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Diocesan Museum display to close in June

New display – with 20th century focus – to open Aug. 1

By Patricia Kasten | On Mission

GREEN BAY — If you’ve been meaning to see the current history display at the Green Bay Diocese Museum, located at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, time is running out.

The display, covering the early history of the Catholic Church in what is now the Diocese of Green Bay — from the first missionaries arriving in the 1600s through 1881 — will close soon.

On Mission file photo
Bishop Ricken and Sherry Steffel at the April 2022 opening of the first phase of the diocesan history exhibit. Part Two opens on Aug. 1 at the museum located in the basement of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay. The 10-foot cross is a pilgrimage cross used by Jesuits doing parish missions in the diocesan area.

“At the end of June, it’s all being put in storage and will not see the light of day for four to six years,” said Sherry Steffel, president of the board for the museum.

The museum, at 139 S. Madison St., is located on the lower level of the cathedral. It is open on Sundays after the 9 a.m. Mass until 11 a.m. and on Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m.

The current display — titled “History of the Green Bay Diocese 1600-1880” — opened on May 1, 2022. It followed a two-year closure of the museum for inventory and building the display.

“My underlying theme is the education of laity,” Steffel said about the artifacts, stressing that the series of displays is “not just about bishops and priests because the history of the diocese is about so much more.”

The current display is the first of a four-cycle history display. The second will cover the years 1881 to 1960. Steffel said those years were chosen because on Nov. 20, 1881, the cathedral was dedicated and 1960 brings the church up to the start of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

These temporary displays are partnered with a permanent display about all 12 bishops of the diocese. The museum display on relics of the saints will also remain.

Also remaining on view is the oldest artifact owned by the Dioceses of Green Bay: the Perrot Ostensorium.

The Ostensorium (monstrance) is the first artifact that visitors see. Crafted in 1686, the silver monstrance was donated by Nicholas Perrot to the mission of St. Francis Xavier, then located in De Pere. 

Perrot, a French trader who served as liaison between France and local Indigenous people, gave the monstrance to Jesuit Fr. Claude Allouez, founder, and pastor of the mission at the time.

After the current display concludes, the museum will close while the artifacts are packed up and those for the new display are brought out of storage.

“We have four weeks to get everything done,” Steffel said.

The 1881 to 1960 display will be ready on Thursday, Aug. 1. The first visitor will be Bishop David Ricken, who will receive a private tour. Later that day, by 3 p.m,, the public is welcome to tour the museum, said Steffel.

While there are regular museum hours, Steffel said that, if she or a volunteer is available, the museum can be opened for school tours or tours for “groups as few as one.”

To arrange a tour, call the cathedral parish office at (920) 432-4348. The cathedral is located at 140 S. Monroe Street in Green Bay.

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