111 And Still Counting!

I'm headed out to Phoenix a little later this morning, but first I wanted to share a letter I placed in the parish bulletin. Life's getting crazy in Packerland these days, specifically at Saint Norbert as we being our 111th year together. I hope our paths cross there at some time. Until then, off to the desert once again!

The Heart of Saint Norbert College

It was twenty-five years ago this weekend that I walked into Old Saint Joseph Church for the very first time – “Freshman Orientation 1984!” We did not have the mid-summer orientation sessions back then as we do today. One’s entrance into college life simply began once you had the car unpacked and the closets stuffed far beyond capacity. Because my sister was a year ahead of me at SNC, we had a nice sized moving van ready to drop us off at Sensenbrenner for Teresa and 3M for Yours Truly! Once Dad built the lofts and Mom made the beds, we were off for a “Cubs Run” to make sure we had enough canned food to stock our limited shelf space. That was it for parents’ orientation; ours wasn’t much more detailed, either.

In the midst of the welcome weekend, I eventually made my way to Old Saint Joe’s for the 10 AM Sunday Mass. The 1969 church architecture and environment appeared to be much more ‘groovy’ than I had experienced at home. The presider was certainly a live-wire of sorts, also a bit different from the style of priesthood to which I was accustomed. And the involvement of the laity taking part in Mass was intense; this did not reflect the more quiet and passive liturgical experience that was a way of life for my first 17 years, either.

In some ways it was so different; yet it was the same ritual capturing and expressing the same hopes and dreams of those who gathered generations before that moment -- and still today: a celebration of the Good News that Jesus is present to us and with us on our Christian journey whether it be here at Saint Norbert College, in Antigo, Wisconsin, in the Twin Cities, Milwaukee, Chicago or across the world.

Today as you gather here for the first time or for another weekend of your entire lifetime, our church looks considerably different than it did in ’84. That live-wire pastor is still active on campus but is now ministering in a different apostolate; he is now succeeded by his very close friend, and the current pastor shares the providing of pastoral care with a very dedicated parish staff; and the congregation has grown over the years, but the vibrancy offered in prayerfulness, in song and in generous Christian service to others remains consistent!

On behalf of the “Year Rounder” parish members, the Norbertine Community, the friends of Old Saint Joe’s and the parish staff who is here to minister to your spiritual needs, I welcome you to Old Saint Joseph Church, each and every one of you. No doubt our way of celebrating the Real Presence of Christ in our midst will have similarities and differences from the experience of Church that you have celebrated elsewhere. And yet we are One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church – one which welcomes you with open arms, minds and open hearts. That welcome is bold and faithful – not just for a casual weekend experience every now and then, and not just for four years or twenty-five years. We welcome you to a way of life where we celebrate the Good News of Jesus Christ within a caring community of the People of God – with Jesus Christ, himself, truly at our center! Again, welcome!

In Ss. Norbert & Joseph,

Father James Baraniak, O. Praem.,


Peter B. said...

Hey Fr. Jim!

Be sure to check your email! I have sent something V.I.P. to you while away in Phoenix, and it relates to the Packers. I hope all is well otherwise. Hope to hear from you when you return. God bless!

Anonymous said...

great letter!

Katie C said...

Hi Fr. Jim-
Hope you have a good year! If you run into any freshman named Bridget, it may be my "little cousin". She takes after the Irish side if that helps you spot her. I won't post her last name on here!
I tried to call you with a question the other day but your email cut me off. I will try in a few days after the insanity of the first week wears off for both of us! Take care!

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