From the Pastor: Yes, I was on a Driving Retreat
Evidently, some of you got a little worried about me a couple of weeks ago when I seemingly just disappeared. But the simple explanation is that I had a last-minute opportunity to take some time off and I took advantage of it! Fr. Vincent thought he might be able to spell me for a bit after his summer assignment was completed but couldn’t be sure until he returned. When he showed up one Saturday morning after the Mass, he gave me dates that he could take my Masses, starting with the next day’s 10:30 am and continuing for more than a week. I was not about to pass up this opportunity, so Sunday I celebrated the 7:30 am Mass and took off driving (with a CD of Pope John Paul II praying the Rosary in Latin plus 24 hours of talks by Bishop Fulton Sheen to help me make drive time retreat time) toward the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Wisconsin, which I wrote about last week. It really was that simple. The traffic was terrible. I didn’t have my phone set to GPS mode since I was planning on simply driving north on I-75 for the entire day, but after the second time I got stuck in traffic due to crashes ahead, I turned it on to see if it could plot an alternative route for me the next time. Over and over I heard, “Slowdown ahead. You are still on the fastest route.” Crash after crash after crash. Only once did I ever get re-routed around a major crash. I drove an hour or so down tiny, twisting roads through a beautiful part of Georgia to bypass a few miles of stopped traffic. At least I was moving and I enjoyed it enough that I later decided to stay off the interstate the whole way back down to Florida for a longer but much more interesting return trip.
Early Monday I pulled up to St. Mary in Athens, Tennessee, and, after their morning NO Mass, asked if I could celebrate a private TLM. The pastor, it turns out, is a transplanted Florida boy who keeps up with many of the goings on in Florida Church circles, and he graciously welcomed me. (Yes, I had searched ahead of time for parishes along my route where the TLM was celebrated, though I had expected to get far past this one on Sunday!) After spending several hours, both in great conversation with the pastor and with Our Lord, I took off for the one and only stop I had planned (two days prior!) other than my destination. A childhood friend of mine, whom I have not seen in a number of years now, lives in Decatur, Indiana. I spent a couple of days with him and his wife and celebrated Mass at what, especially for a small town, is a very large and beautiful church, St. Mary of the Assumption. During my stay we also took a trip into Fort Wayne, searching for a small community of Franciscans. We found the church we were looking for and found a priest inside praying. He was from a local parish but said he stops by there regularly to spend time in prayer. He told us that the church had been purchased and was being restored by a lay group after it had been abandoned by the diocese and was about to be demolished. Their ministry is saving once-beautiful old churches. It was being set up in such a way as to accommodate the community of cloistered nuns who were now there. We never found any of the Franciscan brothers or priests and it wasn’t “visiting hours” for the nuns but it was a very worthwhile trip. There is, of course, much more to the story than what I can relay here.
When I took my leave of my friends, I drove next through Chicago, where I stopped by the US Provincial Offices of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, which is the order one of our seminarians, Joshua, belongs to. He, by the way, arrived Epiphany during my absence, as he had a few weeks to visit his family before heading back overseas for further studies. Canon Commins, who celebrated Latin Mass once at Epiphany when his family attended here (his father was working at Macdill AFB) before moving back to France, is assigned there but he wasn’t in the day I stopped by. But I was still warmly welcomed and got a tour of the place. I got to see the major restoration work being done to their huge, beautiful church whose roof and interior were completely destroyed by fire some years back. It was absolutely amazing. And, of course, everybody there knew Joshua, for he had been up there for his first year of seminary formation. I think I may have been given extra special attention just by throwing his name around! (You know Canon Commins? That’s nice. You were his parents’ pastor? That’s even better. You know Joshua Heiman? Why didn’t you say so? Come on in and stay a while!) That bodes well for our future priest!
