Easter Sunday is past and I’m still filled with Easter joy! Part of the issue lies in the fact that I’m an “eternal optimist.” I’m always looking for signs of hope and new life, but there is so much more.  

Lent began in “cold and darkness.” Some of that is the Wisconsin weather but once again there is so much more.

We’ve acknowledged our sinfulness; we’ve made some changes. We have come closer to God during this time. There should be real sense of joy and satisfaction.

The Easter season, which begins on Easter and concludes on Pentecost, lasts 50 days. It is longer than the 40-day Lent for a purpose. There is a longer time to celebrate the resurrection and new life in Christ that began on Easter.In his Herald of Hope column, Fr. Pat Heppe suggests displaying an Easter basket, filled with signs of new life, throughout the Easter season as a way to remind ourselves of the joys of Easter. (thinkstock.com image)

During the Easter season, we not only celebrate the feast of Easter but also the feast of Christ’s Ascension and the great feast of Pentecost. They are all part of the Easter celebration. These feasts give us reasons for hope. I’m convinced that if we spend the 40 days of Lent in prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we should be spending the 50 days of Easter in true celebration.

Rather than the secular response at Christmas where people take down their decorations on Dec. 26, Easter baskets should be proudly displayed and kept filled throughout the Easter season.

That doesn’t mean they should contain unhealthy items, but there are so many “good” things — signs of new life and hope — that can be put in those baskets to remind us of the joys of Easter. Consider starting that tradition. Keep the celebration alive!

I celebrate weekend Mass at St. Frances Cabrini Parish, West Bend. This year my Easter hope began, believe it or not, on Passion (Palm) Sunday.

We began the 10 a.m. Mass with the usual procession with palms. I invited the kids to join in. There were scores of them and they kept coming. We filled the aisles with palm-carrying young people. Some youngsters assisted others; others had to point kids in the right direction. What a great celebration of youth and families!

They were preparing for the celebration of the sacred Triduum, the death and resurrection of Christ. That experience filled my Holy Week with hope. Our parishes show strong signs of hope through family involvement. The future of the church is, and will be, in strong and holy hands. That gives me hope!

The Easter sacraments have strengthened my hope. I’ve witnessed and celebrated a number of baptisms of babies and older. There’s hope and excitement in the eyes of parents and those beginning their “church life” in a vibrant Catholic parish community.

Since Bishop Donald J. Hying’s appointment to Gary, Indiana, three of us “vicars” have been delegated to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation.

To date, I have had the joy of confirming the young people of St. Frances Cabrini, West Bend; Presentation, North Fond du Lac; Our Risen Savior, El Dorado; Holy Trinity, Kewaskum; Holy Trinity, Newberg; Holy Angels, West Bend; and St. Mary, West Bend. Their spirit continues to fill my heart with Easter joy and hope.

Thanks to them for giving their parishes, their families, friends and visitors a wonderful, hope-filled experience.

If you’re feeling in need of a “hope lift,” see how hope is celebrated by the people of faith in one of the archdiocesan parishes. Experience the joy and the hope of this Easter season.