PRAIRIE DU CHIEN — As if to prove there’s no hard feelings that the southwest Wisconsin Catholic diocese is headquartered in La Crosse, St. Gabriel Church in Prairie du Chien will host the kickoff of the diocese’s sesquicentennial March 3.
Oddsmakers would have picked St. Gabriel to become the mother church when the diocese was created March 3, 1868. It is the oldest operating church in the diocese, with roots as far back as 1817, when Jesuit missionaries ministered to Catholic settlers and Prairie du Chien was a teeming center of fur trading and other commerce thanks to the Mississippi River.
The papal decree that two dioceses should be spun off from Milwaukee designated them to be headquartered in La Crosse and Green Bay. However, many clung to the assumption that Prairie was the logical place for the diocese’s cathedral church, and St. Gabriel was built with that thought in mind, according to “Feed my Lambs,” a new historical account of the diocese published to celebrate the sesquicentennial.
By then, though, Prairie du Chien’s potential as a Midwest destination point had tanked, and the Vatican’s choice for the diocesan see city was La Crosse, deemed “the city of the future,” according to “Feed my Lambs.”
“Once upon a time,” Prairie du Chien was the favorite, confirmed Mary Antoine, a native and the history guru of the city of about 6,000 and the surrounding tri-state area.
“Originally, Prairie du Chien was the only community in all of Wisconsin — this and Green Bay,” Antoine said.
An 1857 brochure touted Prairie as having the potential to become one of the biggest and most influential cities in the Midwest, with the first railroad connection with Milwaukee and other drawing cards.
“Oh, look, we’ve got the railroad, logs, crops and the Mississippi River,” she said, making it a commercial pipeline to Green Bay, the Great Lakes and the Erie Canal.
“But Prairie du Chien never quite grew, for a variety of reasons,” Antoine said.
The 69-year-old Antoine’s interest in history is rooted in her youth, when she lived with her grandmother, who mesmerized her with stories of the old days.
“When I was young, I hung out with old people. Now, I’m an old people,” Antoine said with a touch of her self-deprecating humor.
After majoring in history in college and obtaining a master’s degree in historical museum studies, she and her family lived in upstate New York until returning to Prairie du Chien. She has owned and lived in for about 15 years a house that was on the grounds of St. Gabriel until it was moved and eventually fell into disrepair.
The house, which she was fond of since she used to walk past it on her way to and from St. Gabriel’s School, became her restoration project for its historical and sentimental value.
The home itself is a museum of sorts, with her collection of fur trading artifacts and French Canadian furniture from Wisconsin. Among her favorite items are blanket chests she once collected.
St. Gabriel Church bears the fingerprints of several ancestors of the mother of three, including a stained glass window her grandmother donated. The church still has her family’s pew, which dates to the days when parishioners paid pew rent, and brass tags at the ends of the seats indicated who owned which.
“The more rent you paid, the closer to the front,” she said. “The construction of the church was very much a community project,” she said. “People donated what little money they had and lots of labor.”
As a result, the building process was a long one, with the cornerstone being laid in 1836 and work continuing with limestone quarried from the area’s bluffs until the church was completed in 1850.
Prairie du Chien historically had two Catholic parishes, with St. Gabriel on the north side being the worship home of French Canadians, Irish and Germans, she said, and the Bohemians gravitating to St. John Nepomuc, which was dedicated in December 1831, on the south.
“Both of them had huge congregations,” Antoine said.
Pastoral duties at the parishes cycled between diocesan priests and Jesuits over the years, until the Jesuits left the city in 2009 and both parishes came under the care of diocesan priests, according to “Feed my Lambs.”
The parish schools eventually merged, becoming what now Prairie Catholic Schools.
In 2011, parishioners decided that, among other factors, “keeping two sets of books, it was easier to merge,” Antoine said.
St. Gabriel and St. John churches joined under one umbrella, Holy Family Parish, with Bishop William Callahan celebrating the first Mass on June 30, 2012. It claims the distinction of being one of the newest parishes in the Badger State, while using the oldest existing church, St. Gabriel, in the state.
Back to the time of the diocese’s founding, the dilemma after the Vatican designated La Crosse was that the only church in La Crosse was St. Mary’s, a small wooden building that had been completed in 1856 and paled in comparison to the size and beauty of the stone St. Gabriel.
Mostly Irish and French Catholics worshiped at St. Mary’s, while plans were drawn up for St. Joseph’s Church but building had not begun.
Bishop Michael Heiss took those plans and turned them into what was to become the cathedral, at Sixth and Main streets. The line item in the building contract stipulating a need for 650,000 bricks indicated what a massive structure it would be, and St. Joseph Husband of Mary was dedicated on Oct. 2, 1870. St. Joseph, by then now the Workman, was replaced with a modern design based on the gothic architecture of the original and dedicated in May 1962.
Although it might appear that St. Gabriel was passed over, its historical importance will be underscored Saturday, when it hosts the Mass and ceremonies to launch the sesquicentennial year.
Up until last week, most of us had never really considered what to call the group of American kids growing up behind the millennials.
Those born in the 2000s, who grew up alongside Facebook and Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, have inspired plenty of commentary about the damaging effects of social media and selfies, but little reflection about what they might bring to the table. As with the two generations before them, they were not expected to change the nation in the way the now near-mythical boomers did.
Then a gunman walked into a Parkland, Fla., high school on Valentine’s Day, killing 17, injuring at least a dozen and terrorizing hundreds more.
Generation Z emerged overnight.
It’s hard to remember another moment when a changing of the guard was captured as quickly and dramatically, on screen and in real time, as we’re seeing now in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school shooting.
With a fearlessness born out of terror and loss, a generation maligned for being too soft and spilling all on social media was ready when a real cause came along.
In the week following the attack, the school’s surviving students and their peers inspired nationwide school walkouts, Capitol Hill sit-ins, CNN town hall meetings and a “listening session” with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at the White House.
Determined not to let another mass shooting fade away in a cloud of thoughts and prayers, these students clearly and cogently refuted the usual politicized narratives pumped out of D.C. after each mass shooting, first on television mere hours after the attack and then directly on Twitter: #We Call BS! quickly rolled into #WeAreTheChange.
They called out the NRA directly on CNN and Fox, and demanded adults reframe gun control as an issue of safety rather than a red-versus-blue-politics argument as usual. They appeared on late-night talk shows, and were accused by alt-right agitators of being fictional crisis actors hired by gun-hating leftists.
But this group who grew up navigating spin hasn’t taken the bait.
“People are saying that it’s not time to talk about gun control, and we can respect that,” Cameron Kasky, a junior at the high school, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Here’s the time: March 24,” Kasky continued. “In every single city, we are going to be marching together as students begging for our lives. This isn’t about the GOP. This isn’t about the Democrats. This is about the adults. We feel neglected. At this point, you’re either with us or you’re against us.”
Politicians who haven’t budged from the standard “thoughts and prayers” stance since Columbine were caught off guard. By Wednesday’s meeting at the White House, it was clear they’d been rattled. Trump’s numbered crib notes, which he carried into the televised discussion, went viral after being captured by photojournalists. Point No. 5 read, “I hear you.”
Christened by gunfire and united by tragedy, Generation Z’s determination and ire didn’t just arrive with the media exposure of this particular school shooting, the latest in multiple such shootings of 2018. This generation has grown up with “active shooter” school drills and “code reds.” They were entering grade school when their first-grade peers were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary and an unarmed 17-year-old named Trayvon Martin was killed while walking home by a gun-wielding adult.
No wonder so many of today’s fictional young people of television and film are fearless avengers who battle evil in smarter and more effective ways than their parents, protecting the adults who are supposed to protect them: “Stranger Things,” “Supergirl,” “Marvel’s Runaways,” “Black Lightning.”
As Parkland students marched toward their state capitol building in Tallahassee on Wednesday, they resembled a high school debate team, not superheroes. An AR-15 was used by the Parkland shooter and they were there to urge lawmakers to impose tighter gun restrictions, even though legislation regarding the ban of military-style firearms had been struck down the day before.
Some of the students wore jeans and carried backpacks. Others wore ill-fitting dress shirts and slacks that they appeared to have outgrown since the last formal event — Easter Mass or a friend’s bar mitzvah — they had attended. Their public speaking event, however, was anything but the usual academic exercise associated with generations of high schoolers before them.
“When did politics and money from the NRA become more important than our lives?” asked Dimitri Hoth, a senior who described to the press and lawmakers the horror of surviving the attack.
The mild-mannered student, who recalled that his biggest concern in the hours before the attack was trying to get out of an after-school rehearsal, proclaimed: “NRA, we’re not afraid of you. You won’t silence us. Never again.”
It echoed this nation’s last big student uprising nearly a half-century ago, which also revolved around too many young people being shot at for no good reason. Perhaps the renewed interest in the Pentagon Papers and Vietnam War in films such as “The Post” is no coincidence.
If millennials and Gen X helped usher in the changes that led to pot legalization, gay marriage laws and AIDS awareness, the teenagers of Gen Z might help break the logjam that has prevented changes in gun laws that the majority of Americans have wanted for so long.
The middle-aged who scoff at young people for their need of “safe spaces” might now think twice given that they actually do need safe spaces to hide from monsters who storm schools, colleges, movie theaters, churches and concert venues with weapons of war.
What could be more nonpartisan than saving kids lives, asked student David Hogg on Wednesday to a reporter.
The media persisted in the usual manner. Fox’s “Outnumbered” host Harris Faulkner asked Hogg what he had to say about Trump doing more to address gun violence issues than any other president before him.
