Most Reverend Michael Heiss, D.D.
1881 - 1890
Born in Pfahldorf, Bavaria, on April 12, 1818, Michael Heiss was ordained on October 18, 1840, in Munich, Germany.
He came to Milwaukee as Archbishop Martin Henni’s secretary in 1844. During his early years in Milwaukee, he erected Old St. Mary’s Church and served as its pastor. He was known to make frequent, though hazardous, visits on horseback to Catholics in surrounding cities. Henni also chose Heiss to organize Saint Francis Seminary and serve as its first rector. At Saint Francis, Heiss trained German-speaking priests to serve German Catholics of the archdiocese. Following his 12 years at the seminary, he was named the first bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse in 1868.
Amid controversy between the German-speaking and English-speaking Catholics of the Milwaukee archdiocese, who fought over German control of the archdiocese, he was named coadjutor of Milwaukee on April 9, 1880, and succeeded Archbishop Henni on September 7, 1881.
During his administration, Heiss stabilized the finances of the archdiocese, introduced the parish tax, regularized the legal status of parishes, and formed the first archdiocesan school board. He also encouraged American-born women in the archdiocese to enter religious communities and allowed more English to be taught in parish schools.
Archbishop Heiss died on March 26, 1890, after nine years in office. He is buried, according to his own wishes, beneath the chapel at Saint Francis Seminary.