counselor, and spiritual director until 1968. Fr. Flanagan was truly the friend of the students. While there, he published the first ‘Augustinian’, a newsletter that was sent to every Catholic student on campus beginning in 1964. In 1966, the Newman Club launched a pledge campaign to build a new Newman Center on campus.
In 1969, Fr. Phil Krogman, formally Associate Pastor to St. Mary, began serving as the Newman Chaplain, where he continued until 1972 while also serving as Pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Seymour Township, Lafayette County. Fr. Krogman started a tradition of Sunday Masses in 1970 and coordinated the Masses in the Cunningham house with visiting priests from the Aquinas Institute of Dubuque.
In 1972, Fr. Felix Oehrlein was appointed to the dual roles of Pastor of Our Lady of Hope, Seymour Township and Chaplain of the Newman Center (the Risic house).
In 1973, the existing facility was deemed “badly deteriorated” and that repair or renovation “seemed out of the question”. It was clear to the Diocese of Madison that a true chapel and larger student center were very much needed. In May of that year, a new Newman Center in the form of a personal parish was established by Bishop O’Donnell and was called St. Augustine University Parish. He also appropriated $150,000 for the facility. Subsequently, the Braun Lumber Company of Jefferson, Wisconsin was contracted to erect the new building.
On June 25, 1974, Fr. Felix Oehrlein, accompanied by Fr. Francis Schmitt of St. Mary, broke ground for the new Newman Center. By October 1974, the framing was completed and in the early months of 1975, Masses were first celebrated in the new church.
In 1977, Sr. Janet Weyker came to UW-Platteville to pursue a Masters in counseling and also began working as a campus minister. She worked in that position for the next 20 years.
Fr. Felix served until 1989. He communicated the mission of a campus parish to many church and civic organizations in Southwest Wisconsin. With the advent of Platteville as the Chicago Bears summer training site, and his friendship with Coach Mike Ditka, Fr. Felix initiated a popular fundraiser known as the annual Ditka Dinner.
In 1989, Fr. Steve Zwettler was transferred from associate at St. Mary's to Pastor at St. Augustine. He fostered greater cooperation between the two parishes including a joint RCIA process. During this time, a 1500 square-foot addition was constructed for office and education use. In 1990, Sr. Marie Juan Maney was hired to provide liturgical music.
Fr. Jim Murphy became the third pastor in 1993 and served until 2004, his legacy to the parish was his great concern for peace and justice in our local community and around the world. An annual service trip to Mississippi to work for Habitat for Humanity was initiated by Fr. Jim; he also drove the school bus down to Mississippi.
A major renovation to the front entrance was added in 1999.
Dee Bernhardt joined the staff as pastoral associate in 2003 and Msgr. Charles Schluter became pastor in 2004. Msgr. Charles brought experience in campus ministry and guided the parish through many changes resulting from the linkage between St. Augustine and St. Mary parishes. Msgr. Charles had a large role as pastor of both parishes until July 2010.Many new additions to the parish were completed in 2010. The kitchen was entirely remodeled, a handicapped lift was installed, restrooms were updated, and pews were added to the chapel.
In July 2010, Bishop Robert Morlino assigned three priests from the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest. Fr. Lope Pascual, Fr. Miguel Galvez, and Fr. John Del Priore arrived to serve both parishes. The chapel underwent a major remodeling in 2013.
Currently, Fr. Faustino Ruiz is the Pastor of both parishes with Fr. John Del Priore serving as the Parochial Vicar for St. Augustine. With the addition of daily Masses and Eucharistic Adoration four afternoons each week, weekly Mass attendance and student participation has increased dramatically in the last several years.
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