The Dreams of Our Founders
On October 15, 1856, two Swiss diocesan priests, Fathers Francis Haas and Bonaventure Frey, arrived in Mount Calvary, Wisconsin. They had come from Switzerland for the purpose of establishing the Capuchin Order in the United States. They began building a small friary and convinced the Swiss Province of Capuchins to send two Capuchins from Switzerland to join them in Mount Calvary. Francis and Bonaventure also entered the Capuchin Order at this time.
In 1860, the Convent Latin School was opened as part of the friary. Four students enrolled. Tuition, room and board was just $10 for the year. This event marks the beginning of Saint Lawrence Seminary.
In the fall of 1862, 15 students were enrolled, and 20 students began the following school year. A college wing was added to the friary in 1864, while enrollment climbed to 49 students. Yet another college wing was added in 1867. The friary and college now formed a quadrangle with a courtyard in the center. The 1868 school year opened with 28 Capuchin friars and 42 students in the newly-completed friary and college.
Tragedy struck on Christmas night of 1868. A fire started in the sacristy and burned the entire complex to the ground, with the exception of part of the parish church. Almost miraculously, the school re-opened the following fall in a completely rebuilt friary and college. It was called the Little Seminary of Saint Lawrence of Brindisi.
In 1872, another college building, Saint Joseph Hall, was erected. In 1881, the Laurentianum, the current main building, was built to include ample classroom space.
By the time Francis died in 1895, having lived to see his dream of founding the Capuchin Order in the United States, Saint Lawrence College was a respected educational institution. Bonaventure was present at the fiftieth anniversary of the Capuchin foundation in the United States at Mount Calvary. When he died in 1912, his beloved Saint Lawrence College was firmly established as a major educational institution in the Midwestern United States. Both men had lived long enough to see their hard work flourish into the beginnings of a great institution: Saint Lawrence Seminary.