Somewhere in Chicago I got stuck at a toll plaza with a boom gate arm which wouldn’t raise up for me. The car in the lane next to me had the same issue but for half the time. Google maps timeline shows that it took 6 minutes for it to get raised, but it sure seemed like a lot longer. Anyway, there will be more next week. Stay tuned.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
From the Pastor: About My Retreat
Last weekend, you might have noticed that I wasn’t around the parish. After completing his summer assignment, Fr. Vincent Capuano came by the sacristy on Saturday morning and told me that he would be ready, willing, and able to take over the Masses for the next week or so if I would like to get away. I jumped at the chance and started planning a retreat. The following day I celebrated the 7:30 am Mass and took off driving toward Wisconsin, to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. Though I will explain more about my trip and other stops in the future, for now I will just give you the background of this amazing Shrine, taken from the Shrine’s facebook page. There is, of course, much more to the story than is presented in this short summary.
About The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help at Champion, Wisconsin, USA
Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe and Champion all are part of a select group of places worldwide where the Blessed Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared. In America, The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help at Champion covers the peace-filled holy ground deemed ‘worthy of belief’ by authority of the Catholic Church, that Mary, the mother of Jesus, appeared.
Identifying herself as ‘The Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners,’ Mary appeared in October 1859 to a Belgian immigrant woman, Adele Brise, on the grounds of Champion Shrine, when the town was known as Robinsonville.
According to the direct accounts of those who worked with Adele throughout the years of her mission work, she was instructed, in a series of locutions by Our Lady, to ‘make a general confession, pray and offer communion for the conversion of sinners and to gather the children in the wild country to teach them what they needed to know for their salvation.’ She further instructed Adele, to ‘teach the children their catechism, how to ‘make the sign of the cross’ and how to ‘approach the sacraments.’ Mary ended by saying: ‘That is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing, I will help you.’
These locutions by Our Lady of Good Help became the foundation of a life-long legacy of catechetical mission work by Brise with local families. She traveled on foot in a 50-mile radius around the present-day shrine to teach and instruct as she was told by Mary. Adele's father later built a chapel on the apparition site where she also began her teaching work.
On October 8, 1871, twelve years to the date of Mary's last appearance, a Midwestern drought caused two of the worst fires in America’s history – one in Chicago and the other in Peshtigo, Wisconsin. The same drought caused an inferno that began raging through the rural area, threatening the chapel in the town of Robinsonville. Local families who had been involved with Adele Brise as part of her mission work in catechesis traveled during the fire to the chapel on the Shrine’s grounds, many with babies, small children and farm animals, to pray the rosary.
On their knees and in procession all night long, as the areas near the Shrine were reduced to ashes, those who gathered at the Shrine prayed the rosary, asking Our Lady of Good Help for her intercession with her son, Jesus, to save them from the fire. Their prayers were answered when the rains came and extinguished the fire just as it reached the chapel and Shrine grounds.
In Champion Shrine history, this event marked what many believe to be one of the first graces granted through intercessory prayer with Our Lady of Good Help, to Jesus.
This and other miraculous instances at Champion Shrine continue to be a harbinger of hope for thousands who travel on pilgrimage to pray for help and healing. To this day, many descendants of those whose lives were spared during the October 8, 1871 fire come to celebrate the miracle of the fire on that day annually, praying the rosary all night long into the following day, Oct. 9, the date historians believe marks the anniversary of the last appearance of Mary at Champion in 1859.
In December 2010, after a period of prayerful discernment during which he reviewed years of research and investigation by expert Mariologists, The Most Rev. David L. Ricken, Bishop of Green Bay, determined it to be ‘worthy of belief’ that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Adele Brise.
On August 15, 2016, The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops declared Champion a ‘National Shrine,’ by formal decree, distinguishing ‘The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help’ as the first and only Catholic Shrine in America with a Church-approved Marian Apparition Site. This and other international media coverage of events that have occurred continue to draw thousands to Champion Shrine.
As you might imagine, I have some real stories to tell about this retreat. So watch the bulletin for more in the weeks to come.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka