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2/28/2024 Wednesday Message

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was once fortunate enough to find myself in London on an evening with nothing to do and a few college friends to do it with. We made our way to the West End and eventually found ourselves with some last-minute rush tickets to see “The Phantom of the Opera” at Her Majesty’s Theater. (At least, it was Her Majesty’s theater at the time!)

 

If you have ever found yourself with last minute tickets or ‘obstructed view’ seats, you might nod your head with a familiar understanding - “nose bleed” doesn’t begin to describe how terrible our seats were. An usher might as well have offered us oxygen on our way up. Our seats were so high up in the theater that we were actually seated above the infamous chandelier.

 

If you are familiar with “The Phantom of the Opera”, there is a pretty remarkable scene where the chandelier falls from the ceiling in a remarkable bit of theatrical drama and engineering. When you are seated on the floor beneath it, watching the chandelier fall on your head is a pretty dramatic thing!

 

When you are seated above the chandelier, watching a small chandelier become even smaller is much less dramatic. I left kind of underwhelmed - this was the thing that everyone raved about, running on 35 years?

 

I have since seen “Phantom” from much better seats and it shouldn’t be surprising that when your view isn’t obstructed the show is much more compelling. Might there be a parallel we can draw to the Mass?

 

We shouldn’t pick the worst seat in the house and then wonder why we leave underwhelmed. We shouldn’t sit in the back of the church and then wonder why we feel distant from the Mass. We shouldn’t come late and leave early and then wonder why we don’t feel a connection. We shouldn’t bury our talents in the sand and then wonder why they do not bring meaning and joy to our lives.

 

These are just examples - there are many very good and valid reasons to sit in the back of the church, to come late, and to not have the bandwidth to fully utilize our talents. My wife and I now have three of them; one aged 4 years, one aged 2 years, and one just 6 days old.

 

We cannot journey through Lent with an obstructed view and then wonder why we cannot see the bright sunrise of Easter morning. If your Lent is going like mine (meaning: poorly!) it is never too late to recommit. Change your seats and change your perspective. Spend 10 minutes after Mass has ended in quiet prayer in the pew. Join the choir for Triduum. Pray for me. I’ll be praying for you!

 

Mike Renneke

2/21/2024 Wednesday Message

Hello Everyone and happy Lent!

How has your lent been going? Are there new ways that you are implementing the three pillars of Lent? The three pillars are Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.

As Lents go, I haven’t started out the strongest this year and I am still working on my concrete plan for what I am going to do. I’ve been a bit caught up in the busyness of life, though I know that isn’t much of an excuse! It’s important to have people who will help us and support us in our faith journey though, and I am grateful for my boyfriend who decided we were going to pray a rosary together every day during Lent. It’s been a while since I’ve been in the habit of doing an entire rosary on a regular basis. It's been nice so far though! This new practice has especially been a good reminder to me of the power of prayer and how beautifully it unites us.

There are many prayer ministries at Our Lady of the Falls, and we are particularly blessed to have our beautiful Goldsmith Adoration Chapel. Christ is present in that monstrance. He’s looking back at us as we kneel before Him in adoration. He is also present in other monstrances around the world. As we look up at Him in our chapel, letting Him love us and loving Him, we are united with the thousands of others who are doing the same a few cities away or halfway around the world! It is such a gift to be able to join other Catholics in spending time with Jesus who is in the Eucharist! If you haven’t gotten an hour yet, or you’d like to pick up another hour, fill out this form, https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeL96kA62dSD87ac1w5YgdA5-gGUNovmfy0S8TV56Vx5LdHCg/viewform?usp=sf_link

The liturgy of the hours also unites us as a Church as it is the daily prayer of the Church. It’s something that we as lay people can choose to pray at different hours of the day. Priests and other religious are, as a general rule, supposed to pray the Liturgy of the Hours at least five times a day. When we pray night prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, for example, we are praying along with thousands of others, lay people, priests, deacons, and other religious. The liturgy of the hours are also really extraordinary because when we pray them we read through Psalms that reflect on a wide variety of places that we could be in our faith. We might not be feeling discouraged for example, but when we are praying the liturgy of the hours, we can pray them in consolation with and for someone who is feeling discouraged. It’s such a cool and unique way to be united with other Catholics! If you’re interested in praying the Liturgy of the hours, I would encourage you to look up ibrivary and download the app!

For Share the Joy, one of the suggestions was to ask a fellow parishioner how you could pray for them. I’d like to invite you again to consider doing this! I know it can be a challenge, but also consider taking time to actually pray with someone. If they mention a struggle or a need take a moment to say, “You know, let’s say a little prayer for you right now!”. Lent is a time where we can really challenge ourselves, so maybe try to do this just once during Lent.

Other things that you can do to be united with fellow Catholics in prayer and to pick up something new for stronger prayer during this season of Lent:

  • Be a part of an email Prayer Chain for our parishes.

  • Attend the Monday Adoration Prayer Meeting that’s at 9am in the Adoration Chapel

  • Find 4 friends and do a living Rosary where each of you does a different decade of the Rosary every day

I hope this Lent proves to be a good one for you and you use this beautiful season to grow your prayer life!

In Christ, Kate Zweber

2/14/2024 Wednesday Message

Our Catholic Schools are an essential and growing parish ministry. Centered on Jesus Christ and His Church, we partner with families to nurture young people's spiritual, intellectual, physical, and moral formation through a PreK-12 Catholic liberal arts education and vibrant student life of discipleship, athletics, and the arts. Please follow our McDonell Area Catholic Schools Facebook page to follow along and see how we are living our mission every day!

Over the past two years, McDonell Area Catholic Schools has developed a new mission and vision statement, and is in the process of finalizing goals and objectives for our 2030 Strategic Plan. All parishioners are invited to attend a Stakeholder Feedback Session to give feedback on the 2030 Strategic Plan. The session will be held at McDonell Central Catholic High School on Wednesday, February 28th 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. Please join us!

The five focus areas reviewed by our subcommittees are: Nurturing Our Students, Partnering With Families, Growing Our Catholic Identity, Embracing Our Community, and Building Our Future. Each group set 3-5 goals under each focus area, which will be presented at the feedback session for comment. Our new mission, vision, and strategic plan will set the priorities for our ministry over the next 6 years. As many of you know, the last five years have been very exciting for our Catholic schools as we have reinvigorated our Catholic identity and started a journey to the heart of education by embracing Catholic Liberal Arts. As enrollment has grown exponentially, we are also seeing a growth in the fervor of the faith among students and families, often expressed in sacramental initiation and participation.


We have areas of opportunity to better serve ALL Catholic families of our parishes, and I 100% welcome all Catholic families to contact me and let me know how we can better partner with you in the spiritual, intellectual, physical, and moral formation.

As I write this, I am about to attend one of four school Masses taking place on Ash Wednesday. One of the best ways to celebrate our Catholicism as schools and families is by living the liturgical year together! May God bless all parents and families and may He continue to allow us to build His kingdom through the ministry of Catholic schools. This Lent, may He strip away whatever may be holding us back from closer relationship with Christ through His Church.

I look forward to seeing you at the Stakeholder Strategic Planning Session on Wednesday, February 28th!

Molly K. Bushman

McDonell Area Catholic Schools

System President

1/31/2024 Wednesday Message

Parishioners of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls Deaneries and members of our local community,

As local Deans, on behalf of all the pastors, we reach out in pastoral concern and care for our community. We were shocked and greatly disappointed to hear of the upcoming closure of our local Catholic hospitals, HSHS Sacred Heart in Eau Claire and St. Joseph’s in Chippewa Falls. This is truly a death in the family for our local Catholic community. While we understand HSHS worked for a different outcome than a complete exit, this solution is extremely painful and difficult for many.

Our hearts go out to those employed by HSHS, Prevea Health, and L.E. Philipps, as their lives and families will be greatly impacted. We reverence your raw emotions of fear, anger, grief, and uncertainty regarding your professional and personal future.

We also send our prayers to the thousands whose healthcare may be disrupted. We’ve heard many in our community comment on the excellent, compassionate care they have received over the years. Our community will be less without Catholic healthcare, rooted in the Gospel, that serves the whole person, body and soul.

We are truly grateful for all of those who for nearly 140 years have worked in the HSHS healthcare ministries in the Chippewa Valley. The many Hospital Sisters, administrators, physicians, nurses, and staff dedicated their careers to Catholic healthcare. They served our community generously and professionally. It’s impossible to recount the many lives touched and healed through these hospitals.

While this is a time of grief, not all hope is lost. Many in our community have already been discussing ways to alleviate the economic and healthcare concerns this decision causes. We will soon have details on a spiritual offering to provide healing for those experiencing stress, anxiety, and trauma from this decision. Bishop Callahan will also celebrate a Mass honoring the history of St. Joseph’s and Sacred Heart Hospitals on a later date that will be announced.

The healing mission of Jesus Christ belongs to his Church. Even when institutions falter and end, the healing mission of the Lord Jesus Christ continues. The responsibility and gift of this healing mission is entrusted to all of us as his missionary disciples. May the Holy Spirit pour out his gifts and renew our fervor and courage to see what must be done and gain the strength to do what we have seen.

In Christ,

Very Rev. James R. Kurzynski

Dean of Eau Claire

Very Rev. Jesse D. Burish

Dean of Chippewa Falls

01/17/2024 Wednesday Message

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your life is a testament to God’s goodness and His love for the world He created! There’s a song, Counting My Blessings, where they sing “The more that I look in the details, the more of God’s goodness I find”. Let other people see those details, don’t just keep them to yourself! Discover those details in other people and let yourself be awed by the love that God has for His children!

One of the Share the Joy suggestions this month is to find an opportunity to introduce yourself or your family to other parishioners. I am pretty sure there will be someone you don’t know at Mass this weekend. Introduce yourself and show that person that they are seen, that they are known and worthy of being known, and that they are loved, by the Father and His children. Be willing to let others see you! Be willing to show others how God has given you joy in your life. Be willing to hear the words, “Yes, oui si ja!”.

 

In Christ,

Kate Zweber

715-705-2240

Dear parishioners,

Bear with me, I’ve found a little joke for you!

An Englishman, a Frenchman, a Spaniard, and a German are all standing watching a street performer do some excellent juggling. The juggler notices that the four gentlemen have a very poor view, so he stands up on a large wooden box and calls out, “Can you all see me now?”

“Yes,”

“Oui,”

“Si,”

“Ja,”

Are you willing to let people see you? One of the biggest things that holds people back from trying to meet someone new is that it’s hard to let others see you sometimes.

1/10/2024 Wednesday Message

1/10/2024 Wednesday Message

When is your mother’s birthday?  My mom will be 93 this January 15th.  I know this because I have it marked on my calendar.  I want to be sure I call her since she lives a couple of hours away and a visit is not likely to happen.  With my 13 siblings you might think that if I forget to call her she will not notice.  Wow was I wrong when I forgot a few years ago!  Sometime after her birthday when I called her for a random chat, she made a point to let me know I was the only one who did not call her on her birthday.  She was keeping a list!  I don’t know where I was on Santa’s list that year, but I was not on the nice list for mom!

I am writing this Wednesday message on January 1st the Solemnity of Mary the Holy Mother of God.  While not a Holy Day of Obligation this year, it is a day to remember.  I am sure Jesus will not forget to call his mom today.  Mary is also our mother and so if you did not make it to Mass on the 1st, be sure to at least give her a belated call by reciting a rosary or some other devotion to Mary such as a novena or praying the Magnificat.

Mary has a special place in her heart for those who love her son Jesus.  She has adopted us as spiritual children.  She prays for us and asks us in turn to look to her for help in praying to her son.  She does not seek glory for herself, but rather encourages us to invoke her help so she can show us the way to her son.

May God Bless you this new year by keeping close to your spiritual Mother Mary and may this Christmas season continue for you even when the secular world has moved on.

 

Deacon Kevin DeCook

1/3/2024 Wednesday Message

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Rachel and I have been blessed with 4 wonderful little kiddos. On Christmas day, my oldest son Benedict (5) asked Joseph (2 1/2) if he wanted to wear matching clothes to Mass. Initially suspicious of the idea (perhaps because Joseph is suspicious of wearing clothes altogether), Joseph changed his mind and agreed. The picture attached shows the heartwarming result! Why the change of heart for Joseph? Perhaps the biggest reason is his subconscious admiration for his older brother. And of course, Benedict does not realize the power of his influence yet, but you and I can clearly see how his words and actions and questions impact Joseph. 

About two weeks ago I was enjoying a beverage in the new Chippewa Caribou coffee shop. I was in the middle of a meeting with a woman whose 8 year old son was interested in becoming Catholic and receiving first Holy Communion with his peers at MACS (such is the power of a faithfully Catholic school!). This woman and her family were raised Christian (Lutheran) and had long been acquainted with the basics of the Christian faith. But her son wanting to enter the Catholic church also seemed to spark a desire for her own spiritual renewal. 

 

In the course of our conversation I eventually asked her a question that I ask almost every person I meet with; this question is so fundamental that you may be tempted to chuckle at its simplicity and move on. However, though I asked this question to probably near 100 people this past year in discipleship meetings, very few people seemed confident in answering it. Frankly most people seemed to be caught off guard and perhaps had never been asked the question before in an informal conversation, and feel it is both a massively important question but also a deeply personal one.

The question is this: "Who is God?" or "Who is Jesus of Nazareth?" Her answer was similar to many of the answers I have heard (yes, from dozens of Catholics, too). Something like: "God is someone I can talk to when I need help" or "Jesus is my hidden friend." 

 

Is there truth in these answers? Of course. But do they demonstrate that understanding that God has revealed Himself in Jesus and is the loving Lord of the universe, the Lord of their lives, also? Of course not. Yes, perhaps they could add to their answer, but might I submit to you two simple invitations for this New Year:

First, like Benedict, recognize the influence you have in sharing the truth of the Gospel. If you strive to know Jesus, people look up to you, even if they are originally suspicious of the Faith. 

Second, answer "yes" to your call to evangelize. The Church needs you to; God has great plans for you. Perhaps simply ask people that one question, and invite their view of Jesus to be refreshed. 

 

Know of my prayers, and please pray for me. For a bonus on this topic, check out this short video from Fr. Mike Schmitz

 

Would you like to evangelize and share the Gospel with greater confidence? I would love to connect with you!


For His Glory, 

 

John Shakal

12/20/2023 Wednesday Message

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Gaudete! Rejoice! It is easy to find joy surrounded by family and friends, especially when they’re as fun as my cute little niece in this picture!

 

This Sunday was Gaudete Sunday where we are particularly called to rejoice in the Lord. We talk about Joy a lot at our parishes. Why is Joy so important? Probably because we know that if you find joy you find a lot of other things too. You find that you have peace. You find that you are more yourself. You find that your faith isn’t taking a backseat in life but is alive and well in you!

 

Joy does not always come easily. Please do not be discouraged when it doesn’t! Our Blessed Mother gives us a beautiful example of Joy and how to cultivate it, and her life wasn’t easy at all. She was mysteriously pregnant before she was living with Joseph, she was 9 months pregnant and had to travel to an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people, she had to leave her home suddenly because someone was determined to kill her child, and all that isn’t even half of what she went through! Mary also loved deeper than any of us. She did not have the weight of sin holding her back from loving to its fullest. If Mary loved so much, can you imagine how much pain she felt seeing the one she loved most be crucified? Yet, Mary never lost her sense of Joy.

 

In all the excitement of the nativity scene with angels singing God’s glory and the shepherds bowing their heads in praise Luke chapter 2 says, “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart”. Mary simply rested in God’s love and contemplated His goodness in that moment. It is in contemplation that I have seen Joy grow. By remembering God's presence in different moments and allowing these memories to stir our hearts, Joy can start to flourish. In acts of charity Joy is strengthened, and we are given more to contemplate as we find new evidence of God’s goodness and His love for us. In the silent reflection of our hearts the Holy Spirit’s voice is heard, our Joy is turned into action, and it radiates for the rest of the world to see.

 

This Advent and Christmas I hope you will allow yourself to do as our Blessed Mother did, to recognize God in the special moments, to keep all these things and reflect on them in your heart.

 

Have a very Merry Christmas and don’t forget to Share the Joy!

 

Kate

12/6/2023 Wednesday Message

One of life’s greatest annoyances for those of us living in colder climates is being ready to hop into the car and go somewhere only to find that you have to scrape frost off the windshield. This unanticipated task can make us late or just start the day off on the wrong foot. This very event happened to me the other day…

I was walking to my car that was parked on the street. I had my arms filled with various items that I needed for the day and I was also listening to Fr. Mike’s podcast “Catechism in a Year” on my phone. As I approached my car I saw the frost and thought, “one more thing to do”. I shoved my things in the passenger side seat and went around to start the car as a huge garbage truck rumbled by. At the same time I noticed a city water department truck pulling to a stop on the other side of the street. Not paying attention, I started my car, grabbed my windshield scraper, walked back to the passenger side of the car, and started scraping. As I hastily, and poorly, finished one side, I looked up and saw the guy from the truck walking towards me. “What does he want? Is there some water project that is going to make it so we don’t have water in the house or something?” But no, he simply said, “Let me help”. He handed me a pair of gloves to put on my cold hands and started scraping my windshield. I didn’t really know what to do. I took the gloves, holding them in one hand with my phone blaring Fr. Mike, and continued scraping with my other hand. No words came out of my mouth as I contemplated the weirdness of this situation. I managed a “thank you” as he scraped off the last piece of frost. He smiled, said “Your welcome, have a nice day”, headed back to his truck and drove off. I was still holding the gloves in dismay as I got in my car and drove away.

What had just happened to me? As I began to contemplate the significance of this unexpected kindness a few things came to mind. First, I thought, “This guy must have been from some protestant church and had been challenged by his pastor to help someone in need this week.” That first thought made me pause. Why would I assume he was protestant and not Catholic? I didn’t like that my gut instinct was that protestants were more likely to do something like this. Where did that presumption come from? What did it say about my view and practice of the Catholic faith? How could I work to change that presumption in myself and in my Church?

Another thought that entered my mind was, “Why do I think this is so odd?” Shouldn’t it be normal for people to help each other out? Most of my shock came from the fact that I’m not old or disadvantaged and this wasn’t an out of the ordinary situation, like a flat tire. I was just an average lady scraping her windshield. I think we tend to think that we are mostly called to help people out in extreme cases. While it is true that we should help people out in extreme cases, we are primarily called to help others out in everyday cases. I was helped by a stranger, but it is just as important to help those we are close to. In fact, there are many more opportunities to help out those we know in ordinary ways than those we don’t know in extraordinary circumstances. When you help someone out or someone helps you out, it shouldn’t be odd.

