Bishop Ricken joins Nativity Parish for new altar dedication

‘One by One’ campaign’s success helps parish secure funding for sanctuary furnishings

Bishop David Ricken pours chrism oil on the new altar at Nativity of the Lord Church in Ashwaubenon during the Rite and Dedication of the Altar Dec. 15. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

ASHWAUBENON — The consecration of a new altar at Nativity of Our Lord Church Dec. 15 was an opportunity not only to celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist at a new table of the Lord. It was also a chance to celebrate community togetherness and the success of the parish’s one by One campaign.

The one by One campaign is a diocesan fundraising initiative that began in 2019. Its focus is on transforming communities of faith. All parishes in the Diocese of Green Bay participate in the campaign, which seeks to raise $70 million. To date, more than $32 million has been raised. Each parish is asked to meet a certain goal, and retains 50% of its goal for projects such as Nativity’s sanctuary restoration. 

According to the Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of Green Bay, the one by One campaign “works to transform and enhance Catholic parishes, strengthen Catholic education, broaden social services, enhance all vocation efforts, support evangelization and discipleship, and improve technology and communication.” 

Bishop David Ricken presided at the Mass and the Rite of Dedication of the Altar. He was joined by Fr. Mathew Simonar, pastor of Nativity of Our Lord Parish; Fr. Adam Bradley, director for the Diocese of Green Bay’s Kairos Year; and Fr. Zach Weber, Catholic Campus Ministry director at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

“It is a joy to be with you tonight,” Bishop Ricken told the assembly numbering around 250. “I know that this particular restoration project has been on your mind and heart for a very long time. I want to congratulate you on the beauty of which you’ve done it — the generosity of time, talent and treasure that helped to produce it. I think when you look into the sanctuary from the assembly, you’ll notice that there is a great harmony in the principle pieces of the altar, the tabernacle, crucifix and ambo. These are all very important features of our liturgy and they have a lot of meaning to them.”

The church restoration project, completed by Inspired Artisans of Milwaukee, was about four years in the making, according to Walter Fountain, the parish’s finance council chairperson.

“The project started as part of our parish planning process,” he told The Compass following Mass. “Coming out of parish planning, the idea was that, when you went into the one by One campaign, you’d understand what the priorities or needs were for the parish.”

For Nativity, “renewing the sanctuary was the first priority that came out of our planning process,” said Fountain. “Really kind of creating a space for the whole community to come together as Catholics was very strong.”

One of the positive outcomes of the one by One campaign was seeing how parishioners responded to it, Fountain said.

“What I think was beautiful, as we went through the one by One campaign, people got excited about not just what the parish was going to do, but what the diocese was going to do,” he said. “We had a very successful campaign and … as soon as (the sanctuary restoration was in sight), more people stepped forward and said, ‘We want to be a part of this.’ 

“So the Knights of Columbus came forward and they gave a donation and the Women’s Guild gave a donation. Many individuals stepped forward,” added Fountain. “They wanted to be more directly a part of this, even beyond the one by One campaign. You just started to see that community build.”

Josh Diedrich, executive director of the Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of Green Bay, sees Nativity Parish’s support for the one by One campaign as an example for other parishes beginning the initiative.

“For decades to come, parishioners and visitors to Nativity Parish will be nourished at the new altar,” said Diedrich. “The renovations of the sacred space at the parish were made possible through the commitment of many families who have given so generously to this project as part of the one by One campaign.” 

In his homily, before consecrating the altar, Bishop Ricken reminded those present to pay attention to the words during the rite of dedication.

“We are going to ask the Lord to pour out his Holy Spirit on this altar,” he said. “So the altar is also a table, a table of divine refreshment, where we have the privilege of consuming the Body and Blood of Christ each and every Mass.” 

The stone and the wood of the altar “draws us together,” he added.

A consecration means that the altar is more than a table, said Bishop Ricken. “It is sacred furniture that is set apart for holy things, to be the table of the Lord himself, where his Body and Blood are offered every time we have Mass.

“The mystery of the Mass is incredible,” added Bishop Ricken. “Now that I’m getting in my older years, I can celebrate the Mass and, all of a sudden, my breath gets taken away because I get caught up in the beautiful presence of the Lord during the Mass. To be deeply immersed in the mystery of the Mass. What a gift.”

The dedication began with the congregation singing the Litany of Saints. A prayer of dedication was followed by anointing of the altar. Sacred chrism oil was used by Bishop Ricken to solemnly consecrate the altar. Incense was then burned on the altar “to signify that Christ’s sacrifice ascends to God as an odor of sweetness and that the people’s prayers rise up pleasing to God.” 

The covering of the altar and lighting of the altar candles concluded the dedication, which was then followed by the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

In closing remarks at the conclusion of Mass, Fr. Simonar said Nativity’s altar consecration was the third rite of dedication he has celebrated as a pastor. “I will tell you, this one is, by far, the most powerful,” he said. “The Holy Spirit is in this place and almost knocked me off my keester.”

Fr. Simonar said he was appointed as Nativity’s pastor last year, after the committee planning the sanctuary restoration had already completed most of its work.

“So when they told me this is what we are going to do, I said, ‘OK, sure. I’ll do it,’” he said. “So to finally see all of their hours of work and planning come to fruition is just beautiful. The altar, the ambo, the table for the tabernacle, the crucifix, the stations of the cross — the rest of the furnishings will be coming next week, so you see it all come together — it’s just a beautiful work of art.”

Credit for the project also goes to Fr. Mike Ingold, the previous pastor, said Fountain.

We’ve been blessed with two great pastors during this process,” he said. If anything, we have just continued that whole movement without missing a beat. Between Fr. Mike building a great foundation and Fr. Matt just really taking off from that foundation and leading us forward, it’s been a really wonderful experience in our parish.”

View more photos: See more photos from the Rite of Dedication of the Altar on our Flickr photo site.