Mike and Carol Mader hold the Gospel at the center of their lives together, especially Matthew, Chapter 25: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” The Gospel’s call to service has become the Maders’ legacy, a gift passed along to their children and grandchildren.
Mike proudly speaks of Mario, the Mader family’s adopted son, a sonship born of their hospitality. Mario styles himself as the “Director of Fun” for an ongoing, multi-event, bicycle-oriented fundraiser that continues to grow in popularity while helping to support several La Crosse charities. Mike’s example may seem an unlikely religious legacy, but his recounting of Mario’s community service spilled over with his own enthusiasm, goodwill and spontaneous generosity. This past winter, as March was roaring into Wisconsin like a lion, Dr. Mader was in Florida with his wife Carol, watching a grandson play college baseball. These brief cameos of family involvement signal ways Dr. Mader uses newfound time and freedoms since retiring from medical practice.
Though professionally retired, Mike continues to serve and now contributes to the spiritual health of others. He’s a facilitator for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) aspirants at Roncalli Newman Parish, teaching the Bible and salvation history. “Teaching about the Bible is a way of bringing people into the healing culture of the Church with the theme of love and the bigger picture of God’s relationship with us. The Bible promotes behavior and a life that brings one into a positive relationship with Jesus. We learn how to say, ‘I want to keep the figure of Christ in front of me. I want to follow you. I want to be like you.’ We learn how to grow and develop the most intimate relationship.”
“Teaching about the Bible is a way of bringing people into the healing culture of the Church with the theme of love and the bigger picture of God’s relationship with us.”
“I tell the students what I tell myself, ‘To know Jesus, we need to know His biography, the Gospels.’ The Gospels are His words, but they are also about the world He came from, the world He lived in. Learning about the Bible is like learning to understand a new language. That understanding brings one to a new level, one that is more personal.”
Mike’s personal intimacy with Christ is expressed in prayer. The biblical taunt of “Physician, cure yourself” echoed in his own life. “I try to strengthen my Faith with attendance at Mass, by receiving the sacraments and with other personal prayer. Spiritual health holds a number of parallels to medical health, both negative and positive. In spiritual health, as in medicine, there are sacraments of healing, like penance, that remove what is harmful. And there are spiritual disciplines to promote good spiritual health, actions we practice every day to stay strong.” Mike views his work in parish RCIA as a way to help both himself and those he teaches to grow, to stay healthy and to stay strong in Faith. “It is an effort to enhance my belief in God and is always a process. The end is not in sight.”
Though the end may be hidden, Mike is happy to point out that there are clear signs along the way. “The Bible is more than a collection of books; it’s the foundation of who we are, what it means to be God’s people, to follow Christ, to be a Pauline disciple. There is no other primary source for God’s word. At Mass, the sacred Scripture readings, especially the Gospel and the Psalms, are more familiar if one has studied the Bible. One can recognize the text; it feels refreshingly familiar. Our simple decisions in life, our various daily prayers and with looks into the ‘spiritual mirror,’ one can always become a better Christian, a better Catholic.”
Mike has been Catholic since the cradle. He attended seminary through high school. While there, he welcomed Dei Verbum, the Second Vatican Council’s challenge to open the Bible. He has always read, and continues to read, chapter and verse. But toward the end of his career, beginning in 2007, fellow parishioners Mary Ellen Haupert and Mary Kerrigan encouraged him to attend the Diocesan School of Biblical Studies (DSBS). They suggested that his deep Faith, natural curiosity and desire to serve others made him a natural for the program. He listened and signed up. He says it was a game-changer. He and Carol completed the course in 2011; Mike says, “I wish I had done it earlier.” He found that studying with biblical scholars, with others who are committed to their Faith, brought people and places of the Bible to life. For Mike, the Bible really is the living Word of God, as real and present as family, as a bike ride or a ballgame. In retirement, Mike is enjoying a new spring season of Faith, a new intimacy with the resurrected Christ, a new Easter.
Story by Nick Lichter
Published in the May/June 2019 Issue