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March 13, 2003 Edition

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This week:
Working together: Parish leaders discuss collaboration
Priests' morale: Declining numbers are having an impact
Sexual abuse lawsuit: Diocese of Madison requests dismissal
News Briefs

L e n t

  • Lenten regulations

  • Lenten Reflection by Bishop Bullock

  • "Ambassadors for Christ" contest for students

News Briefs:
Murals restored
at Watertown church

WATERTOWN -- Many parishioners who grew up in St. Bernard Parish, which was "built on Irish faith," remember murals of St. Patrick and St. Elizabeth on the sanctuary walls of the church.

The murals, painted in 1892 and 1893 by Hermann Michalowski, were covered up with layers of paint during renovation of the church in the late 1970s.

One of the parishioners who kept the memory of the murals alive was Charles Wallman, a parishioner at St. Bernard since 1936. He wrote a detailed history of the parish, "Built on Irish Faith," for its 1993 sesquicentennial. Wallman died in 2001.

Now, thanks to the work of restorationist Christopher Luedke, the two seven-by-20-foot murals of St. Patrick and St. Elizabeth tower 40 feet above the floor once again. They will be rededicated on Sunday, March 16, in memory of Wallman, said Fr. Thomas Marr, pastor of St. Bernard Parish.

"It was Charles Wallman's dream and his legacy that these murals have been restored," said Luedke, who also restored four murals at St. Henry Parish in Watertown last year.

St. Bernard Parish was founded in 1843 by a small group of Irish who settled in present-day Watertown. This year, the parish celebrates its 160th anniversary.

"They turned out very nicely," said Marr. "He did a wonderful job of restoring them without changing them. They are beautiful. It's a nice part of the legacy of this parish and it means a lot."

Lenten Conscience Formation Series

OREGON -- Holy Mother of Consolation Parish, 651 Main St., is hosting a Lent 2003 Conscience Formation Series on Wednesdays, beginning March 12.

Following evening worship in the church at 6:45 p.m., each session begins at 7:30 p.m. in the parish hall on the lower level and concludes no later than 8:45 p.m. The April 2 session is held in the church.

• March 12, "Conscience and Making Moral Decisions" by Fr. Andy Nelson, professor of moral theology at St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee.

• March 19, "Moral Decisions at Life's End" by Dr. Bill Rock, medical director of Hospice Care, Madison. He will offer a physician's perspective on the dignity and humane care of the dying.

• March 26, "Ethical Issues Surrounding Stem Cell Research" by Janine Marie Idziak, professor of philosophy and founding director of the Bioethics Resource Center at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.

• April 2, "The Crisis in Business Ethics: Enron, WorldCom, and the Culture of Greed" by Rodney Stevenson, professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Business.

• April 9, "Ethics and Our Food System" by Janet Kassel of Janesville, member of the Sinsinawa Dominicans' Stewardship and Ethics Committee.

For more information, call the Holy Mother of Consolation Parish office at 608-835-5763.

Cathedral lenten series begins March 19

MADISON -- St. Raphael Cathedral, 222 W. Main St., is hosting a "Lenten Series on Forgiveness."

Evening prayer each Wednesday begins at 7 p.m., followed by a presentation, then a reception and refreshments in the church hall.

Scheduled presentations are as follows:

• March 19, "Forgiveness Heals" by Msgr. William DeBock, pastor emeritus.

• March 26, "Process of Forgiveness" by Bishop William H. Bullock, bishop of the Diocese of Madison.

• April 2, "Forgiveness Increases Love: Love for God, Love for Others, Love for Self" by Mary Lestina, director of family faith formation for downtown Madison parishes.

• April 9, "Forgiveness, A Gospel Imperative" by Fr. Nicholas Okere, administrator, St. Patrick Parish, Lodi, and St. Michael Parish, Dane.

During Lent, daily Masses at the cathedral are at noon and 5 p.m. Stations of the Cross follow daily Masses.

For more information, call 608-256-5614.

Renewal at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish

MADISON -- "The Ecstasy of Lent," a parish mission/renewal, will take place at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, 602 Everglade Dr., from Saturday, March 15, to Wednesday, March 19.

