Bishop James P. Powers preached the homily at the 2022 Fall Conference on Nov. 4 at St. Joseph Church in Rice Lake. The theme for the conference was “Life Centered in Christ.” (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald staff

The 2022 Fall Conference organized by the Diocese of Superior’s Offices of Catholic Formation and Superintendent of Schools Peggy Schoenfuss took place on Friday, Nov. 4, at St. Joseph’s Church in Rice Lake. The day began with Mass concelebrated by Bishop James P. Powers, Rice Lake’s pastor Fr. Ed Anderson and Frs. Adam Laski, Joseph Madanu (Somerset cluster) and Madanu Karunakar (Hayward cluster). They were assisted by Dcn. Rod Knight, who proclaimed the Gospel.

Bishop Powers began his homily commenting on the providence of when the Fall Conference was scheduled for this year – later than usual – on the first Friday of November and during the week of All Saints and All Souls days.

The days are “reminders of who we are,” the bishop said, “In the communion of saints… Saints to call upon to help us in our walk with Christ… To be the saint that we are to be ourselves, the saint that God created us to be.”

Referencing the conference’s theme, “Life Centered in Christ,” Bishop Powers noted how the readings all spoke of hearing the Word of God, taking it to heart and sharing it with others. He then spoke about St. Charles Borromeo, cardinal archbishop of Milan in Italy in the 16th century, as the Protestant Reformation was sweeping across Northern Europe.

Charles was born into an aristocratic family; his mother was a Medici whose brother would become Pope Pius IV, but Charles was raised in a deeply religious atmosphere and showed great devotion from an early age.

When Bishop Powers asked, in light of All Saints Day activities and costumes, how many would have mentioned St. Charles Borromeo as their favorite saint, he guessed not many, if any, even knew who this man was or how important his life was in the life of the church.

Beatified fewer than 20 years after his death, the man who was known to have a speech impediment and not considered bright as a young man, would go on to serve in various roles to popes and the Third Council of Trent and to undertake reforms within his diocese that stayed the Reformation in Southern Europe. He is honored as patron of bishops, catechists, cardinals, seminarians and spiritual leaders.

One of his mainstays in the work of evangelization was “the proper instruction of children in Christian doctrine,” the bishop said.

“There is no question in my mind,” he continued, “That St. Charles Borromeo was familiar with those Scripture passages that we read today – perhaps in particular with the words of that second reading from the Letter to the Romans (cf. Romans 10:14-15) – but how can they call on him whom they have not believed, how they can believe in him of whom they have never heard, how can they hear without someone to preach.”

Bishop Powers acknowledged how vastly different the world is today from Charles’ time, and that while the doctrines haven’t changed, “We need to find new ways to proclaim that love of our God … We need to come up with new methodologies so that those words of Scripture can ring loud and clear … so that those words of God can come forth stronger than those of society.”

He expressed his hope that participation in local discussions and forums as part of the synodal process, which came at a time when the diocese was making its own shift “from maintenance to mission,” would continue to support and encourage through shared witness and growth.

“I hope that, after these experiences, being a missionary, being a disciple and being an evangelist isn’t as scary as it sounds,” he shared.

The bishop stated how the call to the New Evangelization by the last three popes is “really just a continuation of the example of the first evangelists – proclaiming God’s love and mercy in what we say and do.”

“If we don’t spread the Good News, why do we exist?” he said and emphasized, “If we’re not proclaiming that message, what are we doing?”

He stressed the importance of sharing God’s love with one another, that message of hope, not only with the children but also with so many adults who never received that message growing up. He continued by asking how true is our belief in the Eucharistic miracle that was about to happen on the altar.

“If we truly believe it, what difference does it make in our lives? Our Lord didn’t give us that gift for ourselves. He gave himself to us to change and transform us into his living body, to carry on his mission … To proclaim that Good News … that message of the Gospel so contrary to what the world calls us to – to believe that we are our own God, doing whatever we want, however we want.”

In concluding, Bishop Powers iterated, “We need to be that voice that calls the world back to the truth – of God, of our intrinsic value as children of God… and in doing that, truly, how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”