A final thought that came to my mind was that maybe this was an angel in disguise. Why? Why couldn’t it just be a regular old person? Which is more amazing to me, a person helping another person or divine intervention? The answer should be both. Both are amazing because they both come from God. One is a person following the promptings of the Holy Spirit, acting as a messenger of God and one is a direct messenger of God. I’ve been reading a book, In the School of the Holy Spirit by Jacques Philippe, about how to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Well, here was someone who wasn’t just reading about it, but was doing it. It’s amazing when we allow God to work through us. Perhaps even more amazing than an angel messenger being sent to us. Why? Because as the catechism states, “With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God.” We humans, on the other hand, are broken and can very easily reject the promptings of God to be his messenger. So, it’s more amazing when we humans actually do God’s will. It’s more pleasing to God when we become his messengers than when an angel is. That’s food for thought….

There are many other ways that I have analyzed this situation, but I keep coming back to this main point- that someone DID something and didn’t just think about doing something. I like to think that I’m holy, but do I act holy? “By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God.” (CCC 143) Do I trust God enough to follow his promptings and let him work through me? This is a living Faith.

Paula Hanson

11/29/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners,

 

Following the call of our bishops for a Eucharistic Revival, you may have noticed a number of new things in our parishes over the past year: our regularly praying for a Eucharistic revival at the end of our parish Masses, the use of Communion patens held by servers (if available) during the distribution of Holy Communion, increasing our efforts to bring Holy Communion to our homebound more consistently, connecting the joy of the Eucharist to how we interact with and welcome our fellow parishioners at Mass in our “Share the Joy” efforts, as well as a few other things.  More personally, I want to invite you to grow in your devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist by dedicating some time to Him in Eucharistic Adoration (if that is possible for you), and by regularly going to confession so as to receive Him worthily.

 

Related to all this, I’d like to update you on the distribution of the Precious Blood in our parishes.  Nearly two years ago following the pandemic I made the decision to indefinitely forgo distribution of the Precious Blood to the congregation from the chalice, except for those receiving their First Holy Communion, or being newly received into the Church, or those on their wedding day.  There are a few reasons why, I, as the pastor may choose to limit distribution of the Precious Blood: to avoid obscuring the role of the Priest and the Deacon as ordinary ministers of Holy Communion by having more extraordinary ministers than absolutely necessary; to avoid having to cleanse several vessels following the distribution of Holy Communion; to reduce the risk of the Precious Blood spilling.

 

I also stated that given the Church’s liturgical tradition and directives, a reasonable case for distributing from the chalice more frequently may be made depending on the circumstances of the parish community.  While the Church acknowledges that “the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is more clearly evident” with reception of Communion under both kinds, she also acknowledges reasons for limiting it.  Whether the Precious Blood is distributed at Mass or not, we as Catholics should understand what is referred to as the doctrine of concomitance, i.e., that the Real Rresence of Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, is present whole and entire in each species, consecrated bread and wine.  In other words, whether we receive the Host or from the chalice, we receive Christ completely.

 

Over the past couple years, many of you have inquired about a return of reception of the Precious Blood from the chalice.  Weighing out the legitimate reasons for limiting it with the legitimate reasons for making it available, we will distribute the Precious Blood to the congregation from the chalice on four special occasions throughout the year: (1) the Sunday following Christmas (usually the Feast of the Holy Family), (2) the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, (3) Divine Mercy Sunday, and (4) the Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord (Corpus Christi).

 

May our Eucharistic Lord continue to make our hearts like unto His!

 

Fr. Jesse Burish

11/22/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners,

 

I hope this finds you all well! During this time of year I always await anxiously the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle on November 30th. On that day we begin the St. Andrew’s Christmas Novena…which is technically not a novena, nor does it have much to do with St. Andrew other than its start date. Rather, it is a prayer that, during the season of Advent, helps us to increase our desire for Jesus, God incarnate, born on Christmas day. Further, I can personally attest to the great power of this prayer. I generally have one intention to which I dedicate the entire novena; often it is for the health and/or conversion of someone in my family. God answers these prayers powerfully, even if it isn’t how we always imagine it (often it’s way better!). 

 

Simply pray this prayer 15 times daily from the Feast of St. Andrew on November 30 through Christmas Day:

 

"Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen."

 

In Christ,

 

Fr. Brandon Guenther 

11/15/2023 Wednesday Message

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Dear parishioners,

Happy early Thanksgiving! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, safe travels, and good luck with any hunting endeavors!  Since it was just All Saints Day, I thought I’d share a picture of me and my friend Rachel from a party that we went to. I was dressed up as St. Agnes, with the ridiculous halo and sash, and Rachel was my lamb! If you don’t know who St. Agnes is, she is definitely worth looking up! Let me know why you think she is always pictured with a lamb.

“I would create the universe again just to hear you say you love me”. Jesus said this in a vision to St. Teresa of Avila, isn’t it beautiful? Jesus has a desire that you reciprocate His love as well. Are you ready to say those words to Him? Perhaps it’s hard for you, like it is for me sometimes, to say this when God can feel so far away. A little reminder that I was given recently is that God is constantly showing us His goodness through other people. I will often come back from a meeting or a chat with a parishioner and be in awe of that person's kindness, generosity, and faithfulness. Recently, I have been working on inviting our Lord to be present in those conversations more as well as thanking God for those people and recognizing His presence in each of them. 

 

C.S. Lewis said, “Do not shine so that others can see you. Shine so that through you, others can see Him”. Many of Our Lady of the Falls parishioners have done this for me and have brought the words “I love you, Lord Jesus” more readily to my heart and mind. How will you bring those words to your prayer life in these next few weeks? How will you take those words and put them into action?

 

In case you’re drawing a blank I will list a couple of ideas. As part of Share the Joy we will be handing out cards this weekend, take a couple and send them to other members of your church as a way to care for your fellow parishioners. Another suggestion would be to ask a family or a parent if there is any way that you can help them. You could also make a point to just check in with someone to see how they are doing. There are really many opportunities! Let me know what you come up with!

 

In Christ,

Kate Zweber

715-705-2240

11/8/2023 Wednesday Message

Volunteers are wonderful people that give of themselves without any monetary reward.  Volunteering is not just about getting work done, but it is one main way we build relationships within our parish family.  We have an excellent group of volunteers that make our parishes run.  However, there are many things that go undone for lack of committed volunteers.  We need everyone in the pew to contribute by volunteering in some way. 

There is such a wide opportunity and need that most everyone should give some time to help.  We are not to be a church of people that only show up at Mass, events, or sacraments as consumers.  Some say they are too busy to volunteer and so they support the church financially only.  That too is necessary, but we also need your time even if it is only a couple hours a month.

The parish is a family unit and I think we all know how it is when a family member does not contribute to the work that must be done in a household.  Things don’t get done or other family members have to do the extra work and over time they can get burned out or overwhelmed.  Our parishes are the same. 

We need tons of volunteers just to do Mass well.  Besides the priest we need servers, sacristans, ushers, readers, EMHCs, musicians, cantors, someone to bring up the gifts, greeters, techy people for recorded Mases, script sellers, cleaners, decorators, money counters, and maybe even a deacon (hope I didn’t miss anybody).  But guess what!  Mass is not the only thing we do!  We have many wonderful ministries that I will not list here and each of them have their own list of needed volunteers.  There are also many ministries that do not even exist in our parishes because we do not have enough volunteers. 

You might be thinking we have employees to do this work.  Yes we do have excellent employees that give us some great stability, but in a vibrant parish the employees work hours should be much less than the volunteers as our budget would never support all the wages for all the work the Lord has for us to do.  For us to do our part in proclaiming the Kingdom of God we need to give of our time.  You might be thinking this is easy for me to say, but I too am a volunteer that does not get paid for my time.  Believe me I would much rather be in the pews at times where I wasn’t in the spotlight, but then I would not be doing God’s will sharing the gifts he gave me.  He gave you gifts too, and you are called to share them with your parish family.  If you do not know where you might fit in as a volunteer please contact me, Father Burish, Father Gunther, Sister Yvonne, Kate Zweber or just call the parish office.  Our contact information is online or in the bulletin (for you younger folk, that is the paper things by the church doors 😉).  Remember we need and want you to join us in volunteering not only to get the work done, but also to share time with you as part of our parish family.

God Bless your efforts!

Deacon Kevin DeCook

10/25/2023 Wednesday Message

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Dear Parishioners,

It was 2007 and I was standing on the 50 yard line, the halogen lights blinding in their contrast with the cool night air. The stadium was full to the brim, a sea of people alternating in green and purple with flecks of gold. In my crisp white band uniform I was a stark contrast to the giants who littered the sidelines.

It was halftime of “Monday Night Football” and the Green Bay Packers were hosting the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. ESPN was providing the broadcast coverage, and the university marching band had been called in to provide halftime entertainment at the last moment when Green Bay opted to cancel the original plan of a ceremony honoring Brett Favre - for some unexplained reason. The clock was ticking down on the commercial break as I gestured madly towards the sideline.

“How will I know when to begin?” I shouted.

“You’ll figure it out!” the camera man shouted back.

In a previous email I had written about how we never know how the little things we say to others will impact the trajectory of their lives. The cameraman offhandedly saying “You’ll figure it out” gave me a phrase that I have repeated hundreds if not thousands of times to my students, my children, and myself.

I consider my Monday Night Football experience to be a ‘spotlight moment’ - a moment in life when it seems all attention is focused squarely on your shoulders; when you are clearly the main character in the story. We all have spotlight moments, some filled with the light of joy and others marred by the shadow of grief. Birthdays and baptisms. Weddings. Funerals. New jobs, new homes, new cities.

By definition a spotlight casts a narrow and intense beam of light, drawing attention and focus to someone or something. Who is directing the spotlight in your life?

Are you allowing someone else to determine where your spotlight is pointed? To decide who and what gets your attention and focus?

We can give God control of our spotlight through daily prayer, weekly Mass, and monthly confession (thanks, Father Guenther!). While God may use your spotlight to show you where to look, He won’t tell you what to see.

You’ll figure it out.

Michael Renneke

10/18/2023 Wednesday Message

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Dear Parishioners,

I am writing to you as a new world traveler! Three weeks ago I landed in Rome, Italy with some friends to attend a diaconate ordination for our diocese and explore a bit of Italy.

Looking around at St. Peter’s Basilica, it would be hard not to feel pride in our faith. The basilica was designed so that it doesn’t feel as big as it actually is. Statues on the ground were 6 feet tall while the statues up higher were as big as 24 feet, yet they looked as if they were the same size! The amount of careful thought and planning that was put into every detail is astounding. You know what is also astounding though? The beautiful sunsets and serene countryside of Italy! Those things also were created with great intention and love. What is the greatest thing that all this beauty does? It sings God’s praises just by existing!

Our lives are similar in a way. Sorrows as well as Joys that are brought to God are more beautiful to Him than any sunset. God is glorified in our lives! The most unglamorous situations in life can be given to God and they will be cherished. A Bereavement Ministry to help those who have lost a loved one is starting at Our Lady of the Falls parishes, Oct. 26th. Think of how this group will be joining hands to support one another and to grow in faith. Think of the little ways that have come up with Share the Joy. Today I am encouraging you to think about the kind of gift that you are preparing for God. What kind of painting will you give to Him? Are you ready to make it more beautiful?

 

In Christ,

Kate Zweber

10/11/2023 Wednesday Message

How many of you, like me, sometimes struggle with spending too much time on your phone or device?

Recently, MACS parents and students learned about creating safer digital spaces through programming provided by the organization Protect Young Eyes. The parent recording "How to Create a Tech-Ready Home" is available to watch on our website at Parents - Forms/Resources 

https://www.mcdonellareacatholicschools.org/parents/forms.cfm

 

I highly recommend Protect Young Eyes' materials and resources to all families. They provided advice and recommendations in five areas: modeling healthy behaviors, pursuing authentic connection, delaying devices and social media, diligently preventing harm, and forging strong families. 

While parental controls, safer routers and devices, and other tools can help, nothing can replace the role of parents in modeling healthy behavior and creating authentic connection with their kids. When we think of dangers such as cyber-bullying, pornography, suicidal thoughts, do we as parents and caring adults realize that our own behaviors around screens can unwittingly contribute to these evils? The truth is, when you or I choose our device/screen over authentic personal connection with our children, and model excessive or even inappropriate usage of technology, they follow suit in ways that are likely to harm them.

So, parents and grandparents, let's start with ourselves. Find the digital wellbeing tools on your phone and use them - set a bedtime, screen time limits, app limits, and for goodness' sake turn OFF your notifications. Make a point to pursue authentic connection and non-digital activities with the children in your life. Technology is not evil in itself, but it can be the devil's playground if we are not intentional about how we use it and, more importantly, the way we model healthy digital behavior to our children.

 

May God aid us in our efforts!

 

Molly K. Bushman

10/4/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Members of the Notre Dame Parish Community,

 

The Notre Dame Building Committee is excited to share with you the latest developments regarding the new organ and ongoing building projects here at Notre Dame. Your commitment and support have been instrumental in getting us to where we are today, and we wanted to keep you informed about the progress we’ve made.

 

Over the past several months, the Notre Dame Building Committee has been hard at work, making important decisions to ensure that our parish facilities meet the evolving needs of our community. We began this journey with a commitment to preserving the rich history and spirit of Notre Dame, and we are pleased to report that this commitment remains at the forefront of our efforts.

 

Foremost, the Committee has divided the project into different phases than initially proposed. This revised approach allows us to prioritize the most critical aspects of our renovation while staying fiscally responsible. The first step of which was signing a contract with the Levsen Organ Company. We are anticipating installation of the new organ in late Summer or early Fall 2024.

 

Secondly the Committee has transitioned to a local architect, Gary Kucko, and a local design team, including Rohm Construction as the general contractor, SEH for civil design and environmental analysis, KOA (Krech Ojard & Associates) for structural design, and APEX for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design.  These trusted partners have been involved in several successful projects with us, including the past restoration of Notre Dame, and they have been working diligently with us to simplify the initial phase of construction, with a focus on reducing overall costs.

 

This initial phase will address the needs of the Goldsmith Memorial Chapel, by building an accessible entrance annex with two code-required bathrooms and a small check-in and library area for adorers. Additionally, an information display on the lives of the School Sisters of Notre Dame and of Father Goldsmith will be added. Father Goldsmith’s crypt beneath the chapel will also become more readily accessible for quiet visits and reflection. As such, we invite you to attend an information and feedback meeting which will feature displays for the Goldsmith Annex and explain the next steps in the building project. Two dates for these info sessions will be offered in the GREC Dining Hall: Monday (10/23) at 6pm, and Sunday (10/29) at 11:15am after 10am Mass.

 

In parallel with these design decisions, we have taken essential steps to ensure the safety and feasibility of our construction plans. SEH’s environmental study of the entire campus has identified hazardous materials, such as asbestos, that will need to be addressed. This information will guide us as we create strategic demolition plans of the convent, boiler room, and garage that salvage items of historical importance, helping to preserve our cherished heritage.

 

In the coming months, we will be sharing more detailed plans and updates with you, including the architectural designs and timelines for the Goldsmith Chapel Annex. We are also looking forward to sharing details as we begin the design process of Phase 2, which will include some of the more exciting additions to our parish campus, so stay tuned.

 

We want you to be a part of this journey with us and we invite your thoughts, feedback as we move forward. We are grateful for your unwavering support and dedication to our beloved Notre Dame Parish. Together, we will grow our parish while preserving the essence of our rich history.

 

Thank you for your continued prayers, commitment, and generosity, and hope that you can join us in the GREC Dining Hall for either of the information and feedback meetings: Monday Oct. 23rd at 6pm, or Sunday Oct. 29th at 11:15am.

 

Yours in faith,

 

The Notre Dame Building Committee

9/27/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners,

 

Praised be Jesus Christ! I hope this finds you all well and enjoying the beautiful colors emerging as we slide into Fall. If there is anything that marks this month of September more than just about anything else, it is the beginning of both a new school year and a new year of Religious Education. I have enjoyed having the students back in session at Holy Ghost; there is a lot more life around here! On Wednesdays there is double the life as Religious Education begins after school at Holy Ghost! Later in the evening we are able to be with our older students at Edge and Lifeteen for middle and high schoolers, respectively.

This all leads me to a question: What have you learned about your faith this year? One thing that amazed me during my first years of priesthood is how quickly all that knowledge I learned in seminary begins to fade! I often have to revisit even basic concepts to make sure I have them down both for my own growth in holiness and so I can teach others well. Recently, I have enjoyed Fr. Mike Schmitz’s Catechism in a Year Podcast, “Stunned by Scripture” by Dr. John Bergsma, and several books by Jacques Philippe. None of these are hardcore theological textbooks by any means. In fact, I frequently recommend these books because they are so clear and accessible! If you haven’t had a chance to learn about your faith in a more intentional way, I’d challenge you to do so. Studying for its own sake is something uniquely human and to study topics related to God and our Faith are eternally important. Not to mention they help to enrich our prayer life. You don’t have to be a bookworm either! There are a number of very well done video series on Formed.org (look up “The Search” or any of the series on the Sacraments). Finally, we have a number of “in person” events like Catholicism on Tap (next Monday, October 2nd!) and other adult bible and faith studies. 

Our faith is so rich and beautiful, when we intentionally study it we inevitably encounter God Himself, who is our ultimate goal and source of all truth. Know of my prayers for you!

 

In Christ,

 

Fr. Brandon Guenther 

9/20/2023 Wednesday Message

Last time I spoke about the power of prayer most especially with others.  This time I would like to speak about daily Mental Prayer with God and you alone.  Why is this so hard for many?  I recently listened to a video series on prayer from Dan Burke with the Avalia Foundation on their website Videos - SpiritualDirection.com where there is a great list of resources on prayer.  While he has many great things to say, I will give you the reader’s digest version and hope that you will explore further if you struggle like I do in this area.  He suggests three main things to help you succeed in prayer.

1 - Sacred Time:

Set aside the same time each day of the week.  My time is 6am.  When I succeed, I start my day with at least 15 minutes minimum with mental prayer before I begin my other daily prayer activities such as Morning Prayer Liturgy of the Hours | USCCB.  You might have more time or less but the trick is to begin and grow it as you can.  While I write this I am on a vacation with my little kids and this is a tough thing to do when you are out of routine!

