St. Therese of Lisieux is credited for once stating, “The world is thy ship and not thy home.” In the world we live in today, it’s good to remember this quote, where so much worldly noise can swiftly pull someone away from what is important. Karen Morehouse, of St. Therese Parish in Rothschild, is a living example of how to combat a worldly life through Faith, hope and service to others.
Born and raised in Phelps, Karen has been a lifelong Catholic, strongly influenced by her parents’ devotion to Faith and service. “My mom was brought up Catholic,” Karen says, “We went to Mass every Sunday and had CCD class every Sunday afternoon where my mother actively helped.
Although her father wasn’t Catholic, he still had an active role in the Faith upbringing. Karen explains, “My father went to church with us every Sunday, and he was always asking us about the sermon and what went on at church to make sure we were comprehending. In some ways, I feel he was quite Catholic even if he wasn’t practicing. My father would be involved in Mass and different events at church.”
While attending college at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Karen briefly fell away from her Faith, “At that time, I fell away from my Catholic Faith,” she discusses, “I believe it was still in me, but freshman year I was really just unsure of myself and questioning where I fit into this world.” Karen continues, “I eventually met some friends who were all Catholic and we all started attending the local parish, and being Catholic just rolled right back into my life, thankfully. The strong friendships I’ve had have always been with other Catholics. I think in some ways that has been God’s way of guiding me.”
If we just read a book and we don’t talk about it, we aren’t going to get it. We read a passage from the Bible and talk about what it means to them now, so that it connects.
After college, Karen eventually married and settled in the Wausau area, where she now lives with her husband and two sons. Karen is a constant presence at her home parish, St. Therese. The parish can count on Karen to contribute as a lector, an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and a CCD teacher. Karen’s involvement with parish life started with becoming a lector and blossomed from there. “My kids were altar servers, which I always thought was great.” Karen explains, “Eventually, the discussion was opened for me to be a lector. This was cool because the boys and I would all be serving together. From there, I became an extraordinary minister of holy Communion as well.”
Karen’s work with her fellow extraordinary ministers of holy Communion has been especially rewarding: “Getting to know some of the extraordinary ministers of holy Communion here, they are tremendous people who do a lot for the parish and the community. I aspire to be like some of them, they are almost like family. When we get together, it is just a feeling you can’t describe. I recommend to anyone to get involved where you feel comfortable, there are so many wonderful people out there. There are many ways people can get involved and they are all for the good. We just need to continue to do what we can for other. I love being an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, and I love the people in church and always getting to see the different faces.”
One of Karen’s most impactful contributions to both her parish and the Church at large are her efforts as a CCD teacher. Karen begins, “With teaching CCD, I just started out being a helper in a class and I eventually started teaching my own class.” This year, Karen is teaching a small but engaged class of sixth-graders.
Connecting with children can be difficult, but Karen works hard to relate what the students are learning to what they are thinking about or feeling on a given subject. Karen explains, “If we just read a book and we don’t talk about it, we aren’t going to get it. We talk about what we are reading and ask questions. I explain that my answers might not be the same as their answers and let them know they can speak their own mind. I really try to bring it to what is going on today. We read a passage from the Bible and talk about what it means to them now, so that it connects.”
Engaging the youth is an integral part of building the Faith in future generations and Karen believes everyone can contribute, “I think, in some cases, we are seeing a lack of kids at Mass because no one engages with them about their Catholic Faith. I tell the kids, ‘What we are learning about offers tools you can utilize but you need to put them into action.’ God had some things he expected us to do and learn and continue to grow beyond the classroom—that is lost on many children.” Karen believes parents of youth can play an important role in keeping Faith alive for children outside of CCD class: “What we are learning applies to everyday life. Parents can spend time asking their children about what they are doing, what they are learning and how they can help. We must be willing to talk and go the extra mile with our children to continue those conversations. For a parent, you can never put enough tools in a child’s ‘Faith toolbox’ because, sooner or later, that toolbox will need to be opened, and then they will be able to continue on their journey of Faith with all the tools they need.”
For everything Karen puts into St. Therese Parish, she receives back in blessings of different shapes and sizes. Karen explains, “I ask the kids, ‘What if you took just one hour you spend on your phone and used that time to pray or spend with someone else?’ Then they can do something that would be more giving of their time and change the world.” She continues, “I get back from these kids; seeing them grow throughout the year, seeing them feel comfortable to come up and talk about how their day was. It is great knowing they can open up and talk about their life. If we can bridge that gap and everybody can feel comfortable together, then they can feel comfortable walking in that door and being here and not only with me but with God. We are all here for each other; the end goal isn’t here, it is to be in heaven and in heaven we are all together forever.”
Story and photography by Ben Williams
Published in the May/June issue of Catholic Life