Catholic Herald staff
A misty morning with nearly impenetrable fog did not deter 350 people from attending Bishop Peter Christensen’s farewell Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior.
The Nov. 23 Mass and reception was the bishop’s last chance to say goodbye to the Diocese of Superior prior to his Dec. 17 installation as bishop of the Diocese of Boise.
Bishop Christensen was the presiding celebrant at the 10:30 a.m. Mass, which was also the parish’s celebration of the Feast of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Also present were Fr. Andrew Ricci, rector of the Cathedral; assisting Deacons Clarence Campbell and Bill Holzhaeuser, both from Ashland; and vested Deacons Dennis Geisler, Rice Lake; Bill Miller, Rhinelander; Owen Gorman, Ashland; and Pat Derrington, Amery.
Before Mass, several Knights of Columbus councils, including Knights from Superior, Rice Lake and Turtle Lake, waited to lead the procession into the cathedral, while downstairs Cathedral parishioners prepared a reception luncheon.
“He’s going to be missed. He’ll be a blessing wherever he goes,” said Susan Collins, the parish’s coordinator of religious education, as she arranged plates and napkins in Kress Hall. She’s a big fan of the outgoing bishop.
“He was a blessing at Nativity (his parish in the Twin Cities),” she continued. “He will be in Boise.”
Bishop Christensen opened his homily with memories from his first tour of the cathedral and his warm welcome in the diocese.
“My breath was taken away by the beauty of this great Cathedral of Christ the King,” he said. “What a great space to worship God. How fitting to be named the Cathedral of Christ the King.”
Regarding his arrival seven years ago, “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me,” he told the crowd.
He recalled being “many times hungry,” especially during confirmation celebrations, and always having his fill of thick-frosted cake, nuts and red punch.
During his first two years in the diocese, the bishop suffered Lyme disease and shingles and underwent an appendectomy.
“You cared for me,” he continued. “I was never really naked, but you clothed me in vestments and funny hats.”
Reflecting further on Jesus’ message in the day’s Gospel – “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25: 31-46) – the bishop talked about love and selflessness.
“You know, perhaps it’s just that easy to go to heaven,” he said. “Jesus tells us two things: He identifies with the poor. When you serve the poor, you serve Christ.”
Love, he added, “is the common denominator. When we love those in need, we are loving Christ.”
Another Wisconsin bishop wrote Bishop Christensen a letter upon learning of his new appointment. “He said, ‘We both know that it always takes longer to transplant one’s heart than unpack one’s suitcase,’” the bishop quoted.
Although he’s been in Superior seven years, twice as long would not be enough, Bishop Christensen added. But, he believes and trusts in God’s plan.
The bishop spoke again at the conclusion of Mass, asking Catholics across the diocese to support, watch over and pray for their priests.
“I’m so grateful for the priests in our diocese,” he said. “They work so hard and they don’t have much in the way of resources.”
Following Mass, attendees were invited downstairs for the luncheon reception in Kress Hall.