2 - Sacred Space:

I am lucky to have a converted closet that has my spiritual images and quite space.  I have my favorite picture of Jesus (The Divine Mercy Image) as well as other art that brings my mind into a state of prayer.  This space should be like going into church where your mind is drawn to God whom you meet in this space.

3 - Sacred Attention:

Dan tells us this is the hardest part.  How do you quiet your mind but stay present to meet God?  Is that me speaking in my mind or God?  With Sacred Time and Sacred Space your chances increase greatly at being successful in this part.  Dan recommends what the Church calls Lectio Divina.   Start by reading a short section of the bible a couple of times through.  Starting with your favorite gospel would be an excellent choice.  Prayerfully imagine you are at the place where the gospel is unfolding.  Think about what various characters might be thinking and how what is being related might inspire you.  Ask God to speak to you about it and ask Him any questions that you might be thinking.  Scripture is God talking to you.  Now give some time to let God enlighten your mind.  Finally make a resolution to change something you learned in this process to better follow God’s will for your life.  If you would like a more structured explanation see this link.   A Guide to Lectio Divina: What it is and whether it helps prayer life! (spiritualdirection.com)

The big thing about this process is not to expect anything from each individual session.  What you should expect is spiritual growth over time even though each session by itself might not seem that amazing.  I encourage you to start today.  If you can commit to this with another person, you will both be more likely to succeed.

God Bless your efforts!

Deacon Kevin DeCook

9/13/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners,

Please tell me I’m not the only one who feels like I need to have a reason to get together with a friend! Or who feels like there needs to be a reason to approach a stranger and talk to them! It’s silly! I know it is! How do we grow in friendship if we only talk to our friends when there is a need? How much are we missing when we only get to know new people if something in life throws us together?

Sometimes it is helpful to have a reason to meet with a friend or a reason to approach a stranger though! No excuse is needed to seek out friendship or to pursue a deeper friendship with another parishioner, but I’m going to give you one! Invite someone to volunteer with you! It could be a total stranger who you have seen across the church from you, but who you have never talked to. It could be a person who you know, but who you would like to know better.

We all should have this common goal, to get to heaven and to help as many as we can get there too. What better way to do this than when our hands are joined together in service and in prayer to care for our church and our community!? It is so much easier to get to know someone when you share a common experience, working together to do something important!

My mind goes so fondly to the beautiful people who helped me with the hospitality and food for Catholicism on Tap! They are such wonderful volunteers, and it is such a joy to work with them! I think of the ushers and how much they love to tease! I think of going to Agnes Table and laughing with the other volunteers as we prepare to serve there.

Volunteering is a great way to Share the Joy! How will you invite someone to come to discover and Share that Joy with you?

Kate Zweber

9/6/2023 Wednesday Message

THE USE OF LATIN IN TODAY'S LITURGY
The use of Latin at Mass has a long history, but at present is sometimes seen as not useful. Some even believe it was banned by Vatican II. Let's look at this issue a little more closely.

"Didn't Vatican II get rid of Latin?"
No, it didn't! It allowed for the use of the vernacular, but maintained that the congregation should still be able to sing the Ordinary Mass parts in Latin. Vatican II also gave Gregorian Chant "pride of place" in the liturgy. According to Sacrosanctum Concilium, the document issued by the council, "the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites" (paragraph 36.1). 

"But it's a dead language!"
Indeed. And in its "dead" state, it is stable. You don't have to buy a new Latin dictionary every year because slang words have been added to the language. It is timeless and connects us to our history. Latin is the language of the Church Fathers! 

"How can I participate when I don't understand the words?"
Do you fully comprehend the mystery of the Trinity when it's explained to you in English? Just because you understand the words, doesn't mean you fully understand the mysteries of God. You can still enter into a prayerful state of reflection while listening to Gregorian chant in Latin despite not being able to translate it. And I would wager a lot of you know more Latin than you think! Dominus, regina, salve, Agnus Dei...the list might go on even farther for those of you who were raised singing everything in Latin. Fret not over what you cannot understand, but use the calm and tranquil melody of Gregorian chant to worship God interiorly.

Ad Dei Gloriam!
Crystal Biccum is Assistant to the Notre Dame Music Director, Mike Renneke. A professional musician, she holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Music Performance. A retired Air Force Bandsman, she is currently pursuing a Master of Catholic Studies from Franciscan University and a Master of Sacred Music from the Catholic Institute of Sacred Music. You can usually find her seated at the organ during Mass and occasionally chanting. Feel free to come up to the loft and say hello!

8/30/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners,

 

Praised be Jesus Christ!  The last time I wrote the Wednesday Message I gave an update on our parish capital campaigns and projects.  Since more has developed since then, here’s another update.  Praise God, the active portions of our campaigns are complete!  I want to sincerely thank all our many parishioners who participated in the campaigns, either by their pledges, or by volunteering, or both.  To date, our parishes have raised:

 

St. Bridget - $112,329.96

Holy Ghost - $909,764.01

Notre Dame - $3,135,0041.00

 

Pledges/gifts can still be made throughout the course of the five-year redemption period.  If you couldn’t pledge earlier and would like to, you may still do so.

 

At St. Bridget, when the parish finance council met in early May, we agreed to move forward with the church window and interior repainting.  A small committee has formed and is still looking for more members to help advance the church painting and other capital projects.  It has been a struggle to obtain responses and estimates from various contractors.  We have obtained a solid estimate for the restoring and repainting of the church windows and will be seeking others.  Due to the size of the project and contractor availability, this will not begin until spring.  Interior painting will need to follow that.  Please let us know if you would like to join our committee to help advance our projects.

 

At Holy Ghost, we recently finalized our contract with Rhom Construction to begin work on replacing the front exterior steps of the church, several slabs of concrete sidewalk going out from the front of church, as well as constructing a gathering space and confessional below the choir loft.  Work on the interior gathering space and confessional is set to begin September 5th and will likely take about six weeks.  Initially, we anticipated the concrete work on the front of church to begin weeks ago, but we have had difficulty finding a contractor with availability to do the project.  Having made a few modifications to the design and construction process of the steps, we are remaining hopeful that we will be able to start with a contractor before winter.  Even though there will be work being done this fall on the interior and exterior of the front of church, we still anticipate being able to use the church for Mass.  Finally, we are also in the process of obtaining updated proposals for interior painting and plaster work.  This work can’t begin until the gathering space under the choir loft is complete, and until we have replaced the air conditioning units on the interior walls.  Most painting/plaster work contractors at this point are at least a year out on their availability.

 

At Notre Dame, by the end of July, our contract was signed with Levsen Organ Company for the installation of our “new” (used) pipe organ for above the choir loft.  Installation will not take place for another year as Levsen is booked out that far on other projects.  Our building committee last met on August 21st with our new architect, Gary Kucko, to discuss his first design proposal for the Goldsmith Chapel Annex.   The look and size of the building has changed from the proposed design used in the campaign after our committee further refined the priority list of needs for the building.  It’s been determined that we cannot demolish the convent until we are certain of the footprint and design of the Chapel Annex.  We are still hopeful of demolition happening this winter.  We are also considering our options for salvaging materials from the convent building before its demolition.  Many parishioners and others in the community have made requests for various materials.  It is our hope to use some pieces from the convent (e.g., wood trim, flooring, and other architectural elements) in the new chapel annex structure.  You will hear more about this once we have determined our final design for the chapel annex and our process for convent demolition and salvage.

 

This is an exciting time for our parishes.  The funds that have been raised for the abovementioned projects not only help to secure the future of our parishes, but they are necessary for our parishes to accomplish our mission of inviting all people to encounter Christ and inspiring them to become saints.  I ask your patience as our parishioner committee members work to advance these projects.  You will notice that the one consistently repeating chorus in the above descriptions is that the slower speed of our projects is determined mostly by low contractor availability.  Most of these projects will come to fruition gradually over the coming few years as careful planning takes place and both funds and contractors become available.

 

If you have concerns, questions, or ideas regarding any of our parish projects, please reach out to our committee members whose contact information may be obtained through the parish office:

St. Bridget: Ted Amelse, Scott Pulver, Renee Jackson.  Please let us know if you are interested in participating on this committee!

Holy Ghost: Chad Brady, Tim Strader, Larry Dahl, John Abbe, Karin Hawkins, Rachel Ouimet, Paula Hanson.

Notre Dame: Deacon Kevin DeCook, Gary Gray, Jerre Eckes, Sue Van de Loo, Ted Derks, Joseph Klinkhammer, John Shakal, Joanne Stuttgen.

 

In Christ,

 

Fr. Jesse Burish

8/23/2023 Wednesday Message

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My family has spent a good deal of time this summer at the public library. Strolling through the aisles with kids who don’t yet know how to read themselves means that much of “book selection” duty falls to me. 

 

I am writing today to admit to you all that I almost exclusively pick books based on their covers.

 

If the cover has dinosaurs or construction machines, it gets picked. If it has an alliterative title, it goes in the bag. If it has pop-ups or ‘scratch ‘n sniff’ pages, it gets snatched up. If it is a pop-up book about dinosaurs called “Daily Dose of Delightful Dinosaurs” I carry it above my head like the Lectionary.

 

Note: I can hear the collective consciousness of the internet crying out, “don't judge a book by its cover!”

 

I’ll avoid the cliche by taking a more modern approach. What if we were to judge a movie only by its trailer? What if we judged a new activity or hobby only by the initial feeling or reaction? What if we judge an email by its opening line?

 

If you were to continue an activity based only on its initial feeling, what would you never do?

 

I’ll tell you mine. I would never run. Anyone who has been a ‘runner’ for any amount of time will tell you about the euphoria that comes at the end of a run, but the near insurmountable hurdle at the very beginning of a running career gets much less air time.

 

Is there an element of the liturgy that you ‘don’t like’ right now? Is there a part of your prayer life that just isn’t clicking for you - yet? Is it because of a metaphorical book cover? Or might you discover a few pages in or a few miles down the road that the Holy Spirit has gone to work on you through this discomfort and since revealed new joy and understanding?

 

It is only fair to reflect. Everyone deserves a fair shake. Every book deserves more than a cursory glance. As our parishes begin a renewed focus on sharing the joy of the Eucharist, I challenge us all to look for more than the scratch ‘n sniff pages. Pray through the discomfort. Stretch a little bit more. You might just find yourself in the middle of a real page turner.

 

Mike Renneke

8/16/2023 Wednesday Message

Copy of SHARE THE JOY Join us as we seek greater relationship with Christ and each other a

Hello Our Lady of the Falls parishioners and friends! Today is the day after the Solemnity of Mary’s Assumption! How did you celebrate? Were you Sharing the Joy?

 

Yes, I am bringing up Share the Joy again! Why? Because it’s IMPORTANT! Share the Joy is an invitation, a request, that all of you take a step back and then take a step forward. Take a step back to see the goodness of our faith and of the people around you. Then take a step forward by taking action and intentionally seeking deeper relationships and intentionally seeking or picking simple ways to care for your parish family.

There have been a few things that I have been doing as a challenge to myself as Share the Joy has started. I will admit that I did not start planning Share the Joy with the idea that I would be doing anything differently. I am now finding that’s not the case at all!

One of the ways I feel I have been asked to Share the Joy is by having four people who I especially pray for and intentionally walk with. One of those people was obvious, she and I pray together, talk about our faith and our struggles, and help each other through them. Another is someone who is very different from me but who I feel I am especially called to pray for and be present to. Another is someone new and unexpected and I do not know yet how God is calling me to journey with them. As for the fourth person, I don’t know who they are or if it’s going to change every week!

Another thing I am planning to do personally for Share the Joy is to invite a group of friends to do an Adoration hour with me, specifically to pray for each other, and to then get ice cream after.

How each of us chooses to Share the Joy is going to look different. However, there are 2 things that are going to be true for everyone. One, we each must choose to be a part of Share the Joy. Two, we are all called to deeper relationships and to have people that we will journey with.

So, I would like to ask, have you chosen to Share the Joy? Who do you think you are being called to journey with?

Thank you for reading my little note and let me know (for those of you willing to share) if there is anything that has come up since starting Share the Joy that has surprised you!

God bless!

Kate Zweber

8/9/2023 Wednesday Message

🎶 Notes from the Loft 🎶

 

Gregorian Propers for the Assumption Vigil

The Saint Cecilia Choristers have been working hard since June! They've learned not only how to sing square notes (the standard notation for Gregorian chant) but also how to pronounce and sing in Latin! Let's take a look at the Gregorian Propers you will hear if you attend the Vigil Mass on August 14th. Fun fact, the Assumption is Notre Dame's patronal feast day!

 

Introit: 

Assumpta est Maria in caelum: gaudent Angeli; laudantes benedicunt Dominum.

Mary is assumed into Heaven: the angels rejoice; joyfully they bless the Lord.

 

Communion:

Beatam me dicent omnes generationes, quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est, alleluia.

All generations shall call me blessed, for He that is mighty hath magnified me, alleluia.

 

For the Offertory they will sing the Simple Tone Salve Regina, as this is an acceptable option as per the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. 

Worship aids will be provided and we hope to see many of you there. Let's support these young ladies in their endeavor to make a joyful noise to the Lord!

 

Ad Dei Gloriam!

Crystal Biccum

Crystal Biccum is Assistant to the Notre Dame Music Director, Mike Renneke. A professional musician, she holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Music Performance. A retired Air Force Bandsman, she is currently pursuing a Master of Catholic Studies from Franciscan University and a Master of Sacred Music from the Catholic Institute of Sacred Music. You can usually find her seated at the organ during Mass and occasionally chanting. Feel free to come up to the loft and say hello!

8/2/2023 Wednesday Message

Hello Everyone,

 

A few weeks ago we had the parable of the weeds in the wheat. I wanted to share a really great homily that I listened to by Fr. Mike Schmitz on that parable. I hope you find it inspiring. https://youtu.be/xfIrRFrBfB8

 

Keep on fighting for your faith!

 

Paula Hanson

7/26/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners,

 

Praised be Jesus Christ! I hope this message finds you all very well. I have to admit I am a bit tardy in writing my Wednesday Message! But as I’m writing a bit late, it happens to be the feast of Ss. Joachim and Anne; the parents of our Blessed Mother, Mary. At Mass, the prayer after communion helps us to reflect on the mystery of how God uses families in His plan for salvation: 

 

“O God, who willed that your Only Begotten Son

should be born from among humanity 

so that by a wonderful mystery 

humanity might be born again from you, 

we pray that, in your kindness, 

you may sanctify by the spirit of adoption 

those you have fed with the bread you give your children. 

Through Christ our Lord.”

 

God willed that Jesus be born from “among humanity.” God also willed that each of us be saints from “among humanity.” That is, God calls us to Himself no matter our circumstances, especially the circumstances of our families, which can influence us particularly heavily. I, myself, have yet to meet a family (including my own!) that didn’t have some struggles; some smaller, some larger. Nevertheless, God chooses to sanctify each of us “by the spirit of adoption.” We are adopted as God’s children; born again through our baptisms. Of course, we know that our particular family struggles don’t disappear just because we are striving for holiness. However, we can let God begin that healing process, first in ourselves, then in others through us as His instrument.

 

In all of this my heart goes out to those whose children and grandchildren are no longer practicing their Catholic faith. Many dozens of people have expressed their grief and concern on this front and rightly so! We especially want the people we love the most to go to heaven. Not seeing them have that same desire is very distressing. There may be a time and place to discern how we might have done things differently, but most of all we continue to seek their return by prayer, example, more prayer, gentile invitation, and even more prayer. We pray especially that God would soften their hearts to hear His call; to know of His love. We pray that God would continue to form our own hearts to be an example of faithfulness. We pray that God would show us the moment when we might make an invitation back to faithfulness. Finally, know of my own prayers for you all! Ss. Joachim and Anne, pray for us!

 

In Christ,

 

Fr. Brandon Guenther

7/19/2023 Wednesday Message

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Hello Everyone! 

Thank you for all the prayers and support for my brother and on his ordination day! Above is a picture from Father Zweber’s first Mass during one of the most beautiful parts of that weekend, consecration! We should all try to make the Eucharist a source of our Joy!

A few weeks ago Father Guenther spoke of Mother Teresa’s decision to share the Joy of the Eucharist. How she would even Share the Joy of Christ’s presence while feeling very far from Him herself. We all have the ability to do this, no matter where we are in our faith life!

Years ago, as a young college student in a new city, I went to Mass and my only plan was to pray reverently and meet my Sunday obligation. I often felt a great sense of peace and Joy after receiving the Eucharist, but I did not look outside of myself to find ways to share that joy. I see so clearly now how much I missed out on! There is so much Joy and beauty possible when we look outside of ourselves and take a step towards connecting with someone else! A quick word of welcome or a simple act of kindness, even just a smile can show someone else that they are seen, they are known, and they are loved! 

My approach to Mass started to change when a stranger in the pew next to me turned, looked me in the eyes and said, “You, young lady, seem nice but you could really smile more.”

I am a little embarrassed to say how much I needed to hear that! I let self-consciousness, shyness, and a narrow focus prevent me from letting others see my own Christian Joy and from sharing that joy with others. I let those things prevent me from seeking authentic friendships, and even the strengthening of my own Joy in Christ. 

Today, I’m giving you a nudge like the nudge I received from that stranger all those years ago. If we believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist and in us, in our very being, as we receive Him, we know that our lives and our joy should be shared with each other! 

I invite you to begin this journey with Our Lady of the Falls to show everyone here that they are seen, known, and loved. Throughout the year, you’ll see suggestions in the bulletin and the Share the Joy posters every month, but every person is different! How do you think you can join us in Sharing the Joy? 

With just a little bit of extra effort, each of us has the ability to help someone see the Joy of Christ. we can’t underestimate God’s ability to make an impact in us and in others if we are willing to do even a simple thing for Him! Today I, along with Father Burish, Father Guenther, and Deacon DeCook, invite you to grow with us in our Joy in the Eucharist and to come and Share that Joy with each other. 

God Bless!

Kate Zweber

7/12/2023 Wednesday Message

Do we really believe in the power of prayer?  When someone is having a hard time and you know they need prayer, what is your response?  Do you take the easy route and tell them you will pray for them?  This has been my approach for decades.  It is easy and seems to be appreciated.  From a practical standpoint it is quick in a situation that would otherwise be awkward or at the very least uncomfortable to do at the time.  As a matter of fact, that is usually what I get when someone recognizes that I need prayer.

