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Green Bay Diocese Museum home to a treasure trove of artifacts

Taking a historical perspective approach, the museum’s initial exhibit includes artifacts from 1600 to 1880.
Published: May. 3, 2022 at 1:02 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A collection of religious artifacts, dating all the way back to 1600, are now on display in the parish center of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral.

For more than two decades, some of the artifacts owned by the Green Bay Diocese, were on display in a somewhat makeshift museum in the parish center basement.

“It wasn’t fulfilling what Monsignor Klister, who was very instrumental in starting the museum 20-some years ago, it wasn’t fulfilling what he wanted, he wanted an educational museum, he wanted people to go through and learn something either about what was happening in the Catholic church now or from a historical perspective,” explains Sherry Steffel, Green Bay Diocese Museum Board President.

Last year, Bishop David Ricken asked Steffel to inventory all the items in storage and give the museum new life.

A team of volunteers found a treasure trove.

“Looking in every box, opening every closet, figuring out what we had, and what I discovered fairly early on was we have a lot of artifacts that pre-date 1900, which really surprised me,” says Steffel.

Many of the artifacts date back more than 200 years before the diocese was even formed, including the oldest European artifact in Wisconsin, the Parrot Ostensorium from the early 1600′s.

So taking a historical perspective approach, the museum’s initial exhibit includes artifacts from 1600 to 1880.

All the artifacts on display are the first in a series of four exhibits that will be showcased over the next five years.

Since opening May 1st, Steffel says more than 100 people have come through the museum, which is free of charge and open before mass on Saturday and after mass on Sunday, as well as by appointment.

“I hope they get an appreciation for the history of this area, a little deeper knowledge about both who came through, because we tried to mention all of the main missionaries, if not all of them, and a little more understanding of what it took to come here, one by one, and deal with the hardships and still maintain your faith and convert people,” says Steffel.

The artifacts are on display in the parish center of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral.

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