Held Captive' by Parish, Priest Went Far

By Eldon Knoche
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
November 2, 1995

The Rev. Oswald G. Krusing, who died this week at age 96, had a long career in the Catholic Church, but his most exciting time may have been the weekend in 1934 when club-carrying parishioners surrounded his Kenosha church and home to protest an archbishop's order that their beloved priest be transferred.

Krusing was referred to in one headline as the "Captive Priest," and there was no indication he had any intention of disobeying Archbishop Samuel Stritch's order, though the father reportedly was happy in his work at Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Nevertheless, 70 "strong young men" from the church held him prisoner in his home. "We simply told him that we weren't going to let him go," one said.

Another stated: "He did wonders for us. So we grew to love him. He did more for us in the last year than any other priest here did in 15 years."

The Milwaukee Journal reported this on Oct. 21, 1934:

"The church was surrounded by 200 men and women and about 100 children. Swarthy parishioners, made brawny and tough from years of labor in the foundries, smoked cigarettes and talked as they marched slowly in the rain.

"Their wives were there with them, many of them carrying five-foot clubs, rocks and iron bars. Some of the women . . . held babies in one arm and stout clubs in the other.

"As they shuffled along, stamping the rain-soaked church grounds into muck, they sang songs, joked, shouted orders to their children, who rushed about in a frenzy of excitement, waving clubs too heavy for them."

Krusing was escorted into the church to conduct masses that weekend but made no public statement on the situation.

On Monday, after showing protesters a letter from Stritch which ordered him to report to Milwaukee immediately, they let him go.

Krusing died of natural causes Sunday in Milwaukee. Born in Jefferson on April 27, 1899, and raised in West Allis, he was to become a scholar as well as a shepherd of numerous congregations.

He earned a doctorate in sacred theology at Gregorian University in Rome and was ordained in 1926 by a cardinal who was vicar general of Rome.

He served as associate pastor in Sun Prairie, Monroe, Milwaukee, Madison and Waukesha before assignment to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Kenosha in 1930. Two years later a group broke away from Holy Rosary to form Mount Carmel and Krusing became the priest there, building the new church into a larger parish than Holy Rosary.

It was the new parishioners who protested his leaving.

The Kenosha affair apparently did not harm Krusing's ecclesiastic career in Wisconsin, for he was named pastor at churches in Clyman, Lyons and New Coeln before taking on additional duties at the archdiocesan tribunal in 1939. New Coeln is now part of Milwaukee.

Shortly after that, he announced he would become a Trappist monk and entered the Cistercian order in Rhode Island. He left after a year to take a parish assignment in Superior.

In the 1940s and '50s he was pastor of Holy Apostles Church in New Berlin for 12 years and then served briefly at Sacred Heart in St. Francis before going to Holy Rosary in Racine for six years.

By then he was a judge in the tribunal, which deals with church law cases.

He was named pastor of St. Charles Borromeo in Milwaukee, followed by St. Rita's Parish in West Allis, where he retired in 1970.

Visitation will be from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Thursday at the Cousins Center, 3501 S. Lake Drive, St. Francis. The service will be at 11 a.m.


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