Author Archives: dioceseoflacrosse

Brother James Miller

Brother James Miller—born and raised in central Wisconsin, martyred in Guatemala, and living today in the Heavenly Jerusalem—will be declared “blessed” this Saturday, December 7, in Huehuetenango Guatemala.

Like all others who have been declared “blessed” by the Church, Brother James was remarkable—indeed, heroic—in sanctity. He lived, served, loved, taught, and died after the example of Jesus. Through Brother James’s own flesh and blood, Jesus became incarnate to those whom Brother James served.

Yet, even in his holy heroism, James Miller was one like us. He was born in Stevens Point, raised on an Ellis dairy farm, and graduated from Pacelli High School. In these and many other respects, Brother James was no different from you or me.

Brother James entered the novitiate for the Christian Brothers in 1962, and eventually taught at Cretin High School in Saint Paul. In addition to teaching religion, Brother James taught English and Spanish, coached football, and worked in the maintenance of the school building. “Brother Fix-it,” in fact, became his nickname from his ability and desire to work with his hands. He is often depicted today with wrench in hand!

Brother Miller would go on to take final vows as a Christian Brother in 1969. He would serve as teacher, director, and even builder of schools, both in Nicaragua and in Guatemala, serving the poor in need of his—and Christ’s—care.

On February 13, 1982, Brother James Miller was shot multiple times and killed by three unknown gunmen. He was doing what God had made him to do. Standing on a ladder, attending to his school’s building, Brother Fix-it was restoring God’s kingdom—ordered, beautiful, and at the service of those in need—out of the rubble of a fallen, sad, and sinful world.

The ordinary ladder upon which he died, a tool of work in a mundane world, is, by God’s design, an extraordinary image of his own elevated path to heaven. In some ways, this ladder, like the wrench in his hand, signifies his own life: an ordinary boy with Wisconsin roots rises to an extraordinary man of faith in Guatemala and radiates a blessed image of Jesus from heaven.

A “beatification,” such as James Miller will receive on Saturday, is not simply another step along the road to an official declaration of “Saint.” To be declared “blessed”—which is what the ceremony of “beatification” does—is to be declared joyful, blissful, and happy. Being like Jesus makes us happy, and Brother James, in the service of Jesus to his people, was a happy, blessed man. Such is the lesson worth pondering in James Miller. Do the seemingly small things well—coach football, fix the fence, teach the children—and Jesus can radiate through you. And make you joyful.

Because Blessed James Miller was one like us, we can aspire to become one like him. In light of his beatification, reflect upon your own life: Where were you born? What are you doing today to further God’s kingdom in the ordinary life around you? How are you working for heaven? From Wisconsin to the Heavenly Jerusalem, let us live our ordinary lives in an extraordinary way.

Blessed James Miller, pray for us!

Celebrating our Blessed Brother James Miller, FSC

Loving and gracious God,
we thank you for the gift of our
Blessed Brother James Miller.
By his example and intercession,
grant that we may follow his example
of selfless service to those entrusted to our care.
May we also carry on his work
of educating the poor and alleviating their oppression.
We ask this through
Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle—Pray for us!
Blessed Brother James Miller—Pray for us!
Live Jesus in our Hearts—Forever!

—Prayer provided by the Christian Brothers of the Midwest

Expectant Hope

Advent greetings everybody. I don’t think I have to remind you that Advent is my favorite liturgical season. It is, of course, the great season of expectation and anticipation. It is a time of wonder and a deep and abiding sense of the fulfillment of promise and the opening of a new age.

I think I have used these themes with you in different times over the years I have served as your Bishop, but I think the message, like Advent itself, bears repeating and these themes make it easy for us to think about this great season. There are three ways of considering Advent and the coming of Christ: first, in History; second, in Mystery; and third, in Majesty.

We remember Christ coming as the Babe of Bethlehem and the entire wondrous miracle of the Christmas story. All of this allows us to consider the Incarnation— the manifestation of God in human flesh in our human history.

