Monthly Archives: March 2012


This week I had to go to the hospital for a blood draw in preparation for a doctor’s visit. For those of you who may be wondering about this, please don’t be. As Sergeant Friday would say, “Purely routine.” Of course, blood draws mean needles and I hate needles – I am a big fat scaredy-cat about needles! This time the poor phlebotomist had to “search” for a vein. That means poking and then moving the needle around until she could find the vein. She knew she was hurting me – big strong man that I am. She informed me that she was going to have to poke me again because the vein just got away … (Those pesky veins, you’ve gotta watch ‘em all the time!)

So, what’s my point? The best way that I make any sense of all this “blood-letting” is to unite my “suffering” with that of Jesus. I am certain that there are so many folks who can read these words right now suffering much more than I every day, in so many ways. God bless you, folks, I pray for you daily.

The suffering of people has so much value when it is united to the suffering of Jesus. The suffering of Jesus accomplishes our salvation and our entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. Our participation in that suffering goes a long way in participating in what Jesus did for us. Hope you can think about that the next time you get a shot – or a blood draw – or when a pain runs through your body.

Holy Week already. There is so much to offer your prayers for. Please try to get to the Cathedral on Tuesday for the Chrism Mass at 10:30 AM. The new chrism will be consecrated at that Mass. All the babies who will be baptized this year – all the adults who will be baptized this year – all the young people who will be confirmed this year – all the new priests who will be ordained this year – all of them will be anointed with this new Chrism! I sure hope you will join all the priests and many of your brothers and sisters from throughout the diocese for this wonderful celebration of our unity and for the great celebration of the institution of the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Please join us to congratulate our priests as they once again renew their solemn commitment to remain celibate, obedient, and loyal as priests in the Roman Catholic Church. This ceremony ushers in the great Triduum – the Sacred Three Days – when we remember the actions of Jesus that led to His Passion and Death and our Eternal Salvation! The climax, of course, is Easter Sunday and the joyful celebration of our new life in Christ through His Rising from the dead!

All of these celebrations will take place at our Cathedral or at a Catholic church near your home. If you have never done so, this may be the year for you to join your brothers and sisters and me to celebrate the central mysteries of our Faith by joining in some of the most impressive and symbolic liturgical expressions and rituals you’ve even seen in your life. The central mysteries of our faith – Christ, who was dead, is alive – to the glory of God the Father and the Eternal Life of all who believe in Him! Amen! Alleluia!

Now do you know why I’ll see you at Sunday Mass??!!


I always believe that some of the best things in Lent are observable because we are taking our time – going slowly enough to take notice!

Yesterday, my day was filled – there was very little time to do much of anything except what was already scheduled. Nevertheless, my first meeting was with a team from CRS – Catholic Relief Services. I nearly cancelled the meeting the day before because of the crowded schedule, but I was so happy when I started talking with the CRS representatives. I serve on the CRS Board as part of my committee service to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I’m part of the Budget-Finance Committee.

Nevertheless, we talked about all the good things that CRS does for people all over the world and how our own diocese is involved in the process with them. Hopefully, on my upcoming (September) trip to visit Father Bob Flock in Bolivia, I will be able to take some time and visit with the CRS people in Bolivia and extend our diocesan involvement with this Catholic world-wide charitable organization. CRS has been involved in emergency disaster relief in Haiti and Japan. They are, in a way, the world-wide extension of Catholic Charities. How good it is for us to take time and think about the good they accomplish for the poor, homeless, and devastated people around the world in the name of Jesus.

Secondly, I was quite surprised to visit with one of our priests who has put together a funding request from an international foundation for some youth activities in our diocese. As much as I was frazzled at the beginning of the day, I was so taken by the generosity and thoughtfulness of one of our priests who was taking such time for the young people of his parish. I was thinking: “O, brother, more work to do…” Little did I realize that father only needed a short and sweet letter of confirmation from me about the fact that he is who he says he is and the work he’s doing is real in the diocese; … Slow down and think about the blessings!

Today, during a rather full meeting of the Deans’ Council, I was sharing the work that is necessary in our Catholic schools to help focus on Catholic identity. One of the Deans told me that we are always so busy that they rarely get the chance to tell me all the good things that are going on in our schools and there are so many good things to tell!

Saturday I get to meet with the Diocesan Pastoral Council and discuss the role of the Lay Faithful of Christ – the Laity in the Church. What a blessing that will be. As we gear up for the coming Year of Faith and the celebration of the 50th  Anniversary of Vatican II and the 20th Anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I am taking some time to reflect on the call of Jesus in the Church. There are so many called and gifted faithful people who have responded to God’s grace and offer themselves up as living stones to build the wonderful Church of Jesus Christ.

As we approach Holy Week it is good to take some time and move a bit more slowly through our normal routines and give thanks for the ordinary things that fill our days and for the extraordinary people whom God has given us to remind us why He came in the first place – He loves us.

Celebrate at Sunday Mass.


I am returning from the last – thanks be to God – of the travels for bishops’ meetings and seminars, at least before Easter. There is nothing better than to come home and sleep in my own bed!

Something very interesting happened on this last trip, though, and I’d like to share my joy about it with you. As I was waiting at Reagan Airport in Washington, for the plane to Chicago, a man came up to me and offered me his seat in first class. I was really surprised and very happy for his offer, but I had already received an upgrade from the airline. Nevertheless, we struck up a conversation. He didn’t know I was a bishop, he thought I was a priest. I told him his generosity was appreciated no matter what.

