History & Mission
We, the parishes of St. Mary Help of Christians (Briggsville) and St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception (Portage), in a spirit of faith and service rooted in the mission of Christ as revealed in the Gospel, are committed to creating welcoming communities that actively pursue opportunities for formation in our Catholic faith, spiritual growth and outreach to others in need.
St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Portage
St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Portage holds the distinction of being the oldest church in the Dioceses of Madison. The parish traces its origins back to 1833, when Rev. Samuel Mazzuchelli, a Dominican, arrived to work with the Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) Indians. By 1833 the fledgling parish already had its first church, and in 1851a second one was built and dedicated to St. Bartholomew. In 1852 the first resident pastor arrived, Rev. James Roche. A third church was then built in 1854, and in 1857 that building and some property was sold to a local Baptist congregation, which in turn sold its holdings to the Catholics.
The congregation's new property included the foundation of a church building, which parishioners completed and dedicated to St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in 1859.
St. Mary Help of Christians, Briggsville
Picturesque St. Mary Help of Christians is situated in a peaceful setting overlooking Lake Mason, a popular fishing lake in the small village of Briggsville.
In 1851, St. Mary was established by a Green Bay priest to serve a large number of Irish immigrants who had settled in the area.
Pioneers attended Mass in private homes until Mr. Briggs donated two large lake lots for the church in Briggs' Mill. The first priest to serve the people was Rev. Godhart, a Frenchman who came twice during the autumn of 1851. About six years later, Rev. Doyle built the first church.On a windy Memorial Day, 1924, referred to as "the blackest day" in parish history, the church burned to the ground. The present brick church was erected on the site of the first structure and completed by 1926. Today the congregation has grown to 132 family units.