GREEN BAY — More than 200 teachers from all nine Green Bay Area Catholic Education (GRACE) schools toured what Sherry Steffel describes as a “jewel for the diocese.”
The teachers visited St. Francis Xavier Cathedral and the Green Bay Diocesan Museum on Aug. 23 as part of the GRACE system’s annual inservice to learn how the museum can help educate students.
“It was mainly a desire to see this jewel utilized and appreciated by more people in the diocese because it just doesn’t belong to the cathedral parish, of course, it belongs to the diocese,” said Steffel, the museum’s interim director. She said the museum also has artifacts regarding sacraments and the histories of the diocese, as well as the City of Green Bay. Visitors can see relics from saints and historical photographs.
“The museum has a historical importance in that it tells the history of the Diocese of Green Bay,” said Kimberly Desotell, the president of GRACE school system. “There are artifacts and relics to better understand our faith.”
Steffel said teachers can take what they learned at the museum and “work it into the curriculum for that year.”
“It was a wonderful experience to see what it (St. Xavier Cathedral) has to offer,” said Abbie Withbroe, a middle school social studies teacher at St. John the Baptist School. The museum’s eight volunteers for the inservice pointed out artifacts teachers could present students that correspond with course materials. “They said, ‘When you teach this, show them this.’”
The event began with an opening address about the state of the school system from Desotell. Teachers spent the next two hours touring the cathedral grounds in small groups which made stops at the Green Bay Diocesan Museum, St. Francis Xavier Cathedral and the gift shop before heading outside to visit Mary’s Garden and the Rosary Garden. They were at each stop for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Steffel said the stops were meant to “wet the appetite” of teachers. She said teachers may want to revisit an artifact or relic to get a better look at it.
“They’ll hopefully come back with their families and their friends and bring their classes,” said Steffel. “That’s the intent, so we utilize the facility and people learn from it.”
Steffel said anyone who wants to tour the museum can simply call the parish office at (920) 432-4348 to schedule a tour. The museum is open on Sundays and gives tours of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral once a month. Steffel said the museum staff will consider opening the museum for religious education classes and other religious groups outside of Catholic schools.
Desotell said the tour is the “perfect faith-filled start” to the school year.
In previous years, Desotell said GRACE teachers have toured churches in the diocese and the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. Last year, Carol Jones, the museum’s past director, told Desotell she wanted more people to participate in the museum. Steffel said the inservice took “months of planning” in order to accommodate the large number of teachers in some of the smaller spaces.
The museum customized the event for GRACE teachers to share what the “mother church has to offer,” said Desotell.
“We don’t think people really realize that it’s even here,” said Steffel. “A lot of the teachers that are here today, from my understanding, they’ve never been to the cathedral — let alone the museum.”
The tour concluded with a prayer service by Fr. Joseph Dorner, the pastor and rector of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral and St. John the Evangelist Parish.