National Shrine of St. Joseph Announces Appointments


The National Shrine of St. Joseph, a ministry of the Norbertine Community of St. Norbert Abbey, has expanded the leadership of the Shrine to further serve the needs of its visitors and pilgrims. Rt. Rev Dane Radecki, O.Praem., Abbot of St. Norbert Abbey, has named Michael Poradek director of the Shrine in addition to his current responsibilities at St. Norbert Abbey.

Rev. Michael Brennan, O.Praem. will serve as Shrine Chaplain focusing on the spiritual needs of pilgrims and guests while continuing to serve as vocation director for the Abbey. Both Fr. Brennan and Poradek are graduates of St. Norbert College, where the Shrine is located, as well as Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Fr. Brennan served as director of the Shrine since 2017. During this time the Shrine saw tremendous growth following the return of the Shrine to the St. Norbert campus in 2015 and the celebration of the Church’s 2020-2021 Year of St. Joseph which ends in December. Poradek has served in project management at St. NorbertAbbey since 2020, having previously served in diocesan administration in the area of liturgy and worship for several years. Both bring a strong devotion to St. Joseph and passion for the furthering of the mission of the National Shrine. 

The Shrine has been a ministry of St. Norbert Abbey since 1898 with the Rt. Rev. Bernard Pennings, O.Praem., first Abbot of St. Norbert Abbey and first President of St. Norbert College, serving as director. The Shrine’s ministry began ten years earlier in 1888 with Fr. Joseph Durin, a Missionary of the Sacred Heart, who served as pastor of St. Joseph Church, now Old St. Joseph Church at St. Norbert College. In 1891, Pope Leo XIII granted permission to then Bishop Katzer of Green Bay to solemnly crown the Shrine’s historic Statue of St. Joseph. The site was first described as a National Shrine in 1892. A weekly Perpetual Novena has been prayed each Wednesday at the Shrine, along with a Solemn Novena from March 10-19 leading to the Solemnity of St. Joseph, every year since 1888. Throughout it’s 134-year history, the Shrine has stood as a quiet place of prayer and pilgrimage for thousands of visitors.

The National Shrine of St. Joseph is located on the campus of St. Norbert College, 123 Grant Street, De Pere, Wisconsin, connected to Old St. Joseph’s Church. The Shrine is open daily from 6am – 11pm for visitors. During the summer months, a Novena Mass is celebrated each Wednesday at Noon on site. Pilgrimage groups of 10 or more are asked to contact the Shrine in advance to make arrangements. The Shrine can be contacted at, 920-337-4312, or online at

Sisters group photo with Crucifix

Norbertine Women in the U.S.

By Rosemary Sands, DML, Director of the Center for Norbertine Studies at St. Norbert College


Norbertine Canonesses of the Bethlehem Priory of St. Joseph

A Cloistered Community in Tehachapi , California

Founded in 1997 by St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange, California, the Bethlehem Priory of St. Joseph is the first community of Norbertine Canonesses in the United States. It began with five women, who initially lived together near the abbey where they helped on a daily basis. They were given permission to start a Norbertine community of cloistered nuns and now number more than 40 canonesses. They have outgrown their living quarters twice and are raising funds for an expansion project that will include a new chapel and additional cells for the sisters. The community devotes itself to prayer and manual labor. The sisters raise chickens, cows, goats and sheep, make their own cheese (not yet for sale to the public), and a variety of baked goods (macaroons, biscotti, granola), jams, and apothecary items (lip balm, lotions and soap), which they sell through their gift shop, in person and online. They also have a very successful dog breeding program, “Priory Puppies,” raising and training Labrador retrievers, Anatolian Shepherd Dogs and purebred McNabs.


Congregation of Norbertine Sisters

An Active Community in Wilmington/Costa Mesa, California

In 2006 during the General Chapter meeting, Fr. Thomas Nelson from St. Michael’s Abbey in California met with two sisters who were at the meeting as representatives of the Congregation of Norbertines in the Slovak and Czech Republic. Fr. Thomas asked if the sisters would consider establishing a community of active Norbertine sisters in the U.S. The sisters visited California in 2009 for the first time and agreed to Fr. Nelson’s request, but first they had to learn English. 

