Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion


I often substitute-teach the 2nd grade catechism class. Today, Palm Sunday, we drew pictures of Jesus as King, and then on the back side pictures of Jesus “ecce Homo” during His Passion, crowned with thorns. I really liked their pictures!

kingoflove2 As you can tell from their drawings of Jesus, girls and boys are not interchangeable! They are different!


I told the children that one of the soldiers put his red army cloak on Jesus because they wanted to pretend-dress Him as a king to mock Him, even though He really is our King. The boy who drew the one above explained that he also dressed Jesus in camo under the cloak. Paging Father Rick! Another very intelligent boy drew a picture of Jesus during His Passion, in which Jesus was saying “No! Don’t do this to me!” I told him that was a highly reasonable comment under the circumstances, but explained why it wasn’t what Jesus said. He erased and had Jesus, all sorrowful and crowned with thorns, saying “Yes, I will do it.” It is too bad I didn’t get a picture of that one, cause it grabbed you by the heart.

eccehomo3If  you ask me, that’s some first-class refrigerator magnet material. I thought of the little “ecce Homo” from Venerable Samuel Mazzuchelli’s altar at St Patrick’s in Benton:


At Mass: Bishop Morlino, about to douse us and our palms with Holy Water!:


The Catholic Disneyland that is St Mary’s in Pine Bluff

[The following post is by Ben Yanke from his excellent blog and reproduced here in its entirety, with his kind permission, because I liked it so much. He is not a parishioner of St Mary’s by the way!]

I have to say, St. Mary’s in Pine Bluff is the Catholic Disneyland of the Diocese of Madison. It is an absolutely amazing parish. They are starting an amazing new program for their families, but first, just a small selection of the good things they have going for them:

  • They’re the national HQ of the Dead Theologian Society, an international Catholic youth apostolate that is now in many countries, and most of the states in the union (pic).
  • They are the national HQ (and only chapter, for the time being, but that will likely change in the near future) for the Knights of Divine Mercy, a catholic men’s apostolate with a focus on regaining a masculine spirituality, including beauty in the liturgy.
  • KDM has a top notch schola cantorum that sings at many of their events, as well as the annual men’s retreat, Masses with Card. Burke, Masses with Bishop Morlino, and other Masses.
  • They are home of the Squires of Divine Mercy, a version of KDM for boys 5-18 where they can play sports, learn about the church and the saints, go to adoration and even do things like fire safety and car repair.
  • The pastor, almost single-handedly, organized a prayer campaign that took down a second trimester abortion project at a local hospital.
  • They veil their statues during passiontide
  • They are one of the few diocesan parishes in the state of Wisconsin that uses the ad orientem posture exclusively, for both the EF and OF, full time. And before that, the benedictine arrangement.
  • They veil the tabernacle. Always.
  • They have a kneeler for those who wish to receive communion kneeling. And most do.
  • Home of the Miracle of Life Rosary Garden
  • They have a music director that believes what the church teaches on music, studied at solesmes, uses chanted propers and ordinary at all weekend Masses and some daily Masses as well, in addition to polyphonic motets on the weekends.
  • The pastor organized weekly rosary rallies on the steps of the state capital for the entire summer before the 2012 election.
  • The pastor’s got a freakin awesome sword.
  • They have two seminarians, and counting (keep in mind, it’s a small country parish).
  • They are having weekly lectures on how to pray with the saints for the holy souls, and other topics of catholic interest.
  • Their church is gorgeous.
  • They don’t use EMHCs.
  • The pastor uses the biretta.
  • The pastor sings his parts of the Mass, at most Masses (and ALL Sunday Masses), because he understands that singing is the language of prayer (at least liturgically).
  • THE Fr. Z is often found there speaking, filling in on Sundays, etc. Yep. That’s right. Fr. Z.
  • This.
  • This.
  • This.
  • And this (all projects completed by the pastor).
  • The pastor is working on arrangements and renovations so that he can hear confessions ALL day straight from his office. Yeah, that’s right. And he’s going to have a website for it. And an app. (More on this one later, project still under development)
  • More things that I have forgotten about.
  • Edit: how could I forget: Sung Liturgy of the Hours three times a week!

What now? They are offering scholarships for families who are members of the parish, and homeschool their kids.

That’s right. Parish based scholarships for homeschoolers.

Hear it straight from the Father Heilman:

I am happy to announce that the Parish Council at St. Mary’s of Pine Bluff has decided to offer the registered and practicing members of our parish a $250 per child (age 6 to Senior High) annual scholarship for families choosing to homeschool their children. We appreciate the sacrifices these families are making, and we want to offer our support and encouragement for this courageous choice you have made to do what you feel is best for your children.

Fr. Rick is da man.

And don’t forget, you read it here first. [second. This article appeared first on Ben Yanke’s own blog]

“Call To Action” apparently strategizing how to force Catholic churches to employ anti-Catholic activists

Do you remember Ruth Kolpack, the “Call to Action” dissent group member whom Bishop Morlino had removed from a parish staff position due to her support for “women’s ordination” and “gay marriage”? Infuriated, Call to Action “community organized” protests, and launched into media noisemaking. Recently I found two videos on YouTube that suggest Ruth Kolpack may be about to surface again in a film on the theme of “church workers’ rights”. The YouTube videos, which state they are “part of a work in progress about Ruth Kolpack’s dismissal”, misrepresent the reasons for Kolpack’s firing, in fact they present it as being about almost anything but the real reasons, which are explained well in the Diocese of Madison’s Frequently Asked Questions document on the case (to read about the reasons, scroll to p. 7 of the document, which also makes clear that someone who holds these beliefs is not in good standing in the Church). The maker of the video suggests she is the victim of a “conservative smear campaign”. Does Ruth Kolpack or the filmmaker contest the fact that she is a Call to Action activist dissent group member who stands for “gay marriage” and “women’s ordination” and opposes Catholic belief on those matters? In fact the YouTube videos do not mention that.

In the “Case for Ruth” video, I noticed just after the scene of the flier which faithful Catholics used to draw attention to Kolpack giving scandal, the film cuts to an interview with an unidentified man in the sanctuary of the formerly-Catholic Holy Wisdom Monastery., which dramatically left the Church. I can identify the place with great certainty since I have a photo with that organ in the background, that I took there myself when I went there to bring them testimonies from local lay Catholics on why Catholics shouldn’t support the place. And yes, Holy Wisdom is strongly connected with Call to Action (and “women’s ordination” and active homosexuality). The man interviewed in the Holy Wisdom sanctuary identifies himself as “a reporter and a concerned member of the diocese”.

The filmmaker is identified by name at the end of the “Ruth’s Story” video (the one on top). He supplies his email address and asks for “any relevant information about Ruth’s firing”. His LinkedIn profile indicates he is a “Director/Cameraman at Chicago Film Works.” I cannot help but wonder if he was hired by Call to Action of Madison, of which Kolpack is a member.

Churches and religious schools have a very solidly established constitutional right to employ staff on the basis of their beliefs; this dispenses churches from some aspects of labor law that apply to other groups, so is referred to as as the ministerial exception. It protects the First Amendment right of religious freedom. To put it straightforwardly, Call to Action is making efforts to invent a “right” (in opposition to religious groups’ constitutional right) for activists against Catholic teaching to work for the Church, without being subject to dismissal. Read on and I will show how they hope to do that.

Call to Action is one of the best known groups of anti-Catholic “Catholics”. This remarkably destructive group exists for the purpose of activism against Catholic teachings and against legitimate Church authority, and they seem not to mind if they destroy people’s relationship with the Church and tear parishes apart in the pursuit of this. While some see this as an effort to change the Church (even in matters that the Church has no authority whatsoever to change) some are frank that they think the Church needs to be destroyed in order to start a new church, organized democratically and embodying radical feminism and the values of the sexual revolution, and a marxist-type “liberation theology” approach to helping the poor.

Locally in our diocese, Call to Action was apparently responsible for fomenting rebellion and organizing a “recall” petition and media campaign against the parish priests of St Mary in Platteville, which tore the parish up and resulted in the closing of the parish school due to people withholding donations. There was nothing wrong with the priests, they were and are more liturgically traditional including celebrating not only Mass in English but also the Traditional Latin Mass, they made sick calls themselves rather than delegate that to lay people, and they were and are clear and faithful on doctrine and morals. But Call to Action decided they weren’t going to put up with that kind of normal Catholic parish climate wherein dissent activity was unwelcome, and they tried to force the priests’ removal. Bishop Morlino praiseworthily backed up the priests, and that courage paid off hugely, both in protecting the Faith, and in an increase of seminarians, and good priests transferring here from other places.

A case in 2002 involved four parish workers who unionized at Holy Spirit Parish in McAllen, Texas (and who unionized them? A CCHD grantee), which happened to be “the seat of dissident Call to Action activity in the diocese”. When a new pastor arrived, he completely appropriately dismissed them, because they were Call to Action members! These individuals were “anti-Catholic” and “not in good standing with the Church”, the priest explained. “Immediately after the firings, the local Call to Action chapter had 300 people meeting at a local community center, and calling for the bishop’s resignation.” The  national CTA organization mobilized, too. It was messy. Did I mention, this is a very destructive organization.


Back to the present day: recently CTA was among those actively objecting to Bishop Vasa of Santa Rosa, CA asking all Catholic school teachers to accept a contract addendum stating that they are a ministerial agent of the bishop, and that they assent to basic moral beliefs of the sort that have sadly become contentious in our society. This is exactly the right thing to do on Bishop Vasa’s part, and is nothing new or unusual. The incomprehension of some teachers and parents in the schools recently led Bishop Vasa to wait a couple years to enforce this strictly and in the meantime apply himself to getting everyone’s knowledge of Catholic teaching up to level. CTA is rejoicing on Facebook as if the requirement had been revoked. Certainly not!