It begins with the weekend Masses at 5 p.m. on Saturday and 7:30, 9, and 10:30 a.m. on Sunday morning and continuing the next three nights at 7 p.m. The mission/renewal will be led by Fr. John Meoska, a hermit out of the wilderness. Meoska was ordained a priest for the Madison Diocese in 1982 and in 1986 joined a community of Carmelite Hermits who have monasteries in the mountains of Colorado and the hills of Ireland.

Meoska will preach at all the weekend liturgies and lead the weeknight presentations. He is available daily for individual spiritual direction by appointment. For more details call 608-833-2600.

Camp Gray has openings

BARABOO -- Camp Gray has spaces open in its summer programs for boys of all ages, and girls grades eight and older in the traditional camp, wilderness trips, and leadership programs.

Owned and operated by the Diocese of Madison, Camp Gray offers half-week to two-week sessions for boys and girls ages six to 18. Emphasis is given to spirituality, community-building, leadership, and fun through traditional camp, ranch camp, and adventure and leadership camps for teens.

For more information call 800-711-4729, e-mail, or visit

'Irish Person
of the Year' named

MADISON -- The Shamrock Club of Dane County has named Margaret Rupert its "Irish Person of the Year." Rupert is an active member of St. Albert the Great Parish in Sun Prairie and of the Shamrock Club of Dane County. She will be present at the annual St. Patrick's Day Ceremony at the state Capitol on Sunday, March 16. Her family will unfurl the Irish flag. The festivities begin at noon.

Working together: Parish leaders discuss collaboration

MADISON -- "We are not working toward surviving parishes, but for thriving parishes," said Sr. Mary Montgomery, co-facilitator of a recent Parish Staff Day at the Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center.

Clergy, religious, and lay staff members of parishes from throughout the Diocese of Madison gathered for the day that focused on "Collaboration Across Parish Lines."

• See also related sidebar on front page: Statistics on number of priests, parishes.

The day began with morning prayer led by Bishop William H. Bullock.

"Change is constant in our day. A call to conversion implies good changes occur all the time," he said, noting that we must pray in earnestness for peace. "We live in a time of change both radical and rapid and it affects us day after day."

Challenges, vision

Montgomery, a Sinsinawa Dominican and director of pastoral planning for the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, served many years in the Diocese of Madison's Office of Catholic Schools. The other co-facilitator of the day was Kate Wiskus, director of the Diocese of Madison's Office of Pastoral Services.

Together they addressed the challenges and vision of parish collaboration.

Wiskus explained that parish collaboration stems from the Strategic Plan for the Diocese of Madison, a guide for planning. Much has already been accomplished in the Strategic Plan and in many areas parishes are already beginning to share resources, she said.

Dealing with change

"We realize the essential role of parish collaboration is really necessary," said Wiskus. "That's what today is about: things change. We've seen an increase in the number of Catholics in the diocese but also a decrease in the number of priests."

But Bullock said what will not change is the Strategic Plan's Catholicity, said Wiskus.

"We're writing the next chapter of the Acts of the Apostles: how to rebuild and deal with transition," said Montgomery.

She explained that the Strategic Plan was done in response to the Holy Father's call to revitalize our parish lives. The planning process is critical, sets direction, and must be monitored, she said.

"Where is your parish going to be five years from now? If you're not planning for the future, who is? If your parish is not planning for the future, you may not have one," she said.

Wiskus emphasized that parish leaders' most significant functions are to provide vision, be accountable, ensure networking, and believe in the mission.

It is very important for the people of the parish to be a part of the vision, she said.

Making new paths

"One of the things we're about is making new paths for others to walk in," she said. "Transition is a messy matter. The process is not always painless. The leadership challenge is for the ordinary to do the extraordinary. So if it's difficult, that's what it's about."

It's hard to let go of what we're sure of, said Montgomery, but what you are asked to do is lead your parish into a new era.

"Ministry is service to others, but Christian ministry is a transformation of self and others," she said. "Christian ministry is being someone together and having a dream. A Christian minister has a fascination with other people, with their potential and possibilities.

"Envision your parish. Planning is Christian ministry in the truest sense of the word," she said.

