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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.

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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.

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DSC_0024 - CopyAt yesterday’s 4:00 Mass, we welcomed and blessed two new babies into our parish family. The first was Lennon Arlene, child of Matt and Leah Hammes. Lennon is the grand-daughter of Lori and Dean Hammes.

DSC_0079 - CopyAnd at the same Mass, an ensemble choir welcomed, and was blessed, with our new baby grand piano, played beautifully by our director of sacred music, Mary Jo Lium. Thanks to Bob Jansen for extra effort to make this debut recording happen.

For the Children


In_the_Name - CopyYesterday at the 4:00 Mass, we welcomed Parker Ray into our parish family and our faith. Congratulations to parents Jeff and Leigha Saxton and all their family.

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Parker slept through most of the rite, but there was a lot of wonder and excitement among his several “cousins”, the children of his godparents, Samantha and Steven Doll.

DSC_0037 - CopyAfter Mass, everyone was invited to look around the Religious Education Center in the lower level of our parish hall. There were many comments about the spacious and bright classrooms and the warm and welcoming decor. With high ceilings and plenty of bright-white light, it seems there won’t be much of a feeling of being “in the basement.”

A gem within the center is the new Sacred Music room. The spacious risers and acoustic panels should make an excellent setting for choir practices. Notice the custom cabinet in the corner, crafted by Wally and Betty Stoll, containing cubbies for all in the choir. The room will become home to our upright piano when, on July 12, a new Yamaha grand piano will be placed in our church. Another arrival in the next few days will be classroom and office furniture. The aim is to have all rooms ready to go when classes and choir practices resume in September.

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Please continue to pray that the Lord will help us find ways to use our new facilities to do his work and serve his people. Pray also in thanks for his generous blessings to our parish family!


GRABINSKI-Verda-BuddyFor about 2½ years, MMOC has been recording and publishing Homilies by Fr. Konopa and Dn. Sage on our YouTube channel. The inspiration for this service came from Verda Grabinski, who taught us that the Homily is a key part of the Mass not accessible to people whose hearing is impaired. So our Homily videos are captioned. Thanks to Kathy Gilardi for her patience as we got this service going.

Now we have taken a step forward in our capability to capture and share Masses at MMOC. After some sorting out technical problems with the company providing our new sound system, it seems we are able to do high-quality recordings through our new system. See what you think, below.

Beyond Homilies, it seems we now have the capability to record and share an entire Mass. Now the question becomes, could we use this to reach out? What if we could share the whole Mass? If we do, would that be useful?

There are lots of parish members on the south side who remain in their homes into later years. Others are in places of care. If we could share Mass at MMOC with them, would that be worthwhile? Would they appreciate a virtual participation in Mass at their home parish? They already have access to the diocesan TV Mass. Would it matter if they could also see Mass in their home parish?

What about new people in our area? What if they or others considering our area could get a sense of what Mass at MMOC is like? Would that draw people in?

What do you think?


SistersThis morning, on the first celebration of the memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church, Fr. Konopa spoke (video) about how we are family, and Mary is our mother. She was in the upper room when the Holy Spirit arrived on Pentecost. She was the mom in that moment when the church was born.


May_Crowning_2018 - CopyYesterday, on Mother’s Day, we also celebrated the Ascension of the Lord. Fr. Konopa, in his Homily, pointed out that now the Lord’s work is for us to do.

After Communion there was a blessing for mothers and the traditional May Crowning, revering our blessed Mother, as people streamed forward with gift bouquets of spring flowers.

DSC_0003 - CopyChecking on progress in our Religious Education Center, it seems we are well on our way to completion about a month from now. Painting appears to be complete, and ceiling grids and lights are in place. Cabinets and cubbies are in all the classrooms.

Panorama_southwest_view_Hallway - CopyTo whoever selected the lighting for the lower level, well done! The light is ample and bright like sunlight, so even the rooms without windows feel commodious. Everywhere the finishes are warm, soothing earth tones.

DSC_0002 - CopyPlans call for an open house in the lower level after all Masses on Catechetical Sunday, 16 September. As with the parish hall, people are going to be impressed. The classrooms are enormous and everywhere there is attention to detail, such as the acoustic panels in the music room.

Ed_ThomeTomorrow we celebrate the life of our former pastor, Fr. Edwin Thome. A lot of us have very fond memories of him, whether his original term 1968-1974, or his return as our senior pastor 2001-2008. There will be wonderful stories to share of his kindness, humor, and his insightful homilies. Eternal rest grant unto Ed, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.