They don’t seem to be planning on letting go of this bone, but will doubtless continue to work on media efforts, unionizing schemes and the like to pressure and harass Catholic churches and schools to keep dissenters on staff. The week of March 12-19 Call to Action designated as a special “Church Worker Justice Week”, for instance posting several graphics of this sort on their Facebook page:


Another such image quotes a 1986 USCCB document in an effort to assert that the Church supports an unlimited right to unionize. Another warns that the 75% of Catholic school teachers who are lay women could be fired for “personal reproductive decisions”. As Bishop Vasa determined, first there’s a need to actually communicate the moral teaching and the reasoned explanation for it to the teachers. But, if only more Catholic schools did have the integrity and courage to not employ teachers who live at odds with the good morals they should be teaching the kids. The schools and churches have a constitutional right.

Catholic churches or Catholic schools should not employ  Call to Action members, and have a First Amendment right not to. The purpose of the CTA organization is to oppose various Catholic beliefs and promote an idea that Catholic teaching should be decided democratically.

Proving that one need not have a degree in theology to understand the flaw in that notion, outspoken atheist Penn Jillette recently refuted it handily:

Absolutely and completely priceless

The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist react to the appearance of white smoke:

Closer to home, the Sinsinawa Dominicans’ reaction seems to have been, in fact, beautifully similar:

A note to our facebook fans from Prioress Mary Ellen Gevelinger, OP: “Habemus Papam! The vision of Pope Francis, bowing his head to receive the blessing of everyone gathered in St. Peter’s Square and around the world, was truly amazing. The Mound bells sang out our own welcome of this new Pope across the fields. May his gentle and humble spirit be filled with The Spirit, as he assumes his new role.”

I am very happy if Pope Francis melts these hearts. Mercy and love can heal wounds. Also from their facebook page, a picture of them watching the Papal announcement.SinsinawaPopeFrancisAnnouncement

Bishop Swain speaks out after Catholic insurance co. adds contraceptive coverage

Bishop Paul Swain.Bishop Swain, when he was still Monsignor Swain, was pastor of Madison’s Holy Redeemer Church at the time he was appointed bishop of Sioux Falls. That was only a short while after I returned to the practice of my Faith, so I never met him, though I did attend a talk he gave here to Madison’s Thomas More Society (a Catholic lawyers’ group) on religious liberty, last fall. He’s clearly more than just talk–back home in South Dakota, he’s recently had to take action.

SIOUX FALLS, SD, March 18, 2013 ( – The Catholic bishop of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, has taken action against a Catholic insurance agency that has chosen to cover contraception with no co-pay in order to satisfy the legal requirements of the Obama administration’s health reform law.

Bishop Paul Swain said the action of Avera Health Plans has created “public scandal,” because its practices are “inconsistent with Church teaching.”

The decision hits close to home, as the diocese of Sioux Falls is an Avera customer, although the changes do not affect the diocese’s policy.

He said the company’s CEO, John Porter, decided to begin covering contraceptives and abortifacients without seeking his blessing. “I was not consulted on the decision and disclosure was not made to me until after the expansion of coverage to include these immoral practices had taken effect,” the bishop said.

“Compliance with government requirements must not be viewed as licit reasoning for compromising moral teachings,” he added.

In a letter sent to diocesan priests and deacons dated March 1, Bishop Swain asked Jerry Klein, the diocese’s Delegate for Social Outreach, and Mike Bannwarth, Diocesan Finance Officer to resign from Avera Health Plans’ board and finance committee, respectively, “[t]o insure that their continued presence could not be interpreted as diocesan acquiescence and therefore cause an intensification of the scandal.”

Bishop Swain and insurance officials noted the change does not apply to any religious institution that qualifies for a “safe harbor” exemption, including the diocese itself. In all, the new policy affects 300 of Avera’s 3,000 customers.

Bishop Robert Gruss of Rapid City, which does not purchase insurance through Avera, also expressed his “disappointment” with Avera.

Read the rest of the article at LifeSiteNews.

Digging around on the Avera website, I found that “Avera is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Benedict of Sacred Heart Monastery of Yankton, S.D. and the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Aberdeen, S.D. In accord with its Catholic mission, Avera adheres to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.” But that seems not to be true now that they’re providing birth control and abortifacients through some of their plans.

As Bishop Swain says in his letter, “Avera will now be materially cooperative in the termination of life.” The president of Avera is a layman who says it was solely his decision. Remaining publicly silent is convenient for the Sisters, who get to continue in the insurance business but surely don’t want to jeopardize their congregations’ canonical status by indicating directly that provision of abortifacients is okay with them.

Good job Bishop Swain for standing up for what is right. I trust the two diocesan staffers will have the integrity to remove themselves from the Avera board. How about the Sister board members? “The Avera Health Board of Directors defines system-wide mission, vision and goals, keeping in mind the health needs of the entire region. The 16-member Board includes Benedictine and Presentation Sisters, physicians and business and community leaders from several locations in the Avera Health service region.”

Sisters, it looks to be time to get out of this business if it can’t be done anymore with Catholic integrity.

God Bless Pope Francis

Pope FrancisA surprise to be sure! Few people will have any preconceived notions about this Argentine Jesuit Holy Father. A humble man, clear in the Faith, someone able to reform what needs reformed, but anything but overbearing. A Holy Father so different from our so beloved Benedict, precisely the same orthodoxy but with different strengths and in whom I have high hopes that he may win hearts and do a lot of good for the New Evangelization. I watched online as he came to the balcony, and blessed us, I was moved to tears.

