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Bishop Hebda Visits Beaver Island
Bishop Bernard A. Hebda recently spent three days at Holy Cross Parish on Beaver Island, covering for the Administrator, Rev. Joseph Blasko, who was away for a few days of well-deserved vacation. While the Bishop Hebda has been to the parish on three prior occasions, this was the first time that he had the opportunity to see the parish in the summer months, when the Island population swells with vacationers and summer residents.
Bishop Hebda indicated that he was overwhelmed with the welcome he received and excited by the signs of life that he found in this parish, which has been an important spiritual presence on Beaver Island for 151 years. After celebrating the Saturday evening anticipated Mass, the Bishop was treated to a very enjoyable potluck supper in the parish hall where he was able to spend some quality time with parishioners who had responded to his request to share with him their observations on the state of the parish and its challenges due to its location and make-up.
Father Blasko, who also works part-time as the diocesan archivist, has tried to strengthen the ties that bind through the celebration of the sacraments. He was praised for offering daily Mass whenever he is on the Island and parishioners commended him for his homilies and the historical insights that he shares on feast days when the Church remembers the witness of her saints. Bishop Hebda was amazed by the size of the congregation for daily Mass and mentioned that he was inspired by the number of couples and families that would make the daily Eucharist part of their vacation experience.
On Monday morning after Mass, the Bishop participated in a weekly adult education program begun by Father Blasko. The session centered on sharing one of the episodes from the popular Catholicism series produced by Fr. Robert Barron. Bishop Hebda praised the program, adding that is well suited for a somewhat remote community, such as Holy Cross. Drawing on the Churchs rich history and filmed at some of the most beloved Catholic sites throughout the world, the program beautifully illustrates the universality of the faith, Bishop Hebda said. While we may celebrate the Eucharist in a small Church on an island in the middle of Lake Michigan, we are tied to a Church that is much wider and older than what we personally experience.
Later that day, the Bishop had a chance to meet with more parishioners and to explore with them ways of bringing back to the Church those who have left the community. Noting the New Evangelization is going to be a major topic for the Year of Faith beginning this October, the Bishop was particularly interested in hearing about the challenges particular to small and remote communities, such as Holy Cross, and soliciting ideas that could have wider applicability in the Diocese.
Hoping to gain a better appreciation of the pastoral challenges faced by the parishioners and Administrator at Holy Cross, Bishop Hebda met with representative volunteers, employees and members of the parishs consultative structures.
While on Beaver Island, Bishop Hebda was also very happy to be able to spend time with Ben Rexroat, the seminarian assigned to the parish this summer, adding that he was confident Ben would be beginning his theological studies not only with a broader view of the Church but with the benefit of the prayers of so many fine parishioners.