Extraordinary Time

elsieThis weekend we witnessed the Baptism of Elsie Rose, child of Chris and Kori Bentzen. May Elsie remember splashing playfully in the water of her own Baptism. What a fitting way to celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

ordinary timeThis weekend we also wrapped up the season of Christmas, and the decorations came down. Tomorrow we enter into Ordinary Time. Our worship will be wearing green for a few weeks, until Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 6. Until then, it’s Ordinary Time.

Yet new semesters are about to begin for our children. Days are growing longer. This time of year, let green be a color of hope and anticipation for Spring.

Touch the Water

DSC_0020 - CopyThis afternoon at the 4:00 Mass, we had a splash-fest. Thomas Xavier, son of Michael and Keri, was a very active participant in his own Baptism. He cried and squirmed in his grandma’s arms at the edge of the font until Fr. Konopa said to her:  It’s okay to let him touch the water. We should all strain to reach and connect with the water of our Baptism and the faith affirmed this day.

The Mass was very fully attended and there were a lot of sounds coming from young families. All good, affirming signs. Something is happening here. Families are responding. Let us pray:

Lord, inspire our parish family to welcome and include all. Help us to be a people of welcome and friendship and loving service. Inspire us to feed the hungry, welcome the newcomer, and help all people who are distressed. Inspire us to shelter everyone. May the Spirit connect the warmth of the Baptismal font to the warmth of our service.

Treasuring Family

Bill_and_MarilynThis afternoon at 4:00 Mass, we gathered with the Jaekel clan to bless and celebrate the 60th wedding anniversary of Bill and Marilyn Jaekel. Their clan at MMOC includes Dan and Kathy Skiles, Alicia Skiles and John Richards, and Sam Jaekel. All these and more family were at Mass this afternoon, then headed into the parish hall for a celebration.

dscf5774aThough today was grey and rainy, it reminded me of a sunny Sunday morning and this photo of the Jaekel tribe. This family is an incredible, multi-generational presence and witness in our parish. It is a joy to see their love and support for each other and all the service that they do. We are blessed by their friendship.

Remembrance_PhotosAlso at Mass this afternoon was the display of photos of people who have moved on in the last 12 months. We will remember them, celebrate their lives, and commend them to the Lord at a service of remembrance at 6:30 on Monday evening. Let us treasure and embrace those we love while they are with us. And may perpetual light shine upon all of our loved ones who have gone before us.

Beginning to Serve

This morning Fr. Konopa and Dn. Sage held a training session for new Altar Servers. Thanks to Heather Harpenau we have the sweet photo below. Two thoughts come up:

  • In these times, thank the Lord there are families who trust in the integrity they’ve seen and are willing to bring their children into serving.
  • When I was a server, I felt awe. To be so close to the altar, the sacrament, to touch the vessels, it changed the Mass from a spectator to a contact sport.

We are commanded to serve each other with love. God bless these children as they begin.


Parish Prayer

At the recent dedication of our Religious Education Center, we got to pray the latest edition of our Parish Prayer (below).

The Parish Prayer is one of the dear things about life at MMOC. A living thing, it evolves as we progress in our life as a parish family.


Abundantly Blessed

BusWednesday afternoon was literally an event on two levels:

  • For children in our K-5 Religious Education program, this was their first day of class and first time in their new classrooms with their new teachers. For some, this was their first bus ride from day school to MMOC. Things are safer now that the buses can pull up right outside the west entrance. Everyone should use the Horton Street entrance, not Weston.
  • For our parish family this was a time to celebrate that we once again can educate our children on our own campus. After scripture, song, and prayer, there was a lovely buffet and time to chat with friends. We are abundantly blessed.


EnteringAfter a closing prayer and blessing, the children and teachers headed downstairs to their classrooms, where snacks awaited them. There was a little time to begin to begin the work of learning our faith.

AbundantlyFr. Konopa came to each room to bless the children and the space with a sprinkling of holy water. He was very generous. The children were abundantly blessed.

BackpacksSo now we have officially opened our Religious Education Center. We now connect faith with learning and works, literally, because the spaces where we worship, teach, and serve are connected. We are blessed to enjoy all this in part because the generosity of Pat MaCabe moved our timescale ahead by a year or two. May perpetual light shine upon her.

HEIDERSCHEIT-Charles-PaulaThe MMOC Woman and Man of the Year for 2018 are Paula and Charles Heiderscheit. The bulletin this Sunday will mention that their loving service to the parish happens in many ways:

-Charles and Paula host the monthly social following the 7:30 am Mass on the 1st Thursday of the month. Paula always bakes a very special treat and supplies many items for Sunday morning hospitality and the Cookie Walk, too.

-They assist with the Scrip program by processing order forms every Monday morning.

-They serve as co-chairs for the potato baking at our Chicken-Que. That means leading a crew who wrap and bake 2000 potatoes.

-Charles is a Lector and Minister of Holy Communion at the 7:30 am Mass on Fridays, and he is a Lector at 8:00 am Mass on Sundays.

-Charles is a Teacher’s Aide for 3rd grade Religious Education.

-For funerals, Charles is an Altar Server and coordinates the team of adult servers; Paula helps with desserts at the luncheons.

Congratulations and deepest thanks to Paula and Charles!


DSC_0011 - CopyToday was a lovely day to work together and accomplish something wonderful!

