Author Archives: dioceseoflacrosse

A Date and a Time in Our Lives

Today is the 3rd day of March—yes, this year IS moving rapidly, I’ve noticed that the older I get, the faster time flies. True enough, but that’s not my point today.

March 3rd is significant for us; it’s our birthday! March 3, 1868, the Diocese of La Crosse was born and in two years, 2018, we will be celebrating our 150th birthday, or our Sesquicentennial.

Now, 1868 was a banner year for all sorts of things: the first refrigerator car was invented in Detroit; the first US parade with floats was the Mardi-Gras in Mobile, Alabama; the stapler was patented in England; the “Type-writer” was patented; and so special and apropos, the song “Happy Birthday to You” was written (and still receives royalties for its copyright).

I just did a bit of date checking on Google and I found all sorts of interesting little facts that might be fun for a Diocese of La Crosse game of Trivial Pursuit; but I would imagine that so many of you would be able to rummage through your attics and basements and find all sorts of major facts, photos, and fun trivia that you can associate with your life in the Diocese of La Crosse. Now, we’re not looking for memorabilia from 1868 (only). What we are particularly interested in is your more recent memory items, especially things that have happened in the last twenty-five years. That, brothers and sisters, makes you a historian and a story-teller. You possess knowledge that we need to secure and pass on to the next generation of Catholics, Wisconsinites, and Americans throughout our nineteen counties and among the thousands of people in western and north central Wisconsin. We Build on a Tradition of Faith!

Get out your photo albums, your “baby-books,” your parish albums and school yearbooks. You’ll be amazed at how much history you possess and how much fun it will be to start talking about and sharing your experiences as members of our beloved Diocese. God has blessed us. One great way to praise and thank God will be to share His graces and tell His story through our lives—the lives of our families—and the life of our family of Faith.

March 3, 1868 to March 3, 2018—a Sesquicentennial of Faith in action! I hope you’ll share as much as you can as we prepare for local and diocesan celebrations marking this landmark in our history. Watch for commemorative books and events that capture and share our past and set us free to move into our future. While looking back, we’re plugging in to the many electronic and interactive ways to discover the many treasures that make up the Diocese of La Crosse.

Thanks be to God for the time He has given us and the ways He has allowed us to use His gifts, celebrate amazing talents, and Build on a Tradition of Faith!

Lenten Message 2016

Brothers and sisters: There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another, the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another, faith by the same Spirit; to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another, mighty deeds; to another, prophecy; to another, discernment of spirits; to another, varieties of tongues; to another, interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.
– 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

As we take a moment to reflect on our lives during this season of Lent, let us focus our thoughts and prayers on the unbounded Love and Mercy of Jesus Christ. Pope Francis has proclaimed this Year of Mercy to remind us of the ever present Love of Jesus and the many ways we can receive His Mercy.

Now, This year I’m not going to give you a long list of things to “give up” for Lent. Many of us will choose to limit our, or eliminate certain extras or luxuries as an offering of mortification. Rather, I’m asking you to take up a spiritual work of Mercy as your Lenten focus.

We learned the Spiritual Works of Mercy remember? Admonish the sinner, Instruct the ignorant, Counsel the doubtful, Comfort the afflicted, Bear wrongs patiently, Forgive offences willingly, and to Pray for the living and the dead.

I invite you to take a moment to reflect on these works and prayerfully consider taking one as your daily Lenten practice.

You may consider comforting the afflicted. How many different kinds of people there are in your life who are touched by sadness. And it’s not just a matter of going in with armchair psychology. It’s a matter of entering into their lives with the kindness and the compassion of Jesus Christ, comforting those who are afflicted. Expression of the problems or the difficulties in their lives and an awareness of your ability through the kindness and Mercy of Jesus Christ, to meet them.

These are just a few examples of how you can focus your Lenten time.

The culmination of your Lenten spiritual journey should be Holy Week. Starting with Palm Sunday, we remember how our lives have been forever changed. You might want to attend one of the special Masses or Liturgies that are unique to Holy Week, especially if you’ve never done so before.

My prayer for you this Lent is that the limitless Love and Mercy of Jesus Christ will transform your life, moving you closer and closer to a life filled with grace and the richness of his unconditional Love.

Blessed Lent to you – And I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!

Justice and Peace—Eternal Themes

The beautiful words of Psalm 85 verse 10 and following convey great sentiment and profound meaning for today’s world stunned as it is with headlines of sadness and speculation for the future. The simplicity of the psalm reads: “Kindness and truth have met; justice and peace have kissed.” From a spiritual vantage point there is little irony wasted on supreme courts and Supreme Justice.

I don’t know if it matters or not, but up until just a few days ago, the Supreme Court Justices numbered nine: the count was six Catholics and three Jews. Amazingly enough that is a rather significant grouping of people of faith!

