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St. Joseph the Workman

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, as you know, May 1st is the Feast of St. Joseph the Workman. We turn to him for his example and intercession in the context of this great month. 

The beautiful month of May honors, in splendid ways, humanity’s goodness and virtue. Significantly, we express our esteem for mothers. First Holy Communion and graduations are also milestones celebrated with sacred pomp and procession in May.

This May, we have the particular grace of welcoming a new bishop to the Diocese of La Crosse. I will celebrate my final Mass as your Bishop on Pentecost. With gratitude and joy, I will remain in service to you and our diocese as Bishop Emeritus. When I reflect on the past 14 years, the memories of our farmers at so many Rural Life Masses, my brother priests teaching, sanctifying and connecting their flock with Jesus, the hundreds of holy Catholic School teachers and their joyous wards, and so many more wash over me. I clearly see such blessings bestowed by the hand of God. We have accomplished much together in the vineyard, and I am so grateful. 

At the installation Mass on May 20th, 2024, just days away, we will welcome the 11th Bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse, Bishop Gerard Battersby. He arrives with a wealth of experience as an Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Detroit, having been in that role since 2017. We await his arrival with eager anticipation. The day of installation was appropriately and properly selected because it is the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church. 

For us, as Catholics, the highest on the list of honorees throughout the month of May is our Blessed Mother, Mary. Our songs to her beauty and grace rise naturally from our hearts. We praise God that she accepted being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and becoming the Mother of God.

We also know that she could not do the work of raising God’s Son alone. Jesus needed a household, a provider and a fatherly guide. So, the very first day of May is set on our calendar to mark St. Joseph, the man chosen to be the earthly father of God’s Son. Indeed, we look to St. Joseph under a specific title, St. Joseph the Workman, the patron and namesake of our cathedral. 

In 1955, Pope Pius XII named May 1st, a day set aside in many nations to honor the laborer, the patronal feast day for St. Joseph the Workman. As a technician and carpenter, Joseph fashioned useful objects from the material of God’s creation. His skills did not make him a wealthy man, but his hard work and courageous obedience provided what the Holy Family needed to accomplish the will of the Eternal Father.

Undoubtedly, Jesus learned from Joseph’s faith, obedience and quiet diligence. People would say of Jesus once he began to teach and perform miracles, “Is He not the carpenter’s son?” (Mt 13:55). Although the question revealed the crowd’s lack of faith, it must have also stirred in Jesus a marvelous sense of the union He cherished with Joseph.

Every time we see the lily and carpenter’s square carved into the stone adorning our cathedral building, we are reminded of that connection. The lily speaks to Joseph’s purity and virtue in safeguarding his beloved wife’s perpetual virginity. The carpenter’s square makes visible his courage and fortitude in protecting and providing for the Son of God.

So, let us seek the power of St. Joseph’s prayers. May he strengthen us to imitate his chastity and encourage us in our labors of charity. May God watch over us and take care of us in the Diocese of La Crosse during all the years to come.

St. Joseph the Workman. Pray for us. Amen.

I remain yours, forever, in the service of Jesus and Mary, 

Bishop William Patrick Callahan

Divine Mercy

Divine Mercy greetings to you, my brothers and sisters!

The feast of Divine Mercy was established on April 30, 2000, by Pope John Paul II. The occasion was the beatification of St. Faustina Kowalska, the Polish nun who received visions and words from Jesus in the 1920s and 1930s. In short, Jesus’ message to St. Faustina is that mercy and peace are available to all through the blood and water streaming from his open heart.

But April 30, 2000, was not only the canonization of St. Faustina and the inauguration of Divine Mercy Sunday, it was also—like today—the Second Sunday of Easter. Divine Mercy, then, has an essential connection to the Easter Mystery. Like a musical octave, where a particular note is elevated eight notes above it, the Octave of Easter takes the Easter Mystery as its base and elevates, amplifies, and complements it. Christ’s mercy, celebrated on this day, thus has its source in his opened heart preceding his resurrection. Consider how on this day, the Octave of Easter, we hear how Jesus invites Thomas the Apostle to “bring your hand and put it into my side” (John 20:27). The fount of mercy we enjoy on this day draws us back to the opened heart of Jesus and the heart of the Easter Mystery.

This glorious day bears yet another name, one further complementing its position as “Second Sunday of Easter” or “Divine Mercy Sunday.” Many Masses during the liturgical year are named after the first words of their entrance antiphon. Back on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, for example, the Church celebrated Laetare Sunday, or “Rejoice” Sunday, after the first words of the entrance antiphon, “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her” (see Isaiah 66:10). On this day, the Church celebrates Quasimodo Sunday, after the text, “Like [quasimodo] newborn infants, you must long for the pure, spiritual milk, that in him you may grow to salvation, alleluia” (1 Peter 2:2). (This also explains the name of Notre Dame’s “Hunchback,” who was found on the steps of Paris’s great cathedral on this day.)

What we have, then, on this Solemnity are several interrelated and marvelous truths: the Octave of the Easter Mystery, which is a special occasion to receive divine mercy, will restore us to new life once again.

So many of the Church’s texts speak about our potential for new life in Christ. “On this [Easter] day is created the true man, the man made in the image and likeness of God. For this day the Lord has made is the beginning of this new world” (St. Gregory of Nyssa, Office of Readings on Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter).

As we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, then, let us keep before our minds the new life, the new mercy, and the new peace offered to us by Jesus risen from the dead. Such was his whole purpose in coming to save us: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Bishop William Patrick Callahan

Palm Sunday

Holy Week greetings to you, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ!

