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'Re-commitment to Milwaukee': St. Francis of Assisi Monastery restores 150+ year old building

Posted at 1:18 PM, May 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-27 10:22:51-04

MILWAUKEE — There's a new commitment to the city of Milwaukee by a group of Catholic Friars.

You may recognize their work to help the poor, through Saint Ben's Meal Program and House of Peace.

TMJ4 News is showing you the two-year-long renovation that is just about to be complete, to help recruit more Brothers to serve Milwaukee.

Capuchin Friar Mark Joseph Costello wanted to bring St. Francis of Assisi Monastery in Hyland Park back to life, first built in the 1860s.

He says this is a symbol of the Brothers' re-commitment to Milwaukee. "I mean this is a huge commitment back to Milwaukee," said Costello.

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From the outside alone, you can see he and his Brothers certainly did.
Use the slider below to see the before and after:

Brother Mark Joseph also overhauled his entire life to become a Capuchin Friar, 40 years ago. "I ran a restaurant before I joined. You work very hard in the service industry and at some point I thought, 'if I'm going to work this hard I'd like it to have a better effect than giving people a nice night out,' you know?" said Joseph.

Instead of a clerical collar a Catholic Priest wears, the Brothers wear a brown habit, as they look up to Saint Francis of Assisi.


Brother Mark Joseph describes what the Capuchin Friars wear. "Peasant clothes of the day. [The three knots dangling from their waist] signify our vows: Poverty, Chastity and Obedience," said Joseph.


This is the restored room where all of the Friars in Milwaukee will now eat and gather.
Use the slider below to see the before and after:

Likely the most spectacular renovation of all is their basement, built back in the 1860s.
Use the slider below to see the before and after:

"Now it's been cleaned and rebuilt in some cases. This [basement] was a place for the vegetables and the wine I suppose. These rooms are now working," said Brother Mark Joseph.

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Brother Joseph tells us it has taken years, and millions of donated dollars, to painstakingly get everything restored to its original architectural form, even down to the chapel's paint. "These murals were painted in the 1890s," said Joseph.


They hope to have roughly 24 Friars live in this restored monastery. "This had radiators on the walls, so we did an awful lot," said Joseph.

It's a renewed mission to serve our community at a place that has been in our city more more than 100 years.

St. Francis of Assisi Monastery is set to re-open Friday, May 27, 2022.

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