||The chapel of St. Paul's University Catholic Center in Madison serves the thousands of Catholic students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Catholic Herald photo/Joe Ptak)
Last week I was quite surprised to learn that the Wisconsin State Journal would be running a major, front-page article on the future of St. Paul's University Catholic Center and their facilities. I had already scheduled a meeting with my brother priests from the Madison area, to take place this Thursday, April 15, for a discussion about the future of campus ministry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The Wisconsin State Journal regularly tracks the mayor's appointment schedule, and the scheduled appointment with some of the leadership at St. Paul's led the State Journal to seek any materials on file for the appointment, which are open to the public (if sought), and that was the source of information published by the State Journal. The State Journal was basically fair in their presentation, given that they do not understand the whole context at all.
Beginning the dialogue
As one moves forward with any potential building project in Madison, everyone knows that it is necessary to move through the various channels of local government, which can assist us as we plan. It is quite possible that information given to the local government for a meeting represents a dream or a wish, which we hope can be fulfilled.
However, through the dialogue with local officials, it is common for modifications to be made in planning, and St. Paul's has not yet even done a feasibility study for the project to see what is possible in terms of financial support.
Thus, the presentation in the State Journal was quite premature. Why need there be such a premature publication of only possible news? The kernel of truth is simply that we do need a new facility at St. Paul's and we have begun the necessary process of dialogue with local officials. If that is "big news," I will eat both of my hats.
In fact, the presentation in the State Journal has already stirred needless troubles within our local faith community. It was my intention, after conversation with our Priest Council, our Diocesan Pastoral Council, and the Madison-area priests, to release some information through our own paper, the Catholic Herald. I deeply regret that the first word about this project did not come through the Herald, but that is in no way, shape, or form my doing or the flaw of anyone on our staff.
Obligation to the cathedral
Secondly, some have already started to speculate that our Annual Catholic Appeal funds would certainly be diverted to the St. Paul’s University Catholic Center project, and some have indicated that it is my "pet project." The State Journal also repeatedly indicated that I had said that the renewal of the facilities at St. Paul’s University Catholic Center is "more important" than the building of a cathedral. In fact, I never said that, nor would I say that, because it would be incorrect in accord with Catholic doctrine.
I have an obligation to build a cathedral in the City of Madison, and every diocese needs a Mother Church. Thus, the most important building project before me is always the cathedral. The fact that I celebrated the Eucharist there on a regular basis and came to know that congregation as my own parish community, in a special way, simply reinforces my desire to fulfill my obligation with regard to building a cathedral. What I have said about St. Paul's University Catholic Center is that their building needs are more urgent than those of the cathedral, though certainly not more important.
The needs of St. Paul's are more urgent because their facilities are old, cramped, and in disrepair in most instances, while the number of students who seek to be served by our campus ministry grows by the day. I am receiving communications from parents who want to send sons or daughters to the University of Wisconsin-Madison precisely because of the Catholic formation available though our campus ministry. In order for that formation to continue to reach out and to deepen, we need more and different kinds of facilities. The Lord's building of future leaders, including future priests, deacons, and consecrated Brothers and Sisters, depends very much on the mission of St. Paul's University Catholic Center -- thus the urgency.
Annual Catholic Appeal
The Annual Catholic Appeal is completely distinct from any feasibility study or capital campaign that may follow for St. Paul's. In no way will the funds designated for our various purposes and ministries through the Annual Catholic Appeal be diverted to other purposes or ministries. The designations -- which are public -- for the Annual Catholic Appeal monies will remain intact.
Please assist me in clarifying these matters surrounding the front page article of last week about possible new facilities for the St. Paul's University Catholic Center. Only in the truth can the Church be at peace and move forward in doing the great mission of Christ.
Thank you for reading this. With my prayers for each of you and renewed wishes for a Blessed Easter, I remain,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Robert C. Morlino
Bishop of Madison