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July 19, 2018

7/9/2018 9:28:00 AM
90th anniversary of the death of Father Ambauen
July 11th marks the 90th anniversary of the death of a man who was not only a pillar of the Catholic faith in Dodgeville, but a pillar of the entire community: Father Andrew Joseph Ambauen. Born in Switzerland to Michael and Barbara (Zimmerman) Ambauen, Fr. Ambauen grew up with the calling to become a missionary. In 1872, he immigrated to America and was ordained in Milwaukee on December 22nd, 1872. For 13 years, he worked at various pioneer mission stations in that Diocese.
Fr. Ambauen was a distinguished and intelligent man who had a PhD and taught at the St. Thomas Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. By 1886, he was named 1st Bishop of LaCrosse by Archbishop Michael Heiss, and 2nd Bishop of Milwaukee, to be the head of St. Joseph's Congregation in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. Fr. Ambauen served until 1928; 42 years which is longer than any other priest. He arrived just four years after the first church had been dedicated, and he also served in the missions at Pleasant Ridge, Union Mills, and Yellowstone.
In 1896, the first St. Joseph's school was built, though enrollment was never much higher than 68 students. The following year, Father Ambauen celebrated his Silver Jubilee, which marks the 25th anniversary of his ordination. Later, in 1899, the second church was dedicated on October 12th.
Fr. Ambauen proved his place as a pillar in the community when there was a need for a hospital, and Fr. Ambauen was adamant about getting St. Joseph's Hospital (now Upland Hills Health) built. Earlier, in 1891, a few nuns from Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception stopped in Dodgeville on a fundraising tour they were going on to build their motherhouse in Little Falls, Minnesota. Father Ambauen's nephew, Father Joseph Ambauen, was a pastor in Minnesota near a hospital operated by these sisters. In 1912, three of the sisters returned led by Sister Mary Benedict Bock. Almost as soon as they had arrived, they were encouraged by the mayor to begin the plans for building a hospital. On March 12th, 1914, Father Ambauen gave an address at the dedication of St. Joseph's Hospital, which was attended by 3,500 people.
Father Ambauen was also a seasoned author as he published 16 books in his lifetime; two of which can be found for sale on Amazon, "The Floral Apostles" and "The People's Friends". Two of these books were published in Dodgeville, the rest were published in Milwaukee and Chicago. Not only did he publish books, but he also contributed to several articles in Catholic magazines.
Speaking to his character, the National Encyclopedia of American Biography wrote of Father Ambauen that he was "widely popular in his community and recognized, both within and without the church, as one whose earnestness and thorough devotion to all causes of good and truth are unfailing and sincere. His literary style is clear and expressive, and, like his life and character, attractive and energetic, with a whole-souled consecration to the beautiful and good."
July 11th, 1928, at the age of 81, Father Ambauen was killed in a car accident while attending a retreat at the Holy Hill. In an article about his death, a Dodgeville newspaper described him as "loved by everyone who knew him" and "he has preferred the great spiritual opportunities of a country parish to the acclaim of the public to be gained in a large city." His funeral was held July 19th, and over 1,000 people attended, which is the largest funeral that has ever been held in Dodgeville.
On July 7th and 8th, there will be an exhibit in memory of Father Ambauen at St. Joseph's Church. If anyone has any memorabilia of his, or has copies of photos that they would like to contribute to the display, please contact Linda Schoenmann at 608-574-7937.

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