Today in our parish we celebrate the blessed virgin Mary, who is our parish patron saint in her role as Mary, Mother of the Church. We had Mass at 5:30 pm followed by a potluck dinner. After Communion, Father Konopa announced this year’s Woman and Man of the Year.

Congratulations to Marie Miller as Woman of the Year. She was chosen for longtime service and tremendous generosity to the parish.

Mark Outzen was named for the many ways he serves as a Lector, a Minister of Holy Communion, and more. Perhaps most conspicuously, Mark, a registered nurse, leapt into action on January 8 when our brother Tom Schaefer experienced cardiac arrest during Mass. (The La Crosse Tribune story is here.) Congratulations, Mark!

Also pictured here is our Deacon Terry Bell. Our deacon was invited to tell the story of his faith journey, which was fascinating and insightful. Thank you!

Heart of Healthcare: Mayo’s Ben Kruse exudes knowledge, compassion
Story by Emily Pyrek
Photo by Peter Thomson
Copyright 2022 by La Crosse Tribune

Blog note: Ben is the son of Barb and Joe Kruse. Ben and Nichole are the parents of three.

Ben Kruse had a number of jobs before pursuing nursing, and when he joined the staff at Mayo Clinic Health System, his vast experiences and knowledge proved invaluable in the hospital setting.

Kruse graduated with a degree in Spanish, working as an interpreter before taking a job at nonprofit Place of Grace and assisting with a mission trip. Reading a book about medical service in Haiti inspired him to take his passion for service work into the healthcare field, and after becoming a CNA Kruse worked in a nursing home. He later furthered his education to be a registered nurse and joined Mayo eight years ago.

Each of his careers has had an impact on his role at Mayo, where he exudes compassion and has the ability to communicate with patients for whom Spanish is their first language.

“We cared for a patient together who did not speak English,” says Kruse’s colleague, respiratory therapist Sarah Burnham, who nominated him for a Heart of Healthcare award. “Ben communicated with the patient effortlessly, and Ben helped me understand so that I could also be part of the conversation. He helped the patient feel comfortable by getting items printed in their language and made the patient’s experience at Mayo outstanding.”

While Mayo has interpreters onsite, having Kruse able to speak with the patient at the moment allowed him to learn about the symptoms the patient was experiencing and provide the necessary care faster.

“I have worked with Ben for several years, and have seen him go above and beyond every day to not only treat, but really care for his patients,” Burnham said in her nomination letter. “He really is the ultimate nurse because of his calming and friendly personality to his patients and other staff members he encounters day to day. I see that he has a joy in doing his work, and the expertise and knowledge he provides to his patients is exceptional.”

From the beginning, Kruse was eager to enhance his abilities by asking questions, being a team player and picking up extra shifts. While working in the ICU, Kruse enjoyed building an “amazing skill set” in the challenging role of keeping track of multiple measurements and needs at once, while always being alert to even subtle patients. Today, he takes the mentor role himself.

When COVID hit, Kruse already had experience with ventilators and other equipment needed to care for those with severe cases of the virus. But entirely new was the halt of visitation, and the difficulty of communicating with families who couldn’t be there for a face to face discussion. At times there was no one to talk to on behalf of a patient, and staff had to make the decisions for them. Adding to the stress was an influx of ICU patients — at one point half of those patients were there for the coronavirus.

“It was exhausting because it was new. It was a different disease progress. It was hard to tell when the patients were improving or not improving,” Kruse said. “You could put in so much effort and really not know if we were making a difference or not.”

During the height of the pandemic, Burnham says, Kruse provided “strength and support to his co-workers. He has jumped in to assist with medical emergencies.”

Kruse, who is currently enrolled in a nursing anesthesia program and working only a limited number of shifts, calls his Heart of Healthcare nomination, “A little surreal. I recognize that nurses everywhere give so much effort and step up to the plate. And we rely so much on other staff members, who contribute really key pieces to patient care.

“It’s hard for me to say that there is any one nurse who is deserving — you work as a team,” Kruse continued. “There is no way you do nursing on your own. To have a good outcome you need everyone’s input. I’ve been lucky enough to work with great people. I feel lucky that I’ve been able to do nursing.”

To Burnham, Kruse is no doubt worthy of the award.

“Ben is very deserving of this recognition,” Burnham said. “He is selfless, kind, and a good nurse and friend to all.”