On Saturday, that count changed significantly, not only from the numeric vantage point of men or women or religious denomination—Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a prominent Justice, a man and a Catholic, has died. His death, at this time, is historic and, as we shall see, it is an event that will have great significance for our country.

The fact that we are embroiled, once again, in a campaign that will result in the election of a new President for our beloved country, the vacancy of a seat on the Supreme Court will create a new sense of urgency for civic awareness and Constitutional correctness. Scalia’s death will demand an awakening on the part of many Americans who are only now trying to come to a conscious and genuine decision about whom, in fact, should assume the highest position in the Executive Branch of our government. Presidential appointments to the Supreme Court are one of the most important and basic components of our system of government.

Our Constitutional form of government continues to liberate minds and hearts to pursue the common good for all men and women who look to the United States of America as the light of liberty and justice. The Supreme Court, in spite of some of its more flamboyant decisions in recent months, has struggled to remain unaffected by politics. This is a profound element of our freedom and our way of life as Americans.

Justice Scalia has been one of the more outspoken defenders of the Constitution—its meaning and its historic point of view. Major cases now await the decision of the Supreme Court. Many of those decisions deeply affect issues having serious consequences for Americans who are also people of faith. Decisions regarding abortion, the HHS mandate and the decision regarding the Little Sisters of the Poor, immigration, to name a few, are easily points of law where the voice of Justice Scalia will be seriously missed. His death is a major loss of a measured and reasonable voice in a time when such voices are desperately needed to speak truth to power in our age of secular relativism.

People of faith are always urged by conscience and by the moral order, to pray for our leaders and to be mindful of the challenge to liberty and justice. It behooves us, certainly to pray for the repose of the soul of Justice Scalia by virtue of our common faith and support of one another in the light of our faith. It behooves us further, in this time of faithful citizenship, to be aware of the election of a new President who has the awesome responsibility of providing those who will serve in the leadership of those who will guarantee equal justice under the law.

We can recall the psalmist’s sentiments leading us to ponder the meeting of epic concerns as a reality of kindness and truth meeting and justice and peace kissing lead us to pray: eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine on him. May his soul and the soul of all the faithful departed rest in peace.

Year of Mercy – Encounter Jesus Christ

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

Let us pray that our hearts may be open to receive the Mercy of God during this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy!

Pope Francis declared this year to encourage us to focus on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives. When we make an effort to encounter Jesus, whether in prayer, in the sacraments, through the sacred scriptures, or even in sacred architecture such as the Holy Door, we become more like Him.

On Sunday, December 13th, Holy Doors were opened at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and at our Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman. Many people were present and took part in the procession. Representatives were present from many diocesan parishes to be part of the Mass as well as pick up copies of Embracing the Year of Mercy. A booklet specifically put together for this year, in our diocese.

Each time you come into one of these two churches through their Holy Door, it should be an entrance of prayer, an encounter with Jesus, who is the entry into eternal life. It is He who is Mercy Incarnate, and who bestows the Father’s mercy on all sinners, great and small. Upon leaving the church, our passage back through the Holy Door is an impetus to show mercy to others and a grace to lead others through the Door of the Church into a life of joy in the Blessed Trinity.

If you are unable to make a pilgrimage to one of the two churches with a Holy Door, I have also designated twelve pilgrimage churches spread throughout the diocese. A Year of Mercy plenary indulgence can be obtained by visiting each of these pilgrimage churches as well as the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman and the Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe both in La Crosse. There are prescribed prayers and actions for the gaining of the indulgence. I invite you to read more about the indulgence on the Year of Mercy website

I pray this Holy Year of Mercy will find us awake and alert to its many graces. May you share fully and abundantly in the mystery of His Divine Love and Mercy.

God be with you!

“A light will shine on us this day: the Lord is born for us.”

The response for the Psalm offered for the second Mass of Christmas—the Mass at Dawn—or even more traditionally called the Mass of the Shepherds, certainly captures a theme of the day and of the mystery of the Incarnation itself that remarkably speaks to the hearts and minds of believers who come from every stripe to share the gift of God’s Presence in the Flesh!

Somehow we still choose darkness in the midst of the most powerful Light ever cast upon the vision of humanity—Emmanuel—God with us. Since the prophecy was uttered in the book of the Prophet Isaiah (7:14) the title Emmanuel is a pledge of Divine assistance and a prophetic utterance announcing Messianic involvement in the Redemption of humanity. Thus, shepherds and kings are summoned to Bethlehem to glorify God and witness the action of God’s love and gratuitous mercy set forth in the birth of Jesus.

