As the year draws to a close and the hopes for 2024 dawn, I am grateful to have the opportunity to pass along my own Advent greetings to you.
This year’s thoughts of our Lord’s miraculous birth in Bethlehem, the singing angels announcing his birth, and the star-guided Magi cannot be separated from the heart-rending war on the very soil from which our faith has grown. Truly, the angels’ announcement of “peace on earth” seems only a faint memory today.
It is by the birth of Christ that peace is restored between heaven and earth in the meeting of the angels and the shepherds; that a new brotherhood is born in the coming of the Magi from the east; that unity is fostered in all of creation in the gathering of man and beast together around the manger.
It is at the birth of Jesus that a new light “breaks upon us”(Luke 1:78). Just when the world seems to be engulfed in darkness—it is no mistake that we celebrate Christmas so close to the winter solstice—a new “light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has come and cannot overtake it” (John 1:5).
We don’t need to watch the evening news to know that sin, suffering, and sadness still abound in too many war-torn regions: many of us can look no further than our own homes and hearts. But we need to watch for the coming of Christ during these Advent days and celebrate all he offers us—salvation, peace, and joy—at his birth.
Let us return, then, to the Holy Land, and let us focus our minds and hearts not only on the suffering its current inhabitants—which cannot be ignored—but on Christ who is born in its midst. If there is to be peace in our world, in our homes, and in our hearts, it will only be found in him.
Grace and peace be to you in the name of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
It is my joy as your bishop to invite you to this year’s celebration of World Mission Sunday in every parish in the Diocese of La Crosse. October, the month which reminds us that we are a missionary Church, begins with the great feast day of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. Although she lived behind the cloister walls, and died at a tender young age, this remarkable woman who consecrated her life to Christ as His humble bride, is the patroness of the Church’s worldwide missionary efforts. Her feast day, on October 1st always sees roses showering down from heaven to our great delight.
Then toward the end of the month, on the fourth Sunday, we celebrate World Mission Sunday. This is a time when we renew and proclaim our “yes” to Christ’s missionary mandate. I ask of you two things this world Mission Sunday. First, pray! When you gather for mass, please pray for missionaries; pray for the people in poverty they serve; pray for their courage in the dangers they face and for the strength they need in Christ.
This year, Pope Francis, in his message to us for World Mission Sunday, brings us along to the Road to Emmaus. In the midst of the Passover crowd, Jesus suffered and died on the cross. The understanding of his resurrection is, so far, just a doubt filled whisper among the faithful. Then, two disciples of Jesus appear. The message of the Pope takes us straight to the moment they recognize the Lord in the breaking of the bread. Their hearts were on fire, filled with the flame of love ignited by the biblical revelations Jesus explained to them. They jumped to their feet and ran back to the still dangerous city of Jerusalem to proclaim that they had seen the risen Lord.
Hearts on fire and feet on the move, as Francis puts it. That was them, and this is us. The church is in a new Apostolic Age, filled with urgency, fortitude and wisdom for today’s dangerous world. Please pray with renewed vigor this World Mission Sunday.
The second thing I want you to ask of you is for your financial contribution. This collection each year serves over 1100 dioceses and territories where Catholic worship and evangelization suffers under the conditions of poverty. Amazingly, they too take up the World Mission Sunday collection, and they share what little they have. But they need you and me to help them follow Christ’s example and command. Thank you for your prayer, for your sacrifices and your contributions to this year’s October celebration of World Mission Sunday.
May the name of Jesus Christ be present among the rich and the poor of every nation and people on Earth. And may God reward you with the abundance of your great response to Him. AMEN.
For all of you who live in Wisconsin and have lived here for all of your lives – sun rising, fertile fields and sacred work is all part and parcel of what we kids from the city used to enjoy so much. Seeing these beautiful fields, it really just warms my heart as we drive through the diocese, now as your bishop, looking at these places, seeing cows and horses and all sorts of critters out there that are part of our rural landscape. God gives us the ability to take care of these things.