He was a convert of about six years to Catholicism and he was still pretty happy and excited about it. He told me the story of the priest who had helped in his catechesis and what a strong and positive example of the faith he was for him in a very difficult and strange time in his life. The priest seemed to offer Catholicism in such a positive and loving way – as the true and personal message of Jesus – that the man felt joy, forgiveness, and acceptance in some whole new ways for himself and for others.

I was impressed by his unabashed joy. Sometimes that can be a little embarrassing. But there was a sense of serenity and peace that made me a lot more joyful myself – and very happy and proud to be in the same fraternity as that priest who had made such a profound and lasting impression on this man.

One of the things that I said to the pope during our personal meeting in Rome was: “Thank you for the ‘Year for Priests.’” I thanked the pope for initiating that year of celebration and recognition for priests around the world. I think it accomplished a great deal to raise the consciousness of all Catholics who need to know what a sacrifice it is for a man to accept God’s calling to be a priest and how significant their lives are in service to men and women in the name and person of Jesus Christ.

I know that I brag about our priests a lot, wherever and when I can; but I was really happy to hear some “good news” from another sector of the Faithful who not only told me a great story of his respect and love for his priest/mentor, but also was willing to put his gratitude in action.

You know, it is never too late to tell your priest that he is doing a good job or that you appreciate their work and ministry. I know none of us is perfect and that not every priest is as “inspiring” as we might like; but it is important to remember that God chooses from among simple men His great works to manifest.

Please keep them in your prayers, especially in these days when the challenges are becoming so much more blatant against the truths of our faith. We need those good priests to be solid in their faith and strong examples for us to manifest that faith to others. You might not want to give up your seat in first class, but you never know how you might show Christ to others because of the work of a good priest in your life!

…I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!


On a recent trip through Chicago, I had a chance to grab some time for lunch with my sister Bobbie. It was one of those “spur of the moment” situations – she doesn’t like it when I don’t give her enough advance warning to prepare – but we made the most of it. We talked about all sorts of things – as we usually do; but this time, I really used her as a laboratory to test what the “average Catholic” knew or felt about the recent news concerning the fight for religious freedom. I was happy to see that she was quite on target and told me that: “It’s like being forced to do something against your conscience.” Well, yes, it’s exactly that. I am happy that she, who at that point was representing an official Catholic response for me, hit the nail right on the head.

I think she understands that I am trying to keep that point alive in the minds and the hearts of people throughout my diocese and in solidarity with my brother bishops all around the country. I had the opportunity to meet with the Presbyteral Council last week and I am so proud – as always – that they are in complete unity about our stance in this matter. I asked them to increase their preaching concerning the focus on this issue correctly as the First Amendment struggle it is, and to avoid any political leaning: either to the left or the right.

In my travels across the diocese, I am so happy to hear of the support from the people for the bishops and for the efforts to keep a clear mind concerning this historic debate in our country. With the efforts of the Office for Social Concerns and the Office for Family Life, we will be launching a new initiative to instruct students in some basic civics and religion lessons to clarify the current events for our young people who may be hearing too much from the secular media and not enough from us.

In the future, you will be hearing some more news about the pope’s presentations for the bishops of the United States during their Ad Limina visits. His most recent address to the bishops of the Great Plains (Regions VIII and IX) concerning Marriage and the Family is of course significant and I will be passing along that info for you the next time. Thanks so much for your support and for your prayers. God be with you.

As always, I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!


It is necessary to continue to clarify some of the ideas involved in the current struggle over First Amendment – Religious Liberties – issues. These circumstances seem to change daily and it helps to stay informed.

It further helps to keep in mind: religious liberty is a fundamental right of everyone. This right does not depend on any government’s decision to grant it: it is God-given, and just societies recognize and respect its free exercise. The free exercise of religion extends well beyond the freedom of worship. So it is different from freedom of worship. Our freedom to practice our religion and to live according to our deeply held beliefs is different from simply being able to go to a church for an hour on Sunday. Our religious liberty also forbids government forcing people or groups to violate their most deeply held religious convictions, and from interfering in the internal affairs of religious organizations.

Recent actions by the Administration have attempted to reduce this free exercise to a “privilege” arbitrarily granted by the government as a mere exemption from an all-encompassing, extreme form of secularism. The exemption allowed by the government is too narrowly defined because it does not exempt most non-profit religious employers, the religiously-affiliated insurer, the self-insured employer, the for-profit religious employer, or other private businesses owned and operated by people who rightly object to paying for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. Furthermore, because it is instituted only by executive whim, even this unduly narrow exemption can be taken away easily.

In the United States, religious liberty does not depend on the benevolence of who is regulating us. It is our first freedom and respect for it must be broad and inclusive – not narrow and exclusive. Catholics and other people of faith and good will are not second-class citizens. It is not for the government to decide which of our ministries is “religious enough” to warrant religious freedom protection.

Another very important thing to keep in mind: this is not just about contraception, abortion-causing drugs, and sterilization – although all should recognize the injustices involved in making them part of a universal mandated health care program. It is not a woman’s health issue – pro or con “reproductive health” concerns. It is not about Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals. It is about the American people – people of faith. This is first and foremost a matter of religious liberty that concerns allAmericans – indeed, all people everywhere. If the government can, for example, tell Catholics that they cannot be in the insurance business today without violating their religious convictions, where does it end? This violates the constitutional limits on our government, and the basic rights upon which our country was founded.

So, please follow this issue carefully and be attentive to making your opinion known in Washington. Our Wisconsin senators split their votes Thursday as the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act” was defeated in a 51-48 vote. Stay informed. Above all, keep on praying. We bishops, and so many other people of good will, are counting on your prayers. Thank you so much for all the support you have offered so far. We are moving the stone up the hill…

…and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass.