Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Notre Dame church, Chippewa Falls, WI

Over my vacation we attended a Sunday Mass at Notre Dame, some of my family are members there.

... Alright, so the opening hymn was All Are Welcome... I honestly had no idea this particular hymn was so popular, the first time I ever heard it was maybe a few years ago.  Maybe it's becoming a rallying cry of the liturgical-music-of-rupture crowd, I'm not sure.  Okay, well so to comment further on the liturgy, I will have to discuss this particular priest.

A few years back the diocese moved something like 80% of their priests, many of the moves seemed extremely questionable where a more liberal priest was put in a conservative parish.  Notre Dame was at the time probably one of the most conservative parishes in the diocese, male only altar servers, etc.  They put one of the most liturgically liberal priests in to replace him.  Now let me say this, when I say liberal, I mean takes advantage of anything in the rubrics that is allowed, I do not mean the lazy liberal who just does whatever he wants.  So since there are vague rubrics for vestments, this priest has one of those multicolor ones that fits every season.  There's a pre-readings homily to go along with the regular homily.  Movements are more theatrical rather than ritualistic.  So that is to say, traditional minded Catholics would probably not feel comfortable here.

On the other hand, the homily he gave was one that traditional Catholics would like, but probably not conservative Catholics.  He hit on the need to unplug and get out of the hamster wheel to focus on prayer and what is important in life, talking about our capitalistic culture.  When he was in La Crosse around the time the DaVinci Code came out, he gave an excellent defense of .... well reality I guess against Dan Brown's sanity.  He did a really nice job, even had a secret La Crosse Tribune reporter try to lambaste him afterwords whom this priest dispatched with ease.  He also is very personable, visiting families in the hospital when the have babies(what a great way to remind parents about Baptism!). 

Well so I guess I should make a point.  I think this move was kind of the boom of the cannon to sent a message that the diocese isn't going to let these more conservative parishes just continue down their current path.  I'm not sure if Notre Dame will see their male altar boys policy change or not.  But if so, why does the diocese see a need to cause continued turbulence in parish life instead of letting the liberal parishes stay liberal and conservative stay conservative? 

This has turned into a bit of rant somehow.  It's late.  The point is that good parish development has in a few places been turned back because of diocesan decisions.  I can't answer why, other than as an outside observer that it seems intentional. On the other hand, a sensible priest has been sent to the Newman Center in Eau Claire and is trying to explain to the parishioners why they cant use leavened bread!  What do I know, I'm just a peasant(gratefully). 

A lovely yet simple church, love the location on the hill to be seen as you enter town, and a nice outdoor devotional area.  Male altar servers and kneelers for Communion were excellent 

Yes, still used for Communion


  1. I like your article and I agree. The most liberal priest in the Stevens Point Deanery was made out Dean. He also takes liberties with the rubrics too. Please pray for him. If you attend his Mass at the Newman Center here be prepared for things you wont like. Worse than Notre Dame. He takes some liberties at his other parish St Stanislaus.

    Please pray for him.

  2. The Newman Centers in Eau Claire and LaCrosse both got more conservative priests recently(though speaking about Eau Claire it would be very hard not to be more conservative than the priest who had been at the Newman Center for the previous 27 years was), but it seems that moreso the trend is to move liberal priests to places which had been trending more conservative/traditional. It is a pity because two years ago or so there were several places in the diocese which were slowly but surely trending towards great stability, popular piety, and even liturgical reform of the reform.

    I am not sure if all this was just to "shake things up" or if maybe there was no real ideological agenda at all but rather just some adherence to a logistical restructuring plan to which the temperaments of the various priests and parishes were a secondary concern.

    One guess, Bishop Paul could be seen as a "liberal", Bishop Burke was of course a "conservative", Bishop Listecki was a "pragmatic realist" who didn't stir the pot much. Maybe the diocese was in some sense divided between liberal/Paul priests and parishes and conservative/Burke priests and parishes. During the Listecki era both "sides" got to entrench further. Maybe Callahan thought the diocese was lacking in unity with a drift towards parallel structures within the Church and putting liberal priests in conservative parishes (and conservative priests in liberal parishes) was the best way to draw everything towards a golden mean.

    Not exactly how I would have done things, and not necessarily what the logic was here, but just a guess.