Someone emailed me and said I was on the 10pm news yesterday; I am quoted on the TV channel website saying that “I love him already.” The reporter was at Saint Patrick’s interviewing young adults there for our Spirit and Truth Cathedral Parish young adult group, when I arrived.

I have not posted on my blog for some while, and that is because I have been very busy, and not at all because I have lost interest. And I am going to continue to be very busy for some while, but you will hear from me again in time, I am not sure how long this will be that my posts here will have to be infrequent. From various sources I am hearing indications of the impact of our efforts in regards to Holy Wisdom Monastery, which, although lacking in any detail at all, console me, and I continue to pray for the true good of all.

Pray for the Pope! Pray for the Church!

As a bus rider I really love that, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, our now-Pope rode the bus to work. And not a luxury bus like Sister Simone’s!:

BergoglioOntheBus[Update 3/18: I just saw this and appreciated it:]

Journalist covers Sister Simone at Holy Wisdom–and the Catholic obejctions

I have been very busy; these articles were online on Thursday and Friday but here they are now finally on my blog. In the newspaper was Doug Erickson’s article covering Sister Simone’s talk at the Faith-Labor breakfast at Holy Wisdom Monastery on Thursday morning, in which for instance we learn what she thinks of the Pope. I cannot manage to be interested.

But the actually newsworthy bits Doug put in a blog post. 1. She is writing  a book. 2. She is trying to figure out what to do to follow up in June on the Nuns on the Bus tour. 3. There was a diocesan priest at this event who gave a benediction, Stephen Umhoefer. I do not think the bishop can possibly have been cool with that. 4. :

Two Catholic parishioners who believe true Catholics should not support Holy Wisdom Monastery handed out literature to that effect Wednesday afternoon at a liturgy Campbell spoke at. The monastery, in the town of Westport, once was a Catholic institution but is no longer. Its sisters now offer ecumenical services that are not recognized by the Catholic Church but retain many elements of a traditional Mass and attract many disaffected Catholics. “Catholics should not support Holy Wisdom because it is centered on a Eucharist that is not valid in the Catholic understanding,” said Elizabeth Durack, one of the women who distributed the literature. She said it was “dismaying” that Campbell agreed to speak at the monastery. More of Durack’s concerns can be found in her blog post here.

Thanks to Doug Erickson for including that. I haven’t always been thrilled with all of Doug’s reporting but it has seemed to me he tries his sincere best. There was one article that particularly charmed me though it somehow never made it to my blog, and that was his article on Camp Gray staffer Theresa Wilks, “Mo-T” joining the Franciscan Sisters of the Martyr St George. I strongly suspect the reason it was so charming an article is because he himself was charmed and his heart was in it. When I talked to Doug on the phone Thursday regarding the project of the testimonies about why Catholics shouldn’t support Holy Wisdom Monastery, he said he saw on my “about” page that I am privately vowed in celibate chastity, and asked if I was considering religious life. I’ve had so many people ask me that question but was not expecting it from a reporter! I am 99.99% sure that he saw my post about the Monastic Gift Basket for Camp Gray and that made him think of that–because of Mo-T, who was in fact a part of my inspiration for that, though I didn’t say that because he didn’t actually mention my Camp Gray benefit post. I told him that although I have been trying for years to pursue a vocation, and met with a particular community as recently as January on the urging of my spiritual director, they discerned that it is not a good fit. Really, I do not seem to be very suitable and I am living my vocation in my lay state though one never knows what plans God may reveal.

Anyway, that must have reminded Doug to check up on Mo-T, cause he has a little follow-up on her today, and says she’s thriving.

Six months later, friends say she is happy and adjusting well to her new lifestyle, one that finds her praying and studying while teaching religion part time to middle-school students at a Catholic school near the convent in Alton, Ill.

“She feels very called to be there and to live out this sacrifice,” said Topher Aderhold, assistant director of Camp Gray, the year-round Catholic camp near Baraboo where Wilks worked for many years and was known by the nickname “Mo-T,” short for Mother Teresa.

Sister Simone Campbell at the formerly-Catholic Holy Wisdom Monastery

HolyWisdomMonasteryExteriorFor the last couple of weeks I have been collecting testimonies from local Catholic friends of mine, regarding why Catholics should not support Holy Wisdom Monastery, once a Catholic Benedictine religious community but not anymore, and now a very religiously irregular place. Included are testimonies from someone who was a board member there shortly before they “went non canonical”, someone who heard from friends who were alumni of the former St Benedict’s Academy girls’ school (which was run by the Benedictine Sisters on that property decades ago) about their discomfort when there was a woman “saying Mass” at their reunion, someone who went to summer camp there in the 60’s, and many more, including of course many from Catholics who have never been there but feel strongly based on the facts of the matter. The introduction to the “testimonies” document reads:

A few months ago, I noticed and became concerned about various men and women members of religious orders lending support to a place that no local parish Catholic I personally know thinks Catholics should support–the formerly Catholic Benedictine monastery where the Sisters left their vows and gave up the Catholic status of their group, now renamed Holy Wisdom Monastery–before I heard about a high profile Sister, Simone Campbell, going to give a reflection at one of their services and do a joint fundraiser with Holy Wisdom. From the perspective of a local Catholic, that’s outrageous! But there are many Catholics who haven’t heard how problematic Holy Wisdom Monastery is, so I thought of doing an educational project. I contacted local Catholic friends and asked them to explain why they felt Catholics shouldn’t support Holy Wisdom Monastery, which they did. There was no specific organization nor online community involved in this, and we claim no expertise on the Holy Wisdom situation. These testimonies were collected in February 2013, purely as a grassroots lay initiative. The Catholic Diocese of Madison has information about the status of Holy Wisdom Monastery on its website, essential for understanding the matter. This project is not aimed at attacking anyone nor debating politics, and we’ve joined to it much prayer for everyone’s good.

My friend who had also been with me to the Janesville “Nuns on the Bus” stop to bring a religious freedom and pro-life message to Sister Simone Campbell and her fellow bus Sisters, took these testimonies to Holy Wisdom today, where none other than Sister Simone Campbell was present to give a reflection at their Ash Wednesday service (see WI State Journal article announcing this).  So I’m going to tell you in this post what happened.

I described in a recent blog post the problem with “Holy Wisdom”, and followed up on that with details about “Womenpriests” activity there (and more recently learned of an actual Women’s Ordination Conference board meeting and a fundraising event for that organization, that were held there).  The Diocese of Madison’s information on Holy Wisdom is the really essential reading, though, and you can find that here.

My friend “J” dropped me off and then went back to the driveway on the edge of the public road where she stood peacefully and legally distributing the testimonies to some of the people in vehicles who were either coming or going. When I arrived, to my surprise right away one of the two Catholic Benedictine Women (they also have a protestant Sister, Lynn Smith, whom I did not speak with. I was meeting them for the first time so it does not stick in my head well which one first recognized me–I think it was Sr Mary David Walgenbach but I could be wrong) approached me and asked if I was the one with the blog–and had obviously read the article The Problem With Holy Wisdom Monastery! I said yes I do have a blog. The other Sister was there and she told her “she’s the one with the blog,” until she realized what that meant.

“Was it accurate?” I asked.

“It depends on your point of view!”

“Well, some of it is a matter of facts.” But they did not seem to want to get into it.

Sister said I was welcome, which I appreciated and thanked them sincerely. I gave them each a copy of the testimonies in a manila envelope without explanation, and Sr Joanne took Sr Mary David’s in hand. I think it was Sr Joanne Kollasch who asked if I went to St Paul’s, I said I used to but I belong to the Cathedral Parish now. I asked where they go to Mass.

“Here.” (I think this was Sr Joanne)

“There’s no Mass here,” I said (Bishop Morlino has forbidden it. They have a lay led “eucharist” service they call “Sunday Assembly”). She looked uncomfortable and I added something about being in full Communion is good and said “The Holy Father was [he still is, but I said was] all about Communion.” I let them know we pray for them, and they said they pray for the people in Madison too.

I wandered around, looked at brochures and displays. There was a cabinet of nametags of the congregation’s regulars, with many many of them having pieces of rainbow ribbon affixed. There was a table full of 2013 Lenten reflection booklets you could buy for $2, by Green Bay Auxiliary Bishop Robert F. Mourneau, who I happen to know is beloved by dissenters on “women’s ordination” for his support of that belief among other things. There were all kinds of brochures on activities at Holy Wisdom. There was, of course, a display relating to the local pro-union group that Holy Wisdom and Sister Simone’s NETWORK Lobby are doing joint fundraisers with tonight and tomorrow.

JimatJanesvilleNunsontheBusStopThen someone I knew approached me! This is Jim, who I first met when he was one of those manning a HW-affiliated “Pax Christi” booth at the Farmer’s Market on Capitol Square last spring. They were collecting petitions for the “Nun Justice Project”, an initiative of a coalition of dissent groups (Call to Action etc etc) to support dissenting LCWR Sisters against the Church which hopes to win them back to Catholic fidelity. The idea was to collect signatures “in support of nuns” and then send it to the Nuncio etc. Everyone likes nuns and wants to support them. People signing had no idea the people collecting the signatures were associated with a former-LCWR community of Sisters that actually left their vows and gave up the Catholic status of their group and now have a lay-led “eucharist” and host an assortment of groups (Call to Action, Women’s Ordination Conference, the pro-homosexuality group Dignity) focused on dissent within the Catholic Church. Jim and I had a long conversation that day. The picture above is not from that day at the Farmer’s Market nor from today, but rather was taken when I met him at the Nuns on the Bus stop in Janesville!! Though, today he was wearing exactly the same shirt bearing the name of an organization important to many at Holy Wisdom, so it is a fitting picture of him. I’ve thought of Jim from time to time and prayed for him, and let him know that. I asked him if he’s involved with the Women’s Ordination Conference. He said no, but when I said I saw a Jim (last name omitted) posting about some event of theirs at Holy Wisdom he acknowledged he’d helped advertise things for them. I gave him the testimonies too (he’s mentioned in mine, though not by name). He is a friendly guy.


When I went into the I went into the chapel, and glancing around I saw the person who I mentioned in a previous post is a staff person at a local parish, sitting with their spouse who had on a nametag as a member of the HW congregation. I gave them a copy of the testimonies (and after the service this person approached and gave me a business card and asked if we can talk about it which I agreed). They’re in the photo above, but not recognizable.  Please pray.

I was sitting next to a nice Catholic woman from India, first initial R. I quite liked her, she was unhappy with the Church for a particular reason but her Faith is important to her and she loves the Blessed Mother, she also said she twice hosted Brother Roger of Taize in her own home when he went to India to see Mother Teresa, we had a warm and enjoyable conversation. I gave her the testimonies too. She asked me to pray for her.


It was Sister Mary David Walgenbach, in white chasuble, who was the presider of the service. Maybe they only have one chasuble? Happily, there was no altar table: it would not be a communion service. The opening hymn was one I never heard before, “Slowly Turning, Ever Turning” by Delores Dufner, OSB. The lyrics are neither heretical nor specifically Christian. They indeed say “in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer and of the Sanctifier”. There was a first reading, responsorial psalm, and second reading (shown above). Then Sister Simone got up and read the Gospel, shown below (a lot of people don’t realize that although the Church says Sisters should have some kind of specific habit, they seem to have a lot of leeway about what that is, and for some of them their habit is a particular medal. That’s what that is, a Sisters of Social Service medallion):


At this point someone asked me not to take pictures during the service, and I was obedient. I didn’t go there to be disruptive or do anything wrong. The Gospel was Luke 4:14-21, which I strongly suspect had less to do with Lent than it was just what they most wanted to hear Sister Simone read. Then she gave her reflection. She started off saying, significantly, that she’d arrived in Middleton this morning and to get there they’d gone through JANESVILLE. And a big cheer went up! That was apparently the best attended and most energetic of the Nuns on the Bus stops (see Jim’s picture above for photo proof that the HW folks were there). I didn’t cheer but I could have, I was there too! There was not that much to the rest of her reflection, there was something about “we are being given gifts, that sometimes I would rather give back unopened” which made me think of the Doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR, and reflected (“bless me, brothers and Sisters, I have sinned”) that she has “defined” a few people in a negative way but “the list probably doesn’t include me” (insofar as she was saying it is necessary to examine ourselves, wholeheartedly agreed, one of the most important preparations my friend and I made was we both went to confession soon before going to this), the second half of her brief reflection my mind was wandering.

The ashes were distributed. I was simply observing this service, and I already went to Mass this morning and still had smudges on my head. After that, there were some intercessions, and they prayed “the Prayer of Jesus” which is a genderless and simplified revision of the Our Father: “Holy One, our only Home, blessed be your name…”. Then they sang a perfectly good Catholic Lenten hymn, “Again We Keep This Solemn Fast” and the service was over. As noted above, then a certain person came up to me and wanted to meet with me at a later time.

Sister Simone was standing in the sanctuary chatting with people, and I approached her with a manila envelope of the testimonies, on which I’d written “Sister Simone”. I shook her hand and said it was from some people in Madison who love her, which is very much how I feel, and she smiled and thanked me. That’s all, even as indisputably wrong as it was, from a Catholic perspective, for her to support Holy Wisdom Monastery, I didn’t come to condemn anyone nor get into any debate, and saying that we love Sister Simone and leaving it at that, felt entirely right.

I went out and found my courageous and faithful and treasured friend continuing to hand out testimonies to departing drivers. As we drove off, we thanked God together that we were able to do a little to try to inform people and do for some the charity of fraternal correction, and asked for His mercy on all of us.

Testimonies from Catholics in local Madison Diocese parishes regarding Holy Wisdom Monastery

The testimonies that follow were delivered by myself and a friend to Holy Wisdom Monastery and Sister Simone Campbell in connection with their Feb 13, 2013 Ash Wednesday service there (click to read the story of that). You can also download the DOC file that we delivered printed copies of, especially if you would like to distribute copies to people you know.

A few months ago, I noticed and became concerned about various men and women members of religious orders lending support to a place that no local parish Catholic I personally know thinks Catholics should support–the formerly Catholic Benedictine monastery where the Sisters left their vows and gave up the Catholic status of their group, now renamed Holy Wisdom Monastery–before I heard about a high profile Sister, Simone Campbell, going to give a reflection at one of their services and do a joint fundraiser with Holy Wisdom. From the perspective of a local Catholic, that’s outrageous! But there are many Catholics who haven’t heard how problematic Holy Wisdom Monastery is, so I thought of doing an educational project. I contacted local Catholic friends and asked them to explain why they felt Catholics shouldn’t support Holy Wisdom Monastery, which they did. There was no specific organization nor online community involved in this, and we claim no expertise on the Holy Wisdom situation. These testimonies were collected in February 2013, purely as a grassroots lay initiative. The Catholic Diocese of Madison has information about the status of Holy Wisdom Monastery on its website, essential for understanding the matter. This project is not aimed at attacking anyone nor debating politics, and we’ve joined to it much prayer for everyone’s good. My name is Elizabeth Durack; my own comments are at the end. My email is (please use my contact form, that sends to my email)

Bob Bright

Bob Bright

Served on the Board shortly before they “went non-canonical”

It is with great dismay and sorrow that I continue to be denied the privilege of worshiping at Holy Wisdom, once a Benedictine Catholic monastery, due to their seeking a non-canonical status. I am deeply indebted to the Benedictines beginning with my education at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. My wife Mary Kay is also a graduate from Mount St. Scholastica College now merged with Benedictine College.