The second coming of Christ is in the Mystery of the Eucharist—the living and Real Presence of the same Jesus—Son of God and Son of Mary—made manifest for us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

 The Mysterious and Sacred Presence of Jesus until the end of time. Then, finally, the appearance of Christ in Majesty at the end of time. The liturgical season of Advent calls our attention to each of these three “comings” of Christ and opens our minds, and hearts, and souls to the promises of God and the manifestations of Christ as the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Prayer is a joyful method of keeping us aware of the promises of future and realized glory as we make our way through the weeks of Advent. Keep alert, maintain your vision in Christ. He will keep His promise, He is with us, and He will come again. Come, Lord Jesus!

Blessed Advent to you all!

Consider your surroundings and give thanks

As we make our way into the season of “counting our blessings” and giving thanks, it is appropriate that we are sincere about remembering where all those blessings come from. I notice more and more, in our very busy society, that many people are assuming more of the credit for things that go right in their lives and less of the blame for things that often “go up in smoke” due to their failure to plan or think things through with good reasoning and logic. In those latter cases the “blame” goes to God as a sign that He just doesn’t care.

In the movie White Christmas, one of the great scenes between Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney takes place when they both head to the dining room of the inn at which they are staying for Christmas. Bing describes to Rosemary the kind of sandwiches the innkeeper has left for them. Choosing a particular kind of sandwich, says he, will determine the quality of the dreams you’ll have during the night. The basic idea, explains Mr. Crosby, is that if you want pleasant dreams, count your blessings—the best way to fall asleep. I often tell people to pray the Rosary at bedtime. If you fall asleep during your prayers, the angels will finish them. This goes deeper than just counting your blessings—it’s reassuring for the One who guarantees all our dreams in the first place.

In addition, Jesus gives us a special banquet at which we can be truly thankful for all those gifts—all those blessings. It’s so special that we speak about it as a special Thanksgiving Meal—the Eucharist. Eucharist means thanksgiving and we would do well to remember that every time we come to Mass. Be thankful that the Son of God has come among us. He shared our joys and our sorrows, our highs and our lows. He has freed us from the tyranny of the devil and given us the true liberty of the children of God. “If the Son has set us free, then we are free indeed.” (Jn. 8:36) What an incredibly marvelous thought for us to ponder as we give thanks!

Saint Teresa of Avila helps us to consider the glory and awesomeness of God in all things. She teaches: “In all created things discern the Providence and Wisdom of God, and in all things give Him thanks.” This is a “starter” that may serve as a good place to begin the conversation at the Thanksgiving Table this year … maybe a little better than politics and such.

Happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

In the Autumn of the Year

Fall is a beautiful time of year, especially in Wisconsin. The turning leaves, the frost on the pumpkins, the harvests of apples, crops, and gardens seem to satisfy many souls. Yet the joy of the season brings with it a sense of winter’s approach, the descent of darkness, and the icy-cold dormancy of the outdoors. Autumn is a bittersweet time!

Nature’s decline and fall also brings to mind our own “autumn of the year,” as Frank Sinatra once put it. But, whether by design or not, the Church gives us two great celebrations to offer perspective—and hope—during this time.

On November 1st (Friday this year), we gather to honor All Saints, those officially canonized and recognized by the Church, as well as those less well known here below, even as they sit enthroned with God above. On November 2nd, the Church remembers the souls of All the Faithful Departed. These “poor souls” need our prayerful assistance today, much as they needed us—and we needed them—while they were alive on earth.

These celebrations are fitting in the fall, for they remind us of our own eternal destiny, not in death, but in God. A lovely analogy presents itself to us in the kernel of wheat sown and harvested by the Chosen People. The seed was planted in the fall, only to germinate and grow, before falling dormant over the cold winter. When the springtime of the year dawned, the plant came back to life, ripened, and reached its fullness. So, too, we are not destined to decay within the earth, but to reemerge and “produce much fruit” (John 12:24).

Purgatory’s poor souls and heaven’s radiant saints testify to the abundance of eternal life in Christ. For these, a line from the funeral Mass says, “life is changed, not ended.” This November, as we remember those who have gone before us, let us continue to rely upon each other. Let us see in these heroic souls not only the fall but the Springtime Resurrection God desires for us all.

