Mass marks 150 years as diocese

‘It truly is a Mass of thanksgiving,’ says Bishop Ricken

GREEN BAY — A Mass of thanksgiving was celebrated on Saturday, March 3, at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, 150 years to the day that the Diocese of Green Bay was created.

Bishop David Ricken, the 12th bishop of the diocese, recognized Bishop Joseph Melcher, the founding bishop, in a special way.

Bishop David Ricken gives a blessing with relic of the True Cross of Jesus Christ before the final dismissal at a Mass of thanksgiving March 3, which marked the exact date the Diocese of Green Bay was erected. (Sarah Bradford | For The Compass)

“I am using his crosier. It must be almost 150 years old, I guess,” said Bishop Ricken. “It still exists. It’s been well taken care of.”

A relic, the True Cross of Jesus Christ, brought to the diocese by Bishop Melcher, was also present at the Mass. The True Cross is the name for remains said to be from the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.

Bishop Ricken opened his homily with an invitation for all in attendance to wish one another a happy anniversary. The Mass provided a time to celebrate, show gratitude and call people to discipleship, said the bishop.

“It truly is a Mass of thanksgiving for 150 years of faith,” he said. “Take a look at the beautifully restored cathedral because this is the legacy we received in stone, in hearts and beauty.

“I can’t help but think about a phrase I began to use with regard to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help,” added Bishop Ricken. “‘What you have received as a gift, now give as a gift.’ We are receiving a legacy of 150 years as a diocese.”

The Catholic faith in Northeast Wisconsin preceded the formation of the diocese by nearly 200 years. Bishop Ricken acknowledged the Jesuit missionaries and missionaries from Belgium, Holland and Germany. He emphasized that the Mass was in “celebration of this diocese becoming independent of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.”

The anniversary Mass is one of 13 liturgical celebrations recognizing the 150th jubilee. Bishop Ricken described the special Masses and services, many, which recognize a group or ministry. A reception follows each liturgy. Bishop Ricken explained that the Nov. 18 Mass is for the homeless, who will be treated to a meal at a restaurant afterwards.

The readings for the anniversary Mass were selected because they “call us to joy, jubilation and gratitude,” said Bishop Ricken. He shared an excerpt from the book of Zephaniah (3:14-17) in his homily.

“Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem: Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior.”

“You know brothers and sisters, we can’t really rejoice unless we are really longing for the Lord,” said Bishop Ricken. “Joy comes through burying our cross. How significant that Bishop Melcher knew that and brought a relic here to begin this diocese … Carrying the cross is what brings joy.”

The bishop closed his homily with a call after 150 years of being “spoiled and blessed.”

“We can no longer sit on our hands and expect the Holy Spirit to work extraordinarily, unless you and I grow missionary disciples in the world today,” he said.

He compared the call to the one received by the apostles who gathered with Jesus.

“We cannot do this on our own,” he said. “This is the work of God, the power of the Holy Spirit.”

The spirituality of multiplication is a means to grow discipleship, explained Bishop Ricken. This spirituality requires a person making two or three disciples. Each one of their disciples makes two or three disciples and the cycle continues until the world is converted to Jesus in 33 years.

“Our challenge, brothers and sisters, is we are keeping this to ourselves. We are very comfortable,” said Bishop Ricken. “The Holy Spirit is pushing us … to move from a church of comfort to become missionary disciples.”

Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Robert Morneau and Abbot Nicholas Zachariadis, superior of Holy Resurrection Monastery in St. Nazianz, concelebrated. They were joined by priests of the diocese, including Frs. Jason Blahnik, Joseph Dorner, Dan Felton, Luke Ferris, John Girotti and Theodore Hendricks. Deacon Robert Hornacek was Deacon of the Word and Deacon Conrad Kieltyka was Deacon of the Eucharist.

Bishop Ricken gave a blessing with the True Cross before the final dismissal. Fr. Dorner, rector of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral and pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Green Bay, held the True Cross for veneration as people exited the cathedral following Mass. Commemorative jubilee rosaries were given to all who attended. A reception followed in the Bishop Wycislo Center. Tours of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral were available and the Green Bay Diocesan Museum, located in the lower level of the Wycislo center, was open for viewing.

VIEW MORE PHOTOS: Visit our Flickr page for more photos from the Jubilee Mass.