It’s nice for us to take some time every year for gratitude. Gratitude for you farmers, workers in the field, all of you who take time to give of yourselves, which I know sometimes is really hard. Family farms are in jeopardy these days. It’s difficult to figure out who’s going to take care of these crops, who’s going to take care of these fields? Who’s going to give us the memories of remembering how beautiful it looks both in the season when it’s just filled with crops and growth and the times when we take a little bit more quiet time and give thanks to God for all of the various ways in which we see the Earth regenerating itself.
I remember the first time I went out to a Rural Life Mass and climbed up on top of one of these machines that was bigger than a house.
Sacrifice is something that is a very important element of our lives, and we ought to be no strangers to sacrifice. God knows you aren’t. God knows how you pray for rain and how you need sunshine and how you need to be able to get out and take care of the things that all of us sometimes just take for granted when we walk into a grocery store and see the abundance of food that you have placed there for us. We’re grateful! you have a selfless vocation and you are always worrying about us and helping us.
We are coming to the season of Harvest, preparation time. I offer prayers for you, so that we can remind ourselves of what God has placed in you.
And every year, we get together and we pray together. So I invite you to join us at the Rural Life Mass on September 13 as a nice opportunity to come together. Food, festivities, families – you won’t want to miss it!
We pray, brothers and sisters, through the intercession of Saint Isidore, the farmer. We ask for God’s grace through his intercession. We pray that our fields may be abundant. Our families may be happy – grace filled. And we pray that the work of the Lord may be accomplished through our efforts and that we may always be grateful people who receive abundantly from a generous and loving father in heaven. Amen.
Hello, young people. Welcome back to your wonderful, good Catholic school. We’re glad to have you. The talented teachers that we have, the administration, everybody who is involved in the school; tell them that you’re thankful and grateful. I also want you to think about the Saints who are with us. The Saints who are the patrons. They watch over us while we’re in school.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, for instance. Saint Thomas Aquinas is one of the great patron saints of schools, and Catholic educators. Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. There’s a great big statue of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton at Seton Hall University in Newark, New Jersey. And she’s standing there and she’s got this big cape on, and she’s standing there with her arms outstretched and she just looks like she’s going to give everybody a great big hug. But she is also one of the great patron saints of Catholic education. And she’s an American. We do have American saints. It’s a great thing to think about. And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a little bit about Saint Joseph of Cupertino. Saint Joseph of Cupertino is also the patron saint of students. He didn’t know much, but through the grace of God, what he did know he used well and got other people to love Jesus and to love the Blessed Mother. Boys and girls, you can’t go wrong if you love the Blessed Mother. Every single thing you do is going to have some kind of positive impact on the world.
This year, there’s going to be a few new things that are going to be going on, and we’re going to be talking about them, and you’re going to hear them a little bit more in class work—the year of the Eucharistic Revival. When we talk about the Eucharist, you know what that means, especially you boys and girls in the second grade who are learning how to love Jesus in a special way through Holy Communion, through the Holy Eucharist. And as you get older, what we like to see is that involvement, that education, become a little bit more exciting for you so that when you go to Mass and you receive Holy Communion, you are participating in one of the great gifts of God’s love for each and every one of us. Each and every one of us gets a special gift through Jesus in the Eucharist.
Now, the other thing that we’re going to hear about as we talk about the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is what we do to think about this great gift. We’re going to talk about it all over the place. There are going to be special events that you’re going to be seeing happening throughout the dioceses about the Eucharistic revival. But one of the most important things that you can do my dear young people, is to be involved. Getting involved in the mass, getting involved in prayer, getting involved in the scriptures, getting involved in doing what Jesus wants us to do. And that’s simple things to be good, to study, to learn, to really put ourselves out and help others to know and to love and to serve God.
That’s pretty much what we can say for right now. But I want you to think about how you will respond to doing what your faith asks of you. How are you going to respond to the love of God in your life? How are you going to respond to your parents? How are you going to respond to your teachers in school? All the various kinds of ways in which you are going to be called upon to exercise goodness?
