Fr. Gerard Willger leads a renewal of baptismal promises as participants of the Lay Enrichment Retreat hold lit candles. (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald staff

Each year, the diocesan Catholic Services Appeal funds enrichment events for Catholics, inviting experienced and knowledgeable presenters who promote excellence in practical applications with rich spiritual foundations.
Through ongoing formation and continual support for the men and women – clergy, religious and laity – who work behind the scenes in every parish, the region’s Catholics benefit.

Lay Leaders of Prayer

Ongoing formation events April 27 in Phillips and April 28 in Spooner offered enrichment and education for certified Lay Leaders of Prayer. Fr. John Quigly, OFM, led sessions on the “Eucharist: Remembrance, Real Presence and Remedy,” based on the writings of Fr. Ron Rolheiser.

Under the direction of the Office of Worship and its director, Paul Birch, lay leaders are selected, trained and supported in their ministry of carrying out Eucharistic prayer services in the absence of a priest.
Assisted by Sr. Marla Lang, FSPA, from Marywood in Arbor Vitae, and Pat Pintens, of Tomahawk, Birch organizes initial training sessions in the fall and continuing education opportunities each spring. On average, 12 people are certified annually; certification lasts four years and may be renewed.

Approximately 150 certified Lay Leaders of Prayer serve in the diocese, and about 90 of those attend annual continuing education sessions.

One of Birch’s goals is to maintain unity among the practices of these out of the ordinary celebrations and ensure a true appreciation of the Mass.

“Think of yourselves as the emergency button only,” he tells lay leaders.

Professional development days

Under the Office of Ecclesial Ministries, Chris Newkirk organized three professional development days for the 2017-18 academic year. The workshops are geared toward pastors, parish life coordinators and parish directors, deacons, religious sisters and parish leadership teams and those involved with catechetical transmission in schools and parishes.

In October, associate director of Catholic formation Chris Hurtubise presented on “Generational Discipleship.” A March session, “Sabbath Time: A Spirituality of Time and Rest,” was postponed due to weather.

On April 24, Major Dr. Michael Brandt led a workshop on servant leadership at St. Joseph’s Parish Center, Hayward.

Most of the nearly 35 participants held parish leadership roles, while a handful of deacons and diocesan personnel also attended.

Brandt shared stress management techniques, presented on the genetics and biology behind the human need to connect and belong, and spoke on what leadership is not.

According to Brandt, “narcissism is the antithesis of servant leadership.” Everyone has some narcissistic tendencies, he affirmed, and modern culture’s “self-esteem movement” undermines the necessary concept of leadership as service and a “boosting of others above yourself.”

Brandt shared expertise and showed himself a continual learner; he sought input from his audience, even taking notes to incorporate into his own understanding.
Afternoon discussion focused on “marrying values and goals” and the detailed planning necessary for transformation to take place.

He spoke passionately about how to develop and sustain motivation and insisted on the necessity of daily exercise. He was blunt in his comments about doing difficult things to improve one’s life – “Lent is perennial” for those who want to grow.

Declaring “society has convinced us comfort is No. 1,” Brandt affirmed, “God built us so much stronger.”

“People who are non-specific don’t really want to accomplish goals – don’t be wimpy with yourself,” he said, adapting his tone and choice of words from his military background.
“If you put time into improving yourself, you’ll improve others,” he added.

The physical stamina with which Brandt spoke exemplified the motivation he spoke about.
Brandt insisted on concrete and visual reminders for motivation and setting up a simple rewards system for self-encouragement.

“When it comes to servant leadership… you have to be strong, you have to be dedicated to (those you lead). You have to be obsessed with pushing someone beyond what they’re capable of, and it starts with not quitting on yourself,” Brandt concluded.

Lay Ministry retreat

Fr. Gerard Willger led 40 persons at the April 28 Lay Ministry Enrichment Retreat at St. Joseph’s, Hayward. Also organized by Chris Newkirk with help from assistant director of Lay Ministry Bluette Puchner, the event met requirements as continuing education for catechists and catechetical leaders.

The theme of “salt, light and leaven” was incorporated beyond content for reflection. There were sensory representations at each table, and ritual prayer services concluding each session. Every participant received a gift bag blessed with token reminders – salt, yeast, a candle and reflections.

