The Office of Catholic Formation led a trip for youths to the State Capitol in Madison on April 29-30 for Catholics at the Capitol.

The Wisconsin Catholic Conference puts on Catholics at the Capitol every other year as a way of gathering Catholics from around the state for prayer, formation and advocacy.

In the past, the majority of participants came from the Diocese of Madison and Archdiocese of Milwaukee, with some participants from the Diocese of Green Bay and the Diocese of La Crosse, but very few, if any, from the Diocese of Superior.

At a gathering this fall, Bishop Powers’ brother bishops strongly encouraged him to facilitate a trip for the young people of his diocese. The bishops went so far as to each donate $1,000 toward the trip. Thanks to their generosity and the generosity of the donors to the Bishop’s Legacy Circle, the diocese took a busload – 52 teens and chaperones – to the event this year. The trip only cost them $25 per person and included a charted bus ride to Madison, a night in a hotel and admission to the conference.

Attendees came from Merrill, Medford, Rhinelander, River Falls, Superior, Rice Lake, Cameron, Clear Lake, Frederic and Grantsburg, led by Office of Catholic Formation Director Peggy Schoenfuss, associate director Chris Hurtubise and Fr. Samuel Schneider.

Joining them from the diocese were Bishop James P. Powers and chancery staff: Director of Administrative Services Dan Blank, administrative assistant Janelle Roe, Office of Respect Life Director Bonita Thom, Lay Ministry Enrichment coordinator Bluette Puchner, and Chris Newkirk, director of Ecclesial Ministries and Diocesan Consultation.

A blessed trip

“We were so blessed to get to make the trip down this year,” Hurtubise said. “Visiting our legislators and being able to interact with their staff (many of the actual legislators were not in Madison that day) was also a wonderful opportunity. It was certainly a challenge at times – since some of our legislators fervently disagree with some of our core beliefs as Catholics – but it was nevertheless charitable and very eye-opening for the young people.”

“The biggest highlight for me was definitely the bus time – just seeing our young people come together, pray together, play games and build relationships with peers and leaders from around the diocese,” Hurtubise added. “We had a terrific group of adults come with and they did a phenomenal job of investing in the young people. All in all, it was just a really joy-filled and hope-filled couple of days, and I’m glad to have been able to be a part of it.”

Aiden Jones, 17, a member of Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior, said, “For me, one of the best parts of the trip was the opportunity to connect and pray with youth from all over the diocese. I got to meet some great people that I wouldn’t come into contact with otherwise, as well as spend time with the people that I already knew from other diocesan events. I was also really struck by the generosity of the other Wisconsin dioceses. They helped make this trip very affordable and enabled the youth to be able to attend the conference easily.”

“It was so cool to learn more both about our faith and about our government system,” said Elly Bjork, a senior at St. Bridget, River Falls. “It was also interesting to learn what our political views are as Catholics.”

“I really liked learning about what that (food pantry) group is doing in Milwaukee. I hope they are able to keep that going. I also enjoyed seeing the Capitol building and hearing what the senator and representative thought,” said Faylene Troemner, a freshman at St. Bridget, River Falls.