I once served on the Board participating with the Sisters and others in articulating a strategic plan for the monastery. Had I known at the time that eventually the Sisters would move away from the Catholic Church, I would have never consented.  I feel like the monastery no longer belongs to  faithful Catholics.  Disaffected Catholics have their issues with the Church and generally express their views publicly and privately. I have listened to them respectfully, but I have never been able to separate myself from the Sacraments of the Catholic Church which are crucial to my understanding of who I am as a Catholic Christian. I pray that the Benedictine Monastery will one day return to the embrace of the Catholic Church where it belongs. Fifteen hundred years of faithful Benedictine observance should not be overturned by  a few individuals who seek to go their own way. I hope that before I die I will once again be able to receive the Sacraments from the Benedictine monastery in my own area. –Bob Bright, Blessed Sacrament Parish


St Benedict’s Academy alumni were shocked by woman presider at reunion “Mass”

I attended St. Raphael school from grades 1 through 8 and then Edgewood High School under the wonderful, caring instruction of the Dominican sisters.  The years span from 1957 through 1969.  Never once in these vulnerable, learning years did I hear anything resembling dissension with the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.  It was always an atmosphere of unity and communion with priests, the bishop of the diocese of Madison, and The Holy Father.  If we could restore the obedience, faith, and trust that we once had, we would not be dealing with the evil that is rampant today.  I pray that Holy Wisdom and others who advocate and promote falsehoods and liberal teachings will realize the damage being done and the souls being lost by continuing this path.

I have spoken with former classmates of mine from Edgewood who, prior to coming to Edgewood, were students at St. Benedict’s Academy, an all-girls school [which was run by the Benedictine Sisters on the property that is now Holy Wisdom Monastery].  They attended services at Holy Wisdom as part of a St. Benedict’s class reunion, unaware that their former school had been turned into a liberal, new-age institution.  They were quite shocked and confused to find the Mass celebrated by women and felt trapped, unsure of what to do when the “consecrated bread” was passed to them.  Catholics need to know that this is NOT CATHOLIC TEACHING and must support our Shepherd, Bishop Morlino.  You cannot call yourself Catholic unless you support Catholic teaching in all matters. –Bette Weisshar


Went to summer camp at St Benedict Center in the ’60s; it’s sad they went awry

My experience is a little unusual in that I’m one of the last woolly mammoths who actually remembers what Holy Wisdom Monastery was like when it was still the ST. BENEDICT CENTER.  Shortly after the Center ceased operation as a Catholic girls’ high school, in the middle 1960s, it became for a short time a well-regarded summer camp.  I was blessed to be a camper for 2 years, 1967-68, and even came back after I had “aged out”, to volunteer.  I loved the simple reverence of the place, and the kindness of the Benedictine sisters who were still very much in charge of things. I believe it was actually a district “motherhouse” at the time. There was a very elderly sister there, wheelchair bound, still in full Benedictine habit, which she’d worn continually for, like, 60 years.  Her name was “Sister Concepta”.  More about Sister Concepta later.

St. Ben’s had a lovely small chapel on a hill, overlooking the surrounding farmland, Lake Mendota & Bishop O’Connor’s nearby estate.  Campers were regularly taken over to visit with the bishop.  He obviously loved children, and had the twinkliest brown eyes.  I still have the Miraculous Medal he gave me.  The chapel was all glass and sunlight, like many post-war, pre-Vatican II churches.  It had a for-real “black Madonna” statue, an ebony Our Lady of Czestochowa.  I’d never seen one like it before; it fascinated me.  Camper girls gathered in the chapel for noon Mass each day.  We were given a list of supplies to bring to camp, which included (truly!), “skirts and chapel veils,” for Sunday Mass.  Each day concluded with sung Vespers and a reading from the Bible. I’d not yet acquired the habit of daily Scripture readings.  It was not the custom for lay Catholics in those days immediately following the Council.  We thought that was only for priests and Religious.

Regally presiding over all of this from her wheelchair, I got the feeling Sister Concepta approved.  I had all the usual summer camp experiences, games, crafts, swimming, horseback riding, and general little girl hijinks.  But looking back, almost 50 years later, I remember my time at “Camp Saint Ben’s” as a profoundly spiritual experience.  In all honesty, I can’t discount the prayerful example set by those holy, consecrated women.  They lived the Rule of Benedict, and it had a real trickle down effect, on me, anyway.  Fast forward to 2011.  A dear friend died, and her “memorial service” was held at HWM.  (She and her husband, a disaffected former priest, regularly attended, um, “events” there.  It was kinda-sorta Catholic, but not so much as to remind him of what he’d left behind in his former life.)  The little chapel full of light was gone.  A new, larger “worship space” had been constructed in its place.  HWM literature explains, with some pride, that the new structure is a totally “green building.”  The beautiful black Madonna I loved so well was nowhere in evidence.  There was a bubbling “holy water” font, but I hesitated to dip my fingers in it.  After the service, I took a walk-about to see what remained of my old day camp.  I discovered a tiny cemetery, small and rough-hewn.  One headstone simply read, “Sister Mary Concepta.”  I wondered what the saintly Sister Concepta thought of HWM now, from her Heavenly vantage point.  The grave marker was a sad commentary.

