Bishop Ricken speaks at Esto Vir conference

By | March 10, 2010

Bishop Ricken’s focus was on the priesthood, and while a majority of the audience was made up of family men, in offering meditations from his book, “Be Thou My Vision,” the bishop believes these meditations help parishioners better understand their priests, and the challenges their priests are facing.

“We have so many strengths as a church, but one of our weaknesses is in taking and helping translate the tremendous truths of our faith,” said Bishop Ricken. “It is not literary. It is not oratory. Sanctity can bring happiness to men and women (and) is the biggest question of the day.”

Bishop Ricken recalled his father’s words when he encouraged his vocation: “If you save one soul by being a priest than it was worth every minute.”

Bishop Ricken discussed the dangers facing priests, including being overworked, burnt out, falling into a routine or facing boredom. All are detrimental to the vocation. He also challenged the men to continue supporting and praying for their priests.

Many of the men attending this year’s Esto Vir Conference found the bishop’s suggestions helpful.

“He really hit home with a lot of things,” said Deacon Pete Cheskie of St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in Oshkosh. “He was giving us a lot of information we don’t think about. We don’t see the whole story. They (priests) are not perfect persons, but they are who we have, and we need to respect them. We need to pray for them.”

The insights on a priest’s life also resonated strongly with Jeff Engel of St. Pius Parish.

“(Priests) are under a lot of pressure,” said Engel. “We should be praying for them even more.”

Bishop Ricken pointed out that 40 parishes in the Green Bay Diocese have no priest. Most young men do not consider the priesthood because they do not get encouragement from their parents, he explained.

“There has never been a shortage of vocations; there has been a shortage of ‘yeses,'” said Bishop Ricken. “God will not cheat his church.” He also applauded vocations director Fr. Tom Long and associate vocations director Fr. Quinn Mann for their hard work.

Tommy Nelson, a 2007 Marquette University graduate and member of the Spiritus retreat team from Mount Tabor Center in Menasha agreed with Bishop Ricken’s assessment that families need to promote priestly vocations.

“It really affects discernment,” Nelson said. “I think the way to fix the priesthood (shortage) is to fix the family.”

According to Bishop Ricken, many people have lost focus on the question of what happens after their life is over. He challenged his audience to reach out to others in the workplace and in their everyday engagements.

“You have to be the light in the darkness of the world.” Bishop Ricken said. “We need you. You need us. We don’t need to be you. You don’t need to be us.”

In the midst of crises around the world, the biggest problem the church faces today is discouragement, according to Bishop Ricken.

“If you’re fearful, whenever we need courage, there is he who will give it,” said Bishop Ricken. “Faith sometimes has to walk in darkness. We are not alone, and have never been alone. This is not a time of discouragement, but a time of challenge. I believe this diocese is up for the challenge.”

Later in the day, Bishop Ricken presided at a Mass for the Esto Vir conference attendees.

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