There are so many noteworthy and memorable moments surrounding the Holy Week liturgies. Holy Thursday’s foot washing, Good Friday’s lengthy intercessions, and the Easter Vigil’s blessing of fire all stand out in my mind, as they may also in yours. But before we look too far ahead in the week, let us consider Palm Sunday and the remarkable entrance with which it begins.

Hopefully you will get to experience the impressive procession from outside the building to inside the church on foot. Sometimes, though, circumstances have us begin in the nave itself. But in either case, this magnificent Mass begins by recalling Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem to celebrate his passion. On this day, though, rather than being met with those who will crucify him, Jesus is accompanied by men, women, and children who welcome his coming. They shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9). As we know—and as we imitate in the Palm Sunday Mass—the people who accompanied Christ “spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road” (Matthew 21:8).

As I have said, it is true to say that in today’s Palm Sunday celebrations we recall and imitate what Jesus and his followers did centuries ago. But we are not simply plugging into some historical reenactment or taking part in a kind of passion-play. Rather, these events, presented again in the Mass, call us to deeper and more eternal truths than historical events.

In a reflection by St. Andrew of Crete (an eighth-century bishop, theologian, and hymn writer), we get a beautiful insight into the meaning of the Palm Sunday entrance, especially by means of the palms themselves. St. Andrew says: “let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him…. [L]let us present the conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of his victory. Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children’s holy song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel” (from the Office of Readings on Palm Sunday).

Brothers and sisters, as we celebrate Holy Week, I invite you to look beneath the surface of our celebrations. Holy Thursday is about much more than ending up with clean feet; Good Friday is more meaningful and memorable than “Let us kneel” and “Let us stand” during the petitions; and the Easter Vigil signifies greater realities than keeping warm during a cool night. Palm Sunday, too, calls us to do more than get our palms, or fold them in creative ways, or hang them in our houses. Their real value—that is, their challenge and their call—is as an invitation to lay ourselves at the feet of Jesus as he comes to save us. If we do, Christ will not leave us in the ash-heap where Ash Wednesday began, but he will raise us up and seat us in the company of princes (see Psalm 113:7-8)—indeed, of the victorious King himself!

May you have a holy Holy Week!

Bishop William Patrick Callahan

World Day for Consecrated Life

Greetings to you, my brothers and sisters in Christ. And special greetings to each of you in the diocese who are consecrated as religious brother and sisters in Christ!

February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, has also been observed as the World Day for Consecrated life since it was established by Pope John Paul II in 1997. He found this Feast an especially appropriate occasion to celebrate the lives and virtues of consecrated religious in the Church. Just as Jesus was “consecrated to the Lord” (Luke 2:23, from the Gospel of the day) and Mary offered her son—an expression of her very life—so men and women throughout the life of the Church have consecrated and offered themselves to God.

The Diocese of La Crosse has been blessed since its founding more than 150 years ago by the presence of holy and hard-working religious men and women. Indeed, even before our Diocese was established, Dominican, Franciscan, and Jesuit missionaries planted the seeds of faith on our soil—consecrating its present and future inhabitants as an offering to God.

I myself am blessed to be a religious. Long before I became a bishop, I lived the life of a Conventual Franciscan. My membership among the Franciscans instilled in me the virtues of poverty, chastity, and obedience (what are called the “evangelical counsels”); an appreciation for community life; and gratitude for the good things of creation and their importance in leading us to God.

Ultimately, though, I thank God on this day that so many local religious—from Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman and Blessed Solanus Casey, from Venerable Samuel Mazzuchelli and Father Jaques Marquette, and thousands of others—have been a light to so many.

When Simeon takes the infant Jesus in his arms, he declares that his “eyes have seen [God’s] salvation…prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:30-32, from the Gospel of the day). As we continue to journey toward that Kingdom where Christ himself will be our light, I ask you to pray for the consecrated men and women who have served our local Church in the past, who continue to do so today, and who will reflect Christ-light in the future.

And may each of us—like Jesus, Mary, and religious brothers and sisters everywhere—continue to consecrate ourselves to God and offer to him lives of fitting service.


God’s Gift to Mankind

Christmas greetings to you, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ!

The birth of our Lord we celebrate at this time is a mystery of unfathomable depth. Indeed, who among us doesn’t have Christmas memories of our childhood—be it 30, 50, or 70 years ago—yet still today fail to wrap our finite and fallen minds around this greatest of all gifts: the gift of God’s only Son and, through him, the gift of divine life.

Throughout the Christmas season, attentive ears will hear of the “divine commerce” or “divine exchange” the Father offers us by means of the birth of his Son. During the Prayer over the Offerings at Midnight Mass, for example, we hear about “the holy exchange that restores our life.” The Father exchanges his Son for us so that we can now become sons and daughters of God.

Another text that makes the same point occurs each time the deacon or priest adds water to the wine in the chalice at Mass. As he pours the water, he prays that “by the mystery of this water and wine,” we “may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

It is too easy for all of us to see the darkness, the fallenness, and the woundedness that each of us has, and consequently that features so prominently around the world. But God has given us a great gift that overcomes our sadness. We have been made in God’s image, and, even though that image has been disfigured by sin, we are given the great possibility of restoring that holy image in ourselves by the birth of Jesus. To adapt a phrase: Jesus took on our image—a human face!—so that we could regain his

Brothers and sisters, I pray that you find and put on this divine image this Christmas. Do not be afraid, but rejoice in that new life—here and now—it is ours for the taking. God gives us a great gift in his Son: let us strive to give him the gift of ourselves, for in him we find joy.

Merry Christmas!

Peace on Earth – Advent Message

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

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.

World Mission Sunday

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.

42 Annual Rural Life Day

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.

Welcome Back to School!

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.

I’ll see you at Sunday Mass.

Easter Greeting

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

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.