As guests of St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere, Wisconsin, three sisters from the community of Vrbové in Slovakia (Sr. Adriana, Sr. Benedikta, and Sr. Magdalena) studied in the English as a Second Language program at St. Norbert College during the 2010 fall semester. They lived in the campus priory during the week and at St. Norbert Abbey on the weekends. 

In 2011, Sr. Adriana, Sr. Benedikta, and Sr. Roberta moved to California to start the first community of active Norbertine sisters in the U.S. They started out at Ss. Peter & Paul Parish in Wilmington, and then expanded to St. John the Baptist Parish in Costa Mesa, also. There are now 12 members; some are still in formation. The sisters help in the parish schools, the parish bookstore, and serve the poor in Wilmington through their more than 700-family Poverty Program. 

Rosemary Sands, DML, is the Director of the Center for Norbertine Studies at St. Norbert College. Previously, she was she was an adjunct and visiting instructor in modern foreign languages and literature (Spanish and Italian), and later served as director of study abroad from 2002 until 2015.She earned her doctorate in Spanish and Italian from Middlebury College and has a special interest in the history of Norbertines in Spain (1143-1835).

Newly released “Green Book” and “Open Wide Our Hearts” place U.S. Racism Front and Center

By Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.

“You have formed us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” —St. Augustine | Confessions 1.1

What do Universal Pictures and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have in common? Both rolled out a major production on racism and U.S. race relations in November: “Green Book” and Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, respectively. Producers describe the movie as follows:

When Tony Lip (Mortensen), a bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley (Ali), a world-class Black pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they must rely on “The Green Book” to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe for African-Americans. Confronted with racism, danger as well as unexpected humanity and humor—they are forced to set aside differences to survive and thrive on the journey of a lifetime.

In the beginning of their pastoral letter, the bishops write why the production of Open Wide Our Hearts was necessary today:

Racism comes in many forms. It can be seen in deliberate, sinful acts. In recent times, we have seen bold expressions of racism by groups as well as individuals. The re-appearance of symbols of hatred, such as nooses and swastikas in public spaces, is a tragic indicator of rising racial and ethnic animus. All too often, Hispanics and African Americans, for example, face discrimination in hiring, housing, educational opportunities, and incarceration. Racial profiling frequently targets Hispanics for selective immigration enforcement practices, and African Americans, for suspected criminal activity. There is also the growing fear and harassment of persons from majority Muslim countries. Extreme nationalist ideologies are feeding the American public discourse with xenophobic rhetoric that instigates fear against foreigners, immigrants, and refugees. Finally, too often racism comes in the form of the sin of omission, when individuals, communities, and even churches remain silent and fail to act against racial injustice when it is encountered.

After viewing the former this afternoon, I understand why many see it as a 2019 Oscar candidate; it already has vaulted to one of my favorite Christmas movies. If you are looking for an informative interview/review try “ ‘Green Book’ Is About Race – And Also Friendship, Class And Masculinity” (National Public Radio, November 23, 2018).

Hollywood producers and the teaching offices of our faith traditions can continue to publish, preach, and teach to offset racism and prejudice in our history and current society, but whether the silver screen or the pulpit is more formative in our world view, the message must filter beyond the walls of movie theatres and our churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques. As one commentator noted about “Green Book”: don’t fool yourself to think that you are not a racist simply because you paid to see this movie.

In a similar vein, I reminded a friend who accompanied me to the movie that the election of the first U.S. president of color did not denote the end of racism in our country. We might also ask ourselves questions such as:

  • “Are our schools accurately portraying American Jim Crow of the 20th century?”
  • “What unfair stereotypes do we hold in regard to masculinity and lower ethnic class Americans?”
  • “Do we unjustly pigeonhole men and women who are artistically inclined?”

