Father Joseph Walijewski’s 5th Anniversary Mass

Category : News

Join us for Mass marking the 5th anniversary of the opening of the Cause for Beatification and Canonization of Father Joseph Walijewski. Mass will be celebrated from 10:30a.m.-12p.m on Sunday, March 18 at St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral. If you are unable to attend the Mass, it will be available to watch LIVE at www.diolc.org/live

What Father Joe would want me to do

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In 1955, Father Joe was the assistant pastor at St. Peter Parish in Stevens Point. He would soon return to his mission work in South America, but not before first touching a few lives here in the Diocese of La Crosse.

Wilma Reis was in high school when she decided to become Catholic and it just so happened that Father Joe gave her instructions in the Catholic faith. Wilma credits Father Joe as the reason she became a strong Catholic, having grown up in the Lutheran faith.

Wilma recently passed away from a long-term illness, but her daughter, Lois Slattery, said her mom shared her story often and spoke fondly of Father Joe and knew that he should be a named saint.

About five years ago Wilma decided that she wanted to sponsor an entire family at Casa Hogar, the orphanage in Peru that Father Joe founded. Lois said Wilma really enjoyed being a family sponsor and actually displayed her Casa Hogar family photo on her refrigerator and did not even have her own biological family photo displayed.

Due to her illness, she was homebound toward the end of her life and Lois said it always gave her mom such joy to receive the Christmas card and family portrait from Casa Hogar. Her family displayed her most recent Casa Hogar card and family photo at her wake service.
She had always followed Father Joe’s journey over the years and often said she wanted to become a sponsor because she thought that is what Father Joe would want her to do.


By Monica Organ

Clearing the Path to First Communion

Category : News

La Crosse parishioners made First Communion outfits for children in Bolivia

May 3, 1958 was a big event for Father Joe and his parishioners in Bolivia. They were planning the dedication Mass for the church in Santa Cruz, built using the $20,000 Lenten donation from the Catholic Students in the Diocese of La Crosse. Father Joe was also preparing 50 boys and girls for their first Holy Communion.

However, Father Joe soon realized there was something holding these children back from receiving their first Communion … clothes. Father knew that many would fail to appear for their First Communion out of shame and embarrassment if they did not have the proper clothing for the occasion. The families in Bolivia were so poor they couldn’t afford to give their children new clothes for such a special event. Father Joe was not going to let that obstacle stand in their way of receiving the Eucharist, so he reached out to his home diocese for help. He asked the people of the Diocese of La Crosse to help him “to bring closer to the altar the people who have been without the altar for so many years.”

Members of the La Crosse Council of Catholic Women made and shipped nearly 150 sets of First Communion dresses and suits and other articles of clothing, plus rosaries and medals to be used for this historic occasion.


Assembling a Case for Father Joe’s Heroic Virtue

Category : News

As the investigation of the Cause for Father Joseph Walijewski’s Beatification and Canonization comes to a close in May, the Tribunal will be presenting their report of the life and times of Father Joe. This report, called the Acta, will be taken to Rome to be part of the case.

Monsignor Michael Gorman, the Episcopal Delegate for the Tribunal, says that he and the fellow members have a responsibility to investigate Fr. Joe’s life for the purpose of providing information to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome, with the hopes that eventually they and the Holy Father will find him worthy to be declared venerable.

The Tribunal was appointed by Bishop Callahan on May 1, 2013. During that Mass, the members took their oaths. The Tribunal is composed of an Episcopal Delegate, Monsignor Gorman, who is in charge of seeing that the investigation is completed. The Promoter of Justice, Monsignor Joseph Hirsch, is the one who presides over the deposition of the people who have been called as witnesses. Several notaries are included to verify the authenticity of the documentation and numerous typists are involved in the transcription of the witness stories, in the language the testimony was given.

Monsignor Hirsch says he is honored to be a part of sharing Father Joe’s story and to hear accounts from all the witnesses, which include many stories he’s never heard before.

