GREEN BAY — On Feb. 11, the World Day of Prayer for the Sick, Bishop David Ricken welcomed those who are sick, those with disabilities and all those who care for them to a special Mass in their honor. The occasion was the second of 12 monthly liturgies in 2018 marking the 150th anniversary of the Diocese of Green Bay.
Each month, a special celebration is being held at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral and February’s event was called a Jubilee Mass for Persons with Disabilities, the Sick and Caregivers.
“To those who are struggling with illness, with some kind of challenge in your health, we’re so grateful that all of you have come,” said Bishop Ricken in his opening remarks, welcoming guests from around the diocese. “I am also grateful for all the caregivers who are gathered here.”
Joining Bishop Ricken at the Mass were three priests whose ministries are related to health care. Fr. Hillary Andebo, who serves as chaplain at Aspirus Langlade Hospital in Antigo; Fr. Richard Klingeisen, who serves as diocesan health services coordinator; and Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.
Fr. Pacholczyk was keynote speaker following Mass for the St. Gianna Molla Guild of Northeast Wisconsin. The Jubilee Mass coincided with the group’s White Mass weekend and Fr. Pacholczyk’s address was titled “End of Life Decision Making.”
Walt Fountain, representing the Green Bay Area of the Order of Malta, a Catholic lay religious order that works with the sick and the poor, and Dr. Robin Goldsmith, representing the St. Gianna Molla Guild, served as readers. Deacon Bill Burkel, who directed retreats for adults with cognitive disabilities for 15 years, served as deacon of the word.
Members of the deaf community from St. John the Evangelist Parish in Green Bay were in attendance, as well as an interpreter, Joleen Hunkins, who signed the Mass in American Sign Language.
In his homily, Bishop Ricken gave a brief description of the Catholic Church’s history in northeastern Wisconsin. “I really think that this 150th anniversary is a chance for all of us to renew our gratitude” to God for the local church, he said. “We are so blessed in this diocese in so many ways, and I think often we take that for granted, or we think that it will always be here.”
He said that those in attendance, suffering from illness or disability, were in the prayers of Catholics throughout the world. On this World Day of Prayer for the Sick, “throughout the world, people are praying for you in a special way,” he said.
“I want to thank you all for being here today. You are symbolic of all of the people of the diocese who are struggling with illness, with the challenges of age, challenges of some kind of handicap or special need,” the bishop said. “We are with you. We thank you for coming today. This Mass is primarily for all of you and for all of the people you know back home who cannot come and be with us. I hope you take our prayers with you and communicate those to friends and family back home who could not be with us.”
He also thanked the caregivers, whether they were family members, health care workers or pastoral ministers.
“I would like to thank all of you on behalf of the church who are caring for a child at home, who are caring for a parent at home, and helping them to journey through the process of life or through a chronic illness,” said Bishop Ricken. “In my book, you are real heroes. It is not easy. The church appreciates you, living out your vocation with noble dedication. I know that it is not easy.”
Bishop Ricken said that sickness can be a deep mystery.
“For all of us, whenever we are sick, it reminds us that we are not here for a long time in this life, that this life, or this pilgrimage, is very short. It also reminds us that through these challenges, God is walking with us and it’s important for us to ask for the grace of healing.”
Healing will always come, especially through the sacraments, he said. “It may not be a physical healing, but if we open ourselves to the grace of Jesus reaching out to us, that will make a huge difference in our ability to cope with whatever challenge we face.”
Bishop Ricken quoted Pope Francis’s 2018 message for World Day of Prayer for the Sick. He also said the church’s efforts at providing health care today “is not just about providing physical treatment, but also caring for the whole person.”
Reflecting on the diocese’s 150th anniversary, Bishop Ricken said the church is grateful to God for making health care ministry a part of its history. “The diocese was established 150 years ago on March 3. So just think, health care and carrying on the ministry of Jesus’ love for others have been going on here for hundreds of years, most especially through the diocese’s last 150 years.”
Before the closing prayer, Bishop Ricken imparted a special blessing on all who are sick, as well as a blessing on those who care for them. Following Mass, guests were given commemorative rosaries. The next Jubilee Year Mass will take place March 27. It is dedicated to clergy and pastoral leaders/coordinators. More information can be found at gbdioc.org/150th-anniversary-jubilee.
To view additional photos from the Jubilee Mass, visit our Flickr album.