So said the pagans as they observed the early Christians. Today, the same is said of innumerable faithful throughout the Diocese of La Crosse. These members of the Body of Christ are His heart and hands in our present world, reaching out to their neighbors in need.
Our Diocesan Sesquicentennial has given us the opportunity to view 150 years in a tapestry of Faith, one which we continue to weave by God’s grace. The pages that follow show particular threads in that tapestry — a tapestry of compassion and love.
These threads of love are interwoven with the works of mercy and the expertise of Catholic Charities, along with the guidance and support of Bishop Callahan and the diocesan offices. We are all one, and our collaboration is ever closer.
In these pages you will discover, deanery by deanery, many threads of loving outreach. The representation is not exhaustive, but continues to grow as we receive updates. The resulting tapestry is a living, breathing image of the compassionate heart of Jesus Christ.
By Chris Ruff, Director of the Office for Ministries and Social Concerns
Karen Onstad, Diocesan Social Ministry Committee Representative for the Arcadia Deanery.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Mission Thrift Store
The Mission Thrift Store is a collaborative effort of volunteers from Holy Family Catholic and Christ Lutheran churches in Arcadia. Volunteers contribute time and talent, sorting, organizing, displaying and selling a wide variety of clothes and household goods. Proceeds are used to address local needs, such as emergency food, clothing, or household items. This friendly mission provides a thrifty place to shop and allows local residents to donate functional items.
Matt Amundson,Diocesan Social Ministry Committee Representative for the Chippewa Falls Deanery
St. Francesca Resource Center
The St. Francesca Resource Center opened four years ago to provide a platform for building relationships between individuals and organizations that have resources to give and those who have a need. The unabashedly Catholic ministry exists to support women who choose life for their unborn child and to meet the material and spiritual needs of Chippewa County residents who are troubled with addiction, broken relationships, health challenges, unexpected expenses, and loneliness. Every month, the SFRC serves an average of 338 households and distributes over 13,000 pounds of groceries, 50 packages of diapers, 1,150 clothing items, information, referrals, and much more.
Gary and Rosey Asher,Diocesan Social Ministry Committee Representatives for the Durand Deanery
Book Club/Jail Ministry
The Book Club works in conjunction with the Ellsworth Public Library and West CAP to bring books and meet with inmates every week. Resources are supplied and time is given by the volunteers of the program. Many help with a variety of educational needs such as tutoring and facilitating group discussions. As a result of past discussions and developed this past May, a knitting program is now available for inmates who want to learn how to knit scarves and hats. Parish members donate supplies and their time to this program. The newly knit hats and scarves are then donated back to the surrounding community. We continue to grow our prison ministry programs as the level of interest, participation and volunteers will allow.
Eau Claire Deanery
Jacky Miller, Diocesan Social Ministry Committee Representative for the Eau Claire Deanery
Advancing Hope Fund
Today in our community there are individuals who have a financial need, but have little or no access to loans that offer reasonable interest rates. Exorbitant and unregulated interest rates can lead the borrower into a cycle of debt that rapidly cycles out of control. Seeing this injustice, a small group of Chippewa Valley community members gathered in 2012 to create what is now the Advancing Hope Fund.
This project is funded through donations and the repayment of loans. The expectation for the Advancing Hope Fund is that the recipient will pay forward the loan for the next community member in need. Foundations, individuals and established lending institutions have committed to this venture.
La Crosse Deanery
Bob Conzemius, Diocesan Social Ministry Committee Representative for the La Crosse Deanery
Front Door Ministry
The Front Door Ministry at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman assists those in need who have eviction notices or utility disconnects; gas vouchers to get to work or doctor appointments; and bus tokens. Other help can be arranged depending on the need. One time we paid for a haircut for a young man who had a series of job interviews lined up. For energy assistance, we work closely with other nonprofits and state and county programs. About 20 percent of those who come to the Front Door are homeless, all too often living in their car with children.
Deacon Ray Draeger, Diocesan Social Ministry Committee Representative for the Marshfield Deanery
Parish Ministry of St. John the Baptist Parish
Our parish shows love, both spiritually and practically. We attempt to remain present to those who are homebound with regular visits, First Friday Holy Communion and specific aid. When we are aware of others in need, we are able to offer assistance with rent, car repairs, or utilities, to mention just a few. Food collections are held in March surrounding the feast of St. Joseph and again on Thanksgiving. Food baskets are given to families in need and to several food pantries in town. For the feast of Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas we offer grocery gift cards and perishable items. In times of sorrow individual bereavement support helps comfort and give hope.