I personally have been having that model challenged.  How about when God nudges us to pray for a person, we stop what we are doing and pray for that person right then and there!  Does that scare you?  It does me!  What if I say the wrong thing, what if I sound stupid, what if the person does not want me to pray for them right then, prayer is supposed to be private, that is a protestant thing, this makes me uncomfortable…  The list of reasons goes on.

I have occasionally got past all these excuses and actually have prayed for people in the moment with a definite quick prayer to the Holy Spirit to help me out first.  In almost all situations it has been a great experience where none of the above reasons not to pray in the moment were true.  The prayer usually only takes a minute or two and the person on the receiving end was very appreciative.  They were heard, they felt their pain was acknowledged, they knew you really cared, and most importantly God was brought into the pain and was invited to bring healing, peace and joy to the issue.

I invite you to get over the fear of praying for others in their immediate need and bring God’s love, peace and joy to them right away!  If you believe in the power of prayer, do not delay in bringing God’s healing power to a soul in need.

God Bless your efforts!

Deacon Kevin DeCook

7/5/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear friends, 

 

Just last week I sat down to meet with a newly married couple. As we enjoyed our beverages at the new Caribou Coffee shop in Chippewa, they told me how they have been desiring to join the Christian Initiation program and become Catholic. Except, guess what? It turns out that they were already baptized Catholic, but their parents were not practicing Catholics and did not intend to raise their kids in the Faith. One of the individuals that I was meeting with was only baptized because it was his Catholic grandmother's dying wish... so he was baptized at the age of 14 years old, and almost never set foot in a Catholic Church again, since his parents did not find it important. When I asked them both why their parents chose not to live and share the faith, the answer I received was disheartening but all too common. It is the same reason that many of my Catholic neighbors have given to me when explaining why they no longer go to Mass or Reconciliation. This reason has been crippling faith for generations, and it needs to stop. What is it? That the Catholic Church is judgemental and makes people feel guilty. 

 

Now, why so many people have this impression of Jesus' Church and its adherents may be various and complex, and we won't get into it here. However, can we all, as disciples of Jesus Christ, pray mightily against this notion and spirit of religious joylessness that many people have experienced? Regardless of how or why, many lapsed Catholics who view the Church as an unhelpful option have it all wrong: the Church is the center of joy and life because it is built upon Jesus Christ who abides with us in the holy sacraments! If we as Catholics have lived our faith without a spirit of joy (at times, I know I have), Jesus is calling all of us to renewal, both personally, and as a Catholic Community. The Trinity is communion of perfect love, and the Trinity is at work in the life of the Church. 

 

As such, I invite you to consider how the Lord is calling you to live a life of greater Christian joy. I invite you to invite others to experience the joy of the risen Lord as well, who is alive in His Church. Perhaps an invitation to Catholicism on Tap on July 10th can kickstart this endeavor. (The topic happens to be "The Blessed Trinity: God in Himself.")

 

PS The young couple I met with has felt a warm welcome from our Catholic Community, and are joyfully pursuing Christ in His Catholic Church. They even invited a friend to join CHristian Initiation as well to be confirmed. And guess what, he said "yes," because they shared the Joy of the Gospel with Him: Jesus is alive, is present in the Eucharist, and desires to unite us all in a bond of peace! 

In His Peace, 

John Shakal

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02/14/2024 Wednesday Message

Our Catholic Schools are an essential and growing parish ministry. Centered on Jesus Christ and His Church, we partner with families to nurture young people's spiritual, intellectual, physical, and moral formation through a PreK-12 Catholic liberal arts education and vibrant student life of discipleship, athletics, and the arts. Please follow our McDonell Area Catholic Schools Facebook page to follow along and see how we are living our mission every day!

 

Over the past two years, McDonell Area Catholic Schools has developed a new mission and vision statement, and is in the process of finalizing goals and objectives for our 2030 Strategic Plan. All parishioners are invited to attend a Stakeholder Feedback Session to give feedback on the 2030 Strategic Plan. The session will be held at McDonell Central Catholic High School on Wednesday, February 28th 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. Please join us!

 

The five focus areas reviewed by our subcommittees are: Nurturing Our Students, Partnering With Families, Growing Our Catholic Identity, Embracing Our Community, and Building Our Future. Each group set 3-5 goals under each focus area, which will be presented at the feedback session for comment. Our new mission, vision, and strategic plan will set the priorities for our ministry over the next 6 years. As many of you know, the last five years have been very exciting for our Catholic schools as we have reinvigorated our Catholic identity and started a journey to the heart of education by embracing Catholic Liberal Arts. As enrollment has grown exponentially, we are also seeing a growth in the fervor of the faith among students and families, often expressed in sacramental initiation and participation. 

 

We have areas of opportunity to better serve ALL Catholic families of our parishes, and I 100% welcome all Catholic families to contact me and let me know how we can better partner with you in the spiritual, intellectual, physical, and moral formation. 

 

As I write this, I am about to attend one of four school Masses taking place on Ash Wednesday. One of the best ways to celebrate our Catholicism as schools and families is by living the liturgical year together! May God bless all parents and families and may He continue to allow us to build His kingdom through the ministry of Catholic schools. This Lent, may He strip away whatever may be holding us back from closer relationship with Christ through His Church.

 

I look forward to seeing you at the Stakeholder Strategic Planning Session on Wednesday, February 28th!

 

Molly K. Bushman

McDonell Area Catholic Schools

System President

6/28/2023 Wednesday Message

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She sat behind me in my 10th grade Biology class. I went to a high school with 2,500 other students so it was fair to admit that she and I weren’t close. She had spent nearly the entire semester sitting behind me as we learned about plants, fish, and trees in a shared silence.

 

One day I felt a stern tap on my shoulder.

 

“Your shirt collar is wrinkled.”

 

It was quite the opening.

 

“Thanks,” was my clever reply.

 

“I work at a dry cleaner,” she continued. “You should unbutton your Oxford collar before you put it in the wash.”

 

We never spoke again.

 

Do you know how many times I think of that? Do you know how many times that piece of advice rattles around in my head? It is an underestimation to say that I think about that every week. Every week since midway through 10th grade I have thought of the advice to unbutton my shirt collar before putting it in the wash.

 

I’m certain that we all have advice, sayings, or thoughts that live inside our hearts and minds. Small things in the day can bring these tidbits, profound or not, bubbling back up to the surface. 

 

Now, imagine the flipside of this - how many things have YOU shared with someone else that might be bubbling in their brain on a near daily basis?

 

Catholic author and speaker Matthew Kelly says that our actions are determined by our last, most dominant thought. If you knew that something you were going to say to someone would continue to roll around in their consciousness long after the conversation concluded, what would you say? Would you be more careful with your words?

 

Living with a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old I have learned very quickly that most of what I say outloud is going to settle deep into my children’s souls. At the very least it will get repeated in front of their mother.

 

We often get to see the impact of our words and actions on those closest to us. Children grow, relationships change, and connections are made and broken every day with words and actions. We rarely get to see the impact that a kind word, a friendly smile, or a tap on the shoulder with a bit of wisdom can have.

 

At Mass this weekend I’d encourage you to share a word. Start with a word of welcome. Build up to a word of encouragement. You just never know the impact you might have.

Mike Renneke

6/21/2023 Wednesday Message

In a few short days, my brother will be ordained a priest! Growing up, we were very close in age, and I have jokingly told him that he should give some credit to his sister for his vocation. If anything, I think I’ve at least helped him develop the patience needed to get through 8 years of schooling and formation!

All kidding aside, I have been able to be a part of my brother’s vocation in a small way. I was able to be there for the different steps that the (almost) Father Zweber has taken to get to this point. I have been able to laugh at him when he seems too serious. I have been able to pray for him and his vocation. Because of these things, he knows that he has the love and support of myself and the rest of the family and that is not insignificant!

I am sure that each of you can say that you also, have been there for someone in your life, or you can think of someone who has been there for you. In seemingly small ways we can make an impact! My sister-in-law said to me recently that everyone needs to know that they are seen, known, and loved. Even without knowing the lady walking into church with you, or the man in the pew in front of you, you can treat them in a way that reflects this truth, that they are seen, that they are known, and that they are loved. We all need to be shown this and reminded of this sometimes!

My challenge to you then, is to think of this and consider how you can show the people in church these three things. You do not need to know the person. You do not even need to engage in a conversation if it’s not the right time or you do not feel ready. A modest smile, a word of greeting or goodwill, and a simple action is all that is needed! And who knows, your act of kindness might change someone’s day, their view of the church, or how they view themselves. A simple thing you do might turn into a remarkable friendship that you needed too.

I hope that you all have a beautiful summer! Please know that you are seen, that you are known, and that you are loved and please pray for Deacon John Zweber as he prepares for his ordination this weekend!

In Christ,

Kate Zweber

6/14/2023 Wednesday Message

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Would you consider yourself someone who is more contemplative/prayerful or more outwardly active in your faith life? Are you a stereotypical "Mary" or "Martha"? 

The truth is that both dispositions are good, both are necessary in the life of the church, but contemplation is "the better part" as Jesus tells Martha. A few in the Church spend their lives in contemplative religious communities, immersed in prayer. Many, on the other hand, work in active ministries or apostolates as missionary disciples in the world. 

Why do I draw attention to this apparent dichotomy? First, I want to point out the complementarity of active ministry and contemplative life in the Body of Christ. As one who works in the apostolates of motherhood and Catholic education, I probably more often appear as a "Martha" but I am deeply grateful for the contemplative orders, the "Marys" whose prayer sustains me and others. 

Second, each one of us needs to find ways to tap into God, the spring of living water, in order to sustain our active ministry and not become like dry, broken cisterns filled only with pride. (I highly recommend the book The Soul of the Apostolate for more on this point.) Daily prayer is essential, of course, among other practices, but I want to focus here on the importance of consecrating longer periods of time to the Lord: the role of regular retreats in the life of missionary disciples.

Personally, I am in the habit of taking two multi-day quiet retreats each year. Typically, my Advent retreat is to a pilgrimage site such as Holy Hill in southeast Wisconsin. In the summer, I often retreat to my family cabin in Hayward, with an Adoration chapel close by in town. Often, people will say something like, "Good for you that you are able to do that. I am way too busy etc." While it is true we are all in different seasons of life with varying responsibilities, I can safely say I am also quite busy. However, in my experience retreats are needed precisely because I *am* so busy. (Thanks be to God I have a husband who is supportive!)

Every retreat, in some way, often unexpected, I grow closer to the Lord and, by His grace, allow my heart to be conformed more closely to His. I fuel my spiritual tank to go back into the world with renewed energy. 

So go. Go on retreat. Find rest for your soul.

 

In hope,

Molly Bushman

6/7/2023 Wednesday Message

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

The quote above is often attributed to Socrates. Whether it truly is or is not his quote is not the point of my sharing it. The point is that in our modern day we can get discouraged about our youth, however, that discouragement is nothing new. Sometimes it is easier to look at what is going wrong and pick out the negative than to see the good around us. It is especially easy to see the negative in others while overlooking the goodness in them. We were all made good and there is goodness there, even when we don't see it. Sometimes we have to actively seek it out, but where there is good, there is God.

 

With this in mind, I wanted to share some good words from today's youth. If you didn't know, my daughter Megan graduated from McDonell Central Catholic High School this year and was awarded the Bishop's medal. Along with this great honor, she gave a speech at graduation. I hope it inspires you and gives you hope about our future. Her speech begins 15 minutes into the video.

 

 https://cesa10.mediaspace.kaltura.com/media/t/1_2pqcurqp/255922113 

Paula Hanson

5/31/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners,

 

I believe I may hold the diocesan record for spending the most consecutive months doing parish capital campaigns (September 2022 – June 2023).  Unfortunately for me I don’t think they’re giving out any trophies.  While I’ll be happy to be done at the end of June (when Notre Dame’s campaign concludes), I must say I’ve been learning a lot.  By now most of us have probably heard of the “Inspired by the Spirit Campaign,” a campaign initiated by the Diocese of La Crosse to raise funds for capital needs such as making updates to the Holy Cross Diocesan Center, the establishment of a diocesan foundation, and including last fall’s Diocesan Annual Appeal.  This was also an opportunity for the parishes of our diocese to raise funds for their own long-term needs with either a percentage or fixed amount of their total campaign goal being allocated for the diocesan needs.  Our three Our Lady of the Falls parishes have been “taking turns” doing their parish campaigns.  I thought I would take this opportunity to give you an update on the parish campaigns and projects so far.

 

We began St. Bridget’s campaign last September and quickly met and exceeded our goal of $90,000.00 by Thanksgiving raising over $100,000.00.  The case statement items for the campaign were: new furnaces for the church, repainting the church interior (which includes repainting and reglazing the church windows), new refrigeration for the parish hall, and addressing the parish parking lot by seal coating or whatever seemed appropriate.  The parish finance council met in early May and, with over $23,000.00 of campaign funds already in hand, agreed to move forward with the church interior repainting.  A small committee has formed to collect a few more estimates to advance the project.

 

We began the Holy Ghost campaign in January and completed it by the end of March, with over $907,000.00 raised (as of 5/24/23).  While short of our initial $1.1 million goal, we still have significant funds to begin our proposed projects: reconstruction of the crumbling front steps of church as well as sidewalks, exterior lighting, some exterior brick repair, seal-coating the parking lot, constructing a gathering space and confessional below the choir loft, updating the HVAC units, repairing the church interior plaster and decoratively repainting the nave and sanctuary, installing new church pews, sanctuary flooring, and altar furnishings.  We have contracted with local architect Gary Kucko.  His plans have been finalized and a permit from the state has been requested.  We are also in the process of securing our general contractor.  We anticipate exterior work on the church beginning as early as July and interior work on the gathering space and confessional as early as August.

 

We began the Notre Dame campaign in May with a goal of $3 million.  As of 5/24/23, about $2.4 million has been raised.  Our projects fall into three main areas: taking down the old convent building to construct a new entrance facility to the Goldsmith Adoration Chapel with handicap accessibility, bathroom, and parish meeting space; construction of a first phase of a parish center on the south side of the church with meeting spaces and indoor accessibility to the church, along with reconstruction of the church sacristy; and renewal of the church organ.  We are establishing a committee of parishioners to assist in the selection of an architect, contractor, and to assist with the design and construction process.  We are aiming to begin the process for demolition of the convent as early as this fall.

 

This is an exciting time for our parishes.  The funds that have been raised for the abovementioned projects not only help to secure the future of our parishes, but they are ultimately necessary for our parishes to accomplish our mission of inviting all people to encounter Christ and inspiring them to become saints.  I want to thank all our parishioners for investing in the future of our parishes.  May God reward you!

Fr. Jesse Burish

5/24/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners,

 

I hope you have had a blessed Easter! As we find ourselves between the great solemnities of Christ’s Ascension and Pentecost, we have made several appeals concerning the Order of Christian Initiation for Adults and Children (we refer to these as OCIA and OCIC respectively). We were very blessed to accompany a number of people in to the Church and the fullness of the sacraments this year. I myself was very blessed to be more closely involved in our first year of OCIC. The desire that these two young people had for our Lord was nothing short of inspiring! Their baptisms at Easter were nothing short of beautiful! I know that my own faith was strengthened by their zeal. I could go on, but I guess my point is: Whom do you know that might be open to the Catholic faith? That could mean any number of things. A Catholic that has fallen away; a baptized Christian that might be open to the fullness of the faith in Catholicism; or an unbaptized Christian who hasn’t yet heard the Gospel. I would challenge you not so much to invite them, but to walk with them as a friend or family member; To share with them the gift you have received in your own faith. This can be intimidating, but know that Christ is with you on this journey of faith…and so are we! If you need help our have questions, we would love to help you. 

 

Practically speaking, there are a few things that we can attend or invite others to over this next year. On Monday evenings we will have OCIA and OCIC; these are designed more specifically for those who hope to become Catholic or Catholics seeking sacraments outside of their normal reception ages (first confession and communion, and confirmation). There are also a number of opportunities for faithful Catholics to deepen their faith, keep an ear out for announcements and an eye on the bulletin for details on Catholicism on Tap, Christ with Us Adult Studies, and more!

Know of my prayers for you all!

 

In Christ,

 

Fr. Brandon Guenther

5/17/2023 Wednesday Message

Hello everyone, I hope you all had a beautiful Easter!

 

There are so many powerful moments leading up to Easter! It would be hard not to be moved during  Holy Week as we walk with Christ and the other figures from the Passion. For a short while, we are immersed in the life of Christ, then, at the Easter Vigil we go through the Creation, and other parts of our history. In all of this, we are reading of God’s great love story to all of us. We are part of that great love story still! As we walk with Christ in His passion, He wishes also to walk with us in our lives. Lives that He cherishes!

Are you willing to let Christ be with you in your life and to walk with you in everything that you face? Are you willing to let others be Christ to you and to walk with you? Are you willing to be Christ to others and walk with them in their lives? Sometimes the answer is an easy “Yes”. It is not always though. Sometimes we give up little opportunities to be there for others or we refuse to let others who want to be Christ to us care for us! What is a way that you can walk with someone today, tomorrow, this week, or this year? Let us not ignore the different opportunities we are given to be Christ to others!

 

Kate Zweber

5/3/2023 Wednesday Message

The World Day of Prayer for Vocations was this past Sunday April 30th.  On this day in the Church’s calendar, we are asked to pray for vocations.  The USCCB states “While appreciating all vocations, the Church concentrates its attention this day on vocations to the ordained ministries (priesthood and diaconate), consecrated life in all its forms (male and female religious life, societies of apostolic life, consecrated virginity), secular institutes in their diversity of services and membership, and to the missionary life.” If you missed praying for this intention, please do so now for if we don’t pray for vocations, we will not get them!  If you happened to hear Father Burish’s homily this weekend, he expressed how a sign of a flourishing parish is to see what vocations are being produced in there.  This had me reflecting on recent vocations in our parishes in Our Lady of the Falls. 

Starting with Notre Dame, we recently have had two men enter the seminary for the priesthood.  John Francis who grew up in the parish is formally entering seminary this fall.  The other, Dr. Michael Tupta, who joined the parish two years ago, has become a seminarian for his home diocese in West Virginia.  Then, of course, somehow, I got ordained a deacon last May (truly anything is possible with God).  We also remember Sister Mary Veronica of the Sacred Heart who joined the Poor Clare Sisters a few years back and just made her simple profession of vows.