“When we do the interviews, I am hearing, first-hand, stories that no one has ever heard before,” he says. “I always think, we just listened to another chapter. As part of the Tribunal, we get to hear the whole book and that’s the privilege we have. We get to hear all the chapters and we can begin to piece together the inspirational life of Father Joe.”

The witnesses are people who knew Father Joe, including family members or friends he had growing up in Michigan and people that worked and interacted with him in La Crosse and in South America.

As part of the Tribunal, two commissions were formed, broken into historical and theological focuses. The Historical Commission is responsible for composing a report on the life and times of Father Joe and the Theological Commission looks at his writings and homilies, assessing them to make sure they don’t contradict Catholic doctrine.

All the testimonies have now been gathered, so the next step is to send the Acta, assembled by the commissions and the Tribunal, to the postulator of the cause, Dr. Andrea Ambrosi. It is his responsibility to take all the information and create what’s called a Positio. This book will advocate to the Congregation why Father Joe should be declared venerable.

Now that the investigation is almost over, Monsignor Gorman reflects on all he’s learned about Father Joe over the last five years. While he was acquainted with Fr. Joe in the 1980s, it was through this process that he learned about the many remarkable things he accomplished through his faith in God.

“I learned a lot about the hardships he experienced, of basically hacking a parish out the jungle of Bolivia and everything going awry. It’s amazing that he was able to accomplish so much with so little material resources, but out of poverty people came together and shared things and things happened,” he says.

“It shows the power of faith and the grace of God and really his own determination. He was a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of person. He was very simple and very humble and just didn’t get flustered when things didn’t go well. He was patient and allowed the grace of God to do his work.”

By Monica Organ

A Season of Holiness

Category : News

We, in the Diocese of La Crosse, are very fortunate as we enter into a tremendous time of Grace and special blessings for our Sesquicentennial Anniversary celebration. In one hundred and fifty years our Diocese has seen an amazing growth of holiness and spiritual depth throughout western and north central Wisconsin. Among the more prominent in our minds and hearts at this time is the excitement concerning the ongoing activity regarding the progress of the Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God, Father Joe Walijewski.

Father Joe’s Cause continues to move forward. We will, of course, mark the
fifth anniversary of the initiation of the Cause on Sunday 18 March 2018 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman at 10:30 AM. We hope that many of you will attend. In addition, we are preparing to close the investigation of Fr. Joe’s life required by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. A Mass celebrating that historic and significant action will take place on Sunday 27 May 2018 at 10:30 AM also at our Cathedral.

Please keep the Cause in your prayers. Many people are becoming more interested and excited—especially the sick and those in need who experience consolation from Fr. Joe’s intercession. We sure do need your prayers. God be with you. Fr. Joe, pray for us.

By Bishop William Patrick Callahan

Father Joseph Walijewski’s 4th Anniversary Mass

Category : News

Join us for Mass marking the 4th anniversary of the opening of the Cause for Beatification and Canonization of Father Joseph Walijewski. Mass will be celebrated from 10:30a.m.-12p.m on Sunday, March 18 at St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral. If you are unable to attend the Mass, it will be available to watch LIVE at www.diolc.org/live

Here are other Masses being offered, marking this celebration:

March 12, 2017

Msgr. Scheckel, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Richland Center

Msgr. Diermeier, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Marathon

Msgr. Machalski, SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary, Diocese of Detroit

Msgr. Burrill

March 15, 2017

Bishop Powers, Diocese of Superior

March 20, 2017

Fr. Mark Inglot will be having Mass on March 20 at St. John Church and Student Center in East Lansing, MI

A Pencil in Our Lords Hand – 6th grade letters

Category : News

Kathleen Caruso and her 6th grade class at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish School in Lansing, MI, keep the legacy of Father Joe alive every year by watching “A Pencil in Our Lords Hand” and using rosaries from Casa Hogar. Then, after watching the documentary about Father Joe’s life,   her 6th graders write letters to their pastor, Father Mark Inglot, Father Joe’s nephew, about what they learned and how they feel about his  life and work.

