GREEN BAY — The Diocese of Green Bay kicked off the celebration of its 150th anniversary on Jan. 14 with the first of 12 Jubilee Year liturgies. Bishop David Ricken presided at the inaugural event, a Jubilee Mass for Youth and Youth Ministers, at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral.
“I welcome all of you and pray especially for the youth ministers,” Bishop Ricken said. “Thank you for all you are doing for our young people in the diocese. I know sometimes it’s not too easy, but we really appreciate you.”
Fr. Dan Felton, vicar general of the Green Bay Diocese, and Fr. Michael Thiel, parochial vicar at Green Bay’s Quad Parishes, joined Bishop Ricken for the Jubilee Mass. Several youth and youth ministers from around the diocese participated in the Mass as readers, altar servers and gift bearers.
In his homily, Bishop Ricken mentioned two saints whose statues grace the cathedral’s worship space: St. Francis Xavier and St. John Paul II. Francis Xavier, the cathedral’s patron saint, “was a real missionary apostle,” said Bishop Ricken. “He converted thousands and thousands of people to Christianity.”
St. John Paul II “is really the main force behind the new evangelization,” he said. His statue “is a reminder that our diocese is acting as disciples on the way, learning to re-introduce others to Jesus. That’s what the new evangelization is all about.”
Bishop Ricken told youth ministers and youth in attendance that they are living in “a very distinguished, important and humbling time in the life and history of this diocese.”
Even though the diocese was founded 150 years ago, “Christianity came here way back in the 1600s with the ‘black robes,’” he said. “‘Black robe’ is a nickname for the Jesuit fathers who came from Canada and brought the faith down here through very hard and difficult circumstances.”
When the Green Bay Diocese, which was then part of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, was established on March 3, 1868, “we were sent a bishop (Bishop Joseph Melcher of St. Louis) who became the first bishop of Green Bay,” said Bishop Ricken.
Bishop Ricken said the day’s Scripture readings, aptly focused on discipleship, which reflects the diocese’s vision and mission.
“We first hear about Samuel, a young man (who) couldn’t identify the voice of God,” said Bishop Ricken. “It took him three times before he recognized him.”
After Samuel recognized God’s voice, “the Lord gave him the words to speak that changed people’s hearts,” he said. “We can learn a lot from this.”
Bishop Ricken told youth in attendance that they are not too young “to hear the voice of the Lord.”
“You hear the voice of the Lord in the readings and the homily, but also in your private prayer, in your personal prayer,” he said. “You might hear the voice of the Lord talk to you, call you into friendship.”
If one is not trained to hear that voice, “then you may miss that calling or you may deny it,” said Bishop Ricken. “That’s not really honorable to tell the Lord ‘no,’ or not pay any attention to it.”
Through the help of youth ministers and pastors, young people learn to hear the voice of the Lord, said the bishop. “I pray for you to be able to teach young people how to recognize the voice of the Lord,” he told youth ministers. “You are the disciples to the next generation.”
In the Gospel reading, John the Baptist introduced two of his disciples to Jesus, saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” One of them, Andrew, then told his brother, Simon, about Jesus, the Messiah.
“If you’ve been given the gift of faith, you have a responsibility to introduce Jesus to others, just as Andrew did to Simon,” Bishop Ricken told the assembly.
“As we begin this next 150 years … try to introduce two people” to Christ, Bishop Ricken said. “Ask the Lord to show you two people whom you can introduce to Jesus … and you can walk with them, as disciples along the way, getting them to Mass. Teaching them how to pray.”
A reception was held in the Bishop Wycislo Center and commemorative rosaries were distributed to all who attended the Jubilee Year Mass.
The next Jubilee Year celebration will take place Feb. 11, 11 a.m., at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral.
To request tickets, visit http://www.gbdioc.org/jubilee2018.
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