THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD 1993-2008: 15 Years of "Giving it a Shepherd's Care!"


I am sure that Father Conrad's quip at this morning's 10:00 AM Mass had a ring of truth to it: some people may feel very blessed that I am without voice these Christmas Octave Days! It all started this past Saturday. I've been battling a cold for some time now, and the number of Masses coupled with other one-on-one meetings have taken a bit of a toll on my voice -- the Norbertines rejoice!

This past Sunday's Packer Mass at 7:30 AM went relatively well; but by the conclusion of my Sunday parish Mass at 10:00 AM, I was pretty strained, pretty weak. But trust me, I sound worse than I feel! ....It only hurts when I have to talk. As such, fearing that I'd only etch out another Mass for the faithful of Old Saint Joe's, I asked my buddy and mentor, Father Conrad, if he'd be willing to preside and preach at today's Holy Day Mass, New Years Day, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. And I don't know about you, but for me, today's Mass was a very blessed nostalgic trip down a very cherished Memory Lane!

Sure, Father Conrad had plenty of rips on me -- as he enjoyed for six years at Lourdes and as Father Sal has enjoyed for the past four years here at OSJ. [Forever the martyr, I simply take it with no thought of retaliation!] But there were a few moments that made me tear up a bit -- on the inside, that is!

First was Father Conrad's opening words at Mass. Quite honestly, it did not mater what he said -- it was just the sound of his voice in the church that he served -- and pastorally led -- in the 80's during my SNC tenure. Even in my weakened physical condition these days, I felt immediately like a young 20 year old student all over again. From my concelebrant's post, I looked across the assembly and saw the Turba's, the Regan's, the Wood's, the Bolin's... ... all of these great people who have been long-term members of OSJ. There we were together, with Father Conrad to lead us in prayer. While it's been 18 years since he left us in this particular parish, it seemed as though he -- and we -- did not miss a beat together. It was a very good feeling, indeed.

But second was Conrad's conclusion to his homily. He quoted the conclusion that he wrote 15 years ago when he made the trek north to Antigo where he preached at my "First Mass." In all honesty, I cannot remember what I preached last Sunday, and here he quotes from one of the most blessed moments of my life -- 15 years ago! What a beautiful moment.

As we Norbertines gather for our annual Chapter meetings on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week, I will recall with great joy, my Mass of Ordination on Epiphany, 1993 -- 15 years ago. I will remember with great esteem all those who came to that ordination in the midst of an ice storm, and those who would invade Antigo the following Sunday, my First Mass in Antigo on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord.

So as the retreat atmosphere allows me to do a little thinking and praying for all that has been and all that lies ahead, I'll be thinking and praying for all sorts of people who have influenced my priesthood over these past 15 years; in particular:

Jack & Jackie Baraniak
My parents -- My first teachers of the Faith, the ones who fostered my Vocation

Father Conrad J. Kratz, O. Praem.
Who preached and served as my Master of Ceremonies at my First Mass;
Who continues to inspire and challenge me

Father Rallen Stencil & Father Gery Meehan, O. Praem.
Who vested me a priest

Abbot Benjamin T. Mackin, O. Praem., of Happy Memory
Who presented me for Ordination

Bishop Robert Banks, DD
Who ordained me a Priest

David and Lynn Baraniak
My big brother and his wife and their children, Jolynn and Haley

Tim and Gina Koeppel
My sister and brother-in-law and their children, Nathan, Jessica, Nicole and Adam

Teresa Kelly
My sister and her children David and Katherine

The Administration, Faculty, Staff and Students of Willibrord Catholic High School of Chicago

The Administration, Factulty, Staff and Students of Abbot Pennings High School

The Administration, Faculty, Staff and Students of Saint Norbert College

The Faithful of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Family

The Faithful of Old Saint Joseph Church

The Warden, Guards, Chaplain and Inmates of Green Bay Correctional Institution

The Administration, Coaches, Players and Staff of the Green Bay Packers

AND MY NORBERTINE BROTHERS OF SAINT NORBERT ABBEY



It has been a fun ride! This cold I am experiencing -- and my loss of voice that I am dealing with -- gives me an opportunity to listen and think these days more than speak and act. As such, I'll be thanking God for each and every one of you as the week and year unfolds. However, I'll also be looking to the future this week, less I become too nostalgic. There's so much that lies ahead; I look forward to what God has in store for the future: a reminder that "God's flock is in our midst; give it a shepherd's care!"

A Blessed Epiphany to One and All!

Father James Baraniak, O. Praem.

2 comments:

3m said...

Hey Jim ... great to see your blog active again; you were greatly missed and was starting to get more than a little worried!

PLEASE, PLEASE TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!!!

And, yes, it was great to be led by Conrad on Sunday; he's almost as good a preacher as you! Like so many of your homilies, I wish I'd had a tape recorder to preserve his message; both before, during and after Mass.

You'll all be especially remembered in prayers during these Chapter days (as you are all remembered in my daily prayers).

Katie C said...

Woohoo!! The blog is back! Rock on, Fr. Jim--my favorite crime fighting priest. I think the Lord probably gave you the loss of your voice as a gift so you could have an excuse to REST!!! You deserve some rest.
I hope you have a Happy New Year! Jim & Mary say hello.
Love
Katie C

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