Monthly Archives: May 2012


Last week I joined my brother bishops from Region VII of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in attending a conference sponsored by the University of Notre Dame and the Alliance for Catholic Education. The meeting was held in Chicago and hosted by Cardinal Francis George, the Archbishop of Chicago.

Once again, clear statements and strong encouragement were offered for all those involved in the current efforts to maintain our Catholic schools and their abilities to remain on the cutting edge of spiritual and academic achievement. This is not easy, as you may well agree. Chief among issues discussed was the spiraling costs of educational institutions; and while it is considered a major concern, I believe that the underlying power of the meeting truly centered on the philosophy of Catholic education as part and parcel of the Church’s mission in the United States. This is for me a significant and vital question.

In the Diocese of La Crosse, we are poised to commit ourselves to a restructuring and redefining of our ministerial efforts in our educational institutions from our elementary schools right on through to the operations of our college and university Newman chaplaincies. This work will take years to accomplish and ultimately will create a shining example of collegial and collaborative success. Through the work already offered by so many committed members of the educational and business communities along with laity and clergy alike, the road is being mapped out and strategies are being considered that could yield vital and healthy Catholic educational institutions for the coming generations. In and of itself this planning is vital. We are at a serious point in determining the future.

The relevance of Catholic schools in the minds and hearts of many Catholics across our country still remains, I believe, a sensitive issue. If there was any one particular element that surfaced last week, I think I heard an underscoring of Pope Benedict’s treasured New Evangelization initiative for the Church. There is no doubt in my mind that the relevance of education in the faith and the personal knowledge of Jesus Christ are essential in our world today. It is evident further, that secular education in secular institutions is not the means of delivering the message of Christian virtue-centered living. Without strong, solid, integral, and faith-filled Catholic institutions, there will be no foil to the vapid secularism that rages among us.

Our diocese welcomes, Dr. Susan Holman, as the new Superintendent of Catholic Schools. No stranger to the schools’ office, Dr. Holman has served as the interim superintendent since the departure last year of Diana Roberts. We all look forward to the work of the schools’ office, the College of Deans, the Diocesan Pastoral Council, and other friends of Catholic education to assist in directing our diocese to a clear and renewed vision for the future.

And I’ll see you at Sunday Mass.


Do you remember the old days when the telephone company was called “Ma Bell?” – and when it really was a megalithic, monopolistic, conglomerate? Those days, Ma Bell told you to “reach out and touch someone” because it was “the next best thing to being there.” Every year around Mother’s Day, I remember a great story recounted by Bob Collins, a much beloved radio personality on WGN radio in Chicago. Affectionately called “Uncle Bobby” by his many listeners, Collins was solidly opinionated about almost everything and pretty willing to share those opinions with his Southern twang and infectious charm. He died in a plane crash outside Chicago in 2000. I was in Rome at that time, visiting for the Holy Year. I heard about the crash from a Vatican priest.

Well, you put Ma Bell, Bob Collins, Mother’s Day together with a touch of famed Alabama football Coach Bear Bryant, and you have a story that I think of every year – for years – since I heard it.

It seems Bryant was making a “reach out and touch” phone commercial. He characteristically used his tag line “Call your Momma.” Under his breath and not part of the script he said, “I wish I could call mine.” South Central Bell kept it in.

Collins told the story about the commercial year after year, but it was the “back side” that really grabs me … So, here it goes.

A woman called South Central Bell after the Bryant commercial ran. She spoke with some advertising person who accepted the “nice call from the nice lady” with courtesy, and was ready to say “Thank you, Good bye” when the woman said: “No, wait, you don’t understand. My husband heard that commercial and he called his mother. They had not spoken to each other for some time. They had a wonderful visit over the phone.” The ad guy was pleased and prepared to end the conversation thinking the woman was finished. She said: “There’s one other thing … my husband’s mother died that night.”

Bear Bryant died in 1983. My Mother died in 1996.

Call your Momma – I wish I could call mine.

I don’t have to draw you a picture, do I?

Happy Mother’s Day – See you at Sunday Mass!


I have traveled to many different cities around Europe and the United States; and one of the first places I like to visit in these cities is the local cathedral church. In Europe, that’s not so difficult because there are so many dioceses and most large cities have cathedrals. In the United States it may become a bit more challenging since the diocesan centers (and, hence, the cathedral churches) are fairly distant from each other. Nevertheless, cathedrals tell the great story of the faith for the local Church. They have become the living biographies, as it were, of the lives of our ancestors who have paved the way for us to be here and to live our faith today!

That brings me to today’s very interesting point. Our cathedral, under the patronage of St. Joseph the Workman, begins some major anniversary celebrations this Sunday, May 6, at the 10:30 a.m. Mass. The Cathedral Parish begins its 150th or sesquicentennial anniversary and the present cathedral church building itself begins its 50-year anniversary at the same time.

The history of our Cathedral Parish and current cathedral church are fascinating and exciting! To give you an idea: Did you know that President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863? On Jan. 6, 1863, Trustees of the new St. Joseph Parish were elected. In 1864 ground was broken for the building of the new St. Joseph Church. In 1868, the Diocese of La Crosse was created with Bishop Michael Heiss as bishop and he named the new St. Joseph Parish as the site for the cathedral of his new diocese. The cornerstone was placed in May of 1869. Father Martin Kundig (of the newly created Archdiocese of Milwaukee) dedicated the cathedral on Oct. 2, 1870 because Bishop Heiss was attending the Vatican Council in Rome, leading the American delegation of bishops discussing the matter of Papal Infallibility (which was defined at this Council by Pope Pius IX).

As I was reflecting on the material that has been provided for this great anniversary celebration, I was astonished by the wonderful confluence of events that led up to the foundation of our diocese and the beautiful story of the establishment of our cathedral.

The cathedral is first and foremost the mother-church of the diocese. It is the bishop’s church and the place from which he leads, teaches, and governs the diocese. His chair in the cathedral is called the “cathedra” and only he may sit on it as the official shepherd and leader of the faithful of the diocese. Liturgies at the cathedral may, from time to time, lend themselves to a bit more solemnity than may be found in other parish churches. Many times that is due to the involvement of the bishop in those ceremonies and the rituals that often accompany them.

This anniversary celebration will take place at our cathedral for the coming year and will involve all of us in our diocese in one way or another – and everyone is invited – no, encouraged, heartily encouraged to participate. All the parishes will be invited to celebrate Mass at the cathedral through your deaneries and with your pastors and parish priests. Remember the Year of Faith will kick off on Oct. 11, 2012 and runs through to the Solemnity of Christ the King in 2013 (the end of November). Busy times lie ahead of us; they are exciting and stimulating for our faith and our lived expression of it.

I sure hope that you will find time to get to your cathedral this year. I have proclaimed a special indulgence for those people who make a pilgrimage to the cathedral and offer the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be for the special intentions of the Holy Father along with the reception of the sacraments of penance and Eucharist according to the custom of the Church. You can make a day of it in La Crosse. The city is trying to become more visitor-friendly and is providing some good family fun. We also have the beautiful Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe where daily Mass is also offered and a beautiful restaurant is available for great eats before heading back home to any of our 19 counties and beyond.

Celebrate your history and the great heritage found at our magnificent cathedral and I look forward to seeing you at Sunday Mass!