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St. Bernard Parish's church and K3-8 school are located smack dab in the middle of Tosa Village.

VIP MKE: Saint Bernard in Tosa

On Saturday, Nov. 5, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee swings open the doors to four parishes around Milwaukee to welcome the community in for behind the scenes tours and more. We're writing about all four parishes before the event. Today, we visit Saint Bernard's in Tosa.

The history of Saint Bernard on this site at 1500 N. Wauwatosa Ave. dates back to 1911 when parishioners organized and a mass was held at the Knights Templar Hall in June.

That autumn, the small congregation purchased the home of Tosa pioneer John D. Hemlock, located on the two-acre site where Saint Bernard is still situated.

Adjoining land was purchased in 1915 and by 1919 a two-room schoolhouse was built.

In 1927 a basement church and rectory were inaugurated, but the plan to build the upper church were thwarted by the onset of the Great Depression.

Property to the west was acquired in 1935 and the current school building was erected there in 1955.

The first "real" upper church finally became a reality in 1962 and that is the modern church you see today, with its rainbows of colored glass, soaring arches in the sanctuary and brick bell tower.

While it's not the kind of architecture that typically catches my eye, the interior of St. Bernard is quite nice: airy and bright and when the sun hits the colored glass at the right angle, a pleasant mix of hues illuminates parts of the sanctuary.

When you visit as part of the Archdiocese's VIP event from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5, you'll get to see most every part of the sprawling place, from the sanctuary to the food pantry to the boiler room to the school (which merged with nearby Pius X school a few years ago to create Wauwatosa Catholic School, which has an enrollment around 250).

Best of all, you'll get to go up to the roof, where perhaps the best view of Wauwatosa – notice how the medical complex to the west looks like a city all its own – awaits you.

What you won't do – well, the raffle winner will, but the rest won't – is climb the metal ladder and then the wooden staircase up to the bells atop the tower facing Harwood Avenue. But I was pleased to get to do that, so I can share photos with the folks that can't make the climb themselves.

The VIP event is free and all are welcome. A shuttle will run between the four sites all day long, so you can walk to or park at one and just ride the bus. Plus, the event was organized by Amy Grau who, until this year, was a key organizer of Doors Open Milwaukee.

"There are 197 very important parishes within the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and the ultimate goal for this new event is to eventually invite and welcome people from all over the Archdiocese and beyond to all 197 of them, four at a time," reads a press release from the Archdiocese.

"This brand new, free community event will feature four different parishes each year, in hopes to inspire all who visit to discover how four very different churches shape a community and impact lives."

Here are some more images from Saint Bernard:

The colored glass

The view from the roof

The cross wall

The way up

One of the bells

There are four bells, cast in Cincinnati

An automated bell ringer

The way back down

Read my story about Our Lady of Guadalupe (Holy Trinity) here, about All Saints here and about Bay View's Immaculate Conception here.

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