It is the Blessed Virgin Mary who offers the secular world an insight that cannot and must not be overlooked. The Gospel of that Mass of the Shepherds once again reminds us that none of the undeniably Divine actions—choirs of angels, visiting shepherds, or fascinated kings, would escape the thoughtful rumination of the Mother of God. “Mary pondered these events in her heart.” What a gift! From the beginning of the Savior’s life, Mary was the memory and the sacred trust of the formulation of His Church. Her maternal eye and matriarchal mind followed the events of Jesus’ life from Bethlehem to Jerusalem and every stop in between. It is she, to this day who still reminds us of Emmanuel’s presence.

In the Church, this year, we mark a Year of Jubilee celebrating the gift of Divine Mercy and the challenge of seeking Jesus in the world every day, until He comes again. From the beginning of time, the mercy of God always offers sinner pardon. This is the gratuitous gift of grace and love from God. We must not forget, however, that this gift calls us to “ponder” God’s love in our hearts and respond in an act of conversion—recognizing God’s gift in the simplicity and the poverty of our own hearts. Thus, Light shines in the darkness of our secular world and offers itself to those believers who share it and recognize it in their own actions performed in the Light of Christ.

Dear brothers and sisters, arise and come into the Light that is Christ. Be of good cheer and celebrate His presence in your actions of mercy accomplished in His Name! Merry Christmas!

Pray for our beloved sons and daughters of France

Dear Brothers and Sisters–

It is a sad day for all of humanity as we weep for the beloved sons and daughters of France who have been struck by the most heinous of all terrorism in Paris. May God have mercy on all who have been affected by this horror. This terrorist attack affects all of us and its impact makes us aware of the need for a greater sense of prayer and reliance on Jesus as we move forward. This tragedy truly affects all of us and affects us deeply. This goes beyond politics–this is about humanity! Please pray.

I encourage all parishes to pour forth prayers and deep sentiments for the victims of this terrorism. Pray that we may open our minds and our hearts to the grace of God for peace. Let us move away from the promotion of individual ideas of relativist morality. We must support one another in prayer and raise a genuine awareness of our solidarity as human beings made in the image and likeness of God.

Let us pray for our brothers and sisters–the world is smaller today! God is with us–do not forget this!!

+William Patrick Callahan, Bishop of La Crosse


Even though I lived for barely three years at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, my time spent there had a tremendous impact on my life. The seminarians and their positive views about the Catholic Church were stimulating and evocative. These men had a sense of enthusiasm that I had not experienced in my daily dealings with Catholic life as a parish priest. Their prayer life was intense and genuine, centered more on the reality of Jesus in the Church rather than on an idea of how to “find” Jesus in the Church. It became a subtle, yet real distinction for me, knowing Jesus rather than simply pondering an idea of Jesus. The motto of the College is emblazoned for all to see as soon as one enters the building: “Firmum est cor meum” “My heart is steadfast.”

As we enter the midway part of the season of Lent, I am drawn to the words of Psalm 57:8 “My heart is steadfast, O God; my heart is steadfast.” These words are, of course, well chosen for the heart of a seminarian eager to purposefully draw close to the Lord for sacred service; but I also find a certain sense of strength in them as we, baptized and committed Catholics, continue our Lenten journey.

We find ourselves in a time when we are literally challenged to defend our faith. Murderous, barbaric actions are presented to us as daily news events. Christians are rousted from their homes and communities, brutalized and humiliated—or worse—in cruel denial of their basic human dignity. In our own country, the laws and customs we have cherished, that have formed the basis of our self- government, are being trampled or restructured in a willful denial of divine purpose or plan.

I realize there is so much that is genuinely out of our control in the day-to-day living of life. That fact alone can sometimes lead us to throw up our hands and say: “Enough, I surrender.” There can and should be an alternative, especially for us who claim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Our hearts need to be steadfast in trusting Jesus Christ and realizing that He is still in control of our lives—and, more importantly, that we WANT Him in control of our lives.

During Lent our thoughts center on the desire for Jesus and the awareness of His unique and singular love for each of us. The desire for Jesus helps us to grow ever more spiritually connected with the real Person of Jesus—not an idea or a philosophy—but the real Person of Jesus who exists right now, gloriously alive at the right hand of the Father in heaven.

“My heart is steadfast, O God; my heart is steadfast;” the Psalmist wrote. That phrase is meant to stir a desire for God and reveal the reality of God in action within us. I am unafraid with such knowledge. As I look at the condition of the world and think about the unknown brothers and sisters being hatcheted, beheaded, burned alive, or otherwise derided or persecuted because of their faith in Jesus Christ, I know that I am one with them in the solidarity of faith and in the knowledge of the Christ who loved us all to His death and resurrection, who loves us today—and whom I will follow wherever He leads. My heart is steadfast!

I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!