Freshmen Make Annual Theology Pilgrimage to Abbey, Cathedral, Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help


Carly Noble, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Saint Norbert Abbey, Saint Francis Xavier Cathedral and the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help were the three locations the Notre Dame Academy freshman class visited on their theology pilgrimage.

The Freshman Theology Pilgrimage started in 2010-2011 and has become an annual event for each freshman class that comes into Notre Dame.

Mrs. Katie Stanczak, theology teacher, is a big reason why the Freshman Theology Pilgrimage is what it is today.

When Stanczak attended St.Norbert College she was expected to take a tour of St.Norbert Abbey to help better understand the heritage, culture and faith background of the Norbertine community. As an alum of NDA, she was interested in the opportunity and attended the tour.


“I was inspired by the hospitality, care and knowledge of the community and greatly enjoyed the day. So, when I began teaching theology at NDA (Fall ’08), I wanted to incorporate the same kind of experience for our students,” Stanczak said.

Stanczak brought her ideas to Notre Dame Academy and with that the first trip was planned in 2010-2011 when the Shrine was approved as being an official site of a Marian Apparition.  There was also a shrine to St. Joseph housed at St. Norbert Abbey.

“It seemed like a perfect match to experience a tour at St. Norbert Abbey and see the Shrine of St. Joseph and then spend the afternoon at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help,” Stanczak said.

In 2013, when Mr. Chris Griesen joined the Freshman Theology teaching staff, he took over planning the trip and since then has been able to incorporate mass at the Abbey as well as a tour of the St. Francis Xavier Cathedral.

The freshman class did their pilgrimage Tuesday, Oct.18.


The day started with Mass said by Father Brad and a tour of St.Norbert Abbey given by two Norbertine Fraters.

“My favorite part of the trip was learning about the history of the Abbey, and I learned to appreciate the history of the Church,” said Max Timmer, freshman class president.

After that, the group went to St.Francis Xavier Cathedral where they listened to Carol Joppe, a Cathedral volunteer, speak about the history and beauty of the Cathedral.

“She was very knowledgeable about the murals, stained glass windows, history of the Cathedral, bishops, organ, and museum. It was a wonderful opportunity as well. Then, everyone was able to gather in the Bishop Wycislo Center for lunch,” Stanczak said.

Following lunch, the buses were loaded and the pilgrimage continued to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.

At the Shrine, the students were able to hear the history of Sr. Adele, the Peshtigo Fire and the Apparition.

Their experience continued with prayer time in the Oratory, the prayer walk of the Holy Rosary and the Stations of the Cross. Each student was offered the gift of a prayer book as a momento of their time at the Shrine.

“I learned lots on the pilgrimage about my faith and felt that I grew closer to God because we prayed throughout the day,” said Katherine Fangman.

Each student may have had a different experience or take on the day, but as Stanczak said, “The purpose of The Freshman Theology Pilgrimage is for all students to spend a day in education and prayer. This opportunity provides a chance for them to bond as class and learn about the history of St. Norbert, the Diocese of Green Bay and the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.”