The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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September 15, 2000 Issue
Bishop Banks' Corner

Bishop Robert J. Banks
Bishop Robert J. Banks

We join together with Jesus

Despite our differences, the unity of the Eucharist binds us together

By Bishop Robert Banks

Mark the date: Oct. 14, 2000.

At 4 p.m. that Saturday, the Church of Green Bay will celebrate a Great Jubilee Mass as part of the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress. The place will be the Schuldes Sports Center at St. Norbert College in De Pere. It is my hope that we would have at least one family from each of our parishes present for this special celebration of the Eucharist.

An explanation is in order. It all goes back to our Holy Father's plans for celebrating the Great Jubilee of our Lord's birth 2,000 years ago. According to those plans, central to the Jubilee celebration should be the Eucharist.

In Pope John Paul II's words, "The year 2000 will be intensely Eucharistic."

In order to highlight Christ's living and saving presence in the Church and in the world, our Holy Father scheduled an International Eucharistic Congress for Rome and asked each diocese throughout the world also to hold such a Congress. Here in the Diocese of Green Bay, we shall focus on the Eucharist during the week of Oct. 9 to 14 with a celebration that culminates with the Great Jubilee Mass on Oct. 14 at St. Norbert College.

During that week, the priests of the diocese will gather for their annual Congress on Monday through Wednesday, and the presentations will center on the Eucharist. Our own Sr. Ann Rehrauer, formerly the Chancellor of our Diocese, and now on the staff of the Liturgy Office of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, will be one of the chief presenters.

Then, on Friday and Saturday, the formal Eucharistic Congress will be held by the Diocese at St. Norbert College. An ambitious program of lectures and events has been arranged for those two days, all of them centered on the Eucharist. The details of the program will be found in the pages of The Compass and can also be obtained from your parish.

I would particularly invite your participation in the Great Jubilee Mass at 4 p.m. on Saturday, and in the family events that follow. Those family events include entertainment and food. The Christian musicals and Christian comedy will offer a different way of having a good time.

Then, if you have any strength left, you can join in the Youth Jam that will have been going on since 6 p.m.

Because seating for the Mass will be limited to about 2,500 people, it will be necessary to let us know that you are coming. That should be done through your parish. If that doesn't work, you can call the Diocesan Offices at (920)437-7531 for information.

The beauty of this Eucharistic Congress will be that it offers our people, and especially those involved in education, an opportunity to deepen their understanding and appreciation of the Mass, and therefore enables a better participation in its celebration.

Central to that understanding and appreciation is our faith that Jesus is present with us in the celebration of Mass. It is not just another religious service, just another way of worshiping God. In the Mass, we join Jesus in worshiping his and our Father. In the Mass, we hear Jesus' words at the Last Supper, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we know that the crucified and risen Jesus is present in the consecrated bread and wine. Our offering of ourselves is joined with Jesus' offering of his life, and the immense reality of his sacrifice on Calvary is present in our midst.

It is especially at Mass that we should realize what it means for each one of us to be a baptized Christian. The Spirit of Jesus dwells within each of us and calls us together to worship our Father together with Jesus. And our togetherness at Sunday Mass includes the saints and angels, and all those parishioners and loved ones who have gone before us to be with the Lord in heaven. At Mass we do what we were baptized to do: to praise and thank God and to offer our lives in return.

Unfortunately, since the Second Vatican Council, most emphasis has been on the way that the Mass is celebrated. We have people who prefer Mass to be celebrated just as it was 50 years ago in Latin; and we have people who are unhappy unless the priest and parish community have a swinging Mass each Sunday. Some people like to tinker with the liturgy, adding or subtracting in minor ways despite what is prescribed by the Church or bishops. Other people are on the alert for any change from what the Church orders.

We shall have to live through this period with great patience and mutual respect. Just as importantly, we shall all have to remember that the essence of the Mass is what is central.

Jesus, his meal and sacrifice, is present even if the priest tinkers with the liturgy. We can still worship with Jesus, even if the priest is so focused on doing the Mass just the right way that he seems to lose connection with the congregation.

If you look closely at the Eucharistic Prayers, you will find that, at every Mass, we pray for the unity of the Church. St. Paul found that he had to remind the Corinthians that they had to care about one another when they celebrated the Eucharist, no matter their social class or economic condition. We in northeast Wisconsin have to care about one another when we celebrate the Eucharist, no matter our preferences for the way the Eucharist should be celebrated.

The solution that St. Paul offered to the Corinthians was that they should remember what they were celebrating. I offer the same.

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