– Sister Rita Adlkofer, Marshfield
Prairie du Chien
Deacon Mark Grunwald,Diocesan Social Ministry Committee Representative for the Prairie du Chien Deanery
From Near Extinction to Distinction
When K of C Council 1840 received their final notice, rather than disband and leave the Prairie du Chien area, they reorganized with a focus on Faith, church and community. Evidence of this renewal in membership and vigor can be seen by their recent efforts. In November, more than 350 coats were collected and distributed. The local Easter Egg Hunt resumed and the Tootsie Roll drive exceeded all past records. Recently, the Knights have given away more than $12,000 — supporting disaster relief, youth trips, families in need, the Special Olympics and many other local needs. In 2018, Council 1840 was No. 1 in recruitment in the diocese and the state, and received the Complete Council Award and recognition by the Supreme Knights of Columbus. – Steve Mercaitas, Prairie du Chien
Richland Center Deanery
Deacon Don Tully, Diocesan Social Ministry Committee Representative for the Richland Center Deanery
Jamaican Mission Project
The Jamaican Mission Project (JMP) was founded 12 years ago by parishioners from St. Mary Parish in Richland Center. JMP volunteers provide care and housing for children and adults with disabilities at 13 communities throughout the island. Another project involves teaching local farmers how to grow sustainable agriculture. The group also provided support for the construction of a seminary. For the next trip the group plans to build a chicken coop at Jacob’s Ladder.
Stevens Point Deanery
A Christmas Day Dinner
Several years ago, our Social Justice Committee became aware of people who were alone on Christmas Day. Starting with $700 and a few volunteers from Holy Spirit Parish, we hosted Christmas dinner at our church. The next year, we expanded to home delivery, thanks to Meals on Wheels who maps the routes and volunteers with us. This year, we are organizing into teams to include Family Life, Sacred Worship and Education Committee members. – Mary Ann Krems, Stevens Point
Judy Morrow, Diocesan Social Ministry Committee Representative for the Thorp Deanery
Holy Family Kenya Project
In 2015, after learning about new farming possibilities in Ewausao Kedong, Kenya, from Father John Fortune, a Mission Co-op preacher, parishioners from Holy Family in Willard, St. Mary in Greenwood and St. Anthony, Loyal raised $10,000 to set up a teaching farm at the Kenya parish. After a visit to Ewausao Kedong in 2016 by five parish members, they formed personal relationships and saw first-hand what the needs were. In Lent of 2018, a benefit dinner was held and $4,500 was raised for a walk-behind tractor to be given to the parish’s gardening project. Families can now use the tractor to help them with their gardening efforts as they grow fresh healthy food for their families and establish a new source of income. – Father Steve Brice
Cynthia Bomber, Diocesan Social Ministry Committee Representative for the Tomah Deanery
Responding to a local need
Last November, the Confirmation students of St. Patrick Parish in Mauston became aware that personal hygiene products were needed by the Mauston School District. Inspired by a recent retreat to the Place of Grace and wanting to respond to this local need, the class wanted to help. The Holy Spirit took it from there. After the weekend Masses, the confirmands collected travel sized donations of shampoos, conditioners, tooth paste and other items. These items were then assembled into kits using pencil bags. More than 70 kits were delivered to the local elementary and middle school.– Cassandra Thayer, Mauston
Deacon Bryan Hilts,Diocesan Social Ministry Committee Representative for the Wausau Deanery
St. Vincent de Paul Society of Wausau
The St. Vincent de Paul Cabrini Conference in the Wausau Deanery is a layperson-led, locally-funded Catholic ministry. Our mission is to help our struggling neighbors with basic human needs. What separates us from other service providers is our unique home visit process, which helps us better understand our neighbor’s situation. Our thrift store is a visible sign of the society’s presence and has a solid reputation for offering quality clothing, furniture and household items in a pleasant atmosphere at reasonable prices. Store proceeds enable us to give away roughly $100,000 annually in emergency funds and in-kind store items. svdpwausau.org
Wisconsin Rapids Deanery
Deacon Jerry Ruesch, Diocesan Social Ministry Committee Representative for the Wisconsin Rapids Deanery
Social Ministry Activities in the Wisconsin Rapids Deanery
Much can be said about working together. Responding to the many needs and following a mission to “strive to support and promote the social teachings of the Catholic Church in our community” all God’s people are being cared for. The Deanery Social Justice Committee helps raise awareness, organize collections and promote action. Last year, the group provided an educational update on the drug epidemic in south Wood County. Parishes take turns staffing local ministries, which otherwise could not continue. Working day by day and person to person, the people of the deanery together are spreading the good news.