Becoming a priest

The recruitment, formation and education of every future generation of priests is squarely placed on the shoulders of the present generation. We must safeguard and secure the solid and positive delivery of what Jesus taught and died for with His first band of priests, the Apostles. The message—the Truth—doesn’t change. The Church is built on the Rock of Faith. The ages of humanity—civilization—change. So with this change the delivery of the Truth needs to be relatable to everyone in every age in which the Gospel is preached and expected to be lived. In our time, this unbroken line of communicating the true faith has been passed on through the bishops and the priests.

The education and formation of future priests is an essential and important part of the Church’s growth and life in this world. We are taking the lead offered by the Church to create two new programs for the education and formation of the men whom God has given us to study for the priesthood. The first program is truly new and will impact the future of all men coming to the seminary (at whatever level) to study for the priesthood. Men, while not yet seminarians, enter into their first year of formation by way of a program called Journey. We see this year as an initiation into a measured and planned lifestyle, opening the man to the idea of the seminary and the disciplined and ordered life of priestly service.

The second program called Regency is open to seminarians, typically at college level or those in their later years as they are preparing for entry into sacred theology. Regency is a year set aside to work on human formation. The seminarian will have a chance to deepen his prayer life, experience fraternal life in community, work for a local business, study at Viterbo University and receive counseling with an in-house mentor. After his Regency experience, the seminarian is ready to complete his formal time of study in preparation for his ordination.

I would doubt very much that given today’s social needs and concerns, very few of us would want more doctors faster; speeding up their time in med school. Few of us would want a lawyer who took a quick trip through law school. These ideas could go on and on in various professions—except the priesthood. The need for priests is great; we cannot rush a man’s priestly formation. We cannot have the Church without priests; we cannot have the Eucharist (the living presence of Jesus Christ) without priests; yet, many seem to believe that we “invent” the Church on our own. It cannot be done and we need to start to understand that we cannot do so. We need properly and completely educated priests. The Church knows this to be true and She is serious about addressing the issue in our time.

There are many new ways of focusing our efforts in our beloved diocese. These new programs for priestly formation are centered on God’s blessings and His gifts of vocations to the priesthood are being fostered and cared for into the future. Pray for priests.

Prayer For Vocations

Heavenly Father, Bless your Church with an abundance of holy and zealous priests, deacons, brothers, and sisters. Give those you have called to the married state and those you have chosen to live as single persons in the world, the special graces that their lives require. Form us all in the likeness of Your Son, so that in Him, with Him, and through Him, we may love you more deeply and serve you more faithfully, always and everywhere. With Mary we ask this through Christ our Lord.


Heroes of Faith

My dear young people, Bishop Callahan here to greet you as you begin your new school year!

The past several months have been very busy for me; I’ve been to several important meetings, many of which concerned you because we bishops want to let everyone know how much we care about you and your futures in the Church and in the world at large. We share that concern with your moms and dads.

I hope you all had a good summer. I remember how much fun summer vacation was when I was a kid. But I also remember how I was ready to get back to school with new teachers and new challenges in studies.

This December you will hear about the Beatification of a man who was born and grew up near Stevens Point. Beatification, as many of you know, is the second to last step in the process of becoming a saint in the Catholic Church. This man’s name is Brother James Miller. He went to Pacelli High School in the 1950s and then joined the Christian Brothers. He was a teacher and worked in Central and South America. He was shot to death in Guatemala because he loved God and loved the people of Guatemala. He is a hero of our Catholic Faith and a hero of the Diocese of La Crosse.

There are other heroes of Faith who lived and worked in our area. Blessed Solanus Casey, a Franciscan was born near Prescott; Venerable Samuel Mazzuchelli, a Dominican, built St. Gabriel church in Prairie du Chien; and Servant of God, Father Joseph Walijewski whom we may know best of all, who worked in Thorp before leaving for South America where he started Casa Hogar. You can pray through the intersession of these heroes for help and guidance when you feel alone, scared or confused. You can also pray in thanksgiving when your prayers are answered.

These heroes of Faith all have in common their love of Jesus and their desire to follow His teaching. Jesus is the source of Truth and you will learn about His Truth in your classes. When you follow Jesus and your consciences and do what is right, you are acting just like these heroes!

