Stories of Faith

A countryside disciple

This article was posted on: June 11, 2018

Nonagenarian is a term which refers to a person who has reached age 90. But fancy words aren’t needed to describe Virginia Nix of St. Raymond of Penafort Parish in rural Fall Creek.

Born in 1928, she was raised in the countryside near Strum. Virginia (nee Otto) never moved far from her roots. She grew up on a farm along with one sister and two brothers. Her Catholic faith has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. “We attended Mass every week growing up,” she fondly recalls.

Virginia attended several country grade schools and St. Patrick High School in Eau Claire. She married Arthur Nix in 1947 upon his return from World War II. They knew each other as kids, as his family owned a farm two miles down the road from where she grew up.

Virginia and Art shared their life together in Clear Creek Township, farming on the land that was in Art’s family since 1867. They were active members of Holy Guardian Angels Parish in Brackett. Going to church was a “big deal” when raising their family of nine children. Virginia and Art were married for 66 years, until he passed away in 2013. Virginia still lives on the family farm.

Over the years, the farm grew from its original size of 100 acres to 426 acres. There is a long history of faith and devotion in the Nix and Otto families. In the 1800’s there were few places for farmers to worship where they didn’t have to travel several miles to find a church. Art’s grandfather offered a portion of his land to build a chapel. It was wonderful for the community. A priest would travel to the chapel by horse and buggy about once a month to celebrate Mass.

Holy Guardian Angels Cemetery has been fortunate to have Art and Virginia as caretakers for more years than she can remember. Both of her parents and Virginia’s husband are buried there. She and Art kept records for years and knew where everyone was buried and where every open lot was.

“At first, we tried hiring different people to keep the grounds mowed and kept up,” Virginia recalls. They weren’t able to find someone who was a good fit, so she and Art took over that responsibility. Their children helped them mow not only the cemetery, but also the rectory grounds.

St. Raymond Church

Recently, the parish was forced to cut down trees her husband planted more than 60 years ago. The parishioners are so respectful of Virginia that they asked her permission before they cut them down. Virginia agreed, as she cares so much about the gravestones and monuments and agreed the trees needed to be removed to prevent the roots from damaging the stones.

Built in 1903, Holy Guardian Angels Church burned soon after. Though the name of the parish has changed, Virginia’s faith and commitment to fellow Christians are constant.

St. Raymond of Peñafort was formed through a union of three area parishes—St. John the Apostle (Fall Creek), St. Anthony de Padua (Augusta) and Holy Guardian Angels (Brackett). The scenic rural setting has been owned by the parish since 1865.

As life long members of Holy Guardian Angels Catholic Parish, the Nixes brought their faith to St. Raymond of Penafort Parish in 2002 when the church was dedicated and the three area parishes merged. The church is located on a hill overlooking the cemetery on a 40-acre site that the parish owns in the town of Clear Creek. It is a new building with a very old soul. The parishioners believe that the solid faith of their founders remains alive today.

Art and Virginia both served on the Building Committee for St. Raymond Catholic Church. The committee integrated parts from each of the three churches to help the parishioners with the healing process. “It was a difficult time, but we did pretty good. The priests made sure we healed together,” Virginia remembers.

Virginia’s involvement in her parish has taken on many roles. She taught CCD and is proud to have had Father Victor Feltes, a priest in the Diocese of La Crosse, in her class. She was an officer for the DCCW for several years and attended many national conferences. Father Paul Gitter asked her to be part of the 2000 synod. She is active in the PCCW and a e﷯ucharistic adorer.

Virginia Nix has led an unassuming lifestyle that, over the years, has made her a humble Christian lady who lives a simple life—loving the Lord and everyone she meets.

Virginia can’t recall everything she’s done for the parish over the years. It’s not in her nature to keep track of her good deeds. She volunteers, helps people and is kind because that’s who she is—not because she’s keeping track.

Virginia is a very important part of the parish. She’s been a member a very long time and knows the people. If she doesn’t know them, she’ll go to the door and greet them. Virginia is the disciple for the parish and is very outgoing and active.

As an example of kindness and concern for the well-being of her priests, she invites them to breakfast after Mass. She took the parish’s newest priest around the countryside to show him where parishioners live. A simple act of kindness, but Virginia is the one who thinks of this. It is important to her that priests feel a part of the community as well.

At 90, Virginia still volunteers in many capacities. She’s very supportive of all that goes on at the parish and doesn’t just come and then go home. She’s a very active member who also cares for her priests. It’s out of respect and to also make them feel welcome.

What continues to bring Virginia to Mass and to the church to volunteer? “This is my faith. I hope my faith is strong.”

Virginia Nix has led an unassuming lifestyle that, over the years, has made her a humble Christian lady who lives a simple life—loving the Lord and everyone she meets.

Story and Photography by Sharon Sliwka

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