The Sandwich Generation: Fr. Andrew Cribben, O. Praem.

Norbertine Priests Juggle Work, Family, and Health Concerns with the Help of their Brothers in Christ

As seen in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of Abbey Magazine (page 8)

By Gina Sanders Larsen

Managing Editor, Abbey Magazine

Fr. Andrew Cribben, O. Praem.

Fr. Andrew Cribben, O. Praem., 53, is one of 11 children born into a Dodge County, Wisconsin, farming family. No stranger to hard work, he is currently the pastor of the 1400-family St. Willebrord Parish in downtown Green Bay, which just celebrated its 25th year as one of the region’s largest and most vital Hispanic Catholic churches. Seventy percent of parish families are Hispanic in language, culture, and tradition, and 30 percent are native English speakers.

“Our Hispanic families are primarily young with children, and our English-speaking members tend to be elderly,” Fr. Cribben said. “Changes in immigration law enforcement have caused a new wave of worry and uncertainty. We work every day to be companions to many long-term and well-established Hispanic people in Green Bay and the people who know them. My biggest challenge is parish unity in the midst of so many different pastoral needs.”

Fr. Cribben lives at the parish rectory and returns to St. Norbert Abbey, just a short car ride away, for meetings or supportive discussions with his confreres. “A group of us gathers intentionally to support one another in our active ministry. We share a desire to be happy, healthy, and holy. It’s where I experience the love and support I need to serve the people of our parish.”

The Norbertine Order’s personnel committee has been responsive to Fr. Cribben’s call for more help at the always-bustling St. Willebrord. Fr. Jack MacCarthy, O. Praem., came on as assistant pastor nearly two years ago, fluent in Spanish and Hispanic culture after decades of pastoral and medical service in the jungles of Peru. Fr. Cribben is confident in and thankful for his confrere’s expertise and compassion. “We can discuss pastoral and spiritual concerns of our parish members and community issues,” he said. “To have a confrere at my side is a great benefit to us both, I believe.” Together with Fr. MacCarthy and Br. Jacob Sircy, O. Praem., up to 12 Norbertines regularly assist Fr. Cribben with twice-daily Masses and eight weekend Masses at the parish. “Several of our elderly priests speak Spanish, so we can gather up to eight bilingual confessors for special events like our recent women’s retreat,” Fr. Cribben said.

I am working to regain healthy habits so I can stay productive and available to the people who need me.

—Fr. Andrew Cribben, O. Praem.
Fr. Andrew Cribben, O. Praem. (center)
Fr. Andrew Cribben, O. Praem. (center)

High on Fr. Cribben’s list of concerns is providing capable, Spanish-speaking Norbertines to serve at St. Willebrord Parish. “I hope and pray I have many more years at St. Willy’s, but given the size and complexity of our parish, I’ve already started discussions with the abbey personnel committee about a transition plan. How will we prepare? I rely on the members to help us with longer-term plans,” he said.

Fr. Cribben said self-care is often sacrificed in the midst of his hectic schedule and the heavy emotional and spiritual demands of his flock. “As a farm boy, my exercise was our daily work on the farm, and that has gone away,” Fr. Cribben said. “I am working with Dr. John Gray (abbey health advisor) to try and regain some healthy habits so I can stay productive and available to the people who need me.”

The Sandwich Generation

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