La Crosse, Wisconsin

Catholics looking for a decent place to settle and raise their families ought to consider La Crosse, Wisconsin. La Crosse is usually overlooked in online discussions about orthodox Catholic communities (overlooked by traditionalists, at any rate) but I think the area has much to recommend it. The single most important consideration, of course, is the Mass: the traditional  Roman Rite is offered weekly, on Sundays at 9:30am, at the incomparably beautiful Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe just a few minutes south of town. Also encouraging is the fact that the Shrine is staffed by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, an order known and respected for its muscular orthodoxy. I would expect that the Shrine has plenty of opportunities for boys to serve at the altar, for older children and adults to sing in a choir, and for everyone to participate in extra-liturgical devotions. I would expect that these good Friars not only provide excellent spiritual direction but also inspire new vocations. Let it be noted, too, that living in close proximity to a friary opens up the possibility of establishing a Third Order community, though I don’t know whether one exists in La Crosse at present.

Unlike many diocesan Latin Mass locations, the Shrine is not an experiment. It has the feel of permanence and the Latin Mass is perfectly suited to it. It will always have the special solicitation of its founder, Cardinal Archbishop Raymond Burke, so long as he lives, and its charism will be secure for generations to come.

One consideration that young couples should be thinking about is whether they are living in a place where at least some of their children are likely to remain and thrive.  It is desirable to establish a home not only for oneself, but for one’s progeny. In fact, I would argue that the suitability of a place for future generations is much more important than one’s own preferences.  For some families, this consideration may rule out the smaller towns and rural areas that are often mentioned as traditionalist enclaves.  La Crosse, however, is fortunate to have one of these rural hamlets within its own orbit – the village of Cashton just 28 miles away. Cashton is home to St. Mary’s church, which offers weekly and daily mass in the old rite, and is staffed by the Institute of Christ the King.

Most people today are not called to life on a farm – or even life in a very small town – despite the attractiveness and romance of the idea.  Your grown children will need to live in or near a city with job opportunities and a diverse economy. They will want access to music and the arts. They will want some freedom to move about socially. They will need more intellectual stimulation than most small towns tend to offer.  If you want them close to you when you’re old, and close to each other when you’re gone, you may want to establish them in such a place now, even if it means tolerating some of the negatives of city life.

With a population of just 50,000 in the city limits – or 100,000 in the greater area – La Crosse is small enough to have character and to be friendly and familiar, but large enough to have an economic base and the social advantages one’s grown children may need. The city has two universities, one technical college, two hospitals, and a symphony orchestra. The city is predominantly Catholic, with six parishes including the diocesan cathedral, and boasts a high percentage (64%) of religious adherence generally. LaCrosse has one diocesan Catholic high school and a private, K-12 Catholic academy modeled on the classical Trivium.  Housing is surprisingly affordable and the crime rate is impressively low. La Crosse offers a busy calendar of festivals, concerts, performances, exhibits, and civic events all year ’round.

La Crosse does have a few negatives, to be sure. It’s in Wisconsin, a great state but cold in the winter. It has a reputation as a beer-saturated “party town” and its students are known to get rowdy. Its politics lean toward the liberal side – solidly Democratic since 1988 – but that’s typical of college towns, and of old-line mid-western Catholic cities, and LaCrosse is a little of both. There doesn’t seem to be a lot going on in terms of Catholic homeschooling (yet), which is only to say that I couldn’t find anything on the internet.  That’s about it.

Some helpful links and media:

La Crosse, Wisconsin City-Data Page

La Crosse, Wisconsin Wiki Page

La Crosse Tribune

Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate – La Crosse

La Crosse Symphony Orchestra

Providence Academy

St. Mary’s Church in Cashton (I.C.K.)

Viterbo University

University of Wisconsin – La Crosse


6 thoughts on “La Crosse, Wisconsin

  1. My only comment would be that Catholic homeschooling is thriving in the area. Most Catholics in the area are moderate at best but oddly enough the moderate to left Catholics still attend Mass regularly. You do encapsulate it well. A short drive to Minneapolis/St. Paul(2 hrs) or even Milwaukee/Chicago(4 hrs). The Shrine is not a parish so most traditionalists will join the Cashton parish.


  2. Bill:

    My son Jonathan is salivating over that video.

    Badger Catholic:

    Thanks very much for the reply! Glad to learn that homeschooling is thriving in the area. I appreciate the perspective of one who knows the place as well as you do. I have some questions for you, if you have the time.

    What is the parish in Cashton like? Do most members of St. Mary’s live in Cashton, or do they commute from La Crosse and elsewhere? Are there many Catholic homeschooling families in Cashton itself? Do many live in Cashton and commute to La Crosse for work?

    What is the town of Cashton like? Is there a public life in the town that is Catholic-friendly?

    I would think that traditionalists in La Crosse would rally around the Shrine, even though it’s not a parish. Is this happening at all? If not, why not?

    Are there prospects for a TLM at a parish in La Crosse anytime soon?

    What is the culture of La Crosse like? Is it as liberal as voting patterns suggest? Or is it perhaps more socially conservative due to Catholic influence?

    How many winters is a native Californian likely to survive in La Crosse before packing his bags? (tongue-in-cheek … but I wonder …)

    Do you know anything about the TLM in Platteville? How large is the TLM community there? Do they have a choir? Are there homeschoolers? What’s the university chapel like?

    Well, that was more than a few questions, so I wouldn’t blame you for passing on some of them. Thanks again!


  3. Yes, there are many in the Cashton area that commute to La Crosse for work. It’s probably … 45min- 1hr drive. Cashton is a small town and I think many of the parishioners not right in town but on hobby farms or in the country. The ICKSP community in Cashton is basically all homeschooled, I don’t know of any family who is not. The parish itself is beautiful, an old German ethnic parish which has been restored. Check out their website for some video of the renovation work(St. Mary’s Ridge is what the church is known as). The ICKSP share the church with a diocesan parish, and the diocesan priest there is very solid. So the ordinary form is also available as well.

    We attend the Shrine regularly but most people attend their local parish and the Shrine on occasion. I think traditionalists do rally around it but they aren’t there every week. Since it’s not a parish, Baptisms, First Communion, etc. are at the local parish. There are many good events at the Shrine, but especially the 15 minute walk to the church, I think, makes it tricky with busy schedules and also balancing support for an actual parish. I don’t think it’s bad necessarily but it wasn’t designed to be a parish in that sense.

    TLM in La Crosse… I’m working on it, hahaha. There is a priest in the city that would say it.

    La Crosse is an interesting place. I think what you have is many cultural Catholic Democrats who haven’t come to grips with the party’s rapid decline. It’s a cultural thing more than anything, Democrats in name alone. Recently a Republican held a state Assembly seat who was staunchly pro-life(something no one thought he could do), but also pro small farm, etc. So in other words, to many pro-life is one issue among many. They are not willing to push their politicians to the point of not voting for them.

    This winter has been wonderful, last winter was terrible. Hahaha. I work with many people who moved here from India and basically it’s just something you get used to. Today it’s mid 30s here which is unseasonably warm. You can always get a remote starter to your car, ha.

    I don’t know the Platteville community but I could try to find out.

    I see Fr. Gardner posted and he would probably know quite a few details, and maybe more about the Platteville community.


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