On Thursday, May 18, 1911, a meeting was held at the home of William H. Kenney to make plans for the first Catholic Church in Wauwatosa. At that meeting, Archbishop Sebastian G. Messmer and Monsignor Bernard Traudt urged the formation of the parish. The first Mass of what became St. Bernard Parish was offered on June 27, 1911, at Good Templar Hall on Mower Court by Monsignor Traudt. And on July 14, W.J. Hickey proposed the church be named St. Bernard honoring Monsignor Traudt.
In the spring of 1912, the small Good Templar Hall was abandoned, and services were held on the new church site on North Main Street (it became Harwood Avenue in 1932) in what had originally been a home of Wauwatosa pioneers, the Thomas Riddle family. On November 12, Rev. John H. Fitzgerald, a friendly ambitious young priest, was given the assignment of first pastor of St. Bernard Catholic Church.
On October 6, 1916, a combination church and school building was proposed (the parish was out of debt and had nearly $10,000 in cash on hand); and the building was completed in December 1918. The school, with two rooms and four grades, opened in 1919 under the direction of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa. The first class was graduated in 1924.
The cornerstone of the new church was laid on October 26, 1926, with Archbishop Messmer officiating. Father John Fitzgerald served as pastor until 1935 when, because of failing health, he was relieved of his duties. While at St. Bernard he spent much time walking in all kinds of weather to the County Institutions to administer last rites to the dying. He died at age 74 in June 1955.
In 1936 the 25th anniversary of St. Bernard Parish was observed. In the commemoration book, the value of parish property-land and buildings – was given as approximately $172,000. During the 40’s, ladies of the parish would sew, knit and make surgical dressings for the World War II troops.
September 1955, Archbishop Albert G. Meyer dedicated the new $600,000 school. It was constructed of fire resistant face brick, had large windows and consisted of 12 classrooms, a gymnasium and cafeteria. The old school, completely obsolete, was torn down in the summer of 1955. Monsignor Huepper’s final effort was the start of a fund raising drive for a new church and rectory in 1960. He died January 28, 1961. In 1962 construction was started on the present church and a new rectory, designed by Brust and Brust in an architectural style known as modern American Contemporary. The building was solemnly blessed by Archbishop William Cousins on April 28, 1963.
In December 6, 1964, first Sunday of Advent, Msgr. Barry called upon several men to be the first laymen to serve as lectors at St. Bernard Parish. In July 1970 as urged by Vatican II, a Parish Council was formed. The council membership was comprised of 22 members: 18 lay people, two nuns, and two priests.
Early 1980 parishioner Kay Bauer started a food pantry in a small room adjoining the St. Bernard Adult Center. Later the Tosa Community Food Pantry would locate in that same space.
August 24, 1986 St Bernard Diamond Jubilee Mass was offered at 2:00 pm with Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland concelebrating with priest sons of the parish and all the priests who had served the parish in the past. Dinner followed in the Griffey Center.
In the Summer of 1989 the Summer Outreach program for parish youths began-the Appalachia Service Project, the Lakota Mission Project and the Reach Out/Reach In, a Milwaukee work camp. From a small beginning, the numbers have grown.
In 1990 Jean Wanat and a group of school moms introduced the Bradley Center concessions fundraiser. In 2010 St. Bernard received recognition by the Bradley Center for 20 years of service.
On May 26, 1991 St. Bernard Parish bade farewell to the Sinsinawa Dominicans. Monsignor Bruskewitz said, “Fewer religious sisters have opted for teaching as careers. This, coupled with the decline in vocations to the religious life, has resulted in many Catholic schools no longer having nuns as part of their staff. St. Bernard Parish, it seems, has now reached this stage.” Many of the former teachers attended the farewell Mass and reception honoring this religious order, which has educated the parish children for 73 years. In May 1992 Monsignor Bruskewitz left St. Bernard Parish to become Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska.
On July 19, 1992 Reverend Victor R. Capriolo was installed as pastor of St. Bernard by Archbishop Weakland. He came to St. Bernard from Blessed Trinity Parish, Milwaukee. During Father Capriolo’s pastorate, women began serving daily Mass.
In 1996, a second major fundraiser was introduced to St. Bernard: the selling of SCRIP which are gift cards for local and national retail stores, restaurants and gas stations. Scrip is purchased at face value: the church receives a percentage of the sale amount from the supplier.
In September 1997 the Archdiocesan Planning Commission chaired by Bishop Richard J. Sklba, recommended that St. Bernard, Christ King, St. Pius X, and St. Jude parishes begin a collaborative strategic planning process.
March 2, 2000 the rectory was relocated to a parish property at 7517 Lincoln Place and on March 26, there were ground breaking ceremonies for a major renovation, which would include new parish and school office centers, gymnasium and elevator. Construction began in May. The former rectory was razed and the day care facility was moved to the school cafeteria so that the convent building could be razed.
December 2010 Archbishop Listecki approved the creation of Wauwatosa Catholic, a new elementary school co-sponsored by St. Pius X and St. Bernard parishes.
June 5, 2011 a 100th Anniversary concelebrated Mass at 10:00 am presided by Archbishop Jerome Listecki , followed by a reception in the Griffey Center, was held. Priest pictured from left to right are Father John Hetzner, Father Mel Giuffre, Father Norman Schwartz, Archbishop Jerome Listecki, Father Peter Drenzek, Father Bob Marsicek and Father Joseph Frederick.
On July 12, 2015 Very Rev Phillip Bogacki was installed as the Pastor of St Bernard by Archbishop Jerome Listecki.