Monthly Archives: October 2011


I’ve had the pleasure of driving through the diocese these past few weeks from Ellsworth to Edgar, with stops in Stratford, Marshfield and points back toward La Crosse. It is just beautiful out there! I joined some of my Franciscan brothers last week in Savannah, Ga. Another member of the Conventual Franciscans was ordained and consecrated as the bishop of Savannah. It was wonderful to see so many of the guys I’ve known for years. Many of those men are from New England states. People PAY money to drive through some of those areas this time of year. The guys were saying there wasn’t much of a color show this year. I told ‘em to come to Wisconsin. They wouldn’t have to pay and the colors were magnificent! I sure hope that we all take some opportunity to give thanks to God for this great season!

Now it’s Halloween. I’ve never really liked this holiday – even when I was a kid. It has only gotten worse over the years. Some people claim that Halloween is fast outpacing Christmas in popularity and decorations. Go figure. Makes me wonder why? I think Halloween has taken a real trend toward the dark side. Christmas is about light and the Light of the world. As society tries to turn that Light off, I guess it’s easier to dress up, act out, and accept fantasy in place of reality.

We bishops of Wisconsin have just completed our Fall Meeting of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference. Archbishop Listecki, the archbishop of Milwaukee, is the president of the gathering of bishops who include Bishop David Ricken (Green Bay), Bishop Robert Morlino (Madison), Bishop Peter Christiansen (Superior), and me from La Crosse. There is, of course, much to discuss in our state and how some of those issues generally affect each of us. You will be hearing about some of the actions we discussed in the near future as they are rolled out in The Catholic Times.

November will soon be upon us and two of the most significant celebrations for us as human beings with faith start the whole month off with a bang! November begins with All Saints Day. What a terrific celebration to keep in mind everybody in heaven! People like us, who have made it. They help us and they intercede for us. Remember your baptismal and confirmation patron saint that day. Keep in mind, All Saints Day is a holy day of obligation. Like Sunday, Catholics are obliged to attend the Mass on that day.

All Souls Day follows on Nov 2. That day we remember our own mortality. Every one of us will die someday. How we live helps us to plan for how we will spend eternity. We pray for our beloved dead since they are now outside of time. While we are not obliged to attend the Mass on that day, it is the best prayer we can offer for anyone dead or alive.

…and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass.

Long Live the Pope!

Yesterday, 19 October was the feast of the North American Martyrs Sts. Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, and their Jesuit Companion Martyrs. The Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ontario is a magnificent place to visit and even more so since it was largely built and developed with public funds. The Province of Ontario, along with the Canadian national government largely funded the monument and its surrounding park land and the re-creation of Huronia, the Huron Indian village at the base of the imposing shrine church that can be seen for miles. Jesuits play an important part in the history of our own diocese especially in Prairie du Chien and the southern reaches of our local Church. Jesuit influence was especially noticeable in the exploration of the Mississippi River region, Upper Peninsula Michigan, and Northern Wisconsin, by the likes of Pere Jacques Marquette.

Another exciting and historical event took place yesterday as well. His Holiness, our beloved Pope Benedict XVI, announced his new “ambassador”—or NUNCIO—to the United States of America, that being, His Excellency, Archbishop Carlo Vigano. Archbishop Vigano will succeed the much-loved former nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who died suddenly in July. We certainly hope to meet the new nuncio at the November meeting of the U.S. bishops in Baltimore. There is great excitement about his arrival. The nuncio serves as the papal representative in our country. His job, while largely dealing with issues of protocol and diplomacy, expresses a visible link between the U.S. bishops and the entire Church in the U.S.A. with our Holy Father, the pope.

This week, we also learned that the Bishops of Region VII—Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana—would be heading to Rome in February for our “face-time” with the pope. The pope meets every five years with all the bishops of the world. As you can imagine, this is an ongoing work for the pope given the worldwide nature of the Church and the number of bishops from around the world. This visit is called the “Ad Limina” visit. It literally means “to the threshold of the Apostles Peter and Paul.” It is both a traditional, fraternal, and respectful meeting of bishops from around the world with the Successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ on earth, the pope. Fr. Michael Gorman, as moderator of the curia, will travel to Rome with me in February. At the present time, Fr. Gorman is overseeing the gathering of data and pertinent information from our curial offices for our report to the Holy Father.

Speaking of our dear Holy Father, Benedict XVI, please keep him prayer. It seems as though a former actress, Susan Sarandon, has managed to pull off a major insult to the pope and she will never be held accountable for it. She played the part of Sister Helen Prejean in the film adaptation of sister’s book about condemned “death-row” prisoners: “Dead Man Walking.” Sarandon made a media comment that she had sent a copy of the book to the pope saying: “The last one, not the Nazi one we have now.”  Sarandon’s comment, like so many other disrespectful and willful slurs against the Church and, in this case, the pope himself, will certainly not elicit an apology or even public media outrage. The challenge to the Church in these times is to keep the faith and keep our eyes fixed clearly on the truth of Jesus Christ. Maintaining faith and keeping clear about the truths of our faith will help us to weather such invective. Thankfully, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights along with the Jewish Anti-Defamation League both publically challenged Saradon’s hateful remarks.

…and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass.