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Casa Hogar Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Category : News

By Jordan Zoroufy
Father Joseph Walijewski found his inspiration after seeing how so many of Lima’s children lived, and still live, in desperate poverty. One day, while walking through the slums of Lima, he noticed what appeared to be a pile of old newspapers begin to move. Then, the heads of a little girl and boy popped out. These children, like so many street kids of Lima, had spent the night with only the newspapers to protect them from the cold. He thought to himself, “How can I go home to a warm bed, when so many children are living in these conditions?” It was Pope John Paul II’s donation that started the orphanage, which now bears his name.

In the beginning, the orphanage was two children, a foreign volunteer, and one tutor. One year later the orphanage was home to 32 children and six tutors. Now, thirty years later, the mission of Father Joe continues to provide a place to call home for 64 children between the ages of 4 to 17 and 24 family teachers.

This anniversary year was very special and brought together so many who knew Father Joe. Casa Hogar held its 30th Anniversary celebration in April 2016. Hundreds of kids who lived at Casa, many friends of Father Joe, and members of the community came to celebrate the mission of Padre José.

2016 also saw many changes to Casa Hogar. These changes included improvements such as repainting the house, as well as many structural upgrades. All of these changes are an effort to continuously advance the house and provide a safe living environment for the children for the next 30 years and beyond. However, there is still work to be done and always room to grow to better serve the children.

As you can imagine, after 30 years, infrastructure upgrades such as electrical rewiring, new water lines, and a new septic system are needing to be addressed soon. Security needs for the children of Casa Hogar include repairing the perimeter walls, updating cameras, and adding security lights.

As Casa Hogar takes the next steps forward and in the spirit of Father Walijewski, we are expanding the work outside of our institution and taking our mission and the generous support of benefactors and visitors and turning it outward. Three years ago, we formed an association of orphanages along with other institutions such as rehab centers, nursing homes, and soup kitchens in our local Diocese of Lurin. Dozens of institutions are reaching thousands of people in need, with Casa Hogar as the driving force. The association is designed to share ideas and resources while providing support in tougher times. This is just one of the many examples of how, after 30 years, the mission spirit inspired by Father Walijewski continues to grow and bear fruit for the people of Peru.

Thank you for your help over the years. We will continue to dedicate ourselves to bringing hope to the children placed in our care.

Pope Francis’ visit to Bolivia includes a stop at Santa Cruz

Category : News

Pope Francis visited Holy Cross Parish in Santa Cruz, Bolivia during the summer of 2016 and walked in the footsteps of Father Joe as he processed by Holy Cross Parish, a church built by Father Joe.

By Father Keith José Kitzhaber

A very eventful time, indeed. I never would have expected Pope Francis to come to MY parish, but that is just what happened. Bishop Callahan gave me permission to work at our Mission Parish in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. It was founded 60 years ago by Father Joe Walijewski, and I spent the last two years working and ministering there. When we found out the pope was going to be coming, it was decided by the government and the diocese to have the Mass with the pope two blocks from the parish. We became the staging area for all the concelebrating priests, and visiting seminarians. We also were the distribution center for all the Consecrated Hosts that were to be offered during the Mass. If not for the work begun by Father Walijewski and the priest-missionaries that came after him, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to host Pope Francis.

Our parish in Santa Cruz was the best place to have the Mass. The parish was on the outskirts of town, where it was started in 1956, but now lies very close to the busiest intersection in the city. The church, completed under Bishop Robert Flock, is among the largest in Santa Cruz. The parish center was well equipped. That is where the pope met with all the bishops of the country. The parish school provided a place to house seminarians and other visitors.

