From WBAY: An Unexpected Honor

WBAY did a positive news story on our most recent addition to our teaching staff, Spanish teacher Mr. Riley Garbe. We are very blessed to have Mr. Garbe on our serving our students at St. John the Baptist School.  Original Story at WBAY.  Link to WBAY Video that aired on 1/11/2018.

An Unexpected Honor

HOWARD, Wis. (WBAY) It’s a commencement speech that won’t be forgotten anytime soon at UW-Green Bay. “For me, I was born into a tough world. My parents were drug addicts and alcoholics. My parents went away to jail and prison throughout my childhood. I witnessed abuse and violence more times than I could count,” Riley Garbe said to his fellow graduates in December.

It was then we brought you Riley’s inspiring story of overcoming incredible odds to not only graduate but to be named Outstanding Student by the UWGB Alumni Association.

Riley’s journey also inspired one viewer to make sure other students like him are honored for years to come.

The last few weeks have been quite the whirlwind for Riley, from college graduation to his first job as a spanish teacher at St. John the Baptist School in Howard.

“It happened so fast. It was, come home from Mexico, had the two ceremonies, the speech, the news interview, Christmas with my family, New Year’s and boom, I was in the classroom,” says Riley.

It was in that classroom last week Riley received an unexpected call.

“When I got that voicemail I thought this must be a hoax, because I’ve never had somebody reach out to me and offer $20,000 in scholarships in my honor,” says Riley.

But that’s exactly what Bill Welter, a retired advertising executive and board member of the Brian LaViolette Scholarship Foundation, had in mind.

“When I saw the commencement speech, I knew that man was a man of honor, was a man of truth and humility and love, so you can’t find people like that in the world these days, so thanks WBAY and you for bringing that to our attention, he exemplifies what the LaViolette Foundation is all about,” says Welter.

“It brought me to tears because I felt so honored and so humbled to be asked to be part of something like that,” adds Riley.

Riley met Welter for the first time today and learned more about the honor.

A $2,000 scholarship will be awarded in his name for the next ten years at Freedom High School, where he attended.

Riley will also be part of the selection committee.

“Someone who’s been through a lot of adversity in their life but was courageous, persevered, never gave up faith, never gave up home and is a survivor,” says Riley.

In other words, students aspiring to be just like Riley.

Our Pastor Celebrates 50 Years

Call to priesthood came early, says Fr. Bergstadt

In grade school, ‘I knew that’s what I wanted to do,’ says 50-year jubilarian

HOWARD — Fr. John Bergstadt, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish, marked 50 years of priesthood on Dec. 21, but his call to serve dates back to his childhood in Marinette.

“The word definitely is ‘call,’” he said. “I understood it. I understand it, more in retrospect than I did at the time. I knew in my heart in second or third grade. I would practice church, make little hosts out of wholesome bread. I would ask the neighborhood kids to come to ‘Mass,’ which didn’t last real long on their part. I knew then, pretty much, that’s what I wanted to do.”

While at Marinette Catholic Central High School, Fr. Bergstadt contemplated three different paths for his future.

Fr. John Bergstadt, pictured near the daily chapel at St. John the Baptist Church in Howard, said his calling to the priesthood came during grade school. He celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination on Dec. 10. (Sam Lucero | The Compass )

“It was between social worker, because I thought they did a lot of good, priest or teacher,” he said. “My mother was a teacher, so I hung around with teachers all my life and knew the kind of people they were.”

He received affirmation for the priesthood from a School Sister of Notre Dame, who taught at the high school.

“I hadn’t told anybody,” explained Fr. Bergstadt. “One day, she stopped me in the hall and said, ‘Well are you or aren’t you?’ I said, ‘Aren’t I doing what?’ ‘Are you going to be a priest or not?’ I said, ‘How do you know that?’ She said, ‘I just know.’ That really firmed it up in my mind. That’s the sign I needed.”

He received another sign while praying in the chapel at Sacred Heart Seminary in Oneida during a day for prospective students.

“I remember kneeling there during benediction and seeing the sun coming through on the altar and thinking, ‘This is it. This is definitely it,’” said Fr. Bergstadt. “I honestly have never gone back thinking I should have done this instead. Nor do I ever say that I had a job. It’s not a job. The days are too short sometimes, the possibilities are too multiple, but I’m grateful for it.”

Fr. Bergstadt’s parents, Walter and Anna (Bostedt) Bergstadt, were supportive of their only child’s vocation. His mother was Catholic and his father was Lutheran at the time.

“They both made a sacrifice and they never made me feel guilty,” he said. “The only thing my mother told me was, ‘Now John, if you are ever ordained, remember we are not the movers and the shakers. You are just ordinary people, so you say hello to everybody when you stand outside of church.’ When my mother got to be 94, I think, she sat in back of church and said, ‘Do you have to talk to everybody?’ I said, ‘You are the one who taught me that.’”

Fr. Bergstadt studied at Sacred Heart Seminary before moving on to St. Francis Seminary near Milwaukee. He was then selected to attend Pontifical Gregorian University, North American College, in Rome, where he studied from 1964 to 1968.

His time in Rome overlapped with the Second Vatican Council.

“It was fascinating. Some of the same people who were writing the documents would come to the college in the evening to give a lecture,” he said. “To see busloads of bishops looking like kids going to school was neat. These guys got off the buses with their briefcases in hand.”

Fr. Bergstadt was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Francis Reh at St. Peter’s Basilica on Dec. 21, 1967. His father received permission to receive Communion at the ordination Mass. When Fr. Bergstadt returned home after completing his final exams, he baptized his father into the Catholic faith.

“That was a terribly humbling experience,” said Fr. Bergstadt. “He had taken instructions and had not told many people that was where he was going. I give credit to one of the Lauermans (Lauerman Brothers Department Store). He knew Dad was the father of a seminarian. He used to come down and sit at the counter where Dad worked in the shipping department and say, ‘Walter, what don’t you understand about the Catholic Church?’ I think that really made it possible for Dad to come into the church. Here was somebody Dad worked for and admired speaking about faith and the church.”

Fr. Bergstadt’s first appointment was as associate pastor at St. Therese Parish in Appleton. He then served at Sacred Heart Seminary for two years before returning to parish ministry at Holy Cross Parish, Kaukauna, where he was associate pastor for four years and co-pastor for three years. In 1979, he was appointed pastor of St. Bernard Parish in Green Bay, where he served for 17 years.

“We built the church at St. Bernard’s. Our generation felt that the church had too much property already. You were not going to put another brick down,” he said. “I got out to Cliff and Ceil’s for a social event. This little committee came up to talk to me. ‘So Father, when are we going to build the church?’ I thought to myself, ‘I can’t build a church.’ They worked very closely with me and made it happen.”

Fr. Bergstadt was appointed pastor of St. Bernard Parish, Appleton, in 1996. He succeeded Fr. Orv Janssen, who had built St. Bernard Church and served the parish for 32 years, which made the transition challenging.

“He was a giant in every true sense of the word,” said Fr. Bergstadt about Fr. Janssen, who died in 1999. “I wished he would have lived longer. I would have loved to have gained more from him.”

Fr. Bergstadt didn’t know much about St. John the Baptist when he was appointed pastor in 2005, other than that the parish was building a new church.

“The staff is just excellent,” he said. “People are dedicated. Sometimes, you have to say, ‘Go home, it’s time to leave.’ They love what they do.

“There is a healthy sense of ownership,” he added. “People see something that needs to be done and ask if it’s OK if we do this. A lot of things happen that way, which is wonderful.”

The parish celebrated Fr. Bergstadt’s 50-year jubilee with Mass and a dinner on Dec. 10 at St. John the Baptist Church. Bishop David Ricken and several priests attended. Fr. Scott Valentyn, parochial vicar at St. John the Baptist, served as the homilist. He said that among the lessons he has learned from Fr. Bergstadt are humility, the need of assistance from others and the importance of listening.

“Fourth and most important, none of this matters if it doesn’t start and end with your prayer life, with your personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” said Fr. Valentyn. “(Fr. Bergstadt) lives it.”

Fr. Bergstadt is regularly asked how long he plans to stay at the parish. There are “a lot of things poised to happen” at the church and school which he wants to help see through. He said he is also praying for a seminarian from St. John the Baptist.

“More young people are talking about the seminary,” he said. “More and more young people are starting to ask those questions. Hopefully that will bear fruit.”

The call he received so many years ago continues to be renewed.

“You read those passages of vocation and it’s as though you are called fresh every time to something more than you had before,” he said. “You are always beginning, which is a wonderful feeling in a sense. You have not arrived.”

Growing in Our Faith

Here at St. John the Baptist, we are blessed to have many opportunities for our students to grow in their faith. One of those ways is Our Lady Queen of Peace prayer group led by Kay Moore, a retired teacher from St. John the Baptist. The group includes students in grades 3-8 and meets twice a month to pray together and grow in their faith. Students learn ways to pray and how to share their faith with other people. This month they even got to participate in Adoration and spend time in quiet prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

St. John the Baptist Christmas Concert a Success

The St. John the Baptist School Christmas Concert was held on Thursday, December 14.  The show featured all of our kindergarten through eighth-grade students. Our middle school bands, liturgical choir, and elementary students put on a wonderful performance reminding us of the true meaning of Christmas. Congratulations to all of our students who were able to showcase their many talents!  A special thanks also goes out to all who helped make the concert a success, especially Mrs. Hodulik, Mr. Lund-Ziegler, and Mrs. Buchinger.  

If you didn’t have the opportunity to see the performance live, you can still watch it on youtube via the link here.

Advent at SJB School

This week our school celebrated the start to a new liturgical year with an Advent prayer service and a school Jesse Tree. Our prayer service included a blessing of Advent wreaths, which each class got to take back to their room and will be using throughout the Advent season. We took time to lift up our community in prayer, as well as had Fr. Scott bless our wreaths.  The service concluded with a school-wide processional back from church, with only the light from our wreaths guiding the way.

SJB School also started putting ornaments on our Jesse Tree this week. Each morning during announcements, a student brings the ornament of the day to hang on the tree. Then the student also reads about the biblical significance of their class’s ornament for that day.

More celebrations to come this Advent season include our annual Christmas Concert on Thursday, December 14th at 9:00am and 6:00pm. We will also hold a final Advent prayer service on Thursday, December 22nd for the students, before heading off for Christmas break.

May this Advent teach all of us the importance of being alert and to continue to wait for the coming of Christ!



Advent Explained by Fr. Scott and Mr. Mulloy

Fr. Scott and Mr. Mulloy worked together to create their second video. In this video, they explain the true meaning of Advent. It is not a time of shopping, candy, and decorations. Advent is a time for us to slow down, spend more time in prayer, and prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ.