Bishop offers blessing to Louvain volunteers

By | December 2, 2009

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Bishop David Ricken uses holy water to bless volunteers who will travel to Louvain, Belgium, next March to make repairs on the American College of Louvain. The blessing ceremony was held following Mass Nov. 29 at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Green Bay. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

Bishop Ricken serves as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for The American College of Louvain. Last June, he announced the “Louvain Initiative,” a fund-raising effort to raise $250,000 for the American College. In addition to raising money for the college’s budget deficit, Bishop Ricken and Deacon Vincent, who is coordinating support programs for the American College, announced a retreat and work experience to Louvain led by Bishop Ricken. Within weeks of the announcement, volunteers began signing up.

On Nov. 29, Bishop Ricken offered prayers and a blessing for the volunteers at the conclusion of Mass at Ss. Peter and Paul Church. The group will depart for Belgium on March 11, 2010, and return March 20.

“I would like to express my thanks to all these wonderful volunteers who are going over in March to help refurbish the American College,” said Bishop Ricken before the blessing. “The buildings are well over 200 years old and need lots of repairs. We are grateful that these people have said ‘yes’ to the call.”

The congregation joined Bishop Ricken in a blessing, asking God to “give them a safe journey under your protection.” He then used holy water to bless the volunteers. Among those receiving blessings were volunteers Joe Uhyrek, Barby Vorkovetz and Dan Stahl.

Stahl, a farmer with 15 years of experience in electrical work, said he is excited to donate his time to the American College. “I always wanted to do something like this,” he said.

Vorkovetz, a member of Holy Name of Mary Parish in Maplewood, will be traveling with her husband, Bob, who has a construction background, and her son, Curtis, a student at UW-Platteville.

When she learned her husband and son were volunteering, Vorkovetz asked to join them. “I said I could scrape paint, paint and clean. I’ll do whatever they want me to do.”

Uhyrek will travel with his son, Calvin, a high school sophomore. They will spend their time doing tile work. “I have a flooring business,” said Uhyrek. “I’ve been installing tile for 10 years. There is a lot of floor tile, wall tile and window ledges” at the seminary that need repairs, he said.

The volunteers will not be taking tools or supplies with them. This could pose a challenge, said Uhyrek.

“We’re going to have our hands full trying to find materials, trying to find tools and products. That’s going to be one of the biggest challenges, not actually performing the work.”

He said a handyman who works for the seminary will be in charge of locating materials and tools for the work crew.

It’s not the first time Uhyrek has volunteered his service to the church. He and Calvin have offered their talents at Holy Name Retreat House on Chambers Island. “We try to help when we can,” he said. “This is just one terrific opportunity that we wanted to not just take advantage of, but to give back” to the church.

Deacon Vincent said funds are still needed to purchase materials for making repairs at the seminary. Donations, made out to the “Louvain Initiative,” can be sent to the Catholic Foundation, 1825 Riverside Drive, Green Bay, WI, 54305.

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