The Very Reverend Paul Hartmann
President of Catholic Memorial High School
Waukesha Reads a community partnership
Catholic Memorial Haunted House takes on Edgar Allan Poe
Catholic Memorial High School is honored to partner with the public library for Waukesha Reads. I applaud the library and its staff for working tirelessly to bring this program to our community. The goal of Waukesha Reads is to spread an appreciation for American literature, and that blends well with our own educational mission. So, when our CMH English teachers received an opportunity to help further, they enthusiastically got on board.
This year’s choice of Edgar Allan Poe was greeted with great enthusiasm among our student body. It is well known that Poe’s life was difficult and his works reflect a certain darkness. Sometimes so dark, that it might seem unusual for a Catholic high school to devote focus to the man, his life, and his works. But, there are hopeful exceptions in his writings. Glimpses of faith and conscience which show brightness shining through the darkness.
It is said that one day Poe was walking the noisy streets of Baltimore when he noticed, presumably for the first time, the noon-day bells pealing from a Catholic parish. Though little is known of Poe’s Episcopalian faith life, that day he was curious enough to enter a Catholic Church and ask about the bells. According to the legend, Poe learned that the bell rings at noon to signal the Angelus, the prayer at midday that celebrates Mary’s “yes” to the announcement of the archangel Gabriel. For some reason, known only to the Holy Spirit, this encounter was enough for him to write one of his simplest and most beautiful poems. First entitled “A Hymn to Our Lady” in the short story “Morella,” it was later published separately as “The Catholic Hymn.” (Though Poe himself just called it “The Hymn.”) In addition to the exciting class discussions that Poe’s literature generates, the Poe theme places an exciting twist on our annual Haunted House. Since the start of school, nearly 100 students have been working to turn the house on the corner of College and Hartwell into a tribute to the great works of Mr. Poe.
The house that hosts our Haunted House comes with a storied past. The home was built in 1885 by Mr. Caspar Sanger for his wife and 10 children. Hard times hit, and in 1898, Dr. Byron Caples, a prominent psychologist and neurologist, rented the mansion and converted it into a home for persons with nervous disorders. The hospital outgrew its space and a larger facility was built just down the block. The hospital was known as the Waukesha Springs Sanitarium Annex.
After World War II, the house reverted back to a residence. It became a home for returning war veterans who attended classes at Carroll College. Later, it was remodeled and became residence to the Franciscan Sisters of Charity who were teaching at Catholic Memorial. The last of the teaching sisters left in 2002, ending a half-century of religious sisters living in the mansion.
Now, once every year, our CMH mansion is a Haunted House that raises money for charitable organizations that serve military veterans. Since its inception seven years ago, the CMH Haunted House has donated almost $70,000 to charity. The work of the students has raised funds for Honor Flight, the Wounded Warrior Project, and Vets Place Central to name a few. This year, the students’ efforts will benefit Fisher House Milwaukee, a home away from home for military veterans and their families who seek medical care at the VA Hospital, Froedtert, and the Medical College of Wisconsin. Fisher House broke ground on June 3, and we are excited to be a part of this incredible endeavor from the ground up.
Catholic Memorial’s commitment to military veterans continues to be strong. In 1949, CMH was founded as a living memorial to the 23 men from St. Joseph’s parish who lost their lives in World War II. Since then, six students from CMH have died serving our country, and their names have been added to the honor roll of those our school memorializes.
The Haunted House runs October 24, 25, 31 and Nov. 1 from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. On Saturday evenings we run a family- friendly hour from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. The cost is $7.00 and is appropriate for persons over 11 years of age during regular hours. In conjunction with Waukesha Reads, we will be collecting new and gently used children’s books that will be donated to the Hope Center.
The Haunted House is located at 601 E. College Avenue, on the west side of the school property. For additional information, please contact the school at 262-542-7101.
(Father Paul Hartmann is the president of Catholic Memorial High School and a 1984 graduate.)
If you are interested, here is Poe's beautiful poem, Hymn to Our Lady. It first appeared in the short story Morella, published in 1833 and was later published as a stand alone work.
Sancta Maria! turn thine eyes
Upon the sinner's sacrifice
Of fervent prayer and humble love,
From thy holy throne above.
At morn, at noon, at twilight dim
Maria! thou hast heard my hymn.
In joy and wo, in good and ill
Mother of God! be with us still.
When my hours flew gently by,
And no storms were in the sky,
My soul, lest it should truant be —
Thy love did guide to thine and thee.
Now, when clouds of Fate o'ercast
All my Present, and my Past,
Let my Future radiant shine
With sweet hopes of thee and thine.