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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.


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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DSC_0022It is our Lenten tradition to gather on four consecutive nights for a sort of mini-retreat. This year the theme was “Getting Connected … Staying Connected“.

The liturgy was calming, give us time to reflect and take a break from busy lives. A small ensemble choir, readings, talks, and lots of prayer were followed by some social time.
DSC_0016Near the end of the final evening, we were invited to come forward for prayer about any needs. There were sweet smiles (some trembling), an embrace or gentle touch, and heartfelt prayers. I was impressed by the affection and tenderness that our sisters and brothers in Christ have for one another.

Another hopeful sign about this parish family is that there’s a feeling of momentum toward building our Nixie and Pollynew parish hall and education center. After each Mass this coming weekend there will be a presentation to update everyone on design and timeline.

We’re heading into a busy time. On top of Holy Week and Easter, First Communions and Confirmations, a lot of work is going into construction details for a June groundbreaking. So perhaps the Lenten retreat was well timed, the calm before a flurry of activity.

Lord, quiet my mind that I may hear your voice.

You Welcomed Me


In Matthew 25, our Lord says “I was … a stranger and you welcomed me.” We are called to welcome all people, to serve them in hospitality, to invite and include all.

That’s why I am rejoicing today at a new video message of welcome Fr. Konopa has recorded for our parish websites. This is a crucial part of our outreach to young people and families, and I think he struck just the right note. Thank you, Father.

Source of Strength


This weekend the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is offered at all Masses. “Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.”

Anointing


HSR Architects has given us our first glimpse of our new parish hall!  Details will be shared at parish meetings after Masses on the weekend of March 25-26.

Hall