CATHOLIC EDUCATION ADVANCES
May 31, 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
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.
HAPPY DAY, MOMMA!
May 11, 2012
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
I don’t have to draw you a
picture, do I?
Happy Mother’s Day – See you at
DESTINATION: THE CATHEDRAL CHURCH
May 3, 2012
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
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
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
Celebrate your history and the great heritage
found at our magnificent cathedral and I look
forward to seeing you at Sunday Mass!
Feel free to forward this message to everyone
you feel would enjoy reading it.