April is a time of renewal, increasing joy and new life in the natural world. In the spiritual realm, it was a sorrowful changing of the guard in our state’s most well known defenders of Catholicism. First, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf of the eponymous “Fr. Z’s Blog” began his departure from the Diocese of Madison. Then, John McAdams, professor at Marquette University and the man behind the “Marquette Warrior” blog, left not only our state but also this Earth. 

Without them it makes us wonder who will take up their mantle? Will it perhaps be someone who is less of an outsider? By that I mean, one was a Minnesota priest technically of the Diocese of the Velletri-Segni. The other was non-denominational, albeit one who even reached out to Marquette University’s campus ministry to have a Tridentine Mass on campus. 

Our reliance upon others is both disconcerting and expected. On the one hand, why do we let others blog our battles for us? While on the other hand, Wisconsinites should be trusting to others to do just that. The paradox is partly rooted in the humbling empowerment from Scripture that apart from God we can do nothing but through Him all things. In a certain aspect, you could argue those who take up their mantle could be any of us, and perhaps may need to be all of us, regular people.

The necessity of such everyday heroes seems particularly pressing. In Ireland, the isle of saints which once exported missionaries across the world, has had covid restrictions which restricted not only attendance at Mass but outdoor confessions. You need not look across the Atlantic to get motivation. Simply remember that our own state banned public worship in churches while exempting, during a mental health crisis mind you, visiting liquor stores. Catholics around the world have done little about it.

As to why Catholics lack apostolic activity is undoubtedly a perennial question which even nonreligious institutions face. To pinpoint some modern causes which may have accentuated that lack of vigor include the channeling of activity to the realm of the internet, a lack of motivation in a time of general peace, or over-bureaucratization within the Church.  

Nonetheless, the laity in Milwaukee is evidence of a “Catholic Comeback”, to borrow the tagline from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee postcovid program. For instance, there is a movement afoot to bring 24/7 Eucharistic Adoration directly into the city of Milwaukee at the Newman Center attached to UW-Milwaukee. There are also plans to bring a Catholic coffeeshop there as well. To give another example, the Women’s Support Center of Milwaukee has announced that St. Mary’s in Elm Grove will be starting a First Saturday pro-life Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Seeking renewal through the Blessed Mother is a timeless Catholic tradition and one quite appropriate for the month of May. Just as God works through instruments on Earth, He chooses to work through those in Heaven. The First Saturday Mass in Elm Grove is rooted in the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima to three shepherd children. The apparitions began on May 13, 1917. 

It is no secret that Marian Devotion is a hallmark of Roman Catholicism. In post-revolutionary France, Catholics of the Vendee region, nourished by the Marian spirituality of St. Louis Marie De Montfort, represented a remnant who remained true. In Guadalupe, Mexico, Our Lady’s apparition to a peasant led to the wildfire-like spread of Catholicism throughout the Latin Americas.

As for Wisconsinites, Marian devotion is literally in the water. Literally, as in literally. When Father Jacques Marquette began his expedition to give his “life for the salvation of all these tribes” on May 17th, 1673, he dedicated not only his venture but also promised to name the Mississippi in honor of the Immaculate Conception, referring to the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

The spiritual children of Marquette at our local university have continued to honor Our Lady as they recently built a grotto in her honor at Marquette University. There are other grottos in the area as well. For instance, there is the Archdiocesan Marian Shrine (formerly the Milwaukee Fatima Shrine) on 68th Street in Milwaukee. There is a recent initiative to have a weekly pro-life Rosary on Tuesday evenings. For those looking to attend a mini-pilgrimage in the Milwaukee area, May 22nd is an opportunity to attend one at Holy Hill, organized by the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.

There are undoubtedly more venerations for the Queen of Heaven than just these. Which brings us back to what was a trick question. For Wisconsin Catholics it is not merely a matter of taking up the mantle of those warriors before us, but rather seeking the protection of her whose mantle once wrapped the Savior long ago. If every Catholic in Wisconsin can simply and wholly offer to Jesus through Mary both the mundane and the extraordinary, Wisconsin can be renewed in the same manner it was evangelized a day in May many years ago.

“Above all I placed our voyage under the protection of the Holy Virgin Immaculate, promising that if she granted us the favor of discovering the great river, I would give it the name of the Conception.”

Father Jacques Marquette