Ann Kotnour, RN

Ann Kotnour, RN, is profiled in the latest edition of Coulee Region Women magazine. Congratulations to Ann and thanks for your long and faithful service!

Ann and her husband Joe Kotnour, DDS, have been members of our parish family for many years, along with their four children. Together, Ann and Joe serve in the ministry of Hospitality, and Joe is an usher. We fondly remember Joe’s mom, Audrey Kotnour, a beloved member of MMOC until her funeral here in 2016.


Breaking Ground

(Ed. Note: Click on any of the pictures to see it larger.)

Groundbreaking_at_MMOC - CopyAfter 10:00 Mass this morning, we broke ground for our new parish hall and education center. Pictured (L to R) are Tom “Tiny” Poellinger, Bill Brendel, Andy Foley, Jim Fowler, Doug Ramsey, Hank Klos, Mike Marco, Joe Kaiser, Gloria Royer, Sue Groetsch, Dn. Richard Sage, Chuck Berendes, and Fr. Brian Konopa.

FoleysWe thank the ladies of our PCCW for providing Father’s Day cake and coffee, served al fresco while friends chatted and children explored the sand pile and earth-moving equipment.

KidsFor most of us, today was our final moment on the Horton Street parking lot. Tomorrow morning it becomes a hard-hat area and excavation begins! As the work proceeds, we ask everyone to be patient about noise and dust, and to continue to pray that all work will happen safely.

CamerasPolly_and_ChuckTo capture a record of the project, we’ve placed two cameras on the roof of the church. Eventually we hope to produce a time-lapse that will compress months of work into a few minutes of video. (You can watch a brief sample on our YouTube channel.)

Lord, thank you for bringing all our efforts to this exciting moment. Thank you for everyone who has had a part in that, whether by giving, planning, praying, or in any way that helped things along. Thank you for bringing together just the people we needed at every phase. Please bless the work of our hands so that we may Build Our Future Together. 

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.


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!


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.

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.


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.

North_Lot_Complete - Copy

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!


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.


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.

The following item appeared in yesterday’s La Crosse Tribune. Story by Mike Tighe, photo by Erik Daily.

Mary, Mother parishioner who’s ‘just a cobbler’ re-creates St. Thomas More School


Media accounts from December 2015 chronicled the fact that St. Thomas More School in La Crosse fell to the wrecking ball because it was outdated and deteriorating, but evidence has surfaced that it may have been fake news.

Further investigation reveals that the school has been miniaturized and is resting on a card table in Wally and Betty Stoll’s home in La Crosse. Wally and Betty contend that the mini-More is a model that Wally fashioned with scrap lumber from old pallets, his craft material of choice.

Closer inspection lends credence to their assertion, because the model is the spitting image of the late 68-year-old school.

It even appears to be to scale, although Wally said he merely eyeballed it from pictures and memory. He had no other option, because the school had long since disappeared, except for bricks sold for souvenirs and blackboards he sawed into designs for memorabilia.

Wally downplays his talent, saying modestly, “I’m more of a cobbler.”

Husband of all trades
Betty begs to differ, insisting, “Oh, you are not. I never need to call a plumber” because he is a handyman adept at all sorts of household fixes.

The two-story model, with a basement and an addition just like the original, features details including a cornerstone on the main section dated 1947 and another on the addition, dated 1956.

It will be unveiled Sunday at Mary, Mother of the Church, just in time for Palm Sunday and the run-up to Easter Sunday, heralding a rebirth of sorts for the school.

Wally credits the inspiration for the model to the Rev. Brian Konopa, Mary, Mother pastor, who was admiring Wally and Betty’s rendition of a mini farm they took on as a winter project one year.

“Father had seen those buildings, and I said I could build a model of the school, and he thought that was a good idea,” Wally said.

The endeavor became an extended family project after Wally had constructed the shell, with entryways, plexiglass windows and doors that are very similar to the originals.

“The hardest part was the finishing touches, and I didn’t know how to do the bricks,” Wally said as a puzzled expression migrated across his face. “Then my granddaughter said, ‘Grandpa, I can do that for you.’”

It just so happens that granddaughter Michelle Hansen runs Michelle’s Lettering & Design, and she was able to produce stick-on sheets — kind of like contact paper, but of better quality — of teensy tiny bricks to cement the deal.

