Wisconsin’s Guadalupe Shrine Gets New Executive Director in Father Paul Check

The La Crosse-based shrine has confirmed Father Paul Check, known for his work with Courage International, as its permanent executive director.

(photo: Photo Provided)

LA CROSSE, Wis. — The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a place of Catholic pilgrimage tucked away in the wooded hills overlooking La Crosse, has appointed former Courage International director Father Paul Check as its new executive director.

Father Check takes up his post on the Solemnity of the Assumption, Aug. 15, after serving as the Shrine’s interim executive director since June 2020.

A news release explained Father Check’s “many years of leadership experience, pastoral wisdom, and a dedication to the mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe” made him the right leader to oversee their continuing mission.

A former U.S. Marine Corps officer, Father Check was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1997. From 2008-2016, he served as the executive director of Courage International, a ministry of accompaniment for Catholics with same-sex attractions, and traveled all over the country sharing the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. Father Check is currently the rector of the St. John Fisher Seminary in Bridgeport.

The shrine is nestled away in the hills overlooking La Crosse, which sits on the nearby Mississippi river, and is spiritually cared for by the Franciscans of the Immaculate.

Then Bishop (now Cardinal) Raymond Burke of the Diocese of La Crosse in 1999 planted the vision for the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is recognized by the Church as the Patroness of the Americas, as a place of pilgrimage that would help meet people’s “hunger to know God, and to love him.” The shrine was completed and dedicated in 2008.

“Here, truly, the pilgrim meets ‘Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant,’ God the Son Incarnate in the Heavenly court of ‘countless angels’ and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, ‘the saints,” he said in a July 31 homily commemorating the 12th anniversary of the Shrine’s dedication. “Today, in a particular way, Our Lady draws us to the Shrine Church, in order that we may meet her Divine Son Who alone is the salvation of the world.”

The beautiful main church was designed by architect Duncan Stroik, and features beautiful frescos painted by Anthony Visco depicting the events of the Virgin Mary’s apparitions to St. Juan Diego. The mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe prominently stands above the sanctuary. 

The 100-acre campus features many devotional sites linked together by trails, such as the Mother of Good Counsel Votive Candle Chapel, the bronze statue of the Mohawk Catholic St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and the Memorial to the Unborn, among other sites. [Read the Register’s A Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the U.S.]

In a previous interview with the Register, Father Check emphasized that all Catholics “have to look at the example of Jesus Christ in how we’re supposed to live out the Gospel.”

“There’s a clarity with which Jesus announces the truth,” he said. “But the proof that he is announcing it in an engaging way — and it’s a criticism of him! — is that he’s always surrounded by the sort of people that, from our [Catholic] point of view, need him the most.”

The priest said people need encouragement — not condescension or severity — to “trust that the Church understands them, understands the tangle of the human heart and knows how to move forward from that.”

“Jesus tells us that the truth is to be liberating,” he said. “What’s it supposed to liberate us from? Confusion, ignorance, self-centeredness, sin. It’s intended to liberate us so that we are able to renew ourselves. And that’s where we find fulfillment.”

He said the Church has announced the Gospel for 2,000 years, and while it has not always been done perfectly, “we know it can be done, because we see people responding to grace.”

For more information on the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, please visit Guadalupeshrine.org.