Grounded in Service

This article was posted on: April 14, 2020

The Pinkertons use their groundskeeping background to care for the church

As a young couple beginning their family in Oshkosh, Michelle and Kris Pinkerton were looking to join a parish. Kris had just taken a new position as golf course superintendent of the Oshkosh Country Club. They bought a home and were very excited to be in a good place to raise a family.

Michelle grew up in a Catholic household while Kris’ family was Methodist. However, they both desired unity for their family and they found what they were looking for at St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in Oshkosh. “We fell in love with Father Dan Felton,” said Kris. “He touched our hearts. That was an amazing parish and an amazing experience. It was just full of life. I had never experienced anything like that before. It felt like every sermon [message] was meant especially for you.”

Three years after joining St. Raphael Parish, Kris decided to enter the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program in order to provide the core or center for going forward as a family. He always believed in God, but God was distant to him. He would ask Michelle about the various parts of the Mass in an effort to understand the richness of the Catholic Faith. “The answers to my questions all unfolded in the RCIA program: The Eucharist and how important it is to receive Jesus Christ every weekend – it was just an amazing process, an incredible experience. I got far more out of it than what I expected. Going in, I thought about doing this for my family, but it turned out to be more for me,” Kris explained. “I was now connected to God through Jesus in the Eucharist.”

The realization of the connection Kris experienced in the Eucharist and that, indeed, we are all connected as God’s children opened a door of opportunity for him to reach out to others in fellowship. He, along with Michelle, decided to volunteer their time to work at Father Martin Carr’s Place 2B in Oshkosh. Father Carr’s Place 2B is a life enrichment center that ministers to people in need and provides family and community activities. This experience provided the Pinkertons with the impetus for being involved in fostering the importance of community and family within their own parish life.

However, their lives were about to change. Kris and Michelle always enjoyed the outdoors, nature, hunting and fishing and, because of these interests, decided to buy a wooded piece of property in Lanark to serve as their “getaway place,” eventually building a home, which was completed in 2013. Lanark is a small township located in southeastern Portage County. But things were about to change.

Kris said, “It became apparent to me that I needed to make a career change in order to preserve my sanity. I gave up the golf industry and got a sales position with a company that specializes in turf management, which complimented my experience in the golf industry, and we moved permanently to the house we built in Lanark.”

Part of the reason that Kris and Michelle moved to Lanark was through their friendship with Deacon Jim Trzinski, with whom Kris shared his love of golf and hunting. They opened their home for retreats led by Deacon Jim, again demonstrating their commitment to the importance of community.

The answers to my questions all unfolded in the RCIA program: The Eucharist and how important it was to receive Jesus Christ every weekend – it was just an amazing process, an incredible experience. I got far more out of it than what I expected.

After they arrived in Lanark, they began looking for a parish to join and discovered St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, which was just four miles away from them. Kris said they fell in love with the parish because of the warmness and openness of the community. It was apparent to them that community is an important aspect of parish life at St. Maximilian Kolbe.

It did not take Kris and Michelle long to become involved in the life of their new parish. Kris volunteered his skill and knowledge of grounds and turf management to serve on the Buildings and Grounds Committee. He and Michelle, through their diligent work, help maintain the beautiful appearance of the lawn and grounds surrounding the church.

Kris is in the midst of working on an ambitious project to build an addition to the existing church that will be designated as a social hall because there is not a sufficiently large place to hold parish events. This new addition will also provide space for religious education programs for parishioners of all ages, which is lacking now.

The energy and enthusiasm of the Pinkertons to serve their fellow neighbors can be traced back to the transformative experiences of community that Kris and Michelle had in the welcoming community of St. Raphael the Archangel and the RCIA program.

“The biggest thing that we enjoy is just sharing things you love to do [like fishing] with folks at church. The relationships [with people] just broaden and grow as you help provide for the needs of all the people of a community,” the Pinkertons said.

Story and photography by Robert Rogers

Published in the April issue of Catholic Life

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