MY WELL-BELOVED CLERGY AND LAITY:
GRACE be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We give thanks, that we are enabled to meet together after the first year of our Episcopate which has been so rich with heavenly encouragement.
We have come to know each other somewhat better, and have grown closer together by mutual trust and cooperation. Throughout the diocese there has been a general awakening of zeal for the Church's interest and a quickening of the spiritual life. We owe this to the many prayers and almost continual intercessions which have gone up on our behalf both within and without the diocese, and to the hearty, united, and loyal support which you, my brethren and sons, have given me.
Where charity rules, obstacles vanish. As prayer increases, gifts descend. Cultivate this charity yet more. Guard this apostolic "Cor Unum" by mutual forbearance and concession, so will God be enabled to accomplish through our instrumentality results mightier than those for which we even dare to pray.
While we can but be thankful for tokens of material prosperity, our heart must not be attracted from its gaze on that which is of supreme importance, the building of the spiritual temple.
That can best be done, my brethren of the Clergy, by first deepening our own spiritual lives. And here I would acknowledge the receipt of the communication made me by a large number of you, asking for a Clerical Retreat. I trust the custom of our yearly meeting together for spiritual exercises and meditation will soon be established in this as it is in other Dioceses. If possible I will make arrangements for holding one this autumn, of which you will receive notice. And I think at such time it will be profitable for us also to consult together as to the best means of extending Christ's kingdom.
The Diocese has much to be thankful for, and however crippled by want of material wealth, its poverty brings spiritual blessings. There are no large towns. Many who have acquired wealth out of our forests and mines have removed elsewhere to enjoy it. A large portion of the pledges for the support of the Episcopate, upon which the General Convention allowed the formation of the Diocese, were never redeemed. While other missionary Dioceses not having attempted an independent jurisdiction are not only supported by the Church, but can secure a grant of $20,000 on the raising of $10,000, our Diocese, which has nearly made good that sum, can receive nothing. My predecessor once said to me that he was the first and he feared he should be the last Bishop of Fond du Lac.
But this is not repeated by way of discouragement. By the steadfastness of those Clergy who have held their posts in the midst of great privations, and the constant liberality of our laity, the Diocese has not only lived, but is hopefully developing. If our towns are not so large as those elsewhere, this is our spiritual advantage. The strength of the Church lies in its small villages. In the great cities the din and whirl of its marts, and the excitement of its social life, absorb the heart's interests. In them religion has only a tolerated and subordinate place. In quieter places the Church and its services become the center of the interior life, and it is from hidden places like Bethlehem and Nazareth that religion issues with special power. Take courage. It is in deepening the spiritual life in the few that the greatest work is done for God. The real result of our labors cannot be catalogued or invoiced. Exercise yet greater confidence in God. Just as we die to self and work in loving concord, will God work effectually through us. It is through the weak, the humble, the loving, God can do great things. Believing that He has large and hidden purposes for His Church, which we can lovingly trust, let us faithfully stand in our appointed lot, and with enthusiastic patience and unconquered hope, build on the old foundations of the Catholic faith, and labor for the souls of men.