10 Pages

The Tree and the Cross

It’s not there anymore, the church of my boyhood. The building still stands, of course, since nothing could have moved or even warmed that solid, rectangular, two-story cinder block and concrete structure on Milwaukee’s north side. The only relief from its rulerstraight edges was a facade of irregular limestone around the entrance on Thirty-Fifth Street, as if by this cosmetic it could lay claim to some heritage from the great stone cathedrals. It was otherwise a featureless shoebox into which you could put anything, demanding nothing of the passerby, not even notice let alone reverence. So when the Archdiocese of Milwaukee abandoned its half-hearted mission to the German Lutherans of North Teutonic and Silver Spring Road and retreated to its Polish heart further south in the city, they had little reason to preserve the building, but even less to demolish it. Instead they sold it and its half-acre of woods to the Milwaukee public schools. It was as easy as that to turn sacred space into real estate, and St. Albert’s itself-the parish, the church, and the school where I learned the dark heart of my faith-was gone.