Gathering of Families held at Camp Tekakwitha

SHAWANO COUNTY — Families gathered for a day at camp Aug. 29. The Diocese of Green Bay held its annual Gathering of Families at Camp Tekakwitha on Loon Lake in Shawano County.

Ben and Nina Heinzen of Oshkosh, along with their children Zoe, Evelyn and Addie, were among the nearly 180 people who attended the Aug. 29 Gathering of Families. (Patricia Kasten | The Compass)

Nearly 180 people took advantage of the opportunity to swim, canoe, hike, make crafts, pray, sing, meet Bishop David Ricken and celebrate a bilingual Mass with Norbertine Fr. Andy Cribben. Music at the Mass was led by Amigos de Jesús of Green Bay’s St. Willebrord Parish.

The day started with people signing up as prayer partners with the pilgrims from the diocese who will journey to Philadelphia this month to welcome Pope Francis. People also, spontaneously, made a list of prayers they would offer for Pope Francis while he is here.

Peg Vande Hey, Family and Married Life coordinator for the diocese, organized the event and diocesan staff assisted. She is also one of the leaders of the diocese’s Philadelphia pilgrimage and got to meet her own prayer partner.

During the day, campers tied prayer knots, the knot marking new people they had met that day. These will be woven into a wire cross that will go with the pilgrims to Philadelphia. Bishop Ricken plans to present the cross to Pope Francis for his blessing.

Bishop David Ricken explains the image of the Sacred Heart during the Gathering of Families Aug. 29. In May 2016, he will send each of the more than 100,000 registered family units in the diocese an image of the Sacred Heart. He said he hopes devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus will help people when they struggle to forgive someone. When that happens, the bishop said, “Come before the image of the Sacred Heart and look at Jesus in the eyes, and study his heart, and say, ‘Jesus, I cannot forgive this person … I ask you to give me a heart transplant, a spiritual heart transplant. Give me your heart to love this person.’” (Jeff Kurowski | The Compass)

Bishop Ricken welcomed the day camper families in the morning and asked them to focus on family prayer, praying together as a family.

“Do you love Jesus more this year than you did last year?” the bishop asked. “Challenge yourself.”

After praying a decade of the rosary with the families, Bishop Ricken shared his hope that, in this second year of his six-year faith journey for the diocese — called “Disciples on the Way” — families would grow closer to God in their daily lives, including in prayer.

“Something happens when we consent to open our hearts to the love and mercy of Jesus,” Bishop Ricken said.

To help with that, the bishop announced that, in late December, he will send each registered Catholic household in the diocese, over 100,000 in all, an image of the Holy Family. He hopes each family dedicates itself to the Holy Family.

“When you dedicate your home to the Holy Family,” he said, “the Holy Family will become more active and will help you to love one another.”

The bishop also urged men to lead their families into holiness, especially by attending Sunday Mass.

Other events included children’s games, with one similar to “Simon says,” called “Francis says,” and another, “Our Journey to Philadelphia,” which included hopping, skipping and jumping, with the activities cued whenever the word “family.”