Our Story

Mary, Mother of the Church is a thriving, active Catholic parish family located in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in the United States. We are over 3000 people coming together to engage in worship, education, service, and social programs. With over 1000 registered households, we are the largest Catholic parish in the city of La Crosse. Our parish mission statement is this:

Mary, Mother of the Church parishioners are called to be the People of God, formed by the Holy Word and nourished by the Holy Eucharist. We joyfully share our faith and gifts of time, talent, and treasure. We are committed to serve all God's people in the building of the Kingdom.

Our History

The parish of St. Thomas More branched from Holy Trinity parish in 1946 in response to tremendous post-war growth on the south side of La Crosse.  The first pastor was Fr. Joseph M. Wagner.  Construction began with St. Thomas More School, which opened in September 1948.

St. Pius X parish branched from St. Thomas More parish in June 1960; the first pastor was Fr. Francis McCaffrey.  Initially the parish worshipped in the Christ the King Chapel at the Diocesan Center.  St. Pius X School, at the intersection of Mormon Coulee Road and Broadview Place, was dedicated in May 1962, and the parish began to worship on the lower level of that building.  After the Diocesan Seminary closed, St. Pius X parishioners voted in 1973 to sell the Mormon Coulee building and move the school into one wing of the La Crosse Diocesan Center. We thank Donna Omernik for preparing a history of St. Pius X Parish (PDF).

Mary, Mother of the Church Parish was formed in 2000 with the reunification of St. Thomas More and St. Pius X.  Recalling the first Catholic church built in La Crosse—St. Mary's, or more formally, The Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary—Bishop Raymond Burke declared that La Crosse should once again include a parish named in devotion to Mary. Our parish marks its Patronal Feast Day on the Monday after Pentecost.

In 2011, structural problems in St. Thomas More School were discovered and the building was deemed unsafe for occupancy. After wide consultation and prayerful reflection, our pastoral council made the painful decision to close St. Thomas More School. For several years, Religious Education classes for grades K-8 took place at Holy Trinity and we were without a parish social hall. In November 2014, the "Building Our Future Together" Commission was formed to make a strategic plan about our building needs. (You can read a chronology of events in our parish history from 1945 to the formation of the commission.) By God's grace and the sacrificial giving of so many in our parish, today we have a finished Parish Hall and our K-8 students again have class in our own Religious Education Center.

A history of our pastors and religious is on our Legacy of Faith page.

Our Place of Worship

The building where we worship today was dedicated in 1961 as St. Thomas More Church, and the building continues to carry that name and imagery. The cornerstone was blessed on 6 July 1960, the 425th anniversary of the martyrdom of Sir Thomas More. (He is the patron of lawyers and government leaders.) The first Mass in this building took place on 2 June 1961. The building was formally dedicated on 17 September 1961.

We invite you to learn more about the symbolic windows in our church. Our mosaic of Mary, Mother of the Church was blessed during a Mass celebrating our patronal feast on 20 May 2024.

Men and Women of the Year

Each year at the celebration of our patronal feast, it is our tradition to name a Woman of the Year and Man of the Year. Plaques bearing these names hang in the gathering space of our church.

  Women Men
2000 Alice Kempton Everett Kuhn
2001 Alys Kerrigan and Shirley Wenzel Brad Sturm
2002 Carol Breidel Henry Becker
2004 Mary Lou Larkin Rich Larkin
2005 Pat Darling Jack Darling
2006 Mary Schaub Ken Martin
2007 Virginia Horstman Norm Suhr
2008 Sr. Kathy Stuttgen, FSPA Tom Thibodeau
2009 Linda Gillette Joseph van Oss
2010 Germaine Klouda Mike Marco
2011 Maureen Monk Fred Monk
2012 Therese van Oss Mike Pederson
2013 Judy Roraff Dave Wagner
2014 Lu Ann Miller Dn. Richard Sage
2015 Betty Brendel Bill Brendel
2016 Linda Elsen Howard Olson
2017 Betty Stoll Wally Stoll
2018 Paula Heiderscheit Charles Heiderscheit
2019 Donna Omernik Bob Flottmeyer
2020 Mary Jo Lium Joseph van Oss
2021 Lisa Doering Rick Wilson
2022 Marie Miller Mark Outzen
2023 Sue Groetsch Kerry Groetsch
2024 Cathy Juran Mike Juran

Our Song

For the occasion of our Patronal Feast Day in 2003, Therese van Oss composed "You Are the Highest" with accompaniment by Chuck Chihak. The video at right is of the St. Mary's Singers performing "You Are the Highest" at Mass on November 16, 2008. The lyrics are from Judith 12: 18-19.

Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God,
above all women on the Earth;
and blessed be the Lord God,
the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Your deed of hope will never be forgotten
by those who tell of the might of God
and blessed be the Lord God,
the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Refrain: You are the highest, the highest, the highest honor of our race.


Thanks to Fr. Douglas C. Robertson for information used in this page.  Further information about the history of Catholicism in the La Crosse area is available at La Crosse History Unbound, a project of the La Crosse Public Library and UWL's Murphy Library.

Updated 20 May 2024