We made and served 2000 meals, up from 1800 back in May, and 1500 a year ago. Yet we sold the last tickets a day ahead of the usual pace. We had plenty of volunteers, including a few new young people. And we had a beautiful day, sunny and warm with a gentle breeze, terrific weather for grilling.

And it was all for a great cause (see next post): Flood relief for our neighbors to the southeast.

DSC_0013 - CopyThere is a wonderful spirit at our chicken ques: A lot of laughter, telling stories, checking in about families. We truly are brothers and sisters in Christ.

I love every phase of the project: Gabbing with the grill crew, hustling to keep the assembly and drive-up folks supplied, greeting friends, all leading up to the thankful moment when dinners are delivered and received with gratitude in both directions.

Of course, today was the culmination of a lot of planning and attention to details that helped everything go smoothly. To all you quiet servants of the Lord, deepest thanks.

The following article appeared in today’s La Crosse Tribune.

Mary, Mother to channel fall chickenque toward flood relief

by Mike Tighe Sep 7, 2018

The annual fall chickencue at Mary, Mother of the Church was advancing on schedule toward raising money for the La Crosse church’s building fund when the flash flooding that struck several area communities last week hit home, inflicting losses on several members who live in Coon Valley.

KONOPA_Fr_BrianThe parishioners’ plight prompted another member to suggest to the pastor, the Rev. Brian Konopa, that the proceeds be donated to flood victims, Konopa said.

“As a parish, it would be nice to give to those who are in great need now, and things do not seem to be getting better for them,” the parishioner wrote in an email. “Just a thought on how we can help our neighbors.”

Konopa took the suggestion a step further, sending an email to the chickencue committee saying, in part, “The net profit from the fall chickenque is earmarked for the building fund; however, is it time for us to do a little more for others?”

Konopa referred to a passage from St. James read at Masses Sunday that said, in part, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows.”

In addition, his email noted, “In the homily I mentioned the priority of relationships, especially the afflicted. This weekend, we will have a special collection for local flood victims. Some are members of our parish, and many of us know them by name. But should we do more?”

In that vein, he wrote, “God has blessed our capital campaign, and we really have been Building Our Future Together! I think it’s time for us to stretch ourselves for others in their time of emergent need.”

The committee wholeheartedly embraced the donation suggestion, he said.

“Building Our Future Together” is the theme of the campaign that fostered the addition of a new parish hall at Mary, Mother — a project completed in the spring with not only the new hall but also a lower level with classrooms, a music rehearsal room for the first time, a kindergarten classroom, a smaller room for meetings and additional office space, he said.

The project has particular significance for the parish of 1,000 households because it is the first major initiative since Mary, Mother of the Church was formed with the merger of St. Thomas More and St. Pius X parishes in 2000, Konopa said.

The merger actually was more of a homecoming, as St. Pius X had been created as a branch from St. Thomas More parish in June 1960 because of burgeoning growth at the time.

“The unity that has come from this has amazed people,” the pastor said, adding that more than 80 percent of the parishioners have donated to the campaign and those who were too strapped to contribute financially promised prayers in lieu of money.

“People are so surprised that we have been keeping up with bills” that they couldn’t help but feel the need to help, “seeing people losing their homes” in the flooding, Konopa said.

The spring chickencue served 1,800 dinners, with a net profit of about $10,000, the pastor said. Organizers of the chickencue, serving from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, plan to prepare 2,000 dinners, with the possibility of raising $10,000 or more for flood relief — plus the special collection this weekend, he said.

The chickencue is another beneficiary of the new parish hall, said Bill Brendel, chairman of the dinner committee.

The committee prides itself in the fact that its ’cue is not catered but rather everything is prepared on site, including volunteers grilling and barbecuing at least 1,000 chickens to provide a half-chicken for each dinner this go-round, Brendel said.

The volunteers also will bake 2,000 potatoes in the parish hall’s commercial-grade kitchen, prepare homemade coleslaw and bake beans they will sort and start soaking two days in advance.

On Thursday, they will begin baking beans at 5 a.m., he said, describing the process as “very unique.”

Insisting that he didn’t want to stir a competitive pot with other parishes or organizations — Holy Trinity puts on a fine chickencue, for example — Brendel noted that someone once characterized Mary, Mother’s as “the mother of all chickencues.”

Several businesses order dinners for their employees to be delivered to the work sites, which is no small feat, Brendel said.

The large dining room in the new hall also is a boon to the chickencue, allowing people to eat there and socialize, he said. Previously, the event was basically a drive-thru enterprise, with patrons picking up dinners to eat at home; the carryout option still is available.

The opportunities for volunteers to work together and meet fellow parishioners they otherwise might not and to dine together are benefits in their own right, Brendel said.

“It’s one of the best opportunities throughout the parish to help build community that is so important to parish life,” he said.

The above article is Copyright 2018 The La Crosse Tribune. It is posted here for archival purposes.


FoleysI’ve been thinking lately about Andy Foley, MMOC’s director of building and grounds. Andy’s got to be a busy guy. This year he’s got a lot more building to care for, and a lot more grounds that need extra nurturing as new plantings. Yet everywhere you look on our campus, everything seems tidy and thriving. Thanks, Andy, for all you do.

Thanks also to James and Allie Dunkley for this lovely aerial view of our campus with those gorgeous bluffs in the background.