TEAM Days will focus on overcoming addictions

By | March 2, 2011

“If we look truthfully in the mirror, we can’t say we have absolutely no addictions,” he added. “Be that TV, food, workaholics, gambling on pro football games, or exercise.”

With that in mind, the diocese is offering “Recovering Hope: Addictions, Families and Ministry” for its annual TEAM Days for diocesan and parish staffs, ministers and volunteers. It will be held March 17 to 19 at the Radisson Conference Center in Green Bay. Thursday and Friday will be full day sessions aimed at parish staff and key volunteers; Team Saturday, started last year and aimed at parish volunteers who cannot attend the two-day event, will be held March 19 from 9 a.m. to noon.

This year’s TEAM Days focus came about after the Bay Area Community Council presented a 2010 report on “Alcohol Abuse in Brown County.” Fr. Paul Demuth, a member of the council and former diocesan Vicar for Ministers, later presented the topic to his ministry team.

“That got our staff thinking about all the ways people are addicted to things — alcohol, but also food, sex, smoking, computers, whatever,” said Pichler, who coordinates TEAM Days. “That seemed to be an issue that parish teams really tend to grapple with.”

So they contacted Guest House in Lake Orion, Mich. Guest House was founded in 1956 “to educate Catholic leaders and parish staff on alcoholism and the nature of addiction.”

One of the three TEAM Days speakers will be Erik Vagenius, a former director of Guest House, who is now substance abuse ministry coordinator for the Diocese of Palm Beach, Fla.

“He will address the whole concept of how we can effectively deal with addictions on a parish level,” Pichler said. “Erik is a person with a national perspective and a diocesan experience of working with parishes. He’s really doing the work, right now.”

Vagenius will speak on Friday and TEAM Saturday. He will be joined by Fr. Paul White, a priest of the Diocese of Rockford, Ill., and pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Harvard, Ill.

“Fr. Paul brings the pastor’s perspective of someone who has dealt with addictions in his own diocese and dealt with persons on staff who have addictions,” said Pichler. “It’s the ground level sense of what it is to help people suffering from addictions.”

An overview of addictions and their impact on families and children will be presented Thursday by Sis Wenger, director of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics in Washington, D.C. Pichler describes Wenger as a speaker with “tremendous energy and extreme experience.”

Both Wisconsin, and the Green Bay area in particular, are prime areas for addressing the issue of addiction, Pichler said. He noted how some of his own family had attended the Super Bowl in Dallas and were told by some bars that they had run out of beer because of Wisconsin visitors.

Pichler noted that “Green Bay residents are some of the biggest users and abusers of alcohol in the state, and Wisconsin is one of the biggest users and abusers in the country.”

The statement is borne out by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, which reported in 2010 that 23 percent of Wisconsin residents are “binge drinkers” (consuming more than four drinks at one sitting for women and five for men.) Another 8 percent are “heavy drinkers” (consuming more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.) The health department also notes that Wisconsin has one of the highest per capita alcohol consumption rates in the nation at three gallons a year for every person in the state.

“This shows,” Pichler said of the statistics, “that we do have to take alcohol issues very seriously. Not to be prohibitionists, but to look at how we nurture children in this culture, where everything is driven by alcohol: from advertising to tailgate parties, to sales of beer at little league games, and its availability in supermarkets.”

TEAM Days is $80 for the entire conference, and $12 for Saturday only. Registration is due March 8. For more information on TEAM Days, visit the diocesan Web site at

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