At Holy Ghost, Sean Hanson has been working his way through the five-year diaconate program and, God-willing, will be ordained a deacon next year.  Even though not a recent new vocation, I would be remised if I did not mention Sister Yvonne Hiess, SSND who has been serving St. Bridget’s for years in the parish where she was born and raised.

Know these vocations don’t just happen by accident.  For vocations to take fruit they need the prayers and encouragement of the parishioners of the parish.  If you are inspired to speak a word of encouragement to a person that you think may have a vocation, please pray for them and then it is important to let them know that you see in them a potential vocation.  Sometimes the individual will not see it in themselves until someone else points it out to them.  In fact, this is a question I was asked when discerning the diaconate, “have others told you that they thought you might have a vocation to the diaconate”?  Hopefully many called to God’s service in this way will be able to give a resounding Yes!

Please pray often for vocations from our parishes!

Deacon Kevin DeCook

4/26/2023 Wednesday Message

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It might be a side effect of my day job as a high school band director, but I’ve seen a lot of parades. As a musician I’ve been lucky enough to march in parades as varied as the Pure Water Days parade in Chippewa Falls to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. I’ve even marched in a parade down the Via della Conciliazione towards St. Peter’s Square where my college band played for Pope Benedict on New Year’s Day. The picture is of me, 15 years and 15 pounds ago, shortly after the Pope delivered his New Year’s blessing. (The torch was handed to me as the Pope departed, but I think it was more related to a local sporting event and less about the Vatican.)

 

While the word “parade” is synonymous with “procession” the two words typically don’t conjure up the same mental imagery. When we think of processions we typically think of funerals or a graduation ceremony. A parade is something boisterous and entertaining, whereas a procession tends to be mellow and dutiful - a dignified way to get from Point A to Point B. I like to think back to Palm Sunday when Jesus entered Jerusalem to shouts and songs of “Hosanna!” - what a parade that must have been!

 

Something equally remarkable happens at the beginning of Mass and yet it is so familiar we might miss it. Mass begins and we rise and we sing. Are we that excited to see Father Burish? Is the music that good? Does Father Guenther inspire a sort of liturgical Beatlemania?

 

While we are always happy to see our faithful priests, truly we are welcoming Jesus. Through his Holy Orders the priest is configured to Christ and is a sacramental sign of the presence of Jesus. It is more than just a way for Father to make it from the back of the church to the front. 

 

If we believe that he who is processing down the aisle of the church is not Father Burish nor Father Guenther - would you stand a little straighter knowing it is Jesus Christ, robed in priestly vestments, come to minister to us in Word and Sacrament? Would you turn and watch Him enter? Would you sing a little louder?

 

The beginning of Mass is an opportunity for us to witness the arrival of Christ into our churches. How beautiful that our lives and liturgies are filled with the opportunity to follow in his footsteps, quite literally down the aisle, whether that be for communion or veneration, confession or adoration. I pray that we may not lose the thrill of Palm Sunday in the joy of Easter. What a parade, indeed!

Mike Renneke

4/19/2023 Wednesday Message

Friends, this is the week. To summarize "phase 1" of our Eucharistic Revival initiative, nationally known speaker and author Chris Carstens is coming to town. You don't want to miss it! Bring your family and friends (and kids! Email Kate kzweber@ourladyofthefalls.org for childcare). 

  • Thursday (4/20) at 6:15pm

  • St. Charles Fellowship Hall | 810 Pearl St, Chippewa Falls, WI

  • Event is free-will offering

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Second, the Vatican International Eucharistic Miracles display will be at the Notre Dame GREC Dining Hall this Sunday, April 23 from 9am - 1pm! What a tremendous gift to view dozens of Eucharistic Miracles on the same weekend as the First Holy Communion for our young people at Notre Dame. Make a plan to check out the display and browse our inventory of merchandise (excellent First Communion gift resources!) this Sunday (4/23) between 9am-1pm. 

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Questions? Email John jshakal@ourladyofthefalls.org

 

I will pray for you; please pray for me and my family!

 

In His Peace,

 

John Shakal

4/5/2023 Wednesday Message

When I realized that my week to write the Wednesday message was Holy Week, I felt rather unworthy. I’m not a theological expert or a priest and there are so many others who could speak more clearly about the beauty and gift of Holy Week.

 

Then, I realized that the very gift of Holy Week is that none of us are put above or below another in the eyes of the Lord. Jesus suffered and died for us all, regardless of our merit. All he asks is that we walk with him and in his way.

 

As Jesus walks through Holy Week, let us walk with him and be his comfort. Below are some ways I like to reflect on Holy Week.

 

Palm Sunday- Jesus is humbly entering Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna in the Highest”. The people hail him as their king. Jesus is entering into his passion to show us what being a true king is about. How do I hail Jesus in my life and show others that he is my King? How do I humble myself as he did?

 

Holy Monday- Jesus is keeping fairly quiet. It is believed that Jesus stayed at the home of his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus on this day. I imagine him spending some of his last quiet hours with those closest to him, enjoying the fruits of his creation through friendship and good food. How am I spending time with the Lord, accompanying him in his last days? Have I made a peaceful home for him in my heart?

 

Holy Tuesday (Fig Tuesday)- Jesus is hungry and curses a fig tree after he finds no figs on it. The tree had many leaves and appeared fruitful, but it was not fig season. Are we waiting for it to be fig season before we produce fruit? What spiritual excuses do we allow ourselves that prevent us from bearing fruit?

 

Holy Wednesday (Spy Wednesday)- This is the day that Judas goes to the chief priests and accepts money in exchange for handing Jesus over to them. It is the most painful when those closest to us betray us. It is a gift to be close to Jesus, but sometimes our closeness can breed over-familiarity and spiritual sloth. God has made himself vulnerable to us through his condescension. How do I abuse this relationship?

 

Holy Thursday- Jesus is sharing his last meal with his disciples. He institutes the priesthood and the Eucharist. Afterwards, he goes to the garden at Gethsemane to pray and his disciples fall asleep. He is arrested. Jesus spends the night imprisoned underground. It is believed that while he was alone there he prayed Psalm 88 . Pray it with him.

 

Good Friday- Jesus dies. God dies. We kill God. My sin puts him on the cross and his love for me keeps him there. Mary is watching her son and savior die. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

 

Holy Saturday- All is still. Jesus’ body lays in his tomb. The earth waits in stillness for the resurrection of its Lord. Jesus is at work. He descends to the abode of the dead (Sheol) to free the just ones who have been waiting. Imagine Christ freeing Adam and Eve. This is one of my favorite icons of the “Harrowing of Hell” explained.

Paula Hanson

3/29/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners.

 

Occasionally people tell me that they don’t like to watch the news because they get depressed, or angry, or frustrated.  I’ve often heard people make the claim that our society is getting worse, that the world is… “goin’ to Hell!”  Perhaps they are right.  Either way, whether things in our world are just as bad as they always were, or they truly are getting worse, one thing is for sure:  Our world is fallen.  Sin and Satan still reign, not only on the grand scale of war, social injustice, and in the moral decay of our culture, but also in our own thoughts, actions, and omissions. 

 

This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.  Jesus enters Jerusalem where he knows he will die.  He knows he will encounter the worst of human depravity and be put to death on a cross as a result.  But Jesus also enters the depravity of our world right now, and into our own lives and hearts.  He willingly takes all this upon himself.  He enters right into “our Hell” with us and shows us the way out, through his cross, and our own crosses.

 

As I look back at my own Lent, I’m more aware of some of the faults and sins that I just can’t seem to rid myself of, things that I don’t know how to rid myself of.  With some things I feel greater discouragement and frustration.  If you feel at all like me, Holy Week is just what we need!  It is the time to completely surrender ourselves and let Jesus enter “our Hell” to take control.

 

During this Holy Week, what do you need to surrender more completely to the Lord?  During this week especially, come to as many of the Holy Week liturgies as you are able.  Pray for the conversion of our parishes and Catholic community.  Pray also for the resolution of the great problems of our world and society.  Pray for peace and for those suffering persecution.  Pray for elected officials.  Pray for the leaders of the Church.  Pray for the protection of life, and religious freedom, and the family.  Might I suggest offering a Rosary and/or the Divine Mercy Chaplet every day this week, or a visit to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for these intentions.  Why wouldn’t special graces flow at this most holy time of year?

 

When all we hear of in the news are things that make us depressed, or angry, or frustrated, or we feel that way about ourselves and our own failures, let us not forget our greatest Christian power and duty!  We may or may not feel that we are in a position to take “action.”  Really though, we are!  We are taking “action” when we surrender all these things to the Lord in prayer and place him in charge.  Don’t forget that Jesus willingly enters Jerusalem and he will ultimately leave victorious.

 

Praying for a grace-filled Holy Week for you all,

 

Fr. Jesse Burish

3/22/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners, 

 

I think last time we talked about some of my favorite things as a priest: accompanying couples and young families though wedding and baptism preparation. On the other end of the spectrum, another very important part of priestly ministry is being with the dying and their families; those moments where eternity is in sight. During such times, the Church gives powerful sacraments and prayers to prepare souls for their journey. We hear in the prayer of anointing: 

 

Through this holy anointing 

may the Lord in his love and mercy 

help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit…

May the Lord who frees you from sin 

save you and raise you up.

 

We also hear the beautiful commendation for the dying that is prayed in those final moments before death: 

 

Go forth, Christian soul, from this world
in the name of God the almighty Father,
who created you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God,
who suffered for you,
in the name of the Holy Spirit,
who was poured out upon you,
go forth, faithful Christian.

May you live in peace this day,
may your home be with God in Zion,
with Mary, the Virgin Mother of God,
with Joseph, and all the Angels and Saints.

 

With all this in mind, as a practical note, if you have any friends or family that are sick or elderly, Fr. Burish and I would love to visit them to receive the sacraments as soon as possible! Emergencies happen, but it is much better if we can make an appointment to come while your loved one is still lucid and can participate in the sacraments, especially to receive the Eucharist and make a good confession. Please do not hesitate until the last moment to call, if at all possible! 

 

Finally, we are all called to reflect on the fact the we will one day die; we will enter eternal life and come before our Judge, all just and all merciful. We hope that, with an eye on eternity, we might truly live during the time we have been given! That we might truly strive for holiness and the works of charity, to which we are called as Christians, especially during this holy season of Lent.

 

In Christ,

 

Fr. Brandon Guenther

3/15/2023 Wednesday Message

Some of you may not know this but I love music! Do you ever listen to a song and wish there were words so you could sing along? Perhaps you hear something and you start wishing you knew how to dance without feeling self-conscious or funny. Music can express something we wouldn’t know how to express in words, something joyous and meaningful. Sometimes life seems like a song. The other day I had asked a volunteer to help with something totally new for her. She fell into this role so gracefully and well; it literally felt like a dance was being played and she knew all the steps. Where do you think the music is playing in your own life? Would you be ready to dance?

The answer might sometimes be “no”. I think back to all the wedding dances I’ve been to. Have you ever been one of those people who sat on the side and watched everyone else dance? Have you ever left a wedding wishing you had danced more? I certainly have! I let uncertainty and self-consciousness hold me back. We all let things from life hold us back sometimes. Memories of when we’ve been hurt or let down. Fear of taking on something because you don’t know where it will lead. Fear you won’t be able to measure up somehow. Sometimes another person’s failings or mistakes that leave us feeling unvalued and unwilling to make ourselves available again. Unfortunately, this is something we see at church sometimes. I myself, am far from perfect. There are things I wish I could undo or fix, but with new humility and hope I will try to be better. We all need to hope for the future!

Less than perfect people have been leaders in the Church. They have said and done things that should never have been said or done. These things are hard to deal with; hard to understand. We might be left with questions and feel uncertain or like we don’t matter. But you do matter and to say otherwise would be one of the biggest lies that anyone could utter! We are part of a different sort of symphony when we will turn to God and decide to love Him and His creation despite seeing the more broken part of the world that we live in. The song that we are a part of is made more beautiful because of the trials that we overcome to continue playing it.

Today, especially in this Lenten season, let us think if there are any things that hold us back. It could be many things: fear of commitment, fear of not being who we think we are, fear of failure, fear of being less than perfect, fear of the unknown, fear of being judged, but these things make an even more beautiful “yes” when they are overcome.

Blessings to all of you! You are in my prayers.

In Christ,

Kate Zweber

3/8/2023 Wednesday Message

Hello friends, 

 

Last week I wrote about the Eucharistic Revival. This week I would like to continue that theme, a theme that we will be emphasizing and exploring for many months to come. Please see the poster and videos attached to see the short and long term ways that we are devoting ourselves more deeply to Jesus Christ, present in the Eucharist. Put April 20th in your calendar when Chris Carstens comes to town to explain the Mass in depth. This speaker capstone event will be hosted in the brand new St. Charles Borromeo Fellowship Hall in Chippewa Falls! 

John Shakal

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3/1/2023 Wednesday Message

What aren't we more amazed? How come more Catholics aren't shocked and in joyful awe about Jesus being really and truly present in the Eucharist? As we continue our journey of Eucharistic Revival hear what St. John Paul II had to say about this essential topic:

https://youtu.be/GhvRv863Gng

Want to hear more? Grab a coffee/tea and join your Fathers as they discuss our next steps into this revival

https://youtu.be/z0NQf-Yxgus

Clear your calendar for April 20th 6:15pm as author and speaker Chris Carstens comes to Chippewa Falls to discuss "A Devotional Walk Through the Mass

John Shakal 

2/22/2023 Wednesday Message

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The picture I’m sharing today is of my great-grandparents, Arnold and Laura Renneke. My Great-Grandpa died when I was young, but my Great-Grandma Laura lived to be 105 years old. Like most Midwestern farmers, my great-grandparents lived on the farm next to my grandparents; they shared a long gravel driveway. 

 

After she died, my family spent some time cleaning the farmhouse. Have you ever been cleaning the home or storage area of an older relative and stumbled upon some ‘ancient’ gizmo or gadget? At first glance it seems arcane, out of date, or woefully inadequate. A cute sort of nostalgia sets in - “Can you believe people used to think this was helpful?” we’d laugh to ourselves. 

 

Popular magazines have tried for decades to imagine or predict what future technologies would look like. Full of renderings and mockups they have tried to guess what a future decade would find useful or advanced. The modern understanding is that whatever the future holds, it needs to be bigger, brighter, louder, and flashier.

 

Going through my Great-grandma’s farmhouse I found myself bringing home a cast iron skillet. It has now become my favorite tool to cook with. It can saute, fry, sear, reheat, boil, bake, and a whole number of other things that I haven’t tried yet. The cast iron skillet has found great use in its simplicity. It doesn’t need any accessories. It doesn’t need any ornament. It does what it is supposed to do while also being capable of so much more that I don’t know about yet. 

 

As I continue to spend time with it and marvel at its humble simplicity, it continues to reveal mysteries to me that as a young cook I would have never found on my own.

 

Sound familiar?

 

As Lent begins we modify our liturgy to its simplest forms. We skip the Gloria. We cover the statues. We use silence in the place of music. It is easy to think of Lent as a time of less, or as an arcane practice that has no place in the complexity of our modern lives; a cute gadget from a less sophisticated time. But to view Lent in such a way would be to miss the beauty of its simplicity.

 

Where in your daily life is there room for simplicity? Where in your daily prayer is there room for silence? Where might the lives of the saints lead us if we follow their simple instructions?

Mike Renneke

Music Director, Notre Dame Parish

2/15/2023 Wednesday Message

Hello Everyone,

 

Wasn’t it just the other day that I was writing and wishing you a merry Christmas? Now it is almost lent! There have been many good and beautiful things that have happened at our parishes in the last month, and there are also many good things coming up! One thing I am especially excited about is that we have 8 new ushers who were just trained in at Notre Dame! We are also continuing to grow our group of greeters which has been another wonderful blessing at our parish!

With all our new ushers, we decided it would be a good idea to do an usher refresher and training session. Preparing for the training gave me the opportunity to reflect on the role of our usher. Our ushers look out for the needs of our parishioners, often in ways that seem very simple. However, what they do in each of their duties helps us to put our attention more fixedly on our purpose in going to Mass, glorifying God! During lent shouldn’t we try to do something similar? Choose to do often very simple things that will help us fix our attention on Christ. Picking up from my last message, have you picked a new way to love God more this year? What will that look like as we approach lent?

Have a blessed lent!

 

In Christ,

Kate Zweber

2/8/2023 Wednesday Message

I enjoy praise and worship music by a somewhat controversial group Hillsong United. Songs like "Oceans" and "What A Beautiful Name" play regularly on my Spotify. If you want, take a listen to their music!

One song gets me every time. "So Will I" moves from creation to salvation, proclaiming a resolve to worship God and ultimately to serve His children. The final verses are as follows:

 

[God of salvation,]

I can see Your heart in everything You've done

Every part designed in a work of art called love.

If You gladly chose surrender, so will I.

I can see Your heart

Eight billion different ways

Every precious one

A child You died to save.

If You gave Your life to love them, so will I.

Like You would again a hundred billion times

But what measure could amount to Your desire?

You're the One who never leaves the one behind.

 

The Church is a mission. Our schools are the preeminent apostolate of that mission. We are here to provide a Catholic atmosphere and teaching to Catholic students as well as to all who are open to receive it.

 

Some expect a Catholic school to resemble a banal painting of heaven: cherubic children playing harps on puffy clouds. I am sorry to disappoint, but the only time you will find heaven on earth is during the Holy Mass (see attached photos from Catholic Schools Week Mass!). However, what you will find in our schools is faith, hope, and love. In the midst of the messiness of the human condition, He is here. We worship Him, we proclaim Him, we serve Him. No, Catholic schools are not heaven on earth. Rather, they are the beginning of the narrow road leading to eternal life.

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2/1/2023 Wednesday Message

One of my favorite events of the year is being able to witness First Reconciliation. It is such a blessing to watch students go into the confessional nervous and come out at ease and almost shining with grace. I can remember feeling like that as a kid as well. Feeling lighter and almost giddy after going to confession. I didn’t know why; it just was the way it was. Children are so humble and receptive that I think God delights in filling them up with grace. They just come to him with open hands and receive his mercy so fully.

