Wednesday, July 09, 2008

"He's Our Guy"

Taking on the leadership of a local church seven times the size of the one he leaves behind, newly-named Green Bay Bishop David Ricken (right) got the metropolitan's seal of approval at this morning's press conference:
[As bishop in Wyoming] “Hopefully, I was able to bring to the people a sense of love and dedication to Christ and to the church,” he said, his voice cracking as he spoke about the people of Cheyenne, “you know, a sense of hope. Today, our world is bankrupt of hope because people often can’t see the light.”

But Ricken also is looking forward, preparing to learn more about a diocese seven times larger than the one he’s leaving. The Cheyenne diocese – which encompasses the entire state of Wyoming -- has about 50,000 Catholics, whereas its Green Bay counterpart is almost 350,000 strong.

Catholic day school education likely will be among Ricken’s chief challenges as Green Bay’s bishop.

The diocese is moving forward with its Faith Alive plan, a big component of which is Catholic school education, but major components of that plan have yet to be worked out.

At the end of June, diocesan officials announced the closure of Holy Apostles School on Green Bay’s west side. Two years ago, St. Philip the Apostle School closed its doors and Trinity and St. Joseph schools – which later became Holy Apostles – consolidated.

The Cheyenne diocese has had success with Catholic education in recent years, Ricken said, building new schools and working to help found Wyoming Catholic College.

“Education has been a big issue,” said the Rev. Mike Carr, vicar general of the Cheyenne diocese. “He’s dealt with education. He’s been a strong supporter of Catholic schools.”

The Green Bay diocese has been without a bishop since Sept. 28, when former bishop David Zubik was installed as the head of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan has been serving as apostolic administrator in the absence of an appointed bishop.

Dolan today expressed utmost confidence in Ricken.

“I think he’s a pro,” Dolan said, “and I was not surprised by his choice and I was delighted. I think (they) were looking, for the diocese of Green Bay, an energetic, missionary-type bishop, a guy who’s not afraid to get out with the people and sweat and work and visit. And he’s our guy.”
Even with things ecclesial, the football connection's never hard to find in northeastern Wisconsin, and one of the post's traditional de rigeur appearances has already been noted:
Diocesan officials did not know early this afternoon whether Ricken plans to visit Wisconsin to attend the Green Bay Packers' first pre-season game on Aug. 11, against the Cincinnati Bengals. Known as the annual Bishop's Charities Game, it raises money for charities of the Green Bay Diocese and is traditionally attended by the bishop.
PHOTO: H. Marc Larson/Green Bay Press-Gazette