My dear young people, hopefully, I will see you throughout the year. We’re going to go ahead and do the things that we do: Catholic Schools Week, the various kinds of ways of coming to your local parish, celebrations of confirmation, and all the various things at which I am present in your life.
So please get ready. And when I get there, I sure do want to hear you from time to time to say Hi.
Easter is a time of celebration and renewal. We mark the resurrection of our Lord, who defeated sin and death and offers us the promise of eternal life. As we enter into the Easter season, let us reflect on the significance of this holy event and how it shapes our faith and actions.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of our Catholic Faith. It is through His resurrection that we are granted hope for eternal life and the power to overcome sin and death. The Church teaches us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and His Real Presence in the Eucharist is the Good News of Easter.
The Gospel readings recount how Jesus appeared to many after His resurrection; one of the most memorable being on the road to Emmaus. Spending most of the afternoon walking with two of His disciples, without them recognizing Him, Jesus explained how the events leading up to His resurrection were the fulfillment of the prophecies. Later, while they were gathered for the evening meal, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. Immediately their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him. This significant moment shows us how, from the very beginning, the breaking of the bread was to be His way to feed us with His very body and blood.
We must always turn toward Jesus; He is the source of our hope. Even when we find ourselves in times of turbulence and crisis, Jesus is present among us; He is waiting for us to draw near to Him and be in His Real Presence in the Eucharist, the source and summit of our Catholic Faith. It is through the Eucharist that we are united with Christ and with one another.
Take time this Easter season to renew your promise to spread the Good News. The first witnesses to the Resurrection were compelled to share the Good News with others. In that same way, we too are called to go out into the world and share the Good News of Jesus Christ with everyone we meet. The power of the Resurrection can change lives and bring hope to the world.
Blessed Easter to you, may you fully come to know the real presence of Jesus and experience joy only He can give.
It is with great hope and admiration that we mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of the cause for canonization of the Servant of God, Father Joseph Walijewski. So much has happened since 2013 and so many people have been involved telling the story of his life and ministry, all giving witness to his heroic holiness.
I have come to know him through the people who worked side by side with him and the countless more who knew him and his missionary zeal. It was Father Joe who introduced the people of Peru to the Diocese of La Crosse, and it was Father Joe who reminded the people of the Diocese of La Crosse of their baptismal calling to be missionaries for Christ—Go out to all the world and tell the Good News!
When I visited Casa Hogar in 2011, we were celebrating the 5th anniversary of Father Joe’s death. As nighttime drew near and while holding lit candles, everyone began the ascent to Father Joe’s tomb which is located on the side of the bluff overlooking Casa Hogar, the slums of Lurin and the Pacific Ocean. It’s about a 20-minute walk on mostly sandy rocky ground, but once you arrive, it is a most magnificent view. What was more astonishing, however, was the reverence we felt as we journeyed up. A quiet descended upon the adults and children as they approached the tomb. Then, one by one, they placed their candles on the ledge in front of his tomb, giving testimony to Father Joe’s love. Many of those gathered knew Father Joe and Father Joe knew them.
Their reverence showed me that something very special had happened. Their reverence was evidence of the encounter they had with Father Joe; the encounter they had with Jesus through Father Joe. As I watched their actions and felt their emotions, I further realized he was a heroically holy man. He touched lives, he healed brokenness and he brought hope to the children of Casa Hogar by giving them a sense of dignity—the dignity deserving of every child of God.
It’s been 10 years since his cause was opened so now, with renewed resolve in faith, we pray that if it be God’s will, Father Joe will be given to us as a saint and hero of the Church. Father Joe inspired the people of our diocese to imagine a better way for the abandoned and marginalized people of Peru and now Father Joe’s legacy inspires us to see how our lives can transform others if we align our actions with his; always seeing the face of Christ in everyone we meet, especially the people the world tries so desperately to forget.
Please join us for the 10th Anniversary Mass that will be celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman at 10:30am on March 19 or watch live at diolc.org/live
Lent is a time when the Church invites us into authentic repentance and renewal. We are given 40 days to remind ourselves of how Jesus entered into His public ministry, the care He had for His people, the cruelty He endured and the promise He made at the Last Supper to be with us always. We can only marvel at the unfolding of the historical events and find consolation in the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies.
This year, pay particular attention to the actions carried out by Jesus on the night before he was crucified: He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to His disciples saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Likewise, He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is the blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.”
These actions, so simple yet so profound, shape our entire Catholic Faith. It is the Eucharist that gives life, it is the Eucharist that gives hope and it is the Eucharist that is pivotal to your spiritual journey. I encourage you to make your Lenten journey in the presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist. Open your heart and let Him speak to you.
Brothers and Sisters, my prayer for you this Lenten season is that you may come to a deeper love of Christ in the Eucharist. He is really present and wants to feed your soul with His very body. May you be transformed by His grace and keep alive in your desire for heaven.
There are so many people who make our Catholic Schools possible. Nearly twelve hundred teachers, administrators, and other staff, along with countless volunteers, work hard to make our Catholic schools possible. This week allows me to thank each of you for your leadership, dedication, and persistence! The work you are doing today has a lasting effect and is helping to shape the future of our Church.
I also want to thank the nearly seven thousand students and their families who sincerely love their school and make significant sacrifices. Together we are a Catholic force, going out to all the world telling the Good News!
We know that when God is the center of our lives, He will help and guide us. Let Jesus be part of your day, and pray to Him often. He hears your prayers and only wants what’s best for you.
This year you will hear more about the Eucharistic Revival in churches and schools throughout the United States. This is a special time for us to become better aware of Jesus in the Eucharistic experience. Just as the Real Presence of Jesus is about us, we too want to be close to Jesus in that real presence.
I have a great love for our Catholic schools. I’m happy to visit and get a chance to spend time with you, and I’m confident that we do great work together. I’ll be happy to be praying for the success of this week and the many weeks to come.
Remember that God loves you and only wants what’s best for you.
Amidst the glitter and festivities, I invite you take a moment and think about the action of Christmas, the fact that God, from the very beginning, has loved the world so much that he gave us His Son.
God did not choose to become an angel, He didn’t form some new type of creature, but rather God chose to become man, to enter into our humanity. Mary, the spotless virgin, became the mother of His Son and St. Joseph, the foster father.
Oftentimes we take for granted this action. We look at the Christmas crib, we sing Christmas carols, we even exchange greetings and gifts, all good things to celebrate Christmas. But what I’d like you to remember is how God’s love was enacted. His great love from the very beginning made manifest to us—as one of us. Jesus is the reason for this great season! And we are able to pass along this love to those around us.
Christmas is the feast of peace. God and man have been united forever. Remembering the birth of Jesus gives us hope to believe that love has triumphed over hatred, and life over death. We have so much to be thankful for and should be open to receive His bounteous blessings.
My prayer for you this season is that you will find a way to make Christmas last longer than just one day. God’s love is unbounded and we are to remember what He has done for us throughout the coming year.
Blessed Christmas to you – May you carry the wonder of Christmas into the new year.
Advent is my favorite liturgical season and there are so many facets for us to ponder. It’s a season when we are filled with expectation, anticipation and wonder. The Advent candle helps us mark each week, as if it were an ancient timepiece used to track our steps in Faith. The readings at Mass remind us of how God came into this world—to be with His people—and we remember what a great gift this is to us. The Jesse tree is a visualization of salvation history—each day adding another image to help us follow the historical events leading up to the birth of Christ.
It is fitting that we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary during Advent. Our Blessed Mother came into this world free from all stain of Original Sin. We are grateful for her “Yes,” allowing Jesus to enter into our reality and open up the doors to eternal life.
Advent is a time set aside for quiet and contemplation, but it also must be a time for movement. God came to dwell with His people. Mary set off in haste when she heard her cousin Elizabeth had also conceived a son. We too must go forth and tell the Good News of the coming of Christ at Christmas.
We are an Advent people, on a journey to our ultimate reward—to be happy with God in heaven for all eternity. Let us walk together in Faith.