    1. Good thoughts, thank you for sharing.

      Part of me doubts Callahan ever reviewed the priest move at any depth, but that probably the Vicar for Clergy simply presented it to him and he signed off on it. As many priests have stated, they just simply weren't even aware there was a planned moved on the table.

    2. please stop back and visit Notre Dame in Nov/Dec. 2016. Our church is getting a major interior make-over. You can find the changes on the Notre Dame Facebook page.

    3. Will do Anon, can't wait to see it!

  3. Liturgical abuses go in both directions, not just left; I've witnessed some very interesting abuses in the name of piety at several parishes around the state.

    The article is also inaccurate; Having attended mass at Newman Eau Claire for several years during college, despite a more traditional leaning slant, I can say that they never used leavened bread. They did use substantial bread, but that is neither invalid nor illicit (It is messy though!).

    The priest in Stevens Point you criticize brought kneeling back to the Convent and their Christmas liturgy had more Latin, and some chant than their more "conservative" neighbors down the road (and yes, I went to both, so I can attest to this) He's also given some of the most compelling pro-life homilies I've heard.

    I'm not trying to say I agree with or understand all of their decisions, but I think your portrayal of these parishes and their priests lacks depth; not everything can be bad about two communities that have produced a fair number of vocations despite their relative-to-other-parishes very small sizes.

    1. Thank you for the correction on Newman EC.

      I dont disagree with your statement on abuses.

      I'm glad things are going well in Stevens Point.

      I'm not sure what I'm supposed to say in a post where I give my impression on the Sunday Mass experience. This particular priest at ND I actually defend when his name comes up as I know he's a smart guy and does well in non-liturgical matters. I am glad he hasn't turned back the clock yet on kneeling or Communion, which is a good sign.

      You do bring up a good point though, there are several soft skills that stereotypical hardcore conservative priests lack in certain instances. .... which reminds me of another post I'm working on.

    2. @TAq: "The priest in Stevens Point you criticize brought kneeling back to the Convent....."

      Hmmm. I was under the impression that the priest had to bring back the kneeling after the Bishop found out that kneeling wasn't happening.

      @TAq: "...and their Christmas liturgy had more Latin, and some chant than their more "conservative" neighbors down the road (and yes, I went to both, so I can attest to this) ...."

      Why should that be a surprise - since that "conservative" parish's priest got moved in that huge reassignment, and the new priest got rid of it's Schola Cantorum and much of the Latin.

  4. You all might be interested to know that Notre Dame is the Mother Church of Chippewa County. The hill upon which it sits is known as "Catholic Hill". The stately building down the street is the former McDonnel Catholic High School and is now a performing arts center.
    I think that it's interesting that there is so much speculation about "liberal" and "conservative" priests. Most of us don't actually look at ourselves in such stark terms. In fact, our presbyterate has a long and well established reputation for mutual respect and fraternity. We recognize tendencies in each other to be sure. But we tend to be more concerned with whether or not a brother is "Catholic". Thus, as the personnel council looked at moves, I understand that they were more concerned with 1) priests being in their assignments longer than the usual 12 year limit; and 2) priests being in clusters where the parishes were re-aligned. In the former, it has been a diocesan norm since Bishop Paul. It is just that Bishop Burke had other fish to fry and Bishop Listecki wanted to know his priests better before he made any moves - and then HE got moved. Regarding the latter, it was decided in the pastoral planning process that it would be good to have a "new" priest in each re-aligned cluster so that no one would feel cheated by one parish or the other getting to "keep" their priest who may then "favor" his original parish.
    Finally, parishioners have got to start recognizing their parish as their family and get away from the idea of battling agendas. These marked changes in parish identity too often come from the identity of a pastor imposed rather than from the people who have lived there for generations. Hence, the constant back and forth.
    We really do need parishioners who are better informed about their faith and firm in their practice of the faith - including liturgical practices. In this way any priest coming in could help the parish grow organically rather than imposing one idea or another and appealing to one faction or another. I think that in this way parishes would indeed gain an identity that a priest would be bound to respect (as long as it is "Catholic" to begin with). You might be able to find and nurture a faction or impose your will (liberal or conservative) on a parish with no identity, but you can't move a whole parish that recognizes itself as a family and lives that identity.

    1. Thank you for the info and thoughts Father.

  5. Ah, yes, Fr. Michael, all you say if fine and good; when bishops themselves, however, fail to govern wisely, the presbyters will do as they darn well please. Where there are good bishops, there are good priests.


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