A determination to do God's will
From camp renovation to new parish, we continue the work of Christ locally
By Bishop Robert Banks
When the Church of Green Bay puts its mind to something, it gets done!
I refer to the renovation or, better, the transformation of Camp Tekawitha. This is the camp, located on Loon Lake a few miles from Shawano, where youngsters from our diocese have been going for almost 75 years. It has a great tradition, but the main buildings were pretty much in a shambles after all those years.
I am not quite sure when it was decided to tear down the old buildings and replace them with new ones. It might have been when I visited the camp last summer to celebrate Mass for the youngsters. It definitely was after Karen Johnston, our head of Catholic Charities, and Kevin Brunner, our director of properties, put together a business plan for a combination summer camp and all-year conference center last spring.
But the first actual move to do something was when, with the help of Cindi Brawner, our director of development, we held a small fund-raising party at my house last August. Packers' Coach Mike Sherman graciously took off some time from training to address the group and to act as honorary chair of the campaign. The party was a great success because Bob and Pat Endries agreed to take on the task of running the campaign.
No regular funds used
That was last August, less than a year ago. Within the next couple of months, we found enough very generous donors that we were able to ask Miron Construction to start the project. Generous donors have continued to appear so that we have been able to do the minimum we had planned and also move on toward the completion of the whole project. That also means we have not had to draw on any regular diocesan funds for the renovation.
Last Saturday, I was delighted to bless and dedicate the newly constructed main camp buildings. I also broke ground for the new chapel. Next week, the camp opens for business.
The new main lodge is beautiful. It is very simple and built to withstand the assault of a couple hundred kids, but it is also so open and lightsome that you almost feel as if you are outside.
(Editor's note: For more information on Camp Tekawitha, or to register a child for camp, contact Bobbie Larson, camp director, at the diocesan offices, toll-free: 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8511.)
I enjoyed Saturday's event for a couple of reasons. First, I was really pleased that we could pull off such a beautiful transformation of Camp Tekawitha in such a short period of time -- thanks to some wonderfully generous donors.
Helping our children
Second, the camp and its transformation is a clear sign of what our Church, our bishops, priests and people are all about when it comes to kids. We love our children and we want to do whatever we can to help them grow up to be healthy, happy faith-filled followers of our Lord, Jesus Christ. That is why we run schools, religious education programs and anything else that will serve our children and help their parents.
That same determination to be on the side of our children and their parents is what will drive the meeting of bishops that takes place this week in Dallas. But I shall have more to say about Dallas when the meeting is over.
Focus on the good, too
For now, I prefer to think about all the good things that have been happening in the Diocese: the ordination of Fr. John Girotti, the ordination of nine new deacons, and the commissioning of nine more lay persons to serve in our parishes. I also hope to see at least four young college graduates enter their first year of theological studies in preparation for priesthood.
A very good thing happened in our Diocese on Sunday when the new Holy Family church was dedicated at Brillion. It is a handsome church, built to hold the new Holy Family Parish that resulted from the merger of St. Mary, Brillion, St. Patrick, Maple Grove and St. Mary, Reedsville. I particularly liked the stained glass windows, which came from the Brillion church. They were framed by panes of plain glass, so that they seemed more like pictures and looked brighter because of the light coming in around them.
Difficult things to do
Most prominent was the almost life-size crucifix on the wall behind the altar. The cross itself was new, but the figure of Christ came from the Maple Grove church.
The crucifix obviously reminds us of the sacrifice of Christ, which we recall every time we celebrate Mass at the altar, but it could have a special meaning for the new Holy Family Parish. It was not easy for the people from Maple Grove and Reedsville, or even the folks at Brillion to give up their separate existence as parishes. And it was even more difficult to give up the churches that they loved.
But our Church began with Jesus doing not his will, but the Father's will. Jesus' death on the cross meant the end of the temple that he had loved ever since he was a child. After Easter and Pentecost, his followers would meet in upper rooms or wherever they could come together to celebrate the Eucharist.
Because of today's priest shortage, many parishioners find themselves having to give up familiar parish churches and communities. This is not easy. The last thing I have wanted to do was to close or end the separate existence of our parishes. Somehow, however, God will use these difficult sacrifices to strengthen the Christian life of our parishioners and of this Church of Green Bay.