In his characteristic style – energetic, relatable, deep and humorous – Fr. Willger shared information and invited personal reflection. Readings from Scripture, the Catholic catechism and Vatican II documents introduced each session.

Fr. Willger confirmed that lay ministry and the needs of parish life are demanding and encouraged a renewed commitment to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

In a final session on Pentecost and the laity, the priest expounded on the Catechism’s description of the Holy Spirit as Paraclete and Consoler. “The Paraclete literally means, ‘he who is called to one’s side.’”

He drew a parallel with those involved in ministry – “walking with people for a long period of time;” and then spoke of TIME as the spelling of LOVE, as the experience of love. Fr. Willger complimented the efforts of participants to give of their time to others.

He ended by quoting the prayer of Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, chaplain to the New York City Fire Department and first certified fatality of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks:
“Lord, take me where you want me to go. Let me meet who you want me to meet. Tell me what you want me to say. And keep me out of your way.”

Newkirk took some final moments to encourage participants to implement what they learned in their homes and parishes, as well as recruit others to spread the work and avoid burnout.

Participants were asked to share the personal calls they were committing to at the end of the retreat. These included among others: share joy, listen more to others and the Holy Spirit, be a cheerful giver, pray for priests, study more and to use social media as a means of reaching out to create a sense of community, develop stronger family ministries, bring peace through patience, acquaint the local church with available resources and personally reach out to summer visitors to get involved in parish events.

Asking them to fast forward one year, Puchner wondered how each would answer how fruitful their efforts had been. She acknowledged the “deeply faithful people in this room, the commitment to your own faith journey and sharing that with others.”

Chancery staff workshop

Sr. Pauline Micke, OSB, from the St. Scholastica Monastery, Duluth, was invited to lead a workshop for diocesan staff May 2 at St. Anthony’s Parish Center, Lake Nebagamon. Her goal for the day was to help staff members build a toolbox of skills and knowledge to be successful in a “less numbers, more needs” environment.

She spoke at length on teamwork – putting personal talents and gifts to use for God’s people – and transformation in tune with changing needs and circumstances; on the role that communication plays, including nonverbal, and the need for questions and clarifications so as not to act on assumptions. She encouraged a “stance of curiosity” before the unknown and empathetic listening.

Incarnation spirituality was a term the Benedictine referred to throughout the day, defining it as “how the soul and spirit connect with the world; wholeness rather than divisiveness.” This dynamic process of connectedness takes into consideration the unique personalities and leadership styles of team members.

A sense of co-responsibility develops when work is carried out based on mission and principles, Micke explained. With the book “Redeeming Conflict” by Ann Garrida as reference, she highlighted the need to distinguish intent from impact, where judging someone’s intent usually leads to assuming negative motives.

The presenter asserted, “In reality, the only thing we know is the impact of others’ actions on us,” and the intent of personal actions towards others.

“All transformation is change, but not all change is transformation,” she said. “We cannot live by maintenance, we must live by mission or we’ll be turned into a museum. Faith isn’t about finding answers, it’s about learning to live with the questions.”

Strategic management initiative

Principals and representatives from each of the diocese’s 15 schools met May 14-15 to conclude year three of the four-year Strategic Management and Development Initiative made possible through a grant from Catholic Extension. The purpose of this initiative is to help schools become “exceptional, well-managed institutions through institutionalized best practices.”

Steve Tarnowski, the Diocese of Superior’s Director of Development, developed and wrote the multiyear grant through CSA dollars.

It’s a “train the trainer” program; Tarnowski and diocesan superintendent Peggy Schoenfuss have been charged with coordinating the program and assisting principals, school staff and volunteers.

Under the direction of Catholic School Management, Inc., the program follows specific objectives for each year and includes tracking meetings throughout the year. The consultative program covers Catholic identity, definition of goals, improved efficiency of school boards, enhancement of school image and communications, fundraising and enrollment management as well as effective marketing.

Writer’s note: The Diocesan Stewardship Day held May 9 in Rice Lake also falls under the umbrella of support service events funded by the CSA. It will be covered in the next publication.