 

 As adults, the simple acceptance of God’s love is sometimes more difficult and mistaken as something we need to earn or don’t deserve. The truth is that we will never deserve it, but that it is given to us nonetheless as a completely free gift. We just need to get over ourselves and accept it. Our feelings of shame stand in the way of our being open vessels to God’s mercy. We have to work harder at accepting the fact that our sin isn’t bigger than God’s love and that there is no price tag on God’s love. It’s open to everyone, at all times, no matter what we’ve done or who we are.

 

It took me a long time to realize this in my own life. As I’ve mentioned before, I fell away from the Church after high school. It took my own daughter receiving her First Reconciliation to get me to go back to the sacrament of reconciliation after 16 years. I dreaded it. I didn’t want to admit to all of the stupid things I had done in my young adulthood. In fact, I had convinced myself that my sin wasn’t that big of a deal and didn’t really affect me. After I finally went to confession, my life started to change. It was a slow change, but I can still point to that confession as when my life started to make change. My anxiety started to fade away, I was happier, my life started to make more sense, and I had a deep sense of peace starting to take root in my soul.

 

My challenge to everyone, including myself, is to try to receive God’s mercy in confession like a child does. Believe that you really are forgiven and live as if you’ve been given the most wonderful gift imaginable, because you have. God delights in filling you up with grace just as much as He desires you to run to him with open hands and receive His mercy.

Paula Hanson

1/25/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners,

 

Praised be Jesus Christ! With a new year comes lots of new things. For myself, it seems like a lot of new appointments on my calendar, almost all of them wedding and baptism preparation meetings. What a joy! Some of my favorite things at the parish are helping couples prepare for marriage and prepare for a child’s baptism. The only thing better is actually doing the weddings and baptisms! I look at these two moments, the moment when a family is formed and when a family is increased, as profound opportunities for God to be especially present. Even if a couple has been far from the Church or simply fell away from practicing their faith, both marriage and baptism help to open their eyes to the great mystery of creation and God’s unconditional love for them. First, when a couple becomes one flesh, we see in a particular way God blessing a natural union, but more than a blessing, a sacrament. That is, in a unique way God elevates the love of a husband and wife to reflect the mystery of his love for us and the Church. Then God invites that same couple to participate in creation (even if a couple isn’t able to have a child, God still calls them to fruitfulness in some way). I don’t believe I have met a couple that hasn’t been humbled at the birth of their child; how they are called to sacrifice so much, but do it willingly out of love. In the greatest act of love, the couple, through their child’s baptism, gives their child entry into God’s covenant; God’s everlasting covenant, by which we have the opportunity for eternal life in heaven.

These are just some musings on the profound moments I’m blessed to accompany people in, but each of us is afforded these same opportunities to encounter God every day! In particular through our daily prayer, but profoundly in the healing and forgiveness offered in confession, but most profoundly in the Eucharist at Mass and in adoration. In all these ways and in many more, God calls each of us everyday into the depths of His love. He calls us to eternity.

 

In Christ,

 

Fr. Brandon Guenther

1/18/2023 Wednesday Message

Hello and happy new year!

With the new year comes new opportunities, new sorrows, new joys, new struggles, and new discoveries. These things we expect with the coming of the new year. They are inevitable. Many of us are also looking at new ways to live our lives with new year's resolutions like eating better, exercising more, or getting out of bad habits. In this new year, why not look for a new way to consistently choose to love God more? Especially the goodness that he has placed in you and in your life. 

 

I think about many of our volunteers who are remarkable examples of this. A volunteer with artistic skills volunteering to decorate the church. A volunteer with leadership skills volunteering to help with a church project. A volunteer with administrative skills volunteering to coordinate other volunteers for Sojourner House, Agnes Table, SCRIP, or the Homebound Ministry. I don’t know if all of these volunteers have thought about this, but they have taken something that God has given them and are using it to give Him glory! 

 

If you’re wondering what it would look like to find a new way to love God this year, there are Adoration hours available, needs for volunteers in different areas, and things you can do in your everyday life to love Him more. You could choose one song to listen to every morning and sing the Lord’s praises. You could give up drinking anything but water on one day of the week. St. Therese and her little way was all about looking to do ordinary things with extraordinary love; let that be a guide for you!

 

I hope you will also take me up on an invitation of self-discovery. Find something good that our good Father has placed in you. Give Him thanks for this gift and seek ways to love Him more by using this gift. If you are not sure how to use a gift, go ahead and call the parish office, or, if you are a Notre Dame parishioner, please just give me a call! 

 

Let this year be a year of new discoveries! Discovery of God’s love for you and discovery of how you can love Him in return! Let me know how your journey with this is going, I’d be delighted to hear about it! 

 

Kate Zweber

1/11/2023 Wednesday Message

Friends, in my time as a Catholic evangelist and catechist, I have observed two practices (in addition to a personal sacramental and prayer life, which are essential) in the life of a Christian disciple that are particularly impactful: (1) study of Sacred Scripture (2) and spiritual mentorship/accompaniment. I invite you to see what is happening in OLF Catholic Community below, and consider if you might be poised to encounter God in either or both of these areas. 

1. Want to dive deeper into Sacred Scripture? Our Lady of the Falls is excited to be offering two new Bible Studies: on the Gospel of Matthew and the Salvation History. Both Bible Studies are offered during the week on Tuesday at 9:30am in the GREC.

  • The Gospel of Matthew: Just in time for the readings for the year C Mass readings, take a deep dive into the Gospel of Matthew and unlock the hidden treasures of the most famous synoptic Gospel! All are welcome to join this 16 week Bible Study, which begins January 3rd. If you are interested in joining this study group, email Deana at jdsuilmann@gmail.com

  • Salvation History: Does the "big picture" of the Bible confuse you? Buckle in for a fast paced journey through the Bible and witness the breathtaking harmony of God's plan to save his people!   All are welcome to join this 14 week Bible Study, which begins January 10th. If you are interested in joining this study group, email John at jshakal@ourladyofthefalls.org.

  • Note: Do you have experience leading a Bible Study small group or would you like to learn? Our Lady of the Falls is offering small group formation to equip all Catholics to understand and share Sacred Scripture though Bible Studies. For more info, contact John at jshakal@ourladyofthefalls.org

 

2. Spiritual mentorship and accompaniment goes hand in hand with following Christ in His Church. We are all in need of authentic friendship with other people who are running after Christ. (The alternative is what the Devil prefers: isolation and autonomous practice of our faith.) For example, those seeking to enter the Church in OCIA are urgent need of vibrant and joyful Catholics who are exciting about living and sharing their Catholic faith! As such, I invite you to consider: how is God calling you to share your faith with others, to "mentor" or "accompany" them spiritually in authentic friendships? While we are need of growing our team of OCIA sponsors as we look to the future, accompanying others in their faith journey is more fundamental that OCIA. It starts in our lives today, as God has currently arranged them. As such, I invite you explore what being a spiritual mentor/sponsor might look like for you: check out "Sponsor Formation Night" this Monday (1/16) at 6:25pm in the GREC Joseph Room. (We will meet in the Joseph room briefly before moving to a different room.) There will be a 90 minute session on the practicals of discipleship and how to walk with another person in the faith. There will also be plenty of time for questions and insights for getting started. For more info, contact John at jshakal@ourladyofthefalls.org

 

Know of my prayers for you!

 

John Shakal 

1/4/2023 Wednesday Message

Evangelization is one of the most frightening words in Church for many of us.  It is one of those things that we want “others” to do.  However, evangelization is not the work of a few but is supposed to be the work of all us in the Church.  I have always wanted to bring others to Christ, because my life with Him is sure better than it was without Him.  But I felt that if I am just a good person and do churchy things then others will see that and come to want what I have in Christ.  While that is a great start, it is often not enough.  People most often need to be invited into the faith by someone they see living the faith.  This is where I have so many times got hung up.  I didn’t want to be that guy that pushed Jesus on people.

Recently though John Shakal has been helping me through a book that Focus ministries www.focus.org uses on college campuses called Foundations of Discipleship by Curtis Martin and Edward Sri.  While we are in the early stages of this book study, I can already see places where I can evangelize that I have been missing.  For example, when someone casually asks me how I am doing, I don’t have to give the canned answer of “fine”.  Instead, I can share with them the joy I have due to Jesus being part of my life!  I need to be ready and maybe even practice a bit, about how to respond to people that ask me why I am joyful.  I also need to remind myself that if I am not radiating peace, joy and love then why would anyone want what I have in Jesus?  Think twice the next time someone asks how you are doing, and be ready with an answer that gives witness to the joy in your life that is found in Jesus Christ! 

Do you feel unprepared or nervous about sharing the Gospel (evangelizing)? Check out these simple evangelization tips from Fr. Mike Schmitz.

God Bless!

Deacon Kevin DeCook

12/28/2022 Wednesday Message

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Good morning! You might be one of the people who is reading this email first thing in the morning - you wake up, grab your phone, and dive right into the business of the day. Whether you are an early riser or a slow starter, this message is for you!

What is the first thing you say when you wake up in the morning? What is the

first thing you do? Who is the first person you talk to? There is a healthy body of research that suggests our first moments, actions, and thoughts can dictate the direction of our entire waking day. Matthew Kelly, founder of Dynamic Catholic, describes it:

 

“Human thought is creative. What we think, becomes. You send your thoughts down one road, your actions are going to follow your thoughts. The actions of our lives are determined by our last most dominant thought.”

 

The Church recognizes this. The Church has prescribed texts for each day of the liturgical year, and the texts we have been talking about the most lately are the Entrance Antiphons, or ‘Introit’ in Latin. They are the ‘first thing’ we sing or say at Mass. Father Burrish alluded to this in his homily while wearing his flashy pink rose robes - throughout history the name, title, or reference of a particular day in the Church year becomes synonymous with first word or words from the Entrance Antiphon. The most recent example of this is the Third Sunday of Advent - Gaudete Sunday, from the first word of the Entrance Antiphon - “Rejoice”!

 

Now think back to when you woke up this morning, whether that was minutes ago or hours ago. What was the first thought you had? What was the first thing you did? If the title of your day was based on your first word or action, what would each day be called?

 

I know in my house we would be celebrating a lot of “A Kid is Sick Thursdays” and “Where Did the Weekend Go Mondays”. The modern culture has co-opted “Thank God It’s Friday”; how often have you used this prayer yourself?

 

My challenge for you this week: put a piece of paper or notepad by your bed. For seven days, write down the first thing you think or do each day. One week later, look back over your list and see what it tells you about the road your thoughts are taking you on.

 

Mike Renneke

Music Director, Notre Dame Parish

 

Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash

12/21/2022 Wednesday Message

Hello and happy Advent! 

Today I’d like to give a special shout-out to all of the ushers for our parishes and to the new greeters who have been helping at Notre Dame. Greeting has been on my mind a lot lately, it’s a bit of an occupational hazard! As a reflect in this season of Advent, I have been specifically thinking about my own greeting to Christ in the Eucharist as I enter our church or the Adoration Chapel and of the importance of greeting others as they walk through our doors. The warmth and kindness you show when welcoming others is a way to let them know they have a place here, that we care, and that we are happy that they’ve come. I am grateful to all of those who make this happen. Our ushers and greeters in particular, but also those of you who make an effort to say hello to someone you do not recognize or who always send a quick smile to someone you’ve never seen before.

These things are especially important as we approach Christmas! With Christmas, we will have many visitors. People from out of town and people who may not come to church often. We do not know where they are in their spiritual journeys, but we can be assured of this, we each have Christ within us. I’d like to also add that we sometimes need to recognize Christ in others before they can recognize Him in themselves. Let us greet each other then, this Christmas and always, with warmth and kindness, knowing that we each have a place here in our Catholic community and that Christ is living among us!

I also want to encourage you to think about how you will greet your savior on Christmas day as you come in for Mass. John the Baptist leaped for joy to be near Jesus. The magi traveled hundreds of miles to humbly worship this small child. Simeon and Anna waited years to catch a glimpse of the Messiah. Can you imagine how they trembled as they saw him and could hold him in their arms? And we get to be even closer to him every time we go to Mass as we receive Him in the Eucharist! There are many little prayers we can say to get ready to greet Him. A simple one that I have been praying with this year is this, “Father, please remove any barrier that prevents me from jumping up to meet you. Remove any fear in me that prevents me from taking the journey that brings me to closer You. Remove any doubt that prevents me from trembling for joy as I draw near to You.” Let us get ready to greet each other and Our Lord with great joy this Christmas!

In Christ,
Kate Zweber
Volunteer & Hospitality Coordinator
Notre Dame Catholic Church 

12/14/2022 Wednesday Message

Dear parishioners,

As Advent is the start of a new liturgical year, characterized by the theological virtue of hope, this is also the time of year when we at MACS are already preparing diligently for the following school year. Enrollment opens on January 29, 2023, the first Sunday of Catholic Schools Week. We are excited to share that we  we will be moving forward with renewing our preschool programming to provide whole-child, Catholic faith-based 3K and 4K to Chippewa area families. We intend to include school readiness attainments while also incorporating virtuous habit formation, outside exploration and play, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) and more!  We are also looking for individuals who are interested in becoming trained as CGS catechists, so please contact Mary Beth Pfeifer or Mary Huffcutt in our central office if you are interested at (715)723-0538. Please watch for upcoming dates for a parent informational meeting and registration event and pray for the success of our new program launch.

Harkening back to hope, the theological virtue most consonant with Advent: hope is what resonates with me both personally and as leader of our schools. Hope believes in the morning at midnight, sees the Resurrection in the crucifixion. Hope believes in the harvest at planting time, sees the future evangelist in the skeptical adolescent. Hope is what is needed more than anything else in this broken world, especially for our students. Even secular mental health experts will tell you that hopelessness is the true epidemic of our time. This is why the mission of our Catholic schools is absolutely essential! We must become a beacon of faith, hope, and love in our communities, especially with our young people who ARE the future of our Church. Here at MACS, we persevere in hope and trust in God's faithfulness. The Holy Spirit never fails, and hope does not disappoint us.

Blessings to you in gratitude for your support in this Advent and Christmas season. Come, Lord Jesus.

-Molly Bushman, MACS President

12/7/2022 Wednesday Message

For Advent, I am reading daily reflections by St. John Henry Newman. One of his reflections reminds us of the importance of wonder. Wonder abounds during the seasons of Advent and Christmas if we look with the eyes of a child. I am certain that one of the greatest blessings God has given me in working with youth (through RE, MACS, and with my own three children) is being able to witness their wonder. It is humbling and a challenge to grow in being child-like.

 

Below is an edited version of Newman’s reflection from “Waiting for Christ: Meditations for Advent and Christmas” (the full version is Newman’s Sermon 22: The Weapons of Saints). May we all rediscover wonder this Advent and Christmas and let it lead us to God and a deeper relationship with Him.

-Paula Hanson, DRE Our Lady of the Falls, teacher of 3-5 music and band at MACS

 

We have most of us by nature longings more or less, and aspirations, after something greater than this world can give. Youth, especially, has a natural love of what is noble and heroic. We like to hear marvelous tales, which throw us out of things as they are, and introduce us to things that are not. We love to fancy ourselves involved in circumstances of danger or trial, and acquitting ourselves well under them. Or we imagine some perfection, such as earth has not, which we follow, and render it our homage and our heart. Such is the state more or less of young persons before the world alters them, before the world comes upon them, as it often does very soon, with its polluting, withering, debasing, deadening influence, before it breathes on them, and blights and parches, and strips off their green foliage, and leaves them, as dry and wintry trees without sap or sweetness. But before that time, they have desires after things above this world, which they embody in some form of this world, because they have no other way at all of realizing them. While their hearts are thus unsettled, Christ comes to them, if they will receive Him, and promises to satisfy their great need, this hunger and thirst which wearies them. He does not wait till they have learned to ridicule high feelings as mere romantic dreams: He comes to the young; He has them baptized betimes, and then promises them, and in a higher way, those unknown blessings which they yearn after. He seems to say, in the words of the Apostle, "What ye ignorantly worship, that declare I unto you." You are seeking what you see not, I give it you; you desire to be great, I will make you so; but observe how,—just in the reverse way to what you expect; the way to real glory is to become unknown and despised.

 

He says to the aspiring: "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve" [Matt. 20:26-28.] Here is our rule. The way to mount up is to go down. Every step we take downward, makes us higher in the kingdom of heaven. Do you desire to be great? Make yourselves little. There is a mysterious connection between real advancement and self-abasement. If you minister to the humble and despised, if you feed the hungry, tend the sick, succor the distressed; if you bear with the froward, submit to insult, endure ingratitude, render good for evil, you are, as by a divine charm, getting power over the world and rising among the creatures. God has established this law. Thus He does His wonderful works. His instruments are poor and despised; the world hardly knows their names, or not at all. They rise by falling. Plainly so, for no condescension can be so great as that of our Lord Himself. Now the more they abase themselves the more like they are to Him; and the more like they are to Him, the greater must be their power with Him.

 

Let us then, my brethren, understand our place, as the redeemed children of God. Some must be great in this world, but woe to those who make themselves great; woe to any who take one step out of their way with this object before them. Of course no one is safe from the intrusion of corrupt motives; but I speak of persons allowing themselves in such a motive, and acting mainly from such a motive. Let this be the settled view of all who would promote Christ's cause upon earth. If we are true to ourselves, nothing can really thwart us. Our warfare is not with carnal weapons, but with heavenly. The world does not understand what our real power is, and where it lies. And until we put ourselves into its hands of our own act, it can do nothing against us. Till we leave off patience, meekness, purity, resignation, and peace, it can do nothing against that Truth which is our birthright, that Cause which is ours, as it has been the cause of all saints before us.

 

This be our duty in the dark night, while we wait for the day; while we wait for Him who is our Day; while we wait for His coming, who is gone, who will return, and before whom all the tribes of the earth will mourn, but the sons of God will rejoice. “It does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” [1 John 3:2-3.] It is our blessedness to be made like the all-holy, all-gracious, long-suffering, and merciful God; who made and who redeemed us; in whose presence is perfect rest, and perfect peace; whom the Seraphim are harmoniously praising, and the Cherubim tranquilly contemplating, and Angels silently serving, and the Church thankfully worshipping. All is order, repose, love, and holiness in heaven. There is no anxiety, no ambition, no resentment, no discontent, no bitterness, no remorse, no tumult. "You keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you: because He trusts in you. Trust in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord is an everlasting rock." [Isa. 26: 3-4.]