“I don’t know, actually,” he answered, then steered the interview back toward common-sense solutions for gun control.
The FBI made horrific mistakes, she said, how do you respond to that?
Hogg again brought it back to action rather than blame.
The Fox host complimented Hogg for being well-spoken: “You are a blessed young man. I know a lot of people will say that they are praying for you. Please know that we are. And that we mean it. And God bless you.”
Hogg wasn’t about to let that go: “Yeah, but please take action as well.”
WASHINGTON — Two weeks after President Donald Trump blocked the full release of a classified Democratic memo, the House intelligence committee published a redacted version of the document that aims to counter a narrative that Republicans on the committee have promoted for months — that the FBI and Justice Department conspired against Trump as they investigated his ties to Russia.
The Democratic memo’s release on Saturday was the latest development in an extraordinary back and forth between Republicans and Democrats about the credibility of not only the multiple inquiries into links between the Trump campaign and Russia, but also about the credibility of the nation’s top law enforcement agencies.
The Democratic document attempts to undercut and add context to some of the main points from the GOP memo, including the GOP assertion that the FBI obtained the surveillance warrant without disclosing that former British spy Christopher Steele’s anti-Trump research was funded by Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
The Democratic memo contends that the Justice Department disclosed “the assessed political motivation of those who hired him” and that Steele was likely hired by someone “looking for information that could be used to discredit” then-candidate Trump’s campaign.
Republicans say that is not enough, since the Clinton and the DNC were not named. President Donald Trump himself seized on this point in a tweet Saturday evening: “Dem Memo: FBI did not disclose who the clients were—the Clinton Campaign and the DNC. Wow!”
The White House had objected to the Democratic memo’s release, citing national security concerns on Feb. 9. That sent the Democrats back to negotiations with the FBI, which approved a redacted version. It was then declassified and released.
Trump had no such concerns about an earlier classified memo written by Republicans, which he declassified in full on Feb. 2 over strong objections from the FBI. In that memo, Republicans took aim at the FBI and the Justice Department over the use of information compiled by Steele in obtaining a secret warrant to monitor the communications of a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
The Democratic memo asserts that the FBI’s concerns about Page long predate the Steele dossier, and that its application to monitor his communications details suspicious activities he undertook during the 2016 presidential campaign. That includes a July 2016 trip to Moscow in which he gave a university commencement address.
The memo also contends that the Justice Department provided “additional information from multiple independent sources that corroborated Steele’s reporting” in the dossier. Most of the details of the corroborated information are redacted but they do appear to reference Page’s meeting with Russian officials. The memo says that the Justice Department didn’t include any “salacious allegations” about Trump contained in the compilation of memos drafted by Steele, now known as the Trump-Russia “dossier,” in its FISA application.
The memo also details Russian attempts to cultivate Page as a spy. It cites a federal indictment of two Russian spies who allegedly targeted Page for recruitment and notes that the FBI interviewed him based on those suspicions in March 2016.
The Democrats say the FBI made “made only narrow use of Steele’s sources” in the warrant in the secret court that operates under Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.
Republicans say that is still too much.
“Again, the fact the minority cannot outright deny that a DNC/Clinton funded document was used to wiretap an American is extremely concerning,” the Republican National Committee said in a statement.
Trump has said the GOP memo “vindicates” him in the ongoing Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller. But congressional Democrats and Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, who helped draft the GOP memo, have said it shouldn’t be used to undermine the special counsel.
Partisan disagreements on the intelligence committee have escalated over the last year as Democrats have charged that Republicans aren’t taking the panel’s investigation into Russian election meddling seriously enough. They say the GOP memo is designed as a distraction from the probe, which is looking into whether Trump’s campaign was in any way connected to the Russian interference.
Republicans say they are just alerting the public to abuses they say they’ve uncovered at the Justice Department and FBI.
The top Democrat on the intelligence panel, California Rep. Adam Schiff, said Saturday that the memo should “put to rest any concerns that the American people might have” as to the conduct of the FBI, the Justice Department and the court that issued the secret warrant.
The review “failed to uncover any evidence of illegal, unethical, or unprofessional behavior by law enforcement,” he said.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders disagreed. She said that Trump supported the redacted release of the memo in the interest of transparency, but “nevertheless, this politically driven document fails to answer serious concerns raised by the majority’s memorandum about the use of partisan opposition research from one candidate, loaded with uncorroborated allegations, as a basis to ask a court to approve surveillance of a former associate of another candidate, at the height of a presidential campaign.”
There are some points of agreement between the GOP and Democratic memos, including that the FBI did not open its counterintelligence investigation into links between Russian election interference and the Trump campaign because of Steele’s dossier.
Instead, both memos show that the investigation was prompted by concerns about contacts between former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and people linked to Russia.
So far, Mueller has charged nearly 20 people as part of his investigation. Three Trump associates have pleaded guilty — and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors — including Papadopoulos, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign aide Rick Gates.