As you perhaps know, I studied Canon Law from 2016–2019 at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. In the spring of 2019, I was eating lunch in the building where I lived with a priest from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. We were both late for lunch that day and we were the only two in the dining room. It seemed like an ordinary lunch, albeit for the fact that we were the only two in the dining room, the other 30 priests having already eaten. Then, out of the blue, my cell phone rang. The caller ID said: “Diocese of La Crosse”—I knew I had to take the call so I excused myself, leaving the priest alone with his food, while I went out in the hallway and into an empty conference room. It was Bishop Callahan on the line and he told me that I was being assigned as administrator of Sacred Heart Parish in Polonia and St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception Parish in Custer: my first pastorate!
He then told me that I would start on Tuesday, July 2nd. “That’s not possible, Bishop,” I replied, “I am not done with school until the beginning of August.” He stated that they would figure it out and that I should get to parish after I finish my schooling. I walked back to the dining room a bit shaken up by the phone call. The priest from Milwaukee, suspecting it was an important call, asked who it was. “The bishop,” I said, “and he gave me my new assignment.” Bishop Callahan had been the auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee so this priest knew him well.
After the phone call, I realized how much I had to do before I could get to my new parishes: I had to finish the classes and take exams for the semester I was in, I had to take one class during the summer, I had to finish writing my 50-page-long research paper (thesis), and prepare for comprehensive exams, the canon law equivalent of the bar exam for civil attorneys. Not to mention I had to pack up from Washington and move back to Wisconsin. It was a stressful few months. Nonetheless, I did finish everything and moved back to Wisconsin at the beginning of August 2019.
I arrived in the parish and began my assignment on Monday, August 12th. Just a few days later, on Sunday, August 18th, my first Sunday in the parish, Polonia had its summer picnic. If you’ve ever been over to Polonia for their parish picnic, it’s huge. Nothing like getting thrown in the deep end through a baptism by fire like the parish picnic at Sacred Heart in Polonia. Then, the next weekend, August 25th, was St. Mary’s in Custer’s parish picnic. What a time to begin ministry in my first pastorate! I’ll never forget it. Here at Our Lady Queen of Heaven, we have come to the weekend of our parish picnic. It’s certainly less stressful for me than my first pastorate. I look forward to seeing many of you outside for it. I’m so happy to be here and to enjoy the picnic. The deep end doesn’t seem nearly as deep as it did in 2019. God bless!