Last month, Erin Friedlander, director, diocesan Office of Communications and Public relations, and I attended the annual Catholic Media Conference hosted by the Catholic Press Association in Green Bay, Wisc. In attendance were those in communications, which includes broadcast journalism (TV and radio) and social media platforms, such as diocesan websites, Facebook and Twitter. In addition, more than half of those in attendance are in print media, such as publishers, editors, reporters andphotographers of diocesan newsletters, newspapers and magazines. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet other individuals who hone our craft from all over the country. The purpose of the conference is twofold: continuing education and sharing. A myriad of seminars, panel discussions and courses were available over three days. I found these enlightening and challenging.
In addition to the typical convention hob-knobbing, there were excursions to two shrines. The first was the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame at Lambeau Field. The city is not called “Titletown” for nothing. A glance at all the trophies, newspaper clippings and photographs that adorn the museum inside explain in depth how this franchise, since its inception, has snatched up more national championships thanany other professional football team.
The second excursion took us to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, in Champion. There, Adele Brise, a young Belgian immigrant had settled with her family in this farming town 17 miles away from Green Bay. Adele was told by Our Lady, on the site where the shrine chapel stands today, to instruct the children of the region on how to make the Sign of the Cross, to say their prayers and to learn the teaching of the Church through their catechism. With the assistance of few other young women, Adele embraced this mission and earned the respect of the people of Northeast Wisconsin. In 1871, one of the worst recorded fires in the
United States consumed 1.5 million acres in this region of Wisconsin. It was known as the Great Peshtigo Fire. As the flames grew closer to the shrine chapel in Champion, Catholics and their livestock congregated around and in the little church. They prayed the rosary throughout the night asking the Blessed Mother to protect them from the fire. Well, Our Lady’s answer came in the form of rain that doused the flames and saved the people. The wooden fence that surrounded the shrine was charred on one side, and completely untouched by the flames on the other!
In 2010, Bishop David Ricken, who heads the Diocese of Green Bay, approved the apparitions of the Blessed Mother at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help as authentic, based on scientific research and the testimony of many who received healings, including some who were blind and crippled. This is the only site in the United States that is approved by the Roman Catholic Church as an apparition site of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Finally, one of the questions surveyed among the membership of the Catholic Press Association concerned a name change, especially since it no longer serves just members of print media. One suggestion was a new name, such as the Catholic Press and Media Association. While there were mixed reactions to this question, it was unanimous that regardless of the name, all of us, journalists of faith, were happy to be in our evangelizing ministry (not jobs) in service to the Church.
Father Comandini is managing editor of “The Catholic Spirit.”