The Stolls manufactured what they now call “Wally’s Mini Farm” in part as a homage to their farm upbringings — Wally, on a spread near Menomonie and Betty, near Colfax.

The scene includes a bright red barn that has 1,700 hand-made shake shingles, with matching shed, grain-drying bin and silo; a towering white windmill; an attractive, two-story white house with a gazebo that includes two swings out front, and a two-hole outhouse out back.

The tops can be lifted off of each building, revealing realistic trusses that Wally also made meticulously.

“He builds, I paint,” Betty said, laughing as she noted that the kabob sticks that are pickets on the fence were particularly hard to paint white. “And that outhouse has a hardwood floor. You could really go in class in there.

“We didn’t have a gazebo growing up, but we put it there anyway,” she said.

STOLL-Wally-BettyLove at first date
Betty and Wally met one night as teenagers when she and a friend were leaving a movie theater, and he and a friend drove by and invited them to go out for hamburgers. Betty balked, until her friend assured her that she knew the pair and they could be trusted.

“I was a pickup,” she said jovially, then added with an even bigger laugh, “Don’t write that in the paper.”

The Stolls’ shared laughter, their five children, 14 grandchildren and six great-grandkids appear to major elements of the glue that has held their marriage fast for 64 years this summer.

Betty, 82, was a teacher, handling as many as 50 students and teaching all eight grades at one point. Wally, who caught up to her age-wise on his birthday Tuesday, was a long-haul trucker until retiring at age 70 and coming out of retirement shortly thereafter.

“I wasn’t ready to retire yet,” so he became a local trucker until finally retiring three years ago.

Pastor Konopa hails the couple as “pillars of the parish,” with a willingness to volunteer for any and all events and a keen sense of its history to the extent that Betty chronicled it in a book.

“Wally nearly lost a couple of fingers when he was cutting up the big, heavy blackboards from the school into designs people could keep in their homes as mementos,” he said.

Ah, that explains why, when asked whether he has any tips for anyone undertaking a project like the school or farm models, he said, “Well, with all this small stuff, keep your fingers out of the saw.”

Betty also pointed out the newer saw he has in his garage workshop — a device with an immediate stop-and-drop feature if the blade touches him — bought “after two trips to emergency,” she said.

The school model will be a source of pride when the parish breaks ground soon on an addition of a parish hall and religious education center estimated to cost between $3.7 million and $4 million to the church this summer.

Culmination of merger
The title of the venture, “Building our Future Together,” reflects the culmination of Mary, Mother’s creation from the merger of St. Thomas More and St. Pius X in 2000, Konopa said.

Combining parishes isn’t always the smoothest process, he said, observing, “The transition is kind of like two families blending together.

“A lot of people, when they go to church, they have their favorite pew, and the people coming over from St. Pius didn’t know” who sat where or where they might be trespassing, he said.

Easing the blending was the fact that the late Rev. Joseph Rafacz had been serving both parishes for three years, Konopa said.

“That brought a level of familiarity,” he said.

Both parishes developed during the baby-boom era of big families, with the school enrollment thus approaching 800 elementary students dispersed among 16 classrooms. In 2012, it became clear that the school building needed either major renovation and repair to meet basic standards as a school or be replaced.

The passage of time also changed the parish’s demographics, with a fraction of young children than previously and more older families than young, according to a brochure tracing the steps toward the upcoming building program.

Konopa, who became pastor of the debt-free parish of more than 2,400 souls in 2014, said the parish convened 19 sessions where members brainstormed about the future and considered three options.

“Some people hated to see the school deconstructed, and we understood that,” Konopa said.

Asked what prompted solidarity, the pastor replied, quickly and simply, “Jesus.”

The decision emerged to construct a new parish hall and religious education adjacent to the church, which technically still is named St. Thomas More Church, under Catholic Church law in which church buildings can’t be changed. But the parish is Mary, Mother of the Church, as its sign in front proclaims.

A pledge drive has secured cash and pledges of $3.65 million, and projections including pledges and fundraising are that the parish will have $3.8 million to cover all or most of the addition by the end of 2018, according to parish figures.

“As the campaign rings true, this is the final piece” in merging the two parishes, the pastor said. “But we still call it Jesus.”

Copyright 2017 La Crosse Tribune