I encourage you to stand up for your Faith and hope that you will encourage those around you to do the same! Your Catholic Education teaches and models an active participation in the evangelizing mission of the Church. Simply put, the Church exists because Jesus wants it to exist. Through your Baptism, you became a member of His Church. When you help others come to know Jesus, you are doing what God wants.

Try to make Jesus a part of everything you do. Listen to Him and ask Him for the help you need, not only at Mass, but throughout your day.

To all teachers and staff: Thank you for your service to your school and your guidance to your students!

Keep up the good work! I’m very proud of all the good you are doing and I hope to visit you sometime this school year and listen to your stories of heroism and courage.

Pray, learn, and stand up for your Faith!

Further news from Baltimore

May the Lord give you peace.

As you have no doubt heard by now, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had a very busy and productive meeting this past month in Baltimore. It was fraternal, exciting, and spiritually invigorating; important steps were taken to address the current situation in our Church.

In a similar manner we have been busy here at home in our own diocese, working to ensure that we are doing our absolute best and most transparent job of fulfilling our promises and protecting our young people. I write now to offer an update on our efforts both nationally and locally on these important topics. I ask that you read and pray with my Pastoral Letter to you, the faithful of the Diocese of La Crosse.

As the summer progresses, I hope we will continue to share and reflect on these matters together. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement in what has been a challenging time for all Catholics: lay, religious, priests, and bishops alike.

As St. Paul tells the Romans: “Affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint.”

Thank you and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!


Welcome Bishop Hying!

I ask the faithful of our diocese to rejoice and offer prayers of thanksgiving, in solidarity with those in the Diocese of Madison, at the joyful news of the appointment by Pope Francis of Bishop Hying of Gary as the fifth bishop for the Diocese of Madison.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Bishop Hying for a number of years, beginning with our ministries together as pastors of parishes in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Bishop Hying is a good friend and a dear brother. I give thanks to His Holiness for sending such a wonderful Shepherd to the faithful of the capitol city of our state and a wonderful partner to the bishops of Wisconsin.

Read more about Bishop Hying.

I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!

Hope in the Resurrection

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Blessed and joyful Easter Greetings to one and all. I hope you have had an opportunity to get out into the beautiful gift of new life that is spring in our beloved Diocese.

On Easter Sunday, as I was sprinkling the gathered assembly with Holy Water in the customary renewal of Baptismal promises, a man passed off a note to me, seeming to remind me that I had missed the opportunity to remind everyone of the tragic and violent attacks in Sri Lanka earlier Easter morning. I appreciated the note and passed it off to my Master of Ceremonies for inclusion in the Prayers of the Faithful, where I had intended to include that intention.

Evil has been undone by the Resurrection of Jesus. Unfortunately, we are still prone to temptation and seduction by the evil one. Those who have carried out these vicious attacks bear witness to such evil. Such evil, however, cannot (and certainly MUST not) overcome the hope that is found for all people in our Blessed Savior’s Resurrection. We offer prayers for the victims (of all faiths) and join with all people of good will in condemning these acts of terrorism.

Jesus Christ is the Lord of Life; in Him there is no death.

God be with you.

your Bishop

Easter Greeting

Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her, ablaze with light from her eternal King, let all corners of the earth be glad, knowing an end to gloom and darkness.

Hi everybody, Bishop Callahan here. Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

The eternal King has shown His glory; Christ has risen from the dead. Just imagine what it must have been like for the first witnesses of Christ’s Resurrection. When we hear the accounts of his Resurrection this Easter Season, try to listen with new ears and be ready to get caught up with the same excitement of the first witnesses. Are we any less amazed, less confused, or less confident to tell others of what we know to be true?

Today we too give witness to Christ’s Resurrection. We remind ourselves, as the early witnesses did, that Jesus promised to be with us until the end of time.

There are many people who join the Church at the Easter Vigil. There are many more whose Faith is strengthened by the Easter celebrations. Consider recommitting yourself this Easter Season to spread the Good News.

You will notice that Holy Water is used during the Easter Masses. This sprinkling is to remind us of our particular Baptism, and the life of grace to which we are called. Water, so simple and pure, so common made Holy to cleanse us from our sins and give refreshment to our souls.

This Easter Season, let your joy radiate in your life. Give witness to the stupendous act of love by Jesus Christ.

Blessed Easter to you – and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!