MARQUETTE - The upcoming Bishop Baraga Days will probably be "the most important Baraga Days we've had," according to Bishop Alexander Sample of the Catholic Diocese of Marquette. Set for Sept. 22 and 23 in Marquette, the popular event will be the public celebration of the declaration of Venerable Frederic Baraga's heroic virtue by Pope Benedict XVI in May of this year.
The Snowshoe Priest and first bishop of the Diocese of Marquette, who was a native of Slovenia, became known as "Venerable" with the declaration.
A key event of this year's Baraga Days will be the unveiling of plans for a new chapel honoring Venerable Bishop Baraga and containing his tomb. Bishop Sample said that along with the printed plans, it is hoped a virtual tour through video animation will be available. The chapel will be built as an addition to St. Peter Cathedral in Marquette, extending into the courtyard.
Bishop Alexander Sample of the Catholic Diocese of Marquette holds this year’s Bishop Baraga Days button presented to him by Rev. Ben Paris, Executive Director of the Bishop Baraga Association, and Lenora McKeen, Associate Director. Those who register for the Baraga Days banquet on Sept. 22 or 23 in Marquette will receive the button. Bishop Baraga Days is an annual event that celebrates the life and ministry of Venerable Frederic Baraga (1797-1868), the first bishop of the diocese.
The schedule of events for Bishop Baraga Days includes a 6 p.m. Mass in Slovenian on Saturday, Sept. 22, at St. Peter Cathedral in Marquette, followed by a banquet at 7:30 and entertainment by the Singing Slovenes of Duluth, Minn., in the Great Lakes Rooms at Northern Michigan University's University Center.
On Sunday, Sept. 23, Bishop Sample will preside at a 2 p.m. Mass in English at St. Peter's. At 3:30 p.m. the Singing Slovenes will again perform in NMU's Great Lakes Rooms followed by a banquet and the annual meeting of the Bishop Baraga Association (BBA). Both banquets are open to the public and tickets are $22.50 for each.
The BBA has also set up a walking tour in Marquette from 3 to 5 p.m. on Sept. 22 and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sept. 23. The tour includes the bishops' crypt at St. Peter Cathedral, the house where Venerable Bishop Baraga lived and an open house at the BBA office, where visitors can view artifacts and items available for purchase.
In addition, the Bishop Baraga Shrine in L'Anse will offer guided tours of the shrine between the hours of 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Sept. 22, and between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 24. The Most Holy Name of Jesus/Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Assinins, the mission where Venerable Bishop Baraga served for 10 years, will also offer tours of the church, cemetery and schoolhouse on the parish grounds on Sept. 22 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The mission of the Bishop Baraga Association is to make Venerable Frederic Baraga and his example of the Catholic faith known to all people, to preserve materials pertaining to his life in its archives and to advance his continuing cause for sainthood.
The association has a new associate director in Lenora McKeen, who is a parishioner at St. Anthony Parish in Gwinn, where she serves as director of religious education. She and her husband, Mike, have three children. McKeen holds a master's degree in counseling.
Bishop Sample called for two important efforts to promote the continued success of Venerable Bishop Baraga's sainthood cause. First, he requested that the faithful continue to fervently pray that the Holy See will be able to validate the miracle that is under scrutiny in Rome.
If the miracle is accepted, the pope would be able to declare Venerable Bishop Baraga as "Blessed." Following beatification, a second future miracle would have to be accepted for a declaration of sainthood.
Secondly, Bishop Sample strongly encourages membership in the Bishop Baraga Association. "That's one of the best ways that you can demonstrate your support for the cause, and it demonstrates it also to the Holy See, to the Vatican. Membership in the Baraga Association is a very important element in his cause," Bishop Sample said. "My encouragement would be that every Catholic in the Upper Peninsula and beyond become a member in the Bishop Baraga Association to show their support."
Current membership rates are $10 per year or $50 for a lifetime membership. People are encouraged to sign up now, as the rates will go up after this year's Baraga Days celebration.
For more information, to register for the Baraga Days banquets, or to join the Bishop Baraga Association, contact Lenora McKeen at (906) 227-9117 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.