Saint Francis de Sales Seminary


History and Mission

"Make This Place Holy!"

In 1853, a papal envoy accompanied Bishop John Martin Henni to a site just south of Milwaukee - Henni's proposed new location for a local seminary. Legend has it that the envoy, overcome by the site's beauty, exclaimed: "Make this place holy!"

Saint Francis de Sales Seminary Christ King Chapel 1931 Bishop John Martin Henni
Saint Francis de Sales Seminary circa 1862 Christ King Chapel 1931 Bishop John Martin Henni
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Building on a Solid Foundation

Bishop John Martin Henni established the Seminary in his Milwaukee residence in 1845. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee was only two years old and urgently needed priests to serve German Catholic immigrants.

Ten years later, the Seminary moved just south of Milwaukee, to a site that included land from the Lake Drive Franciscan Sisters. The new building, designed by Victor Schulte, was dedicated January 29, 1856, then the feast day of St. Francis de Sales.  

In 1861, a few months after the start of the Civil War, Bishop Henni consecrated Christ King Chapel and the original 11-foot, gilded cross was placed on top of the cupola.  The first two rectors, Rev. Michael Heiss and Rev. Joseph Salzmann, are interred in the chapel's sanctuary.  Archbishop Henni is buried at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Milwaukee.

Additions were made to the original building in 1868 and 1875.  It was renamed Henni Hall in 1956, the centenary of the Seminary's dedication.  Henni Hall remains the center of Seminary life today. 


Mission Statement

Saint Francis de Sales Seminary forms the hearts, minds and souls of men called by Jesus Christ to serve God's people as priests in the Roman Catholic Church.


"You are the Salt of the Earth." (Matthew 5:13a)


Since 1845, Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, continues to form men for ordination to the priesthood in the traditions and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.  This formation integrates the human, pastoral, spiritual and intellectual dimensions of the Program of Priestly Formation.  The intellectual formation is done in collaboration with Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology.  In partnership with the people of God, seminarians experience the ministry and rhythm of parish life through the parish teaching program.


Saint Francis de Sales Seminary LogoOur logo's predominant color is a yellow-gold, which is associated with warmth, optimism and joy. Yellow is also the symbol of light and purity.

The Bavarian eagle represents our German heritage, reminding us that the Seminary was founded to form priests for Milwaukee’s German immigrants. The eagle is also a symbol of St. John the Evangelist, the patron saint of our archdiocese.

The shield on the eagle’s chest is the bishop coat of arms of St. Francis de Sales. Its crescent moon symbolizes one who has been enlightened and honored by his sovereign – Christ the King. It also represents the Blessed Virgin Mary who is often shown standing on the crescent moon.

The two stars represent divine quality bestowed by God. They symbolize goodness and nobility.

On the scroll, in German script, is a Latin phrase from the Gospel of Matthew – “Vos estis sal terrae” – “You are salt of the earth.” This is the Seminary’s motto.

All together, the logo represents the qualities we want to instill in our seminarians: Enlightened by God. Devoted to the Blessed Mother. Noble men of virtue who bring light to the world - who have a vision as grand, strong and true as St. Francis de Sales' and St. John the Evangelist’s. Men who become seasoned in their service to the Lord and bring meaning to our lives.

  Fast Facts

Saint Francis de Sales Seminary at a glance

  • There are 81 seminarians currently enrolled at the Seminary for the 2023-2024 school year.
  • The Seminary was founded in 1845 and opened its present campus in 1856.
  • Over 4,000 graduates have gone on to serve the worldwide Church.
  • Saint Francis de Sales Seminary accepts college students and college graduates.
  • Seminarians at Saint Francis de Sales are from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the dioceses of Green Bay, La Crosse, Madison, Superior, Rockford IL, Gary IN, Lafayette-in-Indiana, and Albany NY.
  • Graduates earn a Master of Divinity degree.
  • The Seminary's beautiful campus is located in St. Francis, Wisconsin, in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, among 70 acres of woods along the shores of Lake Michigan


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Many Ways to Give

Any donation to the Seminary is greatly appreciated, and there are many options for giving.

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© 2022 Saint Francis de Sales Seminary | 3257 South Lake Drive | St. Francis, WI 53235 | 414-747-6400

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