11/30/2022 Wednesday Message

Earlier this Fall, I gave a tour of Notre Dame Church to OCIA candidates and catechumens of our three parishes.  Spending some time walking through the church building with those considering becoming Catholic is insightful.  They ask questions about the kinds of things we are always used to seeing and don’t really think about or may take for granted.  I thought I would share with you today some of the main points I made in that tour.  Perhaps we might look at our church buildings in a new or different light. 

 

It’s been said that architecture is the built form of ideas.  In other words, the way in which one builds a building conveys their values and what they believe about its intended purpose.  Therefore, church architecture is the built form of theology, i.e., what we believe about God, or relationship with him, and how he is to be worshiped.  The church building, in the Catholic view should be a “catechism in stone” that everyone can read.  Catholic church architecture has developed over the centuries as such a catechism.  Many churches constructed in recent decades have not always used the architectural vocabulary of that Catholic tradition and theology.  Many older churches have also been significantly remodeled.  What I explain below about the Catholic church interior, therefore, will be clearer in some churches than in others.  Whatever the case, these are some things to contemplate when you enter a Catholic church.

 

The Catholic church building should not be seen as just a utilitarian gathering space, but a sacramental space, an occasion of grace, a place where heaven comes down to earth, literally.  A traditional biblical image for the church interior is the “heavenly Jerusalem.”  Jerusalem is where the Temple was built, the very dwelling place of God for the people of Israel.  Because Jerusalem was the holy city, it became an image for heaven in which God dwelled with his people for eternity.  The Catholic church building should, therefore, be like heaven or the heavenly Jerusalem.  The statues, images, stained glass windows, and icons of saints should remind us of their presence among us in worship.  They should all stir our imaginations to the transcendent.  Another image for the church interior is the Garden of Eden, i.e., a return to the world before the Fall, or rather a renewal of the world at the Second Coming of Christ.  The whole of the interior should be beautiful, like a garden.

 

One enters the church building in what is called the narthex, the place of transition from the world of sin to the Kingdom of God.  At the narthex, before coming into the main nave of the church, one passes holy water stoops.  As we bless ourselves and make the sign of the cross with the holy water, we are reminded of our baptism, our initiation into the life of grace when sin was washed away.  While many of our churches today often have their baptismal fonts up near the sanctuary so that baptisms may be visible to the congregation, traditionally, these fonts were often near the narthex, or even in a separate baptistry room or building to be a clearer sign of the transition into the Kingdom of God from the world of sin.  Also to make the transition, many older churches often had their confessionals toward the back near the narthex.

 

When one enters the nave, or main body of the church where the congregation worships, it should be like entering a vast cosmos compared to the more confined and dark narthex transition space.  The word “nave” describing this part of the church comes from the Latin “navis,” meaning “ship.”  A ship or boat is a great image for the whole Church as in the “ark of salvation” for the world, calling to mind the fact that Noah’s Ark served as a refuge from the flooded sinful world.  Similarly, we are on a voyage of faith in the Church as we make our way through life to eternity.  In all the movements of the Mass (kneeling in adoration, standing in praise, or sitting in contemplative attention), we are going somewhere.  We are going to the place of encounter with God in the sanctuary at the altar.

 

Finally, at the sanctuary we reach the fulfillment of the Jewish Holy of Holies in the Temple, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, the Presence of God.  Today, this is the tabernacle, or during the Mass, the altar.  Traditionally, the communion rail marked the transition into this space.  At the altar, to where we are all journeying, Christ at Calvary is re-presented.  The next time you walk into the Catholic church building, pay attention to the details.  What reminds you and assists you on the journey to meet the Lord in eternity?

 

May God bless you!

 

Fr. Jesse Burish

11/23/2022 Wednesday Message

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Dear Parishioners,

 

I hope this message finds you all well and full of God’s peace! As summer has definitely ended and fall seems to be coming to a close rather fast these days…winter is approaching (if it hasn’t already arrived as I look out my window at all the snow!).

During the winter months, I often like to go downhill skiing. And perhaps similar to my last Wednesday message, I’d like to make a kinda cheesy, but (hopefully!) relevant point. When you are skiing and want to slow down there is a temptation to lean back and away from the hill. This is a mistake and often leads to a tumble. Rather, you need to bravely lean down hill and use your skis in order to slow to a safe speed or stop. This is true in our life of faith. As we move along our journey of faith there are many temptations and many times where we will have difficulties and doubts in God’s plan for our lives. This is natural. Many of us suffer with great crosses and temptations; much less all that is happening in the world around us. Our response, however, isn’t to “lean back and away” from the life of faith; we don’t shy away from our crosses and difficulties. Rather, we bravely lean forward, taking a leap of faith. And we “use our skis;” that is, we use what the God has given us (especially through the Church). We take time for daily prayer, weekly (or more frequently!) Mass, and monthly confession. As we end this ordinary time and begin Advent, what is holding you back the most from truly leading the life God wants for you? Let’s shed ourselves of these things and bravely take a leap of faith!

 

In Christ,

 

Fr. Brandon Guenther

11/16/2022 Wednesday Message

Time and Talent, we all have both, even if our time to share these is somewhat limited. Notre Dame has just completed an official Time and Talent Sign-up, but both Holy Ghost and St. Bridget’s could use your Time and Talent as well. At Notre Dame, we wanted our sign-up to be an invitation, an invitation to our parishioners to join us in the ministries we have, in order to accomplish our mission and goal as a parish. Thank you to all of those who filled out our form! We were blessed to receive many responses, both from new volunteers and current volunteers.

Our goal as a parish is that we glorify God, strengthen relationships with Him, and bring others close to Him. What does it mean to be a part of this greater mission? It means that you have been given a role in something bigger, something bold and beautiful. If there is just one thing that I hope I can have you realize, it is this, that the role that you play has an impact on our mission and without YOU we will never reach the fullness of our potential.

I am not good at allowing myself to recognize the good things I am able to do for God’s greater glory. I think that some of you might be the same way. This is not right! We have given Him gifts through our lives, in service, and in prayer and we must rejoice with Him in the giving of these gifts! This week I’d like to challenge you to do this: take delight in the fact that in your life, in how you serve now, and, for some of you, in how you will be serving soon, by these things you can give God glory!

“Know, O Beautiful Soul, that you are the image of God. Know you are the glory of God.”

~ St Ambrose of Milan

In Christ,

Kate Zweber

11/9/2022 Wednesday Message

How did we do on the picnics/dinners this year?

I have often been asked how the Festival of the Falls combined city parishes events went this year.  Having St. Charles, Holy Ghost and Notre Dame have their annual picnic/dinners on the same weekend was a great idea of the volunteers.  After much collaboration and organizing a weekend was picked and the events were successfully accomplished.  It was wonderful to see the parishes working together as they each decided to do what they do best.  Personally, I had only ever gone to Notre Dame’s event.  But with the new excitement of working together, I went to all three events, and it was great to see parishioners enjoying time together from all the parishes at each event.

Being on the finance councils I can tell you that both Holy Ghost and Notre Dame had increased profits from their events from prior years.  I don’t know about St. Charles, but I heard from the person donating the pork for their dinner that he gave substantially more pork than they asked for this year, and they still ran out!  While I could not make it to St. Bridget’s picnic this year, I did see their numbers and they also did considerably better than last year.  A big thanks to all our volunteers who made this year a success!

What this says to me is we can do great work together when we put our mind to it.  These community events are a lot of work, but they introduce our parishes to the wider community.  I pray we will rejoice in this success and find new ways to bring our faith into the local community in ways that Jesus will be better known.  When others see us working in union together it makes our faith that much more appealing and convincing that we have something worth having.  This something being Christ!

 

God Bless!

Deacon Kevin DeCook

10/26/2022 Wednesday Message

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Good morning! My name is Mike Renneke, and I write to you today as the music director at Notre Dame Parish. I’ve used my previous messages to talk about music and the Mass, and being the self-proclaimed “music guy” this certainly made some sense. Today, though, I’d like to reflect with you on the opposite of my professional work. We need to talk about silence.

Now, as the guy who is constantly putting notices in the bulletin to “join the choir”, talking about silence might seem a bit self-defeating. Silence also suffers from a bit of a public relations problem; too often we view it as a negative, or as the absence of something. If you turn on the TV and there's no sound, that is a problem. When the birds and bugs stop chirping at night, you know a storm is coming. Ask any parent with kids playing in the next room - silence is a bad thing!

 

Robert Cardinal Sarah wrote a book in 2016 called The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. In this book he calls for a redefinition of what silence in our lives means:

 

"Silence is not an absence.  On the contrary, it is the manifestation of a presence, the most intense of all presences.  In modern society, silence has come into disrepute; this is the symptom of a serious, worrisome illness.  The real questions of life are posed in silence.  Our blood flows through our veins without making any noise, and we can hear our heartbeats only in silence."

 

It is in the quiet stillness of our hearts where we are able to begin to process the rhythm of our life; where we can begin to determine what is music and what is noise.

 

So, here comes the challenge for the week: can you embrace the moments of silence as opportunities to listen? Can you create more silence in your life? What is God saying to you in the silence? 

 

The irony is not lost on me as I challenge you to be silent while my two kids are in the front pews making joyful noise. I also don’t want you to click away from this email thinking I’m suggesting you stop singing at Mass. God speaks in silence, as he did to Elijah in the Book of Kings (1 Kings 19:11-13). The noise of our modern culture suggests we say “Listen Lord, your servant is speaking”. Instead let us be like Samuel - “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

10/19/2022 Wednesday Message

Dear parishioners,

As MACS President, one of the fun things I get to do is host our MackChat podcast, in which I welcome and interview guests including Macks faculty, students, and community members to chat about all things MACS, from campus ministry to sports to the classroom, as well as connections to our parishes such as our August episode advertising the Festivals of the Falls. I invite you to follow our podcast either on the Eau Claire Hometown Media website, Spotify, or iTunes to keep up to date with the latest and greatest episodes. Our most recent episode was a "Meet Your Principal" episode featuring Mr. Jerry Smith and student Ryker M. Thanks be to God, we are excited to share that both Mr. Smith and Ryker are currently going through OCIA and OCIF classes and, God-willing, will be received into the Catholic Church this Easter. Please enjoy this episode, which also includes Ryker's musings on Fr. Guenther's chess game and the origin of Mr. Smith's southern accent. As always, thank you very much for our parishes' support of our Catholic schools, and pray that we would continue to grow as a living witness to the Catholic mission of evangelization. We are here to serve our parish families by providing all students with a rich Catholic Liberal Arts education and vibrant student life, preparing them for their vocations as disciples of Christ. 

In hope,

Molly Bushman, MACS President (and host of MackChat!)

10/12/2022 Wednesday Message

Hello everyone,

Did you know that you have a part to play that no one else can!

Just a few hours a month helping in one of the ministries at our parishes has an immense impact on your church. We have a vibrant faith community, achieved because of our dedicated volunteers who have given their gifts to see our parish thrive. Can you imagine the amazing things that could be done at our parish if all of our parishioners gave just one additional hour a month?

Volunteering is good for the parish. It is good for us as well. I will admit, growing up I wasn’t always a very willing volunteer; I could serve at a food stand all day but oh how I would drag my feet if we had to take up the gifts! However, in volunteering (or being voluntold) in different areas, I learned several beautiful things as a child that are now engrained in my memory. One, I got to recognize as an elementary and high school student one of the most freeing things imaginable, that not everything was about me and that I had the opportunity to be a part of something bigger. And two, it showed me that every person has their own unique skills to offer that can make efforts and ministries flourish because of them.

I’d like to encourage you to truly recognize that you have gifts to offer! For families, consider signing up to help with a ministry together. Dads, consider signing up for the same ministry as your son or daughter, or perhaps with buildings and grounds. Moms, consider helping your daughter or son with something like decorating the church or being a sacristan. There are many opportunities, and we are looking forward to getting you involved with them!

What a gift it is to be able to walk with Christ in these ministries and with each other!

In Christ,

Kate Zweber

1/31/2024 Wednesday Message

Parishioners of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls Deaneries and members of our local community,

As local Deans, on behalf of all the pastors, we reach out in pastoral concern and care for our community. We were shocked and greatly disappointed to hear of the upcoming closure of our local Catholic hospitals, HSHS Sacred Heart in Eau Claire and St. Joseph’s in Chippewa Falls. This is truly a death in the family for our local Catholic community. While we understand HSHS worked for a different outcome than a complete exit, this solution is extremely painful and difficult for many.

Our hearts go out to those employed by HSHS, Prevea Health, and L.E. Philipps, as their lives and families will be greatly impacted. We reverence your raw emotions of fear, anger, grief, and uncertainty regarding your professional and personal future.

We also send our prayers to the thousands whose healthcare may be disrupted. We’ve heard many in our community comment on the excellent, compassionate care they have received over the years. Our community will be less without Catholic healthcare, rooted in the Gospel, that serves the whole person, body and soul.

We are truly grateful for all of those who for nearly 140 years have worked in the HSHS healthcare ministries in the Chippewa Valley. The many Hospital Sisters, administrators, physicians, nurses, and staff dedicated their careers to Catholic healthcare. They served our community generously and professionally. It’s impossible to recount the many lives touched and healed through these hospitals.

While this is a time of grief, not all hope is lost. Many in our community have already been discussing ways to alleviate the economic and healthcare concerns this decision causes. We will soon have details on a spiritual offering to provide healing for those experiencing stress, anxiety, and trauma from this decision. Bishop Callahan will also celebrate a Mass honoring the history of St. Joseph’s and Sacred Heart Hospitals on a later date that will be announced.

The healing mission of Jesus Christ belongs to his Church. Even when institutions falter and end, the healing mission of the Lord Jesus Christ continues. The responsibility and gift of this healing mission is entrusted to all of us as his missionary disciples. May the Holy Spirit pour out his gifts and renew our fervor and courage to see what must be done and gain the strength to do what we have seen.

In Christ,

Very Rev. James R. Kurzynski

Dean of Eau Claire

Very Rev. Jesse D. Burish

Dean of Chippewa Falls

01/17/2024 Wednesday Message

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your life is a testament to God’s goodness and His love for the world He created! There’s a song, Counting My Blessings, where they sing “The more that I look in the details, the more of God’s goodness I find”. Let other people see those details, don’t just keep them to yourself! Discover those details in other people and let yourself be awed by the love that God has for His children!

One of the Share the Joy suggestions this month is to find an opportunity to introduce yourself or your family to other parishioners. I am pretty sure there will be someone you don’t know at Mass this weekend. Introduce yourself and show that person that they are seen, that they are known and worthy of being known, and that they are loved, by the Father and His children. Be willing to let others see you! Be willing to show others how God has given you joy in your life. Be willing to hear the words, “Yes, oui si ja!”.

 

In Christ,

Kate Zweber

715-705-2240

Dear parishioners,

Bear with me, I’ve found a little joke for you!

An Englishman, a Frenchman, a Spaniard, and a German are all standing watching a street performer do some excellent juggling. The juggler notices that the four gentlemen have a very poor view, so he stands up on a large wooden box and calls out, “Can you all see me now?”

“Yes,”

“Oui,”

“Si,”

“Ja,”

Are you willing to let people see you? One of the biggest things that holds people back from trying to meet someone new is that it’s hard to let others see you sometimes.

1/10/2024 Wednesday Message

1/10/2024 Wednesday Message

When is your mother’s birthday?  My mom will be 93 this January 15th.  I know this because I have it marked on my calendar.  I want to be sure I call her since she lives a couple of hours away and a visit is not likely to happen.  With my 13 siblings you might think that if I forget to call her she will not notice.  Wow was I wrong when I forgot a few years ago!  Sometime after her birthday when I called her for a random chat, she made a point to let me know I was the only one who did not call her on her birthday.  She was keeping a list!  I don’t know where I was on Santa’s list that year, but I was not on the nice list for mom!

I am writing this Wednesday message on January 1st the Solemnity of Mary the Holy Mother of God.  While not a Holy Day of Obligation this year, it is a day to remember.  I am sure Jesus will not forget to call his mom today.  Mary is also our mother and so if you did not make it to Mass on the 1st, be sure to at least give her a belated call by reciting a rosary or some other devotion to Mary such as a novena or praying the Magnificat.

Mary has a special place in her heart for those who love her son Jesus.  She has adopted us as spiritual children.  She prays for us and asks us in turn to look to her for help in praying to her son.  She does not seek glory for herself, but rather encourages us to invoke her help so she can show us the way to her son.

May God Bless you this new year by keeping close to your spiritual Mother Mary and may this Christmas season continue for you even when the secular world has moved on.

 

Deacon Kevin DeCook

1/3/2024 Wednesday Message

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Rachel and I have been blessed with 4 wonderful little kiddos. On Christmas day, my oldest son Benedict (5) asked Joseph (2 1/2) if he wanted to wear matching clothes to Mass. Initially suspicious of the idea (perhaps because Joseph is suspicious of wearing clothes altogether), Joseph changed his mind and agreed. The picture attached shows the heartwarming result! Why the change of heart for Joseph? Perhaps the biggest reason is his subconscious admiration for his older brother. And of course, Benedict does not realize the power of his influence yet, but you and I can clearly see how his words and actions and questions impact Joseph. 

About two weeks ago I was enjoying a beverage in the new Chippewa Caribou coffee shop. I was in the middle of a meeting with a woman whose 8 year old son was interested in becoming Catholic and receiving first Holy Communion with his peers at MACS (such is the power of a faithfully Catholic school!). This woman and her family were raised Christian (Lutheran) and had long been acquainted with the basics of the Christian faith. But her son wanting to enter the Catholic church also seemed to spark a desire for her own spiritual renewal. 

 

In the course of our conversation I eventually asked her a question that I ask almost every person I meet with; this question is so fundamental that you may be tempted to chuckle at its simplicity and move on. However, though I asked this question to probably near 100 people this past year in discipleship meetings, very few people seemed confident in answering it. Frankly most people seemed to be caught off guard and perhaps had never been asked the question before in an informal conversation, and feel it is both a massively important question but also a deeply personal one.

The question is this: "Who is God?" or "Who is Jesus of Nazareth?" Her answer was similar to many of the answers I have heard (yes, from dozens of Catholics, too). Something like: "God is someone I can talk to when I need help" or "Jesus is my hidden friend." 

