In 1857, a group of farmers from Oak Creek and Franklin had a vision for a church in their community. Peter Steffen donated three acres of land and the church was dedicated on November 30, 1857 by Bishop John Martin Henni as St. Stephen at New Coeln (now on Howell Ave by the airport) later to be named St. James. As was common at the time a cemetery was located behind the church.
In 1865, a brick schoolhouse was built located just north of the church. In 1931 the church building was moved directly to the north of the cemetery and a basement was added. By 1946, St. James was given the status of a parish and on June 25, 1946 Archbishop Moses E. Kiley appointed Fr. Francis Drabinowicz as the first resident pastor. Seven acres of land directly across the road from the church were purchased for a new parish site and the farm house was to be renovated for the rectory.
On August 1, 1947 the residence was ready for occupancy. In 1949 after World War II the administration building of the prisoner-of -war camp became available. The parish purchased it and after more than a year of reconstruction a six room school, a convent, a 350 seat church, a full basement with two large halls and several other rooms were now St. James Parish. The new school opened in September 1950 with 178 children.
In 1951 the old church was sold to Lee Manufacturing Co. 1953 marked the school’s first graduating class of 17 students by 1957 the school had 389 students, five nuns and one lay teacher.
In 1957 the old church building burned to the ground. All that remains of that early St. James Mission is St. James Parish Cemetery. In 1965 Fr. John Kolanko became the new Pastor of St. James.
In March of 1965 a building fund drive was started; ground was broken on May 7th, in July 1966 the first worship service was held in the new building. Archbishop William E. Cousins dedicated the new St. James Catholic Church on November 13, 1966. The school closed in 1969 due to declining enrollment.
In 1982 Fr. John Pulice was appointed Pastor of St. James, 1982 was also the 125th Anniversary Celebration. Fr. Johns Pulice’s health prompted him to step aside as pastor in 1989 and Fr. Joseph Aufdermauer served as temporary administrator for just over one year.
Fr. Kennth J. Augustine began his service at the parish. In 1995 a new Baptistry for immersion of adults, children and infants was constructed at the entrance to the worship space.
In 2004 Fr. Paul Stanosz was assigned to St. James. Today we celebrate unity, growth, and discipleship as we move forward to celebrate our 150th Anniversary. Many changes have brought us to this place in time and many more will channel us towards the future of St. James Catholic Church.
In 2009 Archbishop Dolan appointed Dan Hull as the parish’s first Parish Director and Fr. Bernie Sippel as Assisting Priest