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This weekend we celebrate Pentecost. In the readings we hear about the Holy Spirit empowering the Apostles. And we hear the sobering message that we are likewise empowered to reach out and make things happen, trusting, together. So it seems a fitting time that Building Our Future Together really happens!

The north parking lot is nearly completed with sod, shrubs, and trees. This weekend and next, we have both the new lot and the Horton Street lot.

North_Lot

While we are switching our orientation toward the north lot, it’s good to see that seating in the right, front area of the pews is prepared for people who need a little more room for equipment. Thanks to those doing this work!

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Starting June 12, the construction site will be fenced off, and our Horton Street lot becomes the site of the big dig. May the Lord bless the work of our hands.

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The 4:00 Mass yesterday saw the debut of our new parking lot on the northeast corner of the campus. Rain was falling, so people were glad to be able to park just a few steps from the church doors.

We are just four weeks away from breaking ground for our new parish hall and education center. It is astounding to think that it was just 2½ years ago that Fr. Konopa announced the formation of a “Building Our Future Together” commission. To all who have labored and given generously, deepest thanks. May the Lord bless the work of our hands.

North_Lot

Update June 18, 2017: The north parking lot now appears to be completed. In design and execution, the way traffic flows, everything seems just wonderful.

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ReceivingThere was a lot of excitement in the air on Sunday, April 30, as 25 children came forward to receive their first Holy Communion. We congratulate these children and their parents! Deepest thanks to their teachers: Christine Kainz, Patty Kirchner and Therese van Oss in our Religious Education program (pictured) and Kathryn Haskin, Deb Schams, and Libby Dobbins at Cathedral School (not pictured).

ReceivingAt the practice session 11 days earlier, it was easy to see the rapport that Father Konopa has with the children. You have to admire the commitment he makes to visit each classroom every Wednesday over at Holy Trinity. It will be a great day when he can do that visiting in our own parish education center!

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With_the_Bishop_2017On Wednesday evening, May 10, students from a handful of parishes received the Sacrament of Confirmation at St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral. The MMOC group included 17 young ladies and gentlemen. We congratulate them and their families.

Let us all pray for these young people that as they transition from adolescence to adulthood, they will continue to embrace and practice the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We thank Tom Thibodeau, Priscilla Thibodeau, and Jacob Hart for guiding these students all the way through the process of preparation.

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A lot’s been going on at MMOC the past few days!

Spencer_smallLast Thursday we celebrated the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, wherein we recall how our Lord gave us the sacrament of Holy Communion. In the midst of the Mass, our priest Fr. Konopa washed the feet of a dozen parish members, including young Spencer.
“…as I have done for you, you should also do.”

Friday_smallOn Good Friday the mood was solemn, recalling our Lord sacrificing himself to redeem us, being humiliated and tortured to death, then laid in a tomb. DSC_0055The liturgy was humbling and somber. Fr. Konopa carried a wooden cross up the center aisle, recalling the trek to Calvary. Then it was time to come forward to revere the cross, some kneeling, all touching, all honoring the sacrifice.

At the Easter Vigil Mass we emerge from the 40 days of Lent, then the 3 holy days, into the joy and assurance of Easter, the empty tomb, the Magdalene’s testimony, “He has been raised from the dead.”

VigilIt might seem that our whole faith rests on “He is not here.” Perhaps it does. Perhaps it all comes down to the empty tomb, the resurrection, trusting that he did it all, suffered it all, endured it all, and emerged from it all, all to redeem and save us.

IMG_20170418_114723Bringing things back down to earth… Right after Easter, excavation began on our new northeast parking lot. Sometimes, church is not pretty.

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Tonight we received absolution and a blessing in the rite of communal penance. It was grace and delight to see so many friends there that Fr. Konopa commented on the turnout.

I hope it’s not breaking the seal of the confessional for me to say that Fr. David Kunz gave me a penance that really made me reflect:  Pray for one person who needs your prayers. That really put me down on my knees. The list in my life is boundless.  I’m sure we all have uncountable people for whom we are or should be praying.

The comedian Lily Tomlin once said: the problem with being a cynic is, it’s hard to keep up. That certainly resonates in these times. But I also think: If we truly open our hearts to our sisters and brothers in Christ, well, that’s what our Lord wanted. Perhaps, the problem with being a brother or sister in faith is that you can never keep up.

The music tonight was gorgeous, three voices in harmony. Thank you to (L to R) Mary Jo Lium, Rick Wilson, Mary Kulas, Linda Kloet, and Chuck Kulas.

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[Ed. Note: The following story and photos appeared in the February 2017 issue of Catholic Life magazine. We’re posting it here to capture it as part of the story of our parish, our pastor, Fr. Brian D. Konopa.]

2016_Dec_LaCrosse_Diocese_0235-e1487956202427It is said that sometimes God doesn’t change your situation because he is trying to change your heart. On May 14, 2014, Sharon Scheel of Sacred Heart/ St. Patrick Parish in Eau Claire found herself in one of those situations. That afternoon, she received a call from her father, Albert Woody Jr., who lived eight houses away. He had a bad fall and was waiting for an ambulance. Sharon and her husband rushed over. The fall had caused her father’s leg bone to separate from his leg, making for a very traumatic scene — one Sharon says she’ll never forget.

18-300x189Hopeful that the situation wasn’t as bad as it looked, and that his leg could be rehabilitated, Sharon and her five siblings gathered at Luther Hospital to be with him. At some point that evening, a nurse alerted them to the fact that their father had also suffered a heart attack, and would likely not survive the night. Blindsided by the news, Sharon was devastated.

The pastor of the hospital came to speak with Sharon after hearing her father’s prognosis, asking her what she wanted to do. “The only thought, really, in my head was that I had to call a priest,” Sharon admitted. Thinking over her life experience and her limited exposure to the Catholic Church or any other faith, she was quite surprised at her own thought, saying, “There was a holy man, a pastor, right in front of me and I could have said, ‘Let’s pray for him’… but I didn’t. I had that thought … call a priest.”

The pastor told her he knew someone to call. At 2:30 a.m., Father Konopa came through the door to anoint Sharon’s father. Albert Woody had grown up Catholic, married in the Church and had his first child, Sharon, baptized there. Shortly thereafter, though, he had a falling out with a priest and left, taking his family with him. This short bedside meeting with Father Konopa was the first step in erasing a very painful history.

“Father had gotten out of bed at 2:30, sick himself, to come for my dad, who had been away [from the Church] for so long,” she explained. All the while, Sharon said she watched and cried, later realizing just how profoundly these 10 minutes or so would change her life. Sharon’s father died later that day. But the story is far from over.

2016_Dec_LaCrosse_Diocese_0203-1024x683Sharon stands in St. Patrick Church in Eau Claire, a church she newly calls her own after joining the Catholic Church through the RCIA program at Easter in 2015.

Turning point
“Something happened to me in the middle of the night, in the middle of the dark, on one of the darkest days of my life,” Sharon remembered. “I came to the conclusion that those three words — ‘call a priest’ — were probably the shortest prayer I had ever said.

“I think I always had some belief in a God that was far away from me and that didn’t really pay a whole lot of attention to me, but when I asked for help, I got it. I got that prayer answered. Right there.”

After her father’s death, Sharon made some major life changes. “People talk about doing a 360°,” she said, “but a 360° is a circle where you end up going the same way. So I think I did a 180°… I just turned.” It was in admitting her pride and seeing that she was going the wrong way that she knew it was time to get her life back on track. So at nearly 50 and after having raised three children to adulthood, Sharon laughed as she said, “When people tell you, ‘You’re not too old to change,’ you really never are!”

Examples of faith
2016_Dec_LaCrosse_Diocese_0250-300x200Lucky for Sharon, she had some great examples of faith early in her life. “I was really graced with two strong, Catholic grandmothers,” she said. Sharon fondly remembers visiting her paternal grandmother, who taught her bedtime and mealtime prayers, and watched how good she was to people.

During those visits, her grandmother would also take Sharon to Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Eau Claire. “I got to watch her,” Sharon remembered, “I would study her … when we got in the church, she was very quiet, and very reverent, and very focused … I can remember thinking, probably at 8 or 9, ‘What is this that makes [her] act this way? What is this thing?’”

Being the example
Sharon still felt a desire to find out about this “thing” some 40 years later. So she, along with her husband Dan, signed up for RCIA promptly after her father’s passing. But the journey wasn’t always easy. Chuckling, Sharon likened herself to this quote by C.S. Lewis about his journey back to God, calling himself “the most dejected and reluctant convert … kicking, struggling, resentful and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape.”

“Nobody wants to be tested. No one wants to be challenged by God,” she explained. That is what the process felt like at times to her. There were many moments that she and her husband had to lean on one another to stick with the journey they had begun.

At the Easter Vigil in 2015, Sharon and her husband came into full communion with the Church. They brought with them their now 9-year-old adopted son. “I really love being back!” Sharon shared. “There are times during Mass, especially when we sing ‘Hosanna in the Highest,’ that I get teary-eyed. Every. Single. Time.” She also explained her biggest struggle in the homecoming: “I grew up afraid of the Church. I grew up afraid of priests. I grew up with an unfounded fear that I sort of inherited … And I work every day to try to overcome that.”

Full circle
The journey home led Sharon and her family to Sacred Heart/ St. Patrick’s Parish, the very same church where she sat with her grandmother all those years ago. “If I was going to come back to God and to the Church, this had to be it,” Sharon shared. “This was the parish. I was almost driven to be here. I don’t know if I had to be here because my family was here, but I suspect that was it … [otherwise] there was no way to sort of bring everything full circle unless I go back to where it started.”

Revisiting her roots, Sharon explained, “I’ve always felt like and identified as being ‘Catholic’ because I knew that I was baptized here and my family and my grandmothers were [Catholic]. But I also was, on some level, on the outside looking in, and that really gave me something like a 40-year spiritual wound.

“Then, when Father Konopa walked through that door for my dad, and really for me, he was like a surgeon who closed that wound. There was a lot of healing to be done, but at that point that wound closed for me. I started to get better. I started to feel like less of an outsider and more like ‘this is where I have to go.’

“I realized the power of mercy and the peace of reconciliation.”

By Amy Eichstadt
Copyright © 2017 Diocese of La Crosse.

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Chrism Mass to be Webcast


This just in from the Diocese of La Crosse: This year the Chrism Mass will be webcast live. Mark your calendar for Tuesday, April 11 at 10:30 am.

The annual Chrism Mass is celebrated on the Tuesday of Holy Week. At this Mass, concelebrated by our Bishop and his brother priests, three oils are blessed and distributed to parishes:

  • We use the Oil of the Sick for healing, to anoint our sisters and brothers who are frail, suffering, ill, declining, and dying. When we bless this oil, we pray for all people who will need healing.
  • We use the Oil of Catechumens for initiation, to anoint our sisters and brothers who are not yet baptized, to protect them from evil. When we bless this oil, we pray for all who will be welcomed into our faith.
  • We use the Holy Chrism to seal our sisters and brothers as they are confirmed and ordained. When we bless this oil, we pray for all who will bear their responsibility to share and spread our faith.

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