As I mentioned last time, October is the month of the Holy Rosary. The rosary is not only a favorite prayer of many Catholics, it is a powerful weapon in an arsenal for peace in our especially troubled times. On 7 October 1571, the decisive Battle of Lepanto was won. In it the Catholic forces of Spain and Italy fought against the invading Turkish fleet in what was considered the battle for Europe. It was the last battle at sea that involved galley slaves at the oars of the great ships going into battle. Christian slaves in the galleys powered the Moslem ships. The Catholic ships were powered by the rosary. As the Turks howled and yelled their battle cries, the men on the Catholic ships continued the recitation of the rosary. The Christian forces were at a terrible disadvantage and Pope St. Pius V knew it; he, therefore, called upon all of Europe to pray the rosary to prevent the Islamic invasion of Europe. At the time of the victory, the Pope, who was miles away in Vatican City, rose from a meeting and with tears in his eyes, went to the window to announce the news that the fleet was victorious and encouraged thanksgiving to God. The feast that developed was first called Our Lady of Victory, and has subsequently been changed to the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary. It is a focus of this month.

Also of interest, however, is today’s anniversary of the last apparition of Our Lady at Fatima. You will remember that Our Lady appeared to the three children at Fatima in Portugal on the 13th day of six consecutive months (May thru October) in 1917. Blessed Pope John Paul II was shot on 13 May 1981. After his recovery he went on pilgrimage to Fatima to give thanks to Our Lady and had the bullet that could have killed him placed in her crown. Yesterday, during his Wednesday audience, Pope Benedict XVI entrusted the youth of the world to Our Lady of Fatima in honor of this anniversary so that they might respond to God’s call in their lives.

It is interesting to note further that the city of Fatima was named after the Prophet Mohammed’s daughter since Islamic forces once occupied Portugal. The Prophet once remarked, when speaking of his daughter: “She has the highest place in heaven after the Virgin Mary.”

Mother Mary is held in high esteem in the Islamic world. It is not by accident that She holds such sway—God has ways that are mysterious to us. Another time we will consider one of those great Marian mysteries that is a little bit closer to home: Our Lady of Guadalupe—yet another Islamic appellation for Our dear Mother.

Our beloved Blessed Pope John Paul II and our current Pope Benedict XVI are once again calling us to arm ourselves with our Mother’s weapon of peace: the holy rosary. She will prevail upon her Divine Son for peace and justice in our troubled and fretful world. She has done so in the past, she will do so again. Pray the rosary for peace!

… and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass.

From the Banks of the Tiber

This week, I write from another riverbank, the Tiber in Rome. I am visiting with our priests and seminarians here at the Pontifical North American College. Wednesday was a beautiful day and a full day. I had the opportunity to attend the Wednesday Papal Audience and listen to the Holy Father in the midst of thousands of pilgrims who gathered in St. Peter’s Square. The Pope received many visitors and acknowledged the thirty-five men who were being ordained to the diaconate at St. Peter’s on Thursday, 6 October.

The Mass at St. Peter’s was a tremendous gathering of people from all over the USA—families and friends of the new deacons. There were a large number of bishops and hundreds of priests who concelebrated the two and one-half hour Mass. The newly ordained deacons will be ordained priests next year in their own home dioceses. Next year, Alan Guanella will be ordained here, if God wants. Joining him here, in their first year, are Dan Thelen and Charlie Richmond. Father Jeff Burill serves on the faculty as the Director of Homiletic Studies and Father Derek Sakowski is completing his studies for his doctorate in Sacred Theology. I have had a grand visit with them and have assured them of our love and support from back home.

We are, as you know, so blessed with our wonderful seminarians at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Mundelein Seminary in Chicago, St. John Vianney and St. Paul Seminary, both in St. Paul. I ordained the last of our three transitional deacons, Reverend Mr. Jeff Hennes, three weeks ago in Colby. Almost all of our thirty-three seminarians were present for that ceremony. Deacon Hennes joins Deacons Daniel Oudenhoven and David Bruener who were ordained earlier in the year. Please God, all three will be ordained next June. Your prayers for all of our spirit-filled and talented seminarians is so greatly appreciated.

That does remind me of another thing, the Diocesan Annual Appeal is starting up again. I hope you take some time to see the video at . Just click on the icon for the Appeal and enjoy this year’s video. I think it’s pretty good, even if I do get “upstaged” by some sheep! Curious? Stop by and view it. As a matter of fact, take some time to review our entire website. We keep trying to make it as current and user friendly for you as possible. Feel free to send us your suggestions and comments.

I’m coming home tomorrow—Friday. The Fall Clergy Days start in the Dells on Monday. The priests and deacons get a little chance to come aside and pray and study for a few days. We will spend some time reviewing the Missal in preparation for Advent and some other areas of Scripture.

Know that you have been remembered at many Masses celebrated during my time in Rome at many of the holy places. I will be returning to Rome with all the bishops of Region VII—that is Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana—probably in February when we have our turn to come to visit the Holy Father in person and give an account of each of our dioceses. I will explain more about that once we actually find out what our dates will be. We are already starting up the work for that important event called the “Ad Limina.” I’ll keep you posted.

October is the month of the Holy Rosary. The Rosary is a great family prayer. Why not take some time and gather the family together tonight and honor Our Lady with her special prayer?

…and I’ll see you at Sunday Mass.