A deep devotion to St. Anthony through the years and generations
Joseph Le Mieux was a stone mason who traveled around the Great Lakes and built lighthouses in the early twentieth century. His wife’s family had been in Bay Settlement—a small farming area outside of Green Bay—since the 1820s.
Bay Settlement had a very strong religious community, and the Le Mieuxes were devout Catholics who prayed the rosary every night. Joseph’s wife, Odile, wanted a quiet place where she and her priest son (who was ordained in 1920) could pray behind their house on the 40-acre farm that had once belonged to her grandfather. She asked her husband and brother to build a chapel in the woods on the ridge behind the house.
There were remains of a limestone kiln on the property, so they used the leftover stone to construct the chapel. Odile had inherited a small amount of money when her father died, and she raised the remaining funds needed to finish construction by selling chicks in the little country store attached to the house.
After the chapel was completed in 1925, it was dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua at a dedication ceremony in 1927. Over 100 people attended the dedication, including Odile's entire extended family. Fr. Le Mieux, Odile’s son, led the prayers. They also prayed a nine-day (mosquito-infested!) Novena to St. Anthony that June. Every year since, the family has come together to pray a nine-day Novena to St. Anthony that ends on June 13, his feast day.
The University of Wisconsin Green Bay eventually bought the property, and it is part of their Coffrin Arboretum now. People are sometimes surprised to come across the chapel while strolling along the Arboretum paths. You can find written prayer intentions, often invoking the intercession of St. Anthony, left at the chapel. Once the family found a beautiful drawing of St. Anthony.
Though the University owns the chapel, they do not handle the upkeep. The family has a tax-deductible fund at the University—The Le Mieux Chapel fund—for that purpose.
The chapel has been unlocked and open to the public for 93 years now. Masses at the chapel continue today, and six generations have been involved over the years! The little chapel has been the heart of the Le Mieux family and their faith for nearly a century and carries forward the tradition of Odile's grandmother, Marie Narcisse Champeau.
Thank you to Elizabeth Van Lanen-Bell, great granddaughter of Joseph and Odile Le Mieux, for submitting this story.