She said planning is a search for good answers to difficult questions; it's a method of drawing upon the wisdom from the Catholic community; it's a process of consultation that builds commitment to a better future.

"As you move toward linkages, it's sharing more than a pastor," she said. "What we're about is not distributing clergy, but revitalizing our parish life."

Parish mission

We must keep in mind what a parish is: people, mission, structure, she said, noting that the parish is for most Catholics the single most important part of their church because this is where for them the mission of Christ continues; this is where they publicly express their faith, joining with others to give proof of their communion with God and with one another.

"The parish is, first of all a people called by God and empowered by the Spirit to continue the mission of Jesus," Montgomery said.

"The parish is a people entrusted with a mission. The parish exists not for itself, but for the mission of Christ," she said.

"So people are called forth to minister to one another in the parish community as well as to those around where they live and work. It is possible to have a well meaning gathering of faith-filled people motivated by a sense of mission and yet to have nothing happen. It is the role of leadership to develop the faith life and to direct the sense of mission of the parish."

Jesus' mission is our mission: to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recover sight of the blind, release prisoners, she noted. "The mission passed on to the apostles has been handed on to us. It is a call, a reminder that our mission is to the world, not just our parish."

Read signs of times

"The paradigm of the church is changed, but it's not broken," said Montgomery, pointing out that part of our responsibility is to read the signs of the times.

A resource to help parishes accept change is a book and video entitled "Who Moved My Cheese?" which addresses how we deal with change.

"To do collaboration, we've got to realize we need to think new thoughts and let go of things that have been," said Montgomery. "Get rid of 'We always did it this way.'"

Collaboration is sharing resources to enhance the ministry of the church, she said, pointing out that collaboration is not dividing up the work, sending the partners going their separate ways to do a piece of the work, and then stapling the pieces together and saying they have a plan.

"Collaboration should ensure that the collaborative partners both know (about ministry, about church, about themselves) and can do more," she said.

After the presentation, parish staff members met in groups to dialogue according to ministry focus: justice and peace, liturgy/worship, outreach, pastoral care, religious education/family ministry, schools. Dialogue also took place in groupings by deanery.

Look at potential

"It helps to think of yourself as bringing a piece of vision to the parish staff and people," said Montgomery in closing remarks.

"Who we are as church doesn't change, but how we do church changes as the times change," said Wiskus.

"Our hope in coming up with today's theme was to bring you together so you understand the changes at the local level and beyond and the need to be aware of it and find goodness in it, not just the negatives."

We need to look at the potential, collaborate, and go out proactively from here, Wiskus said.

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Priests' morale:
Declining numbers are having an impact

MADISON -- The declining number of priests in the Diocese of Madison is having an impact on both parishes and priests.

Priests of the diocese discussed the effects on priests' morale at the Presbyteral Council meeting held Feb. 19-20 at the Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center.

Fr. Gary Krahenbuhl, Beloit, presented a variety of issues raised from input given by priests throughout the diocese to the council's Priestly Life Committee. Following are the issues brought to the council for discernment:

1. "The overall morale of priests. Circumstances within ministry and the larger Church community has led to a deficit of morale. Energies are low. The implications of the sex-abuse crisis are far reaching and affecting parishes. There are less priests for more work. Without a Vicar for Priests, where can priests turn for support and direction?

2. "Should we be exploring new ways of pastoring? Is the paradigm within which we minister now working or weighing us down? Are there more creative ways to approach our ministry as pastors?

3. "Increased difficulty in securing help-out for weekends. Could a list be developed to offer names, restrictions, availability of priests in the diocesan areas who are willing to help cover in parishes? Is there a way that the diocese could have a 'central clearinghouse' for scheduling priests?

4. "Distribution of priests relative to the number of Masses. Do we have to make bold stands in communities where there is the possibility of significantly reducing the number of weekend and daily Masses?

5. "Is there a better way to inform priests of unresolved accusations that come to the attention of the media? Is there a way we can offer support for those who feel they have been falsely accused?

6. "Members present came to the consensus that there would be no recommendation of change of priests' salary and benefits for the 2003-2004 fiscal year."

Salary and benefits

Before discussing the first five issues, the Presbyteral Council voted unanimously to approve the sixth recommendation for no increase in priests' salaries and benefits. Bishop William H. Bullock accepted their recommendation.

