ALLOUEZ — A new private association of the faithful has been formally established by Bishop David Ricken in the Diocese of Green Bay. “Friends of Jesus Christ, High Priest” was established on Aug. 22, the feast of the Queenship of Mary, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion.
About 150 members of the private association attended the Mass, along with the seven priests who are members of its related clerical association, “Mary, Mother of the Church.”
The purpose of the “Friends of Jesus Christ, High Priest” is to foster growth in the spiritual life of its members, and to offer
spiritual support and prayer for the sanctification of priests — especially members of the private clerical association — as well as for an increase in priestly vocations and for residents in Teresian centers of prayer and discernment. Additionally, the association’s apostolate — its work in the world — is to give spiritual care to the sick and the elderly.
Carol Masuga, a member of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral Parish in Green Bay, oversees the private association. She began what developed into the formal private association on Oct. 1, 2004 (the feast of St. Thérèse), in the Diocese of Marquette, Mich., with the blessings of Bishop Alexander Sample (now bishop of Portland, Ore.).
Masuga was caring for her mother, Gunver Masuga, in her mother’s home in Caspian, Mich., at the time. Gunver became paralyzed for the last four years of her life, and it was her patient example that led her daughter, Carol, to realize the power of redemptive suffering.
“The Lord taught me about the elderly and the sick,” she said. “It was like a school for me, taking care of my mom.”
Carol said that her mother never complained about her suffering and that the two often discussed what purpose God had for Gunver’s suffering and how it might benefit others.
“If people only knew about offering their sufferings up, with Jesus’ sufferings, how powerful that is,” Carol Masuga said.
The church teaches that, when someone combines prayer with an offering of his or her own sufferings or trials in life, it becomes powerfully united with the offering of Christ’s sufferings on the cross.
Eventually, Masuga realized that such offerings of redemptive suffering could give powerful support and witness to priests and priestly vocations.
While in Michigan, she had worked at several parishes and she had “noticed that priests are under spiritual attack — like all of us — but priests especially, because they bring the sacraments to the people. Without the priests, there’s no Eucharist, and no church really. So I realized that they needed prayers and people who would do that on a consistent basis.”
Since Masuga had learned this while caring for her mother, she made the connection between the need to combine a ministry of prayer for priests with an apostolate of service to those who are suffering. In our society, she noted, the elderly and sick are often isolated, just when they most need support on their journey.
As Bishop Ricken said in a November 2013 video that can be found on the association’s website, clericalassociation.com, “It’s an incredible privilege to walk with someone as they near death.”
Since its beginnings in Marquette, “Friends of Jesus Christ, High Priest” has gained more than 1,000 members in 21 states. The clerical association was formally established by Bishop Ricken on Oct. 9, 2011, at the shrine in Champion.
After her mother’s death in 2011, Masuga moved to Green Bay and she has since, at the direction of Bishop Ricken, been conducting prayer seminars and missions around the diocese. The purpose is, as she says, “to teach people how to pray.”
Earlier this year, Bishop John Doerfler of Marquette gave his official approval to move the headquarters of the private association to Green Bay.
There is no fee to join the association and there are no meetings. It is open to lay people, religious and priests. Members sign a commitment to a rule of life which includes prayer and participation in the sacraments of Eucharist and reconciliation, as well as a commitment to the spiritual care of the sick and elderly. That commitment can vary.
“The apostolate can be as simple as praying with and for them,” said Masuga. “Or you could send holy cards to them.” Personal visits or phone contact is the ideal.
To learn more about “Friends of Jesus Christ, High Priest,” visit clericalassociation.com.