Michael Heiss bigraphy, stories - German-American Catholic archbishop

Michael Heiss : biography

April 12, 1818 - March 26, 1890

Michael Heiss (April 12, 1818 – March 26, 1890) was a German-born prelate of the Catholic Church. He served as the first Bishop of La Crosse (1868–80) and the second Archbishop of Milwaukee (1881–90).


Michael Heiss was born in Pfahldorf, Bavaria, to Joseph and Gertrude (née Frei) Heiss. He received Confirmation when he was only two years old because his parents feared they would be without a bishop for a prolonged period of time due to tension between church and state. He entered a Latin school at age 9, and later graduated from the gymnasium of Neuburg in 1835.

Heiss then entered the University of Munich, where he originally studied law but switched to theology after deciding to join the priesthood. He completed his studies at the ecclesiastical seminary in Eichstätt. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Karl-August von Reisach on October 18, 1840. At age 22, he was below the age requirement for ordination but was granted a dispensation by Pope Gregory XVI.

Heiss served as a curate in Raitenbuch and afterwards in Pleinfeld. In December 1842, he immigrated to the United States, where he became pastor of in Covington, Kentucky. He remained in Covington until 1844, when he was made secretary to John Henni, the newly-appointed Archbishop of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He erected in Milwaukee, and served as its first pastor with his charge extending over an area of 52 square miles. In 1856, he was named the first rector of St. Francis Seminary, serving for 12 years.

Heiss was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse on March 3, 1868, and was ordained a bishop on September 6, 1868. On March 14, 1880, Bishop Heiss was appointed coadjutor Archbishop of Milwaukee. On September 7, 1881, he succeeded Archbishop John Henni on his death as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. He was an opponent of the Americanist heresy. Archbishop Heiss died in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and was buried in St. Francis, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, in a chapel at St. Francis Seminary.

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