Back

St. Coletta and Harley Davidson Celebrate 110th Anniversary
Posted On: August 29, 2013

Jefferson, WI - In 1903, William Harley and Arthur Davidson offered their first motorcycle for sale in their factory consisting of a 10-by-15-foot wooden shed in Milwaukee with the words "Harley-Davidson Motor Company" scrawled on the door. Today, their products represent a creating and exciting open-road lifestyle, with their company acting as a centerpiece of Milwaukee's manufacturing history. This Saturday, the entire city of Milwaukee will celebrate their 110th year anniversary with a parade and festival guaranteed to get national attention.

Quietly sharing their 110th anniversary is Jefferson County’s own, St. Coletta of Wisconsin who will begin their 110th year of service to people with developmental disabilities on Sept 10th.  In 1864, the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi established a new motherhouse at a small farmhouse in Jefferson with the intention to educate young children. The convent was later named St. Coletta by Archbishop Henni and was opened as a boarding school for girls in 1877. A few years the program outgrew the building and was moved to Milwaukee to become St. Mary’s Academy leaving a vacant building to be utilized in new ways.  In 1904, a family with a daughter that has developmental disability, appeals to the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi for help in teaching their child. At the time there were a few state institutions but nothing that provided a faith-based educational environment. The girl, in addition to 4 others with disabilities, was accepted by the Sisters thus beginning the St. Coletta Institute for Backward Youth.

Over the next 40 years, enrollment surpassed 500 children and more buildings were erected at the main campus on Hwy. 18 including two large barns, a hog and poultry building, a garden house with cellar, and the Serra House; which provided hospitality to the families of residents when they would visit. In 1949, Rosemary Kennedy, sister to a U.S. President would join the St. Coletta community and by 1963, the Sisters were being nationally recognized for their contributions and ground breaking work in the field of developmental disabilities. By the 1990’s, the process began to mainstream children with development disabilities into public schools and the last class of St. Coletta graduated in 1995 marking the end of an era.

Today, St. Coletta of Wisconsin continues to thrive offering residential, vocational day and spiritual supports for over 260 adults, ages 18 and older, in multiple locations throughout Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. Over 60% of those individuals live in Jefferson and surrounding communities. Though their method of service delivery has changed considerably, the original focus on the Franciscan Values established 110 years ago of dignity, respect, compassion, and faith still serve as the bedrock of all their programs and services. “St. Coletta is happy to celebrate such a wonderful milestone alongside Harley Davidson and we are looking forward to our next 110 years of service to the community”, says Tony LoDuca, President and CEO. For more information on St. Coletta please visit www.stcolettawi.org or call #920-674-4330.