Since the dedication of this Jubilee Year of Mercy by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, many graces have flowed into the Diocese of Green Bay. During this time, we also find ourselves in the second year of our “Disciples on the Way” journey with an increased hunger to learn to pray and grow our personal relationships with Jesus. Delightfully, this yearning is steadily becoming more manifestly poignant.
Additionally, I am happy to share that in the last few weeks, the diocese held two important events which highlighted this overflowing mercy. The Women’s Conference, “Women Celebrate,” under the direction of Jesse Hietpas, emphasized the mercy of Jesus and supported several hundred women to approach the mercy of Christ in the sacrament of reconciliation. Jesse, along with the wonderful work of her team from St. John Nepomucene Parish in Little Chute, created a space for people to walk into the overflowing mercy of Jesus through the sacraments.
Also, as a reply to one of my requests, the Green Bay Men’s Conference coordinated a beautiful team effort with the Esto Vir Men’s Movement, St. Norbert Abbey and Spirituality Center and various diocesan staff to facilitate an event for the men in our diocese. The event offered focus to becoming stronger spiritual leaders of their households by recognizing the need and importance to lead their families, along with their wives, in prayerful discipleship. This wonderful coordination of efforts led to a great experience for 1,500 men of our diocese and elsewhere.
The event featured several national speakers and our own Coach Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers. Each of the speakers gave tremendous witness of what faith and family mean to them and challenged all the men who attended to step up to the plate and accept the invitation from our Lord to be disciples alive in their faith. I am very grateful to Deacon John Ingala from Oshkosh and all three representative groups and their volunteers who did such a good job leading, coordinating and serving this faith-filled experience.
Also, in the last several months I have been able to spend time with our seminarians at St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee and most recently completed my biannual visit to our seminarians in Rome. All of our seminarians seem to be doing very well. I ask you to join with me in ongoing prayer for them as they continue their priestly studies.
During my time in Rome, I was also able to visit several Vatican offices, including the Congregation for the Clergy, where I served for four years in the late 1990s. A real highlight for me was to be able to see the Holy Father, Pope Francis, and to thank him personally for the Jubilee Year of Mercy and his clarion call to missionary discipleship.
As I shared with him some of the good things happening in the Diocese of Green Bay, and describing the interior conversions people are describing to me, the pope nudged me with a little bit of humor. He asked me the question, “Is their bishop also converted?” That question struck my funny bone; I laughed heartily and so did he. Of course, that question sticks with me and I accept it as a new challenge to be sure to practice what I preach, which brings another moment of Divine Mercy.