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Fall/Winter 2016


Darkness & Light

Reflections on St. Norbert Abbey from Dianne Wagner

As seen in the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of Abbey Magazine

By Katrina Marshall

On November 12, 2016, Dianne made her commitment as a Norbertine Associate of St. Norbert Abbey.

Dianne Wagner

Dianne Wagner

Throughout her lifetime Dianne Wagner has always felt the Norbertine influence. In 1936 her parents worked at WTAQ, one of the Norbertine radio stations located in downtown Green Bay’s Bellin building, assisting her uncle, Fr. James Wagner, O. Praem., who was manager at the time. Dianne was born into St. Willebrord Parish and studied at St. Norbert College, where she later served as alumni director.

“From my youth I always had a yearning for something I didn’t even have a word for: spirituality. As I grew older I became active as much as I was allowed in the various parishes I attended. It still wasn’t enough.”

Eventually, due to personal crises, Dianne admitted that she felt abandoned by God. “I was in a very dark place and questioned all that I had believed in and accomplished.”

After leaving the Catholic Church and being away from De Pere on and off for 30 years, Dianne decided to move back permanently.

“I came home confused spiritually—a bit wounded and at times wondering if God even existed. I needed a refuge. St. Norbert Abbey became a safe place to ask questions without judgment or condemnation. By sharing these feelings with priests I had grown close to, I realized that all of this was a normal part of growing spiritually and that I wasn’t the first to have these questions. I think it was the ‘restlessness’ that St. Augustine shared with his followers.”

Dianne explained that the liturgies at the abbey have connected her with the Church of her childhood, and yet also provide a place for her as an adult to continue to grow spiritually.

“Music has always been an important part of my spiritual life. I was able to cantor at the abbey years ago. For me, it’s the most fulfilling way to pray. Here I feel blessed to be able to join the Norbertines in their daily prayers. The Magnificat brings back my childhood devotion to Mary. She becomes real to me again. And at Sunday Eucharist the Abbey Singers of St. Norbert College perform not only Latin hymns of the past, but also newly composed hymns of today: ‘ever ancient, ever new.’ ”

Easter Vigil in the Holy Night at St. Norbert Abbey

Easter Vigil in the Holy Night at St. Norbert Abbey

Dianne’s favorite liturgy at the abbey is the Easter Vigil.

“Sitting quietly in the darkness, meditating on the crucifixion, when suddenly the darkness is lit up by a fiery torch, accompanied by the pealing of the abbey bells and the joyful singing of the choir is an incredible spiritual experience.”

For Dianne, the abbey is a place of healing and inclusiveness where all are welcome to share in the blessed life of the Church.

“The abbey—the church, the liturgy, the Norbertine Center for Spirituality, and most of all the priests who have given me loving compassion and support—all became a haven for my heart and spiritual growth, which continues today.”

Fall/Winter 2016 Issue of “Abbey Magazine” Now Available

The St. Norbert Abbey thurible offers a fragrant sacrifice of praise.

The St. Norbert Abbey thurible offers a fragrant sacrifice of praise.

Abbey Magazine is a biannual publication of the Norbertine Community of St. Norbert Abbey that illumines life at the abbey and welcomes readers into our life, mind, and spirit.

Featured content » Read this issue » All issues »

Reflections on a Restless Heart

Fr. Bradley Vanden Branden, O. Praem.

As seen in the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of Abbey Magazine (pages 16-17)

On June 4, 2016, Fr. Bradley Vanden Branden, O. Praem., was ordained to the priesthood. The Mass of Ordination was celebrated by Bishop David L. Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay in the St. Norbert Abbey Church.

By Fr. Bradley Vanden Branden, O. Praem.

Deacon Bradley Vanden Branden, O. Praem., on the day of his priestly ordination.

Deacon Bradley Vanden Branden, O. Praem., on the day of his priestly ordination.

Norbertines are often quick to cite St. Augustine’s famous quote from his Confessions: “You have formed us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” Indeed, this has become a favorite quote of mine as well, yet I was unaware of the restlessness of my own heart until my ordination drew near.

At first it was a strange sort of coincidence. The imagery and literature during my retreat in preparation for priesthood happened to center around the Sacred Heart of Jesus. My ordination Mass was held on the day traditionally memorializing the Immaculate Heart of Mary (the day after the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). Bishop Ricken’s ordination homily also incorporated much of the homily Pope Francis gave to priests the day before on the Feast of the Sacred Heart. So by the time the homily was finished at my ordination, I was convinced that the Lord was trying to speak to me about something.

Green Bay’s Bishop David Ricken imposes hands upon the ordinand.

Green Bay’s Bishop David Ricken imposes hands upon the ordinand.

Then, as I knelt before the bishop, the only thing I was aware of—and, honestly one of the only moments from my ordination I vividly remember—was my heartbeat. My own heartbeat was the only thing I could hear as it pounded in my ears. My own heartbeat was the only thing I could feel as it almost punched through my chest. My own heartbeat seemed like it was jumping for joy at that moment of ordination.

What all this means, I’m still not sure. My own prayer and reflection on this significant moment for me is that my priesthood ought to be one of love. Just as the Sacred Heart of Jesus loves, so should I love all those whom I encounter. As Pope Francis said in his Sacred Heart homily, “The Heart of the Good Shepherd ‘tells us that His love is limitless; it is never exhausted and it never gives up.’ ” May it be so for me! May my heartbeat continue to fill my ears and pound out of my chest for the Church as long as I am a priest. Until I find rest in the Lord, may my heart keep me restless, pushing me forward, loving all people just as Christ would love them.

On June 12, newly ordained Fr. Vanden Branden returned to Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in De Pere to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at his home parish. His beautiful homily was a tribute to God and the Faithful at this vibrant Norbertine apostolate.

View the Mass of Thanksgiving homily of Fr. Vanden Branden »

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