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St. Ambrose Church (St. Nazianz, Wisconsin)

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Title: St. Ambrose Church (St. Nazianz, Wisconsin)  
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Subject: John F. Kennedy Preparatory High School, Ambrose Oschwald
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St. Ambrose Church (St. Nazianz, Wisconsin)

St. Ambrose Church is a Roman Catholic church in St. Nazianz, Wisconsin. It was built in 1898. In 1854 An entire Catholic parish in a small German village uprooted under the leadership of its priest, Father Ambrose Oschwald, and departed for America.

Arriving in Wisconsin, a scouting party headed out through the forest with ox carts to locate the land and begin the settlement. One account from a newspaper article in the 1920s says a divine white heifer guided the men through the forest to the site that would become the village of St. Nazianz. Another account says the men let their own oxen wander after passing the border of the property and selected the spot where they stopped as the site. Property was held in common and the community, along intensely Catholic lines, was governed by an Ephorate or senate.

The colony lasted until 1873 when Father Oschwald died, leaving "The Association" in a legal battle to preserve its land. In 1896, the Salvatorian order assumed responsibility for the Catholic institutions in St. Nazianz, building a new church and monastery on the grounds of the old Loretto Monastery just south of the village. In 1939, the Salvatorian Seminary was opened on the same grounds. The building later became John F. Kennedy Preparatory High School in the 1960s. It closed in 1982.

From the point onward, the religious architectural complex lay abandoned and dormant, suffering a great deal of vandalism from gang activity on the premises. It served intermittently as a haunted house in the fall for a few years. After a series of owners and failed schemes, not much has changed in the present day, although Mr. Dale Ristow of Steinthal has refurbished the gymnasium enough to be used as an indoor soccer practice space. The old football field outside is also utilized. Additionally, portions of the more modern priest dormitories have been remodeled.

Father Oschwald's sarcophagus currently rests in the hillside crypt at the rear of the property below the little Loretto Chapel on the hilltop that looks down on the priest and brothers' cemetery. Originally, Oschwald's body was entombed beneath the altar of St. Ambrose Chapel in the space that now comprises the back of the main St. Ambrose Church (the chapel was the original worship place of the Loretto Monastery portion of the building, a lower stucco part which was constructed in the 1860s). Several historical accounts note Oshwald's body was strangely well preserved both shortly after death and even in the 1920s when the body was transferred to the hillside crypt.

A number of alleged hauntings cling to the site's reputation. And while the history of St. Nazianz certainly furnishes a number of intriguing and eccentric plot elements, it seems difficult to establish any of them with much of a factual basis or evidential confirmation.

References

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