ANTIGO — Bishop David Ricken traded his aspergillum (used to sprinkle holy water) for a basketball during the blessing of a new gymnasium floor at All Saints Catholic School on Sept. 12.
“I throw out the football every year for the Bishop’s Charities Game,” Bishop Ricken said, referring to the annual Green Bay Packers preseason football game that benefits Catholic Charities. “But this is the first time in many years that I have held a basketball.”
The bishop dribbled the ball once or twice and then took a few free-throw shots.
Despite a request to “pray for me,” he missed, but came close, hitting the rim a couple times.
Students, staff and fellow clergy cheered like it was the finals of the NBA.
Bishop Ricken celebrated Mass at St. John School before walking across the parking lot to inspect and bless the gymnasium, which was completed over a multi-year period with the help of school supporters.
“The gifts of the community to make this happen are impressive,” Bishop Ricken said after the blessing. “It has so many purposes.”
The shepherd of the diocese added that the body is the temple of the soul.
“We work for the whole person, body, mind and soul,” he said. “That is the privilege of a Catholic school.”
Principal Paul Galuska said the school was honored by Bishop Ricken’s interest in the facility.
“He has so many places to go on his schedule,” Galuska said, adding that he was delighted when the bishop grabbed the basketball for some fun after the serious blessing was completed.
The All Saints gymnasium was revamped with the help of donors spread across the nation, many of them alumni of the school formed in 1998 by the parishes of St. Hyacinth, St. John, St. Mary and St. Wenceslaus.
The floor, which was put into use last spring, features materials produced by Robbins Inc. of White Lake, with installation by Baseman Bros. Inc., located in Ixonia. It is a top-of-the-line surface, with a padded subfloor designed to ease the strain on young, and not-so-young knees, along with the various boundary stripes for basketball, volleyball and even six badminton courts.
“All Saints” and “Crusaders” are etched into the end zones and the walls are covered with a mix of banners and messages, including the All Saints Sportsmanship Prayer: “Please Lord, help us all today to do our best and perform to our potential,” it reads in part, “and also help us to remember that no matter how we play, it is the effort we put into it that counts.”
Galuska said the work was part of a series of projects in the gymnasium that have included improvements to the bleachers and an upgraded sound system.
“Over the last five years we have been doing one thing or another to upgrade that gym,” he explained, noting that the facility, constructed in 1976, was simply beginning to show its age.
The projects were made possible through the Greatest Needs Fund operated by the All Saints Catholic School Foundation. Over 3,000 alumni, parishioners and other supporters nationwide are asked to contribute to the capital campaign on an annual basis, Galuska said, and they are the key to the program’s continuing success.
“We have been able to fund a lot of these projects because of those donors,” Galuska said.