Central clearinghouse

Msgr. Paul J. Swain, vicar general, discussed the matter of having a central clearinghouse for priests available to help in parishes. He said the "pool" of priests who can assist in parishes is small. "We have very few religious who are able to help out," he noted. "There's no easy answer."

Auxiliary Bishop George O. Wirz observed that many retired priests are very active. "At their (our) age, they are doing more than they should," he said.

Other priests noted that retired priests are booked for months ahead to help out at parishes.

Fr. John Meinholz, Monona, said it would help to have information on retired priests who are assigned to a particular parish on a longer term basis.

Reducing number of Masses

The priests agreed that a reduction in the number of Masses would help alleviate stress among priests.

Fr. John Hedrick, Portage, emphasized that reducing Masses involves educating parishioners. He observed that scheduling Masses involves not just finding priests but musicians and lay ministers, too.

"Part of it is ownership and understanding of what liturgy is and what makes a good worshipping community," said Hedrick. He noted that parishioners in the Portage "cluster" of four parishes have reduced the number of Masses.

Educating the people

Education about the shortage of priests is also key, said Krahenbuhl. "With half the number of priests, we're doing the same work we did 10 or 15 years ago," he said.

"People haven't experienced it (the shortage), but we have. The priests are suffering from the priest shortage, not the people. Over time it takes its toll. It affects morale, how we're pastoring, the amount of energy we put into liturgy."

Fr. Stephen Umhoefer, Janesville, said there are two "deeply entrusted obstacles" being faced. One is the "tenacious ownership of our Mass" among people in parishes. "You have terrible opposition to changing of Mass time," he said.

The other problem is that "people will just take a walk," said Umhoefer, if "their Mass" is cut. In other words, disgruntled parishioners threaten to leave and go to another parish or even another denomination.

Bullock suggested that priests use the "October count" (an annual counting of the number of people attending Masses) as a basis for cutting the number of Masses. "Bring it to your parish councils and ask them to look at it. People are willing to make sacrifices if we educate them," he said.

Msgr. James Gunn, Waunakee, said his parish is counting attendance at Masses throughout the year as is Hedrick. "We need statistics," noted Hedrick. "It's a way to get the full picture."

Fr. Roger Taylor, Muscoda, said we should emphasize that stewardship does not just involve money. "There's so much education needed. It's a slow process. So many people don't know what it takes to operate a parish."

Fr. Ken Klink, Belleville, noted that there's a "soccer mom mentality" in regard to Mass convenience. "Soccer, hockey, bowling, dance, horseback riding - we're just one thing competing for their attention," he said.

Broaden the discussion

Msgr. Jim Uppena, Milton, said the discussion at the Presbyteral Council had been valuable. He suggested broadening the discussion among all priests of the diocese at deanery meetings. "Maybe some more practical ideas would surface," he said.

The Presbyteral Council agreed. The discussion items will be sent to deaneries. Priest deans will be asked to write a summary of the discussions and send them to the Priestly Life Committee.

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Sexual abuse lawsuit:
Diocese of Madison requests dismissal

MADISON -- The Diocese of Madison filed documents Feb. 28 in Dane County Circuit Court asking that a civil lawsuit against the diocese be dismissed.

The lawsuit, filed Jan. 16, accused the diocese of failing to protect an altar boy from alleged sexual misconduct by Fr. Kenneth Klubertanz while he was associate pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Reedsburg in 1969 and 1970.

The diocese said it had no information relating to possible sexual misconduct or other possible inappropriate behavior until an allegation was made against Klubertanz June 6, 2002. Bishop William H. Bullock placed Klubertanz, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Lodi, on administrative leave June 9.

The diocese's response to the lawsuit denies that any possible injuries were the result of any actions by the diocese. All allegations of wrongdoing against the diocese were denied.

"Our position is we have no way of knowing what may have happened between the plaintiff and Fr. Klubertanz," said Donald Heaney, diocesan attorney, noting that there was not the slightest inkling of any possible misconduct until the allegation made in June.

He said the defense of this case includes the statute of limitations and Wisconsin law that does not permit this action to be maintained against a church on the facts present here because of the operation of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

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