Catholic Life Articles from Bishop Callahan
The Most Reverend William Patrick Callahan
His Episcopal motto “We Adore You, O Christ” calls to mind the words of St. Francis: “We adore you, O Christ, here and in all your Churches throughout the whole world, and we bless you; because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”
The Most Reverend William Patrick Callahan was named the Tenth Bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse on June 11, 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI. Born on June 17, 1950, he is a Conventual Franciscan of the St. Bonaventure Province in Chicago. A Chicago native, he attended St. Mary Minor Seminary in Crystal Lake, Ill., and studied at Junior College, Chicago, before being accepted in the Novitiate of St. Bonaventure at Lake Forest, Ill. A graduate of Loyola University, Chicago, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television Communications. He then earned his master’s of divinity degree from St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto in 1976.
Bishop Callahan was ordained to the priesthood on April 30, 1977, by Milwaukee Archbishop William E. Cousins. After serving parishes in Milwaukee and Peoria, Ill., and working as Director of Vocations for his order, he returned to Milwaukee and the St. Josaphat congregation where he served as rector and pastor until 2005. At that time, he left the parish and went to serve as spiritual director for the Pontifical North American College in Rome until December 14, 2007.
Pope Benedict XVI named Bishop Callahan an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on October 30, 2007. He was the first Conventual Franciscan to be named a bishop in the United States.
Bishop Callahan is known for his love of the Church and his love for his people. This love is also shown by his service to the greater church by his membership on the United States Council of Catholic Bishops boards for the Committee of Clergy, Consecrated Life & Vocations, Catholic Relief Services, and the National Religious Retirement Management He also serves on the board for the Mundelein Seminary and Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology.
The youngest of four children, Callahan has two older sisters and one older brother. His parents, Ellen and William Callahan, are deceased.
Coat of Arms
The great seal of the Diocese of La Crosse (viewer’s left side of the shield) is on a field of silver. The three wavy bands at the bottom represent the three rivers flowing through the Diocese – the Mississippi, Wisconsin and Chippewa rivers. The cross of gold within the canoe symbolizes the travels of the early Jesuit missionaries through the Diocese, and the faith they brought to the area. Below the left arm of the cross is a lacrosse racket, from the game played by Native Americans who first inhabited the territory. Below the right arm is a sheaf of wheat, indicating predominantly rural nature of the Diocese. The wheat is also a symbol of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The remainder of the Diocesan side of the shield is occupied by three hills of green behind the cross, which represent the bluffs and hills found in the Diocese.
For his personal coat of arms (viewer’s right side of the shield), Bishop Callahan has adopted a design that reflects his personal heritage, his spirituality, and his ministry. At the center of the shield are the arms of the Conventual Franciscan Order, the religious community to which he belongs. These arms show on a black cross, the crossed arms of Christ and St. Francis of Assisi, each bearing the Stigmata.
At the top of the shield are two gold fleur-des-lis. These represent Mary and Joseph, two central figures in the Bishop’s spirituality. They also call to mind Bishop Callahan’s ministry at Holy Family in Peoria, Illinois where he served as pastor from 1987 to 1994.
The wave of blue at the bottom of the shield represents the waters of Lake Michigan, a key geographical element that links his hometown of Chicago with Milwaukee.
The background of the shield is red and calls to mind the Blood of Christ that was poured out for us on the cross and brings salvation to the world. It also represents the blood of the martyrs, including that of the patron of the Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where Bishop Callahan was ordained a priest in 1977 and where he served as Rector-Pastor from 1994 to 2005.
Bishop Callahan’s motto, Adoramus te Christe, calls to mind the words of St. Francis: “We adore you, O Christ, here and in all your Churches throughout the whole world, and we bless you; because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”
The emblem is completed with the external ornaments which are a gold processional cross placed in back of the shield and which extends above and below the shield, and a pontifical hat, called a “gallero,” with its six tassels, in three rows, on either side of the shield, all in green. These are the heraldic insignia of a prelate of the rank of bishop.
The Coat of Arms of the Diocese of La Crosse is on a field of silver. The three-way bands at the bottom represent the three rivers generally framing the Diocese – the Mississippi, Wisconsin, and Chippewa rivers.
The cross of gold within the canoe symbolizes the travels of the early missionaries through the diocese, and the faith they brought to the area. As one views the symbol, under the left arm of the cross is a lacrosse racket, from the game played by Native Americans who first inhabited the territory. This shape is also symbolic of the bishop’s crozier. Below the right arm is a sheaf of wheat, indicating the predominantly rural nature of the diocese. The wheat is also symbol of the Holy Eucharist. The remainder is occupied by three hills of green behind the cross, which represent the bluffs and hills found in the diocese. The Diocesan Crest, adopted in 1953, was designed by Sister M. Alice Rita Keegan, OSB, and executed by Sister M. Claretta Fornefeld, FSPA.