I have in the past written about a group of priests in Wisconsin, in the Diocese of Madison, called the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest. His Excellency Most. Rev. Robert Morlino has entrusted several parishes to these priests around the area of Sauk City. Some background:
- Kerfuffle! Wisconsin parish nixes altar girls – predictable outrage ensues before sanity prevails
- “staunch Catholicism and tough-love approach” in Sauk City
- Bp. Morlino (D. Madison) staffs more parishes with traditional priests
I am staying with them over the weekend at their rectory in Sauk City. This seems to be a healthy group of hard working men. The people here are lucky to have them.
My reason for the trip to Madison was to support a Gregorian chant workshop sponsored by the Diocese. How many times have you seen Gregorian chant workshops sponsored by a diocese?
Another reason I went is because an old friend, and colleague of a mentor the late Msgr. Schuler directed the workshop.
Here is Fr. Skeris in action.
The man who made this happen is Bp. Robert Morlino, who has been a stand up guy in defense of life and of good liturgy.
Note the Benedictine arrangement of the altar at the Diocese Center/Chancery.
To my mind, an iconic image in the lobby of the chancery says something about what Bishop Morlino is facing.
Perhaps you had heard that a few years ago the Cathedral of Madison burned down. Bp. Morlino told me that no one would let him into the wreckage to retrieve the Blessed Sacrament. The Bishop found some Catholic firefighters who rescued the Lord from the ruins. It was enshrined in painting.
Here is a detail. One carries the ciborium, another the lunette.
Here is one of the photos of the moment which the bishop sent. It is a slightly different angle, but the firefighter in the center has the lunette.
It seems to me that the image of lay people, indeed a type of warrior/guardian helping the main priest in an effort to rescue the Blessed Sacrament, the source and summit of our Catholic identity, from a burning ruin is a way of understanding what Bp. Morlino is facing in his mandate as Bishop of Madison, arguably one of the most liberal regions in the USA.
I got a sense of the spirit of the community of priests who have the HQ in Sauk City, about 30 minutes away from Madison. These are happy and hard working guys with a whole cluster of churches to mind. Also, they are taking care of each other as well. One of their group has been suffering terribly from leukemia and everyone is on deck. They are prayerful, charitable, with great humor, theologically and liturgically sound.
This happy pyramid was stacked up for the sake of the evening’s supper. Fr. Skeris from the workshop was to come along with the Bishop and the Vicar General Msgr. Bartylla.
The main feature of the supper was paella. One of the priests did most of the cooking in their communities mother house in Spain. I was glad to roll up my sleeves and help with some of the prep.
Here is Fr. Del Priore adding some wine to the paella. Note that they don’t have a stove in their main kitchen!
Ingredients from Spain, even from their own olive trees!
On Sunday morning it was off to nearby Roxbury for me, and Mass (Extraordinary Form) at St. Norbert’s. This is a beautiful church, although there were some unfortunate wreckovations of the sanctuary. I understand that everything removed was saved!
Can you believe the previous pastor would have set up an iron-board altar in front of this?
Here is a perfect example of why, even if you advocate Mass “facing the people” setting something up in front of an altar like this is a bad idea.
St. Norbert’s is a pretty as a postcard setting and church. This was founded in a very German Catholic area.
The people I met there was happy and delighted to have the priests of the Society.
Across the street from the parish is a German restaurant! With a Bavarian flag flying!
And so it was time to leave… which I did with regret.
I hope to be able to visit them all again and I congratulate Bp. Morlino for the successful workshop and the choice to have these priests in the diocese in support of his heavy mandate in a difficult diocese.