The point I’m trying to make here, is that the best of intentions–which those former (small b) benedictine women at HWM no doubt had in Sister Concepta’s day and still HAVE–can go sadly awry, without supernatural outlook.   As a seminarian I used to know would always say to me, “the devil’s greatest trick is getting us to fight the wrong battles.”  That’s what I feel has happened with them, and it applies to ALL people of faith, the ones clinging to orthodoxy, as well as those slip-slidin’ down the slippery slope.  We mustn’t demonize certain female Religious.  So while we should be rightly concerned about “bus hijackings,” and spiritual rabbit holes, we must proceed with exquisite charity.  Like my friend the seminarian said, all of us, through the pride that comes stamped upon our fallen natures, can be tempted to fight the wrong battles.  I hope we can recognize these sisters in Christ, appreciate the tremendous sacrifices they have made for the Catholic Church, during a tumultuous era, and ever so gently get them back on the path once more.

I’m acquainted with a lot of Catholics around the diocese, with varying shades of orthodoxy.  None of them seems to take Holy Wisdom Monastery  very seriously.

I DO worry a great deal about “legitimate” Catholic institutions (meaning, those like the Edgewood schools that profess to be in union with the Church, “in the Sinsinawa Dominican tradition”) sponsoring activities that are totally contrary to authentic Catholic teaching.   Wolves posing as Catholic “sheep.”  It goes beyond trying to shout down a handful of aging, misguided women, as I think about it.  The real demon here, IMHO, is the trend toward “Catholic Lite” in our culture, the notion that ideas don’t have consequences & that religion is irrelevant.  –Gail Geib, Cathedral Parish

Gail also delighted me by singing the “Camp Saint Ben’s” camp song for me, in person, this is how she transcribed it:

WE’RE from Camp Saint Benedict,
AND we’re very proud of it!
LISTEN as we sing about our
THROUGH the wind & weather,
WE have fun together.
GOING horseback riding, jumping
On the
Campers learn to grow and
MAKE new friends.
WE will not FORGET our days at

There are many more testimonies past the break, click “More” below to read them.

Read more »

Monastic gifts, for the Camp Gray Benefit Dinner

You can bid on this if you go to the Camp Gray Benefit Dinner February 23rd at St Francis Xavier Parish in Cross Plains. I think it's going to be a silent auction item.

You can bid on this Monastic Gift Basket if you go to the Camp Gray Benefit Dinner February 23rd at St Francis Xavier Parish in Cross Plains. I think it’s going to be a silent auction item.

Apparently, various groups are putting together gift baskets to raise funds at the annual Benefit Dinner for our diocese’s great Catholic summer camp, Camp Gray. The Cathedral Parish young adults were asked to do one, and I thought of a theme I would enjoy and volunteered to put it together: things from monasteries, which make great gifts! The young adults of the Cathedral Parish donated the funds and I ordered candy made by Trappistine nuns, preserves made by Trappist monks (these are available from multiple sources, I got mine from those Trappistines), soaps made by Dominican nuns, the famous Mystic Monk Coffee roasted by Carmelite monks, Gregorian Chant from the French Benedictine Abbey of Solesmes, the DVD documentary Into Great Silence about the Carthusians, the classic book about life as a Poor Clare nun A Right to Be Merry, and more. Nathan, one of the young adults, kindly supplied 2 bottles of Belgian Trappist beer, readily available locally from Woodman’s!

Part of the point of this theme was to support religious life, as well as Camp Gray. But I have repeatedly noticed monks and nuns do not like to be outdone in generosity. I mentioned it was for a gift basket as a silent auction benefit for our diocese’s Catholic summer camp, and the Dominican nuns who make the nice soap sent free one of their handmade rosaries, and the Trappistine nuns I ordered one box of candy and 2 Trappist Preserves, sent TWO additional boxes of candy. One of them was a smaller size box of the same Butter Nut Munch candy I’d ordered so I cut it into smaller pieces for people to sample at the Camp Gray dinner and maybe be inspired to order some from the nuns later as gifts.

One time a few years ago I was feeling lonely on Valentine’s Day and sent a donation of not more than $10 via the internet to the Carthusian monastery in England, and not long after, I cried I was so touched when I received (from England) a wonderfully profound book of poetry by one of the monks with a cheery note of thanks from Brother Simon. I had bought books from them a couple times so he probably remembered me. The most austere Catholic hermit monks in the world, they are not scary they are totally lovable.

I feel certain you can still register for the Camp Gray Benefit Dinner (follow that link). It’s $60 per person, on Saturday, February 23rd at St Francis Xavier Parish in Cross Plains. Silent Auction and cocktails start at 5:30.

Here’s the trailer for the wonderful Into Great Silence: