Fr. Jim Baraniak, O.Praem., addresses the bride and groom at the wedding of Pam (Ripp) Schmitz ’09 and Chris Schmitz ’08 earlier this summer.
Wedding bells ring all summer
Thirty-three weddings fill the 2011 summer schedule at Old St. Joseph Church. The Rev. Jim Baraniak, O.Praem., ’88, pastor at St. Norbert College Parish, says that he doesn’t know of another church with more. “My home parish has six weddings per year,” he says.
Fr. Baraniak describes the summer wedding season as providing “a great sense of joy for the Norbertines.”
The Rev. Jim Neilson, O.Praem., ’88 (Art), the Rev. Jay Fostner, O.Praem., ’84 (Mission and Student Affairs), the Rev. John Bostwick, O.Praem., ’68 (Religious Studies) and the Rev. Sal Cuccia, O.Praem., ’63 (St. Norbert College Parish) join Baraniak in covering the 2011 wedding season.
The majority of couples exchanging vows on campus once called the college home. Baraniak estimates that 90 percent of all weddings at Old St. Joe's feature at least one St. Norbert grad. In 75 percent, both the bride and groom are alumni who have met on campus, and many times the St. Norbert tradition runs even deeper, he adds.
“There are more people than not where mom and dad met here and were married here,” he says. “We love that. I always make reference to the parents being alums, being married here.”
The priests also receive requests to celebrate wedding Masses at the home churches of alumni. Those requests are honored on a first-come, first-served basis, says Baraniak.
“There are a large number of requests for Chicago and the Twin Cities because of the number of alums we have from there,” he says. “That’s part of the extension from the parish, from the college.”
Some of the alumni couples have met at the Sunday evening Mass at Old St. Joe's. A significant number first met at orientation in the church.
The connection these couples feel to the church itself is perhaps only surpassed by the connection they feel to the Norbertines they encountered there and beyond. Cuccia says that his ministry as associate pastor and his participation in the college’s annual men’s service trip to Philadelphia fosters friendships with students and further extends the reach of the parish.
Baraniak agrees that beyond their classroom and administrative duties, Norbertines develop relationships with students through their campus presence.
“We live here. We show up for their sporting events, their theatrical events, their musical events,” says Baraniak. “It’s our hope that we are first and foremost ministers.”
Aug. 2, 2011