 

Is there truth in these answers? Of course. But do they demonstrate that understanding that God has revealed Himself in Jesus and is the loving Lord of the universe, the Lord of their lives, also? Of course not. Yes, perhaps they could add to their answer, but might I submit to you two simple invitations for this New Year:

First, like Benedict, recognize the influence you have in sharing the truth of the Gospel. If you strive to know Jesus, people look up to you, even if they are originally suspicious of the Faith. 

Second, answer "yes" to your call to evangelize. The Church needs you to; God has great plans for you. Perhaps simply ask people that one question, and invite their view of Jesus to be refreshed. 

 

Know of my prayers, and please pray for me. For a bonus on this topic, check out this short video from Fr. Mike Schmitz

 

Would you like to evangelize and share the Gospel with greater confidence? I would love to connect with you!


For His Glory, 

 

John Shakal

12/20/2023 Wednesday Message

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Gaudete! Rejoice! It is easy to find joy surrounded by family and friends, especially when they’re as fun as my cute little niece in this picture!

 

This Sunday was Gaudete Sunday where we are particularly called to rejoice in the Lord. We talk about Joy a lot at our parishes. Why is Joy so important? Probably because we know that if you find joy you find a lot of other things too. You find that you have peace. You find that you are more yourself. You find that your faith isn’t taking a backseat in life but is alive and well in you!

 

Joy does not always come easily. Please do not be discouraged when it doesn’t! Our Blessed Mother gives us a beautiful example of Joy and how to cultivate it, and her life wasn’t easy at all. She was mysteriously pregnant before she was living with Joseph, she was 9 months pregnant and had to travel to an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people, she had to leave her home suddenly because someone was determined to kill her child, and all that isn’t even half of what she went through! Mary also loved deeper than any of us. She did not have the weight of sin holding her back from loving to its fullest. If Mary loved so much, can you imagine how much pain she felt seeing the one she loved most be crucified? Yet, Mary never lost her sense of Joy.

 

In all the excitement of the nativity scene with angels singing God’s glory and the shepherds bowing their heads in praise Luke chapter 2 says, “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart”. Mary simply rested in God’s love and contemplated His goodness in that moment. It is in contemplation that I have seen Joy grow. By remembering God's presence in different moments and allowing these memories to stir our hearts, Joy can start to flourish. In acts of charity Joy is strengthened, and we are given more to contemplate as we find new evidence of God’s goodness and His love for us. In the silent reflection of our hearts the Holy Spirit’s voice is heard, our Joy is turned into action, and it radiates for the rest of the world to see.

 

This Advent and Christmas I hope you will allow yourself to do as our Blessed Mother did, to recognize God in the special moments, to keep all these things and reflect on them in your heart.

 

Have a very Merry Christmas and don’t forget to Share the Joy!

 

Kate

12/6/2023 Wednesday Message

One of life’s greatest annoyances for those of us living in colder climates is being ready to hop into the car and go somewhere only to find that you have to scrape frost off the windshield. This unanticipated task can make us late or just start the day off on the wrong foot. This very event happened to me the other day…

I was walking to my car that was parked on the street. I had my arms filled with various items that I needed for the day and I was also listening to Fr. Mike’s podcast “Catechism in a Year” on my phone. As I approached my car I saw the frost and thought, “one more thing to do”. I shoved my things in the passenger side seat and went around to start the car as a huge garbage truck rumbled by. At the same time I noticed a city water department truck pulling to a stop on the other side of the street. Not paying attention, I started my car, grabbed my windshield scraper, walked back to the passenger side of the car, and started scraping. As I hastily, and poorly, finished one side, I looked up and saw the guy from the truck walking towards me. “What does he want? Is there some water project that is going to make it so we don’t have water in the house or something?” But no, he simply said, “Let me help”. He handed me a pair of gloves to put on my cold hands and started scraping my windshield. I didn’t really know what to do. I took the gloves, holding them in one hand with my phone blaring Fr. Mike, and continued scraping with my other hand. No words came out of my mouth as I contemplated the weirdness of this situation. I managed a “thank you” as he scraped off the last piece of frost. He smiled, said “Your welcome, have a nice day”, headed back to his truck and drove off. I was still holding the gloves in dismay as I got in my car and drove away.

What had just happened to me? As I began to contemplate the significance of this unexpected kindness a few things came to mind. First, I thought, “This guy must have been from some protestant church and had been challenged by his pastor to help someone in need this week.” That first thought made me pause. Why would I assume he was protestant and not Catholic? I didn’t like that my gut instinct was that protestants were more likely to do something like this. Where did that presumption come from? What did it say about my view and practice of the Catholic faith? How could I work to change that presumption in myself and in my Church?

Another thought that entered my mind was, “Why do I think this is so odd?” Shouldn’t it be normal for people to help each other out? Most of my shock came from the fact that I’m not old or disadvantaged and this wasn’t an out of the ordinary situation, like a flat tire. I was just an average lady scraping her windshield. I think we tend to think that we are mostly called to help people out in extreme cases. While it is true that we should help people out in extreme cases, we are primarily called to help others out in everyday cases. I was helped by a stranger, but it is just as important to help those we are close to. In fact, there are many more opportunities to help out those we know in ordinary ways than those we don’t know in extraordinary circumstances. When you help someone out or someone helps you out, it shouldn’t be odd.

A final thought that came to my mind was that maybe this was an angel in disguise. Why? Why couldn’t it just be a regular old person? Which is more amazing to me, a person helping another person or divine intervention? The answer should be both. Both are amazing because they both come from God. One is a person following the promptings of the Holy Spirit, acting as a messenger of God and one is a direct messenger of God. I’ve been reading a book, In the School of the Holy Spirit by Jacques Philippe, about how to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Well, here was someone who wasn’t just reading about it, but was doing it. It’s amazing when we allow God to work through us. Perhaps even more amazing than an angel messenger being sent to us. Why? Because as the catechism states, “With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God.” We humans, on the other hand, are broken and can very easily reject the promptings of God to be his messenger. So, it’s more amazing when we humans actually do God’s will. It’s more pleasing to God when we become his messengers than when an angel is. That’s food for thought….

There are many other ways that I have analyzed this situation, but I keep coming back to this main point- that someone DID something and didn’t just think about doing something. I like to think that I’m holy, but do I act holy? “By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God.” (CCC 143) Do I trust God enough to follow his promptings and let him work through me? This is a living Faith.

Paula Hanson

11/29/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners,

 

Following the call of our bishops for a Eucharistic Revival, you may have noticed a number of new things in our parishes over the past year: our regularly praying for a Eucharistic revival at the end of our parish Masses, the use of Communion patens held by servers (if available) during the distribution of Holy Communion, increasing our efforts to bring Holy Communion to our homebound more consistently, connecting the joy of the Eucharist to how we interact with and welcome our fellow parishioners at Mass in our “Share the Joy” efforts, as well as a few other things.  More personally, I want to invite you to grow in your devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist by dedicating some time to Him in Eucharistic Adoration (if that is possible for you), and by regularly going to confession so as to receive Him worthily.

 

Related to all this, I’d like to update you on the distribution of the Precious Blood in our parishes.  Nearly two years ago following the pandemic I made the decision to indefinitely forgo distribution of the Precious Blood to the congregation from the chalice, except for those receiving their First Holy Communion, or being newly received into the Church, or those on their wedding day.  There are a few reasons why, I, as the pastor may choose to limit distribution of the Precious Blood: to avoid obscuring the role of the Priest and the Deacon as ordinary ministers of Holy Communion by having more extraordinary ministers than absolutely necessary; to avoid having to cleanse several vessels following the distribution of Holy Communion; to reduce the risk of the Precious Blood spilling.

 

I also stated that given the Church’s liturgical tradition and directives, a reasonable case for distributing from the chalice more frequently may be made depending on the circumstances of the parish community.  While the Church acknowledges that “the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is more clearly evident” with reception of Communion under both kinds, she also acknowledges reasons for limiting it.  Whether the Precious Blood is distributed at Mass or not, we as Catholics should understand what is referred to as the doctrine of concomitance, i.e., that the Real Rresence of Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, is present whole and entire in each species, consecrated bread and wine.  In other words, whether we receive the Host or from the chalice, we receive Christ completely.

 

Over the past couple years, many of you have inquired about a return of reception of the Precious Blood from the chalice.  Weighing out the legitimate reasons for limiting it with the legitimate reasons for making it available, we will distribute the Precious Blood to the congregation from the chalice on four special occasions throughout the year: (1) the Sunday following Christmas (usually the Feast of the Holy Family), (2) the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, (3) Divine Mercy Sunday, and (4) the Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord (Corpus Christi).

 

May our Eucharistic Lord continue to make our hearts like unto His!

 

Fr. Jesse Burish

11/22/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners,

 

I hope this finds you all well! During this time of year I always await anxiously the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle on November 30th. On that day we begin the St. Andrew’s Christmas Novena…which is technically not a novena, nor does it have much to do with St. Andrew other than its start date. Rather, it is a prayer that, during the season of Advent, helps us to increase our desire for Jesus, God incarnate, born on Christmas day. Further, I can personally attest to the great power of this prayer. I generally have one intention to which I dedicate the entire novena; often it is for the health and/or conversion of someone in my family. God answers these prayers powerfully, even if it isn’t how we always imagine it (often it’s way better!). 

 

Simply pray this prayer 15 times daily from the Feast of St. Andrew on November 30 through Christmas Day:

 

"Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen."

 

In Christ,

 

Fr. Brandon Guenther 

11/15/2023 Wednesday Message

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Dear parishioners,

Happy early Thanksgiving! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, safe travels, and good luck with any hunting endeavors!  Since it was just All Saints Day, I thought I’d share a picture of me and my friend Rachel from a party that we went to. I was dressed up as St. Agnes, with the ridiculous halo and sash, and Rachel was my lamb! If you don’t know who St. Agnes is, she is definitely worth looking up! Let me know why you think she is always pictured with a lamb.

“I would create the universe again just to hear you say you love me”. Jesus said this in a vision to St. Teresa of Avila, isn’t it beautiful? Jesus has a desire that you reciprocate His love as well. Are you ready to say those words to Him? Perhaps it’s hard for you, like it is for me sometimes, to say this when God can feel so far away. A little reminder that I was given recently is that God is constantly showing us His goodness through other people. I will often come back from a meeting or a chat with a parishioner and be in awe of that person's kindness, generosity, and faithfulness. Recently, I have been working on inviting our Lord to be present in those conversations more as well as thanking God for those people and recognizing His presence in each of them. 

 

C.S. Lewis said, “Do not shine so that others can see you. Shine so that through you, others can see Him”. Many of Our Lady of the Falls parishioners have done this for me and have brought the words “I love you, Lord Jesus” more readily to my heart and mind. How will you bring those words to your prayer life in these next few weeks? How will you take those words and put them into action?

 

In case you’re drawing a blank I will list a couple of ideas. As part of Share the Joy we will be handing out cards this weekend, take a couple and send them to other members of your church as a way to care for your fellow parishioners. Another suggestion would be to ask a family or a parent if there is any way that you can help them. You could also make a point to just check in with someone to see how they are doing. There are really many opportunities! Let me know what you come up with!

 

In Christ,

Kate Zweber

715-705-2240

11/8/2023 Wednesday Message

Volunteers are wonderful people that give of themselves without any monetary reward.  Volunteering is not just about getting work done, but it is one main way we build relationships within our parish family.  We have an excellent group of volunteers that make our parishes run.  However, there are many things that go undone for lack of committed volunteers.  We need everyone in the pew to contribute by volunteering in some way. 

There is such a wide opportunity and need that most everyone should give some time to help.  We are not to be a church of people that only show up at Mass, events, or sacraments as consumers.  Some say they are too busy to volunteer and so they support the church financially only.  That too is necessary, but we also need your time even if it is only a couple hours a month.

The parish is a family unit and I think we all know how it is when a family member does not contribute to the work that must be done in a household.  Things don’t get done or other family members have to do the extra work and over time they can get burned out or overwhelmed.  Our parishes are the same. 

We need tons of volunteers just to do Mass well.  Besides the priest we need servers, sacristans, ushers, readers, EMHCs, musicians, cantors, someone to bring up the gifts, greeters, techy people for recorded Mases, script sellers, cleaners, decorators, money counters, and maybe even a deacon (hope I didn’t miss anybody).  But guess what!  Mass is not the only thing we do!  We have many wonderful ministries that I will not list here and each of them have their own list of needed volunteers.  There are also many ministries that do not even exist in our parishes because we do not have enough volunteers. 

You might be thinking we have employees to do this work.  Yes we do have excellent employees that give us some great stability, but in a vibrant parish the employees work hours should be much less than the volunteers as our budget would never support all the wages for all the work the Lord has for us to do.  For us to do our part in proclaiming the Kingdom of God we need to give of our time.  You might be thinking this is easy for me to say, but I too am a volunteer that does not get paid for my time.  Believe me I would much rather be in the pews at times where I wasn’t in the spotlight, but then I would not be doing God’s will sharing the gifts he gave me.  He gave you gifts too, and you are called to share them with your parish family.  If you do not know where you might fit in as a volunteer please contact me, Father Burish, Father Gunther, Sister Yvonne, Kate Zweber or just call the parish office.  Our contact information is online or in the bulletin (for you younger folk, that is the paper things by the church doors 😉).  Remember we need and want you to join us in volunteering not only to get the work done, but also to share time with you as part of our parish family.

God Bless your efforts!

Deacon Kevin DeCook

10/25/2023 Wednesday Message

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Dear Parishioners,

It was 2007 and I was standing on the 50 yard line, the halogen lights blinding in their contrast with the cool night air. The stadium was full to the brim, a sea of people alternating in green and purple with flecks of gold. In my crisp white band uniform I was a stark contrast to the giants who littered the sidelines.

It was halftime of “Monday Night Football” and the Green Bay Packers were hosting the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. ESPN was providing the broadcast coverage, and the university marching band had been called in to provide halftime entertainment at the last moment when Green Bay opted to cancel the original plan of a ceremony honoring Brett Favre - for some unexplained reason. The clock was ticking down on the commercial break as I gestured madly towards the sideline.

“How will I know when to begin?” I shouted.

“You’ll figure it out!” the camera man shouted back.

In a previous email I had written about how we never know how the little things we say to others will impact the trajectory of their lives. The cameraman offhandedly saying “You’ll figure it out” gave me a phrase that I have repeated hundreds if not thousands of times to my students, my children, and myself.

I consider my Monday Night Football experience to be a ‘spotlight moment’ - a moment in life when it seems all attention is focused squarely on your shoulders; when you are clearly the main character in the story. We all have spotlight moments, some filled with the light of joy and others marred by the shadow of grief. Birthdays and baptisms. Weddings. Funerals. New jobs, new homes, new cities.

By definition a spotlight casts a narrow and intense beam of light, drawing attention and focus to someone or something. Who is directing the spotlight in your life?

Are you allowing someone else to determine where your spotlight is pointed? To decide who and what gets your attention and focus?

We can give God control of our spotlight through daily prayer, weekly Mass, and monthly confession (thanks, Father Guenther!). While God may use your spotlight to show you where to look, He won’t tell you what to see.

You’ll figure it out.

Michael Renneke

10/18/2023 Wednesday Message

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Dear Parishioners,

I am writing to you as a new world traveler! Three weeks ago I landed in Rome, Italy with some friends to attend a diaconate ordination for our diocese and explore a bit of Italy.

Looking around at St. Peter’s Basilica, it would be hard not to feel pride in our faith. The basilica was designed so that it doesn’t feel as big as it actually is. Statues on the ground were 6 feet tall while the statues up higher were as big as 24 feet, yet they looked as if they were the same size! The amount of careful thought and planning that was put into every detail is astounding. You know what is also astounding though? The beautiful sunsets and serene countryside of Italy! Those things also were created with great intention and love. What is the greatest thing that all this beauty does? It sings God’s praises just by existing!

Our lives are similar in a way. Sorrows as well as Joys that are brought to God are more beautiful to Him than any sunset. God is glorified in our lives! The most unglamorous situations in life can be given to God and they will be cherished. A Bereavement Ministry to help those who have lost a loved one is starting at Our Lady of the Falls parishes, Oct. 26th. Think of how this group will be joining hands to support one another and to grow in faith. Think of the little ways that have come up with Share the Joy. Today I am encouraging you to think about the kind of gift that you are preparing for God. What kind of painting will you give to Him? Are you ready to make it more beautiful?

 

In Christ,

Kate Zweber

10/11/2023 Wednesday Message

How many of you, like me, sometimes struggle with spending too much time on your phone or device?

Recently, MACS parents and students learned about creating safer digital spaces through programming provided by the organization Protect Young Eyes. The parent recording "How to Create a Tech-Ready Home" is available to watch on our website at Parents - Forms/Resources 

https://www.mcdonellareacatholicschools.org/parents/forms.cfm

 

I highly recommend Protect Young Eyes' materials and resources to all families. They provided advice and recommendations in five areas: modeling healthy behaviors, pursuing authentic connection, delaying devices and social media, diligently preventing harm, and forging strong families. 

While parental controls, safer routers and devices, and other tools can help, nothing can replace the role of parents in modeling healthy behavior and creating authentic connection with their kids. When we think of dangers such as cyber-bullying, pornography, suicidal thoughts, do we as parents and caring adults realize that our own behaviors around screens can unwittingly contribute to these evils? The truth is, when you or I choose our device/screen over authentic personal connection with our children, and model excessive or even inappropriate usage of technology, they follow suit in ways that are likely to harm them.

So, parents and grandparents, let's start with ourselves. Find the digital wellbeing tools on your phone and use them - set a bedtime, screen time limits, app limits, and for goodness' sake turn OFF your notifications. Make a point to pursue authentic connection and non-digital activities with the children in your life. Technology is not evil in itself, but it can be the devil's playground if we are not intentional about how we use it and, more importantly, the way we model healthy digital behavior to our children.

 

May God aid us in our efforts!

 

Molly K. Bushman

10/4/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Members of the Notre Dame Parish Community,

 

The Notre Dame Building Committee is excited to share with you the latest developments regarding the new organ and ongoing building projects here at Notre Dame. Your commitment and support have been instrumental in getting us to where we are today, and we wanted to keep you informed about the progress we’ve made.

 

Over the past several months, the Notre Dame Building Committee has been hard at work, making important decisions to ensure that our parish facilities meet the evolving needs of our community. We began this journey with a commitment to preserving the rich history and spirit of Notre Dame, and we are pleased to report that this commitment remains at the forefront of our efforts.

 