This evening, 15 young ladies and gentlemen of MMOC received the sacrament of Confirmation at the cathedral. We congratulate you and your parents and families! We are proud of you! We welcome you into an ever more full participation in the life of our parish family. We pray you will find your calling as young leaders in the wide variety of our lay ministries. Take time to celebrate, then let’s talk about what your role might be. All the ways of serving at Mass are open to you now! Let’s talk about what role would be a good fit for you.

From the School District of La Crosse:

Please help us congratulate Southern Bluffs Elementary first-grade teacher Jennifer Friedman who was awarded a 2022 Herb Kohl Educational Foundation Teacher Fellow. Teacher Fellowship recipients are educators who have been chosen for their superior ability to inspire a love of learning in their students, their ability to motivate others, and their leadership and service within and outside the classroom.

“Jen is a difference-maker,” said Southern Bluffs Elementary Principal Lisa Schreiner. “She understands learning is not only defined by assessments or memorizing facts, but in experiences tied to the care and kindness we show toward others. Jenn is a shining example of a servant leader who approaches her role in the life of a child as someone who will humbly guide, encourage, teach, support, and loves the children in her care.”

Tom Schaefer is a very familiar face when Rev. Brian Konopa conducts Mass at Mary, Mother of the Church in La Crosse. “He’s always the first one in church, and he has always sat in the front row since the pandemic began,” Konopa said.

After a two-month absence, Schaefer is back in the front row thanks to the quick thinking of his fellow parishioners during a Jan. 8 Mass. The church celebrated Schaefer’s return Saturday by concluding its April 2 Mass with the presentation of a La Crosse Fire Department Lifesaving Award.

Konopa was delivering a prayer Jan. 8 when Schaefer went into cardiac arrest. Before Konopa could even lift his eyes from the text, fellow parishioner Mark Outzen, a registered nurse, was applying chest compressions. It was Schaefer’s good fortune that Outzen was a scheduled Mass reader and was sitting across from Schaefer in the main aisle when the medical emergency struck.

A member of the congregation retrieved a portable AED unit, and another called 911. By that time, other congregation members, including Jordan Schaller, David Sage, Dan Skiles and Franciscan of Perpetual Adoration Sisters Kathy Stuttgen and Dawn Kutt, were assisting Outzen. The rest of the congregation joined in a 10-minute prayer for Schaefer. “To hear the congregation praying in one voice — it was beautiful,” Konopa said.

Schaefer regained consciousness and a pulse after being shocked by the AED before emergency personnel arrived. Schaefer was transported from the scene by Gundersen Tri-State Ambulance and then airlifted to Mayo in Rochester, where he underwent triple bypass surgery. Konopa said Schaefer has gone through follow-up therapy and that “everything has gone well.”

Konopa said he’s grateful to a congregation that applied “the talents they received from God” to save a life. “To see Tom coming back here is almost a like a miracle,” he said.

Article and photo by Steve Rundio
Copyright April 4, 2022 La Crosse Tribune
Coverage on WXOW

On Saturday, Feb. 26, we welcomed a new little sister into our parish family. Congratulations to Layla and her parents, Michael and Linda. During the pandemic, most Baptisms have been private to family, outside of the Mass. It is a joy to be able to welcome newborns in our celebration of the Mass.

Deacon Richard Sage

This week we commend our brother in Christ, Deacon Richard Sage, to rest in our Lord. Today at his funeral Mass, people were quick to share their memories, and there was a lot of tenderness. We shared with each other the affection that we all felt for him. May that affection embolden us to carry Richard’s work forward. Surely, that’s the way he’d want us to embrace and honor him.

A lot of us treasure our final words with Richard. Savor those memories and turn them into a plan forward. That’s what he’d want. My own last words to him were a lyric from Van Morrison that sprang to mind: “Have I told you lately that I love you?” Richard responded, “Yes, you have.”

Though we are sad and missing our friend and leader, let us be grateful for our nearly 4 decades with him. Quite a powerful example has been set for us. Let us be thankful for that example, and rise up to it.

As you might expect, most everyone who’s been in our choir were in the loft to sing for Richard. Their voices have never been stronger or more beautiful. Thank you and bless you.

Fr. Konopa on TV

Fr. Konopa and our church appeared briefly in a recent report about pandemic safety on WKBT.

Our friend and sister in Christ, Nancy Flottmeyer, is pictured in today’s La Crosse Tribune’s business section. Photo by Peter Thomson, copyright La Crosse Tribune.

As their terms on the Pastoral Council come to a close, we thank Bob Mahr and Joan Weissenberger for their years of service.

Recently elected to new 3-year terms were Lisa Doering and Kerry Groetsch. Both are well known for their long, faithful, and frequent service to our parish family. They will be wonderful additions to the council.