The story below appeared in today’s edition of the La Crosse Tribune.

Story by Emily Pyrek
Photos by Peter Thomson
Copyright 2017 La Crosse Tribune

Mary, Mother of the Church Parish cookie walk offers treats by the thousands

It wasn’t even quarter to seven before shoppers began flooding the Mary, Mother of the Church Parish cookie walk Saturday morning, 45 minutes ahead of the scheduled opening time.


Casey Horman, 7, of Holmen, makes his way through the cookie buffet with his mother Lisa Doering Saturday at the Mary Mother of the Church Cookie Walk at the Moose Lodge. “This is the best day of my life,” Horman said and he picked from dozens of cookie varieties.

Sweet-toothed community members were eager to get first crack at the assortment of traditional favorites and trendy treats, but they needn’t have worried, as there were over 410 dozen cookies to go around.

From brownies to brittle, thumbprints to fudge, the selection rivaled that of any bakery, with every cookie and candy prepared from scratch by some 100 church members. On Thursday alone, parishioners frosted 1,632 cookies for the 12th annual event, rolling dough out in bulk the day prior at the festively decorated Moose Lodge, the sale’s location for the past six years.

Surrounded by holiday decor, with Mrs. Claus milling about, attendees piled plates high with cookies and candies. Church member Dick Weisbecker loaded up six pounds worth, and one woman was on her fourth trip down the line.

“It’s been little ones, people with canes, men — we love to see the men because that means they’re buying for their wives,” said cookie walk organizer Lu Miller. “Young moms say, ‘This is nice, we don’t have to bake.’ Now they can spend time with their family.”


A plate of cookies weighs in at about a pound and a half Saturday at the Mary Mother of the Church Cookie Walk at the Moose Lodge. An estimated 4000 to 5000 cookies, sold by the pound, are baked for the fundraising event benefiting the catholic parish.

Along with the time savings, many are inclined to buy extra knowing every cent goes back to the church. Sold for $7 per pound, cookie sales bring in thousands, with $9,000 earned last year between treats, crafts and gift basket raffles.

Funds will help finance the construction of Mary, Mother of the Church’s new parish hall, expected to open in late winter, where the cookie walk will be held next year.

“These cookie walks are helping us to create a new home, yet we’re going to miss the Moose Lodge — their hospitality has been incredible,” the Rev. Brian Konopa said.

“Our hospitality is so important for the people who visit the cookie walk,” Konopa added. “Our parish always has a nice family spirit to it, and it’s amazing the preparation that goes into this.”

Helen Heiser churned out 12 dozen gingersnaps, chocolate kringles and cream wafers, plus three pounds of cashew crunch, for the sale, eager to help out her church.

“Mary, Mother of the Church is a very giving parish,” Heiser said. “We do everything we can to help out.”


Dressed as Mrs. Claus for the third year in a row, Joan Weissenberger greets patrons Saturday at the entrance to the Mary Mother of the Church Cookie Walk at the Moose Lodge.

Parishioners with sewing, woodworking or crafting skills donated their wares, including an elaborate American Girl doll wardrobe — one of the coveted raffle items —and cloth dolls, purses, ornaments and wooden crosses crafted using boards from the old St. Thomas Moore School. Church members of four decades and craft table organizers Judy Weunsch and Vickie Kloss counted quilted table runners among the most popular sellers, with one customer buying $100 worth.

Also in high demand were rosettes, which Sue Pretasky prepared onsite with a crockpot of oil and an assortment of irons. She anticipated making 100 of delicate cookies.

“I have trouble keeping up — they’re selling as quick as I can make them,” Pretasky said. “(Rosettes) are very tedious and time consuming. I think that’s why people love buying them.”

Rosette fan Rosa Wittenburg, who bought “just enough for myself,” made sure to observe the demo, noting, “I always admire people who can make stuff.”

Wittenburg, who also hit up the crafts, showed off the green crocheted gloves she acquired to match her scarf, while friend Jan Zenker admired the cake pops she bought for her great grandsons.

“I just came to eat and buy,” Zenker said, happy to find enticingly decorated cake pops after past attempts to make them herself yielded less than presentable results.

The sweets proved impressive all around, with the cutout cookies down to their last tray and quick breads clearing out as the cookie walk neared its final hour. Many sat to sample their bounty and enjoy coffee and company, catching up with church friends and smiling at the youngsters noshing on cookies and cider.

“It’s a family event,” Father Konopa said. “Beyond getting the best cookies in town.”

Copyright 2017 La Crosse Tribune


Happy new year

Advent_Blessing_and_Lighting_the_Wreath - CopyThis weekend we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent and the beginning of a new liturgical year. Fr. Konopa blesses the Advent wreath and Dn. Sage lights the first candle.