At the end of the meeting with Pope Francis and the bishops, I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to shake hands with the pope. Initially, it seemed unlikely to happen as I was not given proper credentials to be in my own parish. The Swiss Guard, dressed like the Secret Service, forced me to leave the parish, out the north gate, twice. Each time, I went around through the east entrance, through the rectory, and back to the corner of the building. The second time, I kept back, closer to the exit, and they left me alone. As I was talking to the volunteers who hosted the bishops, the chief of police shouted and waved for the volunteers to come forward to shake the pope’s hand. Then, he waved me over with them, since he knew me. So, I quickly walked passed the Swiss Guard, whom had kicked me out twice, to meet the pope.

During this time, I was marveling at the experience of the volunteers. Some were crying, some were speechless, others more composed. I said something like, “Welcome, Holy Father, I’m a priest at this parish.” He just nodded his head and continued. He looked pretty tired. He went from our parish to the airport, and continued on his journey.

We’re all just standing on the shoulders of those who came before us. We started with Father Joe Walijewski, and concluded our time with Father Ed Penchi and me. Father Penchi served the parish for over 52 years, and passed away last January. “Padre Eduardo” was the only “lifer” there. All other missionaries came and went, but he stayed. His life is another testimony of Christ in the world. His funeral was very well attended and most people at the parish had never known the parish without Padre Eduardo. The thousands of people that he baptized or married, are too many to count. The parish does 300 to 400 weddings each year. It’s hard for us in Wisconsin to imagine that many weddings.

I’m very grateful for these opportunities to develop relationships in Santa Cruz, to meet Pope Francis, and to serve the people as they have changed me. I look forward to going back there in July to witness the marriage of a couple friends, and to visit the rest of the folks at the parish. Perhaps I can take a group with me and continue the relationship with the community, and help others learn more about Father Walijewski and his legacy.

Father Joe’s Vision of Christmas

Category : News

By Bishop William Patrick Callahan

1971 could quite seriously be hailed as the start of the digital age with the invention of the microprocessor. The year also hailed the admission of China to the United Nations and the grand opening of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, along with other natural, political and social events of significance. For our particular consideration it is important that we remember 1971 for one particular event that made history in Lima, Peru: the arrival of Father Joseph Walijewski. Christmas in Peru, of course, has its own special kinds of cultural and religious expressions; but it shares a similar point of reference to all people of every race and every nation throughout all of creation: the birth of The Baby. Jesus is, of course, as much “the reason for the season” in Peru as He is in Western and North Central Wisconsin. Father Joe certainly knew how important the celebration of Christmas was for his friends in the Diocese of La Crosse and his family back in his home state of Michigan. He knew how important Christmas is for children; and, his love for Christmas and his love for children made his arrival in Peru in 1971 a match literally made in heaven!

While Christmas in Peru certainly has its own particular cultural style and expressions, it would be correct to note that Father Joe found a similarity in recognizing the presence of Jesus in each of the children he encountered in the cold and destitute streets of Lima. There was then, and there certainly is now, very little difference between the Child found in a manger in Bethlehem and the children Father Joe found covered with sheets of old newspaper trying to keep themselves warm.

These visions of Christmas help us to comprehend more deeply the kind of man Father Joe must have been in his sense of urgency for fulfilling the Mission of Jesus Christ; all the more reason for us to seek his heavenly guidance in our celebration of Christmas for years to come. Father Joe lived the Christmas reality with passion and energy born from a pure faith in the presence of Jesus among us right now! Father Joe continues to inspire us, by his life and ministry, with an awakening of the child of God within each of us. Father Joe rescued street children and Casa Hogar continues that essential and beautiful ministry. The Legacy of Father Joe still raises up a sense of innocence and childlike confidence in all of us—to care for children, yes, but to further allow God’s amazing grace to transform the child of God within each of us to be like Jesus and act like brothers and sisters in His sight. As we pray for Father Joe’s beatification and canonization, be aware that his energy allows us to support the children of Casa Hogar in Peru, but by his heavenly support to recognize the child within us and the children around us who struggle to see God’s love in their lives each day. Let’s keep the spirit of Christmas alive throughout the year!