The movie has an extremely powerful closing scene. After racing back to New York City from Birmingham to be home for Christmas (while being delayed by a police pull-over, a flat tire, and a northeastern snowstorm), Dr. Shirley crashes Tony’s family’s Italian Christmas feast. Several generations of rough-and-tumble lower-class Italian Americans welcome the elegantly polished African-American pianist into their home for a Christmas celebration. Bread is broken, food is shared, stereotypes are destroyed, and bridges are built. By the end of the movie, Tony had finished his two month gig as Dr. Shirley’s driver and bodyguard, but the two historical figures on which the movie is based remained friends until both died in 2013.

DISCLAIMER: This blog represents Br. Herro’s own opinions and experiences. It does not represent an official position or opinion of St. Norbert Abbey or of any other Norbertine.

Addressing U.S. Hate Crimes and All Souls Liturgy

Pictured: Hand-carved wooden statues of Norbertine saints and blesseds are on display in the St. Norbert Abbey dining room. Commissioned between 2011 and 2015 by Abbot Gary Neville, O. Praem., these custom works were designed and created by Josef Albl and sons of ALBL Oberammergau woodcarvers in Germany.

By Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.

The week of October 21, 2018, was a tragic week in our country; a pall hung over our nation. We were reminded once again of the extent of hatred in the United States, expressed by not only mentally ill or lone ranger individuals, but also people in political power.

At the expense of missing an event, what do the murders of two shoppers in a Louisville Kroger grocery store, 14 intended recipients of mail bombs, the slaughter of 11 Jewish congregants, and the daily tirade and threats of punishment against several thousand Honduran asylum seekers have in common? They illustrate the worst of our nature. And all during a week in which the ashes of Matthew Shepherd, whose bloody 1998 murder helped give rise to hate laws in our country, were laid to rest in the National Cathedral.

As I struggled to make sense of these hateful utterances and actions, we sang Bernadette Farrell’s “Christ, Be Our Light” as an entrance song at Sunday Mass at St. Norbert Abbey. A portion of the lyrics include the following:

Longing for light, we wait in darkness.
Longing for truth, we turn to you.
Make us your own, your holy people,
Light for the world to see.

Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts,
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.

Longing for peace, our world is troubled.
Longing for hope, many despair.
Your word alone has power to save us.
Make us your living voice.

As I continued to pray and reflect on the events, I read Deuteronomy 6:2-6, which was shared in many Christian churches on Sunday, November 4. The reading capsulizes Jewish law by directing the Jewish people to love the Lord, their God, with all of their heart, mind, and soul. What a beautiful tribute to the first of the Abrahamic faiths; may every Jew, Christian, and Moslem honor the grieving Jewish community in Pittsburgh. We stand united with you in tradition and prayer.

I continued to wonder what else I could do to process my feelings surrounding these hateful crimes by my own countrymen. A friend from Washington, D.C., Kate Tromble, pastoral associate for social justice, Holy Trinity Catholic Church, e-blasted a listing of D.C.-area vigils and the name and address of the rabbi of the Jewish congregation victimized by the October 20 hate crime:

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers
Tree of Life (Or L’Simcha) Synagogue
5898 Wilkins Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15217

I thanked Kate for the information and promptly wrote to the rabbi, expressing my prayerful support as an Eastern Rite Lebanese-American in Wisconsin.

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, rabbi-in-residence at Avodah, authored “The victims of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre are martyrs” in the October 28 Washington Post. She also was featured in WBUR’s “On Point on October 29. Her column and interview are well worth your time. As the rabbi and other “On Point” speakers pointed out, one response to these hate crimes, and the pro-gun culture that helps perpetuate them, is to express yourself at the polls this November 6 and afterwards.

Her comment about martyrs also reminded me that the Catholic Church celebrated All Soul’s Day (“The Commemoration of all of the Faithful Departed”) on November 2. We memorialized the lives of all those in our community who died in the last 12 months. The First Reading speaks of the souls of the just being in the hands of God (Wisdom 3:1-9). I wonder how many preachers connected this Catholic feast to the martyrdom of the Louisville shoppers, murdered Pittsburghers who celebrated the Jewish Sabbath on October 27, and Latin American asylum-seekers dying in the desert and U.S. detention centers?

DISCLAIMER: This blog represents Br. Herro’s own opinions and experiences. It does not represent an official position or opinion of St. Norbert Abbey or of any other Norbertine.