Ken and Mary Ann Schelfhout Belong to the Holy Family
What better way to start the day than with your best friends: Jesus, Mary, Joseph and your guardian angel.”
For Ken and Mary Ann Schelfhout of Onalaska, going to Mass is all about being with family— their Holy Family. As retirees, they are thrilled to participate in daily Mass at St. James the Less Catholic Church in La Crosse.
They joined the parish 15 years ago to be closer to their children and grandchildren, who were members of the parish. “It’s a beautiful church,” says Ken.
Mary Ann says, “It’s traditional all the way. I need the inspiration and the holy surroundings. We’ve been blessed with really good spiritual pastors.”
Both are active on a daily basis within the church. Ken changes the votive candles and collects the money. It’s a job Mary Ann imagined for him when they first joined the parish as she watched the work done by an elderly parishioner, “a very holy man.”
During the week, Ken is an altar server and has trained other men of the parish to serve at the altar. “I also read if necessary,” he says.
Mary Ann is a sacristan for daily Mass and trains young girls to assist. “We call them the Handmaids of the Lord,” she says.
Daily Mass for Ken and Mary Ann is a gift. Being a part of the Mass through preparation or service at the altar is a privilege they both treasure.
“When we were married, we engraved in our wedding rings ‘JMJ Bless Us’ and our wedding date.”
“What better way to start the day than with your best friends: Jesus, Mary, Joseph and your guardian angel,” Ken says. “It’s unbelievable when you are serving Mass and you see the priest making the sign of the cross over the bread and wine, saying that this becomes the body and blood of our Lord Jesus. It’s just unbelievable.”
“My first friends were the people who go to daily Mass. We are blessed to be in the parish with all those people,” Mary Ann says. “When I put the bread on the paten, I tell Jesus, ‘This is going to be your body.’ And when I put the wine on the table, I think, ‘This will be your blood. Thank you for this privilege.’”
Ken and Mary Ann were raised in strong Catholic households and brought their families’ Faith into their marriage. “Our parents were such an inspiration to us—going to daily Mass and saying the rosary,” says Ken.
“We thank God every day for our Catholic Faith and for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist,” Mary Ann says. “When we were married, we engraved in our wedding rings ‘JMJ Bless Us’ and our wedding date. We have always had a great devotion to the Holy Family. We feel they have blessed us all these years.”
Their four children were immersed in the Faith even before they were born. Mary Ann remembers how Ken loved the book The Perfect Joy of St. Francis and wanted to name their son after his favorite saint, St. Francis of Assisi. St. Therese the Little Flower is Mary Ann’s favorite saint. So, their children are Therese Marie, Francis Michael, Joan Marie and Dominic Joseph—all named after Ken and Mary Ann’s favorite saints.
As their children grew, the family regularly prayed the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet together.
“In raising your children, you do the best you can,” says Mary Ann. “All we can do now is pray for them and for our grandchildren, and try to set a good example. It’s our eternal salvation. What does this life matter? This is just a drop in the bucket compared to what is waiting for us.”
Ken shares his Faith by creating beautiful rosaries. “He makes them all the time,” Mary Ann says. “He gives them away and he makes them for the parish. He makes blue ones for the boys who are baptized and pink ones for the girls. He makes different ones for the new parishioners. He makes them for each of our grandchildren when they make their first Holy Communion.”
Mary Ann irons the linens used for Mass each week. She is a member of the Parish Council of Catholic Women and helps with the funeral lunches.
“Those were the first people I met and the first group that I worked with,” says Mary Ann. “I love it. It is a work of mercy.”
The couple volunteer at the Onalaska Food Basket, distributing food to those in need. Ken is also a volunteer with the Franciscan Hospitality Center in La Crosse, which assists homeless people.
For both Ken and Mary Ann, daily Mass is what centers them in their life together and brings them peace.
“We never know when Jesus is going to knock and call us home,” Ken says. “Our intention is to go to daily Mass and receive our Lord. God has given us so many ways to get to heaven. We have no excuse. He is the greatest gift of all. To leave Himself behind in that little host. How good God is to us!”
They would love to see more retired people, who are physically able, find the same awe and joy by attending daily Mass.
“Do it for one week,” says Mary Ann. “Try it and see. If you tried it for one week, you’d see how good you would feel. You don’t want to disappoint our Lord. Stand in front of Jesus on the crucifix and tell Him it is too hard. You can’t do it.”
Story by Mary Kay McPartlin
Photography by Michael Lieurance
Published December 2019
Prayers are a special part of Ken and Mary Ann’s life. Ken has one he says while he makes his rosaries, and they have another prayer they recite together before Holy Communion.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
I offer up each bead of these rosaries
for the release of a soul from purgatory
and every decade
for the salvation of my family.
Please bring us
and all those
who will pray with these rosaries
ever closer to You.
Offering of Holy Communion
My God, if I am to die today
or suddenly at any time,
I wish to receive this Communion
as my viaticum.
I desire that my last food may be
the body and blood
of my Savior and Redeemer;
My last words,
Jesus, Mary and Joseph;
My last affection,
an act of pure love of God and
of perfect contrition for my sins;
My last consolation,
to die in Thy Holy Love.