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!


Every year since my arrival in 2010, I have failed to get a message out to all of you, dear brothers and sisters, concerning the significance of Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum. I am trying to rectify that situation today by sending some thoughts to deepen your awareness and appreciation for the holiest time of the year in our life of Divine Grace.

Holy Week begins with Passion (Palm) Sunday. The Passion of Our Blessed Lord is read from one of the Synoptic Gospels (this year we hear from Luke’s Gospel). The Passion is sung or proclaimed chorally from John’s Gospel on Good Friday each year.

The pious custom of our Holy Church finds us gathered mid-week (we have settled for Tuesday) to celebrate the Chrism Mass. The Tradition usually sets this Mass for the morning of Holy Thursday since it marks the institution of the Priesthood by our Blessed Lord. As so many things in our lives have been marked by expediency, we in the Diocese of La Crosse have set Tuesday of Holy Week as our day to celebrate fully and totally the gift of the priesthood. The Chrism Mass unites the entire Presbyterate, Diaconate, and complete Faithful of Christ’s Mystical Body with the Bishop at one place, the Diocesan Cathedral, the Mother Church of the Diocese. Gathered around one altar and as one believing community, we celebrate the unity and institution of the priesthood, the Consecration of the Sacred Chrism (used at all Baptisms, Confirmations, and Priestly Ordinations in the Diocese for the coming year), priestly recommitment to their promise of obedience to the Diocesan Bishop, and the unity of the Diocesan and Universal Church with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The Chrism Mass is the highlight of Diocesan life in union with the universal Church. It is a must for all Catholics to attend at least once in their lives. With that being said, I should point out that none of the ceremonies of Holy Week: Chrism Mass, Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Thursday), Friday of the Passion of the Lord (Good Friday), Solemn Easter Vigil (Saturday before Easter), are obligatory—that is, you are not obliged to participate as you are on Sundays or Holy Days of obligation. Again, I heartily invite you to attend and participate in the full celebration of the Holy Week services at least once in your life.

Easter—the Solemnity of the Resurrection of the Lord—marks the central mystery of our faith. We commemorate the Resurrection and reaffirm our faith each and every Sunday. So, I wish you the depths of God’s Grace for Holy Week and the Abundant Blessings of Easter—I’ll see you at Sunday Mass!


I often hear the song: “Go, Make a Difference” sung at Confirmation celebrations across the diocese. I think it’s a good song because it reminds us of our great Servant of God, Father Joseph Walijewski, who really did make a difference in Bolivia and Peru and even here in Thorp, Colby and La Crosse. The missionary spirit is right under our noses, if we take the time to see it.

Sunday is the feast of the Great Irish Patron, Saint Patrick, who himself was a missionary to Ireland. Can you imagine Ireland without Saint Patrick? Almost impossible. Sunday, however, is the Second Sunday of Lent and the sixth anniversary of the initiation of the Cause for the Beatification and Canonization of Fr. Joe. A special Mass will be offered at 10:30 a.m. at our Cathedral to pray for the Canonization of Fr. Joe and to remember in a special way all the intentions that are being offered to God through his intercession. If you are unable to attend the Mass, you can watch the livestream.

Everyone is happy to know that his Cause is moving along, slowly but surely, at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome. Our daily prayers to God for Fr. Joe to be recognized and proclaimed as a Saint is, of course, a job for all of us. So, please keep praying and ask Fr. Joe to help in situations in your life where a “little miracle” might be necessary—we believe in miracles and God is willing to grant them for us, if we ask. We can always use a little help with our prayers; the Communion of Saints is great place to start. I invite you to please ask God, through the intercession of Fr. Joe, for help in your daily life with tasks and difficult moments or whatever. Ask and you will receive—especially this Sunday.

Secondly, I want to remind you that the missionary spirit is still very much alive in our diocese! Our Mission Office coordinates trips with Casa Hogar throughout the year to visit the children and offer a bit of spiritual, as well as physical support in Peru. Great idea for a parish event!

You may also be inspired by Fr. Joe’s life to get involved in some “home missionary” adventures. Check out the Mission News on our diocesan website for some great ways in which you may choose to follow Fr. Joe’s missionary spirit in your parish community.

Go, make a difference!

Lent Greeting

Hi Everybody, Bishop Callahan here, inviting you to fully experience this season of Lent. Full of pious practices, Lent gives us reason to change our routine, refocus our prayer life, and let the Holy Spirit illuminate our minds and hearts so we can better receive the Word of God.

As you approach Lent this year, consider spending more time in Eucharistic Adoration. Make time, in the presence of God, to pray for an increase in one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Actively engage in seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit.

Lent also allows us to make time for quiet, to listen and to remind ourselves that everything we do has social consequences. When you look at what you are doing, what you have done, and what you have left undone, never loose site of the communal effect of sin. Sin is not personal, it’s impact will be felt by so many other people.

Lent should awaken in us the virtue of penance, namely detesting sin because it offends God. I encourage you to make a good Confession this Lent, pondering how you have separated yourself from the loving embrace of God. Pray that through the Sacrament of Penance you will come to know Jesus in a deeper and more profound way. He desires us to experience eternal happiness with him in heaven.

Examine your hearts, discipline your will, and make ready to fully embrace the risen Savior on Easter!

Blessed Lent to you. Let us walk together on our ascent to the Holy Mountain of Easter.