Michael Heiss was born in Bavaria in 1818, studied theology at the University of Munich and was ordained in 1840 at 22 years of age. Two years later he came to the United States to work in the American missions as a circuit rider priest in Kentucky and Ohio. He served as first rector of St. Francis Seminary near Milwaukee. In 1866 the creation of two new dioceses in Wisconsin was recommended and the Diocese of La Crosse was established March 3, 1868 and Father Heiss received the Mandate from Pope Pius IX on September 29, 1868 as the first Bishop of the La Crosse Diocese.
St. Joseph’s parish was established in 1863 to serve the German speaking population and a church was begun after a school was built for the children but was not finished due to lack of funds. Bishop Heiss chose St. Joseph to become the Mother Church of the newly established diocese and the first Cathedral was dedicated in October 1870. Much of the money for the completion of the new cathedral came from the European Society for the Propagation of the Faith and Mexican Catholics.
On Thursday of this week we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Dating back to the 12th century this feast is dedicated to the intense sorrow and suffering that Our Lady experienced with the passion and death of Christ. There are seven sorrows of Mary:
1. The prophecy of Simeon;
2. The flight into Egypt;
3. Loss of the Child Jesus for three days;
4. Mary meets Jesus on His way to Calvary;
5. Crucifixion and death of Jesus;
6. The body of Jesus being taken from the cross;
7. The burial of Jesus.
The last four sorrows are the fourth, twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth Stations of the Cross. The Gospel for this day is taken from John 19:25-27.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26-27)
Labor Day was first celebrated on Tuesday September 5, 1882 to honor workers and the dignity of their labors. In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the national holiday.
In 1955, Pope Pius XII established the feast of St. Joseph the Workman and set May 1 for its observance. In late March 1960, Bishop John P. Treacy announced that our present Cathedral would be dedicated to St. Joseph the Workman, the first in the United States dedicated to him under that title.