Deacon_Sage_Gospel_of_Mark - CopyAfter Masses this weekend, Dn. Sage presents a lesson after each Mass (our tradition of “15-Minute Scripture”) with a review of the Gospel of Mark. We’ll be hearing more from Mark in the year ahead.

The year ahead holds a lot of important moments in the life of our parish family. There will be a lot of first-times as we move into our new parish hall and kitchen. We’ll sort out new ways of operating, new opportunities, new ways to employ our parish home to serve our community. I look forward to making meals, to conversations, to imagining what is possible in a new way.

Lift High the Cross

Msgr KunzThis last weekend (Nov. 18-19) we celebrated our patronal feast. We do this around this time each year because it was on November 21, 1964 that Pope Paul VI declared Mary the “Mother of the Church.”

It was a joy to see Msgr. David Kunz once again give the Homily (video). He spoke kindly of our parish and our pastor, and of our mission in three parts: To help our people love the Lord, love each other as ourselves, and spread that love.

The Ladies StarkeyAfter Masses, we got our first look inside the new parish hall. There were smiles everywhere, family and friends rejoicing that we will soon have such a beautiful place in which to be parish family.

I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do, they’re really saying I love you

After the 4:00 Mass the only light was electric, but by Sunday morning the hall was full of sunlight through windows facing south. After a prayer, Fr. Konopa invited everyone to come forward and touch the cross that would soon grace the west entrance to the hall.

Mike Wintheiser and daughter

Philomena Larson and her daughter

Patty Marco and her granddaughter

This morning, workers hoisted the spire and cross into place on the west tower and bolted them together. So this is how we all lift high the cross, now facing both east and west.

Twins - Copy

STOLL-Wally-BettyThis morning Wally and Betty Stoll were named Man and Woman of the Year for 2017.

DSC_0257 - CopyTheir service story reaches back 4 decades: Smelt fries, parish secretary, a parish directory rescued, chicken ques, ministers of Holy Communion, the Warming Center, Meals on Wheels, Sacristans… Okay, the list is long. Congratulations to you both!


We’re heading into a weekend that might be a watershed for our parish family. I really believe it.
Nov. 18-19 our guest Homilist will be Msgr. David Kunz, our pastor from 2002-2008. After Mass we’ll proceed into our new parish hall to bless and touch the cross that will grace the west entrance.

Faith builds in a cycle: We are given confirmation, so we venture more trust. We began this BOFT adventure asking each other if something new could really happen. Turns out, it is happening, and in ways that were once beyond our hopes, faster, more fully than we dared to hope.

People who see our new parish hall this weekend will be amazed. It is grand.


Three Things I Pray

Young members of our parish family recently were cast members in the Aquinas High School production of the musical Godspell. Pictured here with Fr. Konopa are:

  • Liam Conzemius (Jesus)
  • Bryant Meyer (Disciple)
  • Jake Kaiser (Apostle)
  • Ryan Conzemius (Disciple)
Oh, dear Lord, three things I pray: To see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day by day.

Meet Super Sam

Super_SamSam Jaekel is the Site Superintendent looking after all things in the building of our new parish hall. Let’s meet Sam.

Sam’s job is to keep things coordinated and humming along in the construction process. That means thinking ahead, mapping out a detailed schedule, contacting subcontractors, keeping people in the loop.

DSC_0004 - CopySam is an outgoing, cheerful guy. His job is about relationships: Working closely with the client, subcontractors, and Chris Huston, project manager. I asked about taking a photo of the roofing crew, and Sam knew how to handle that.

I asked if working with a church is different from working with a commercial client. Sam said that working with Fr. Konopa, Dn. Sage, and Andy Foley, he gets a lot of appreciation that isn’t part of a commercial relationship. I’ve seen Andy and Sam kidding each other, and Dn. Sage has told me he is grateful for Sam’s cooperation and patience through the process. Part of Sam’s job is to educate, and he is happy to do that.

JAEKEL-Bill-Marilyndscf5774aSweet news is that there is a family connection:  Sam is the nephew of Bill and Marilyn Jaekel, once of MMOC, now at St. EAS in Holmen. Their family are still deeply part of MMOC in Dan and Kathy Skiles and their family, Alicia Skiles and John Richards.

I’ve seen Super Sam sweeping floors and zipping around to clean up the job site. It’s not his job, but he prefers to keep active and do what he can to keep the site orderly. Sam is a servant leader to be sure, striving to make things go as well as possible for others.

Lord, we pray for all who work in our behalf, that they may be safe and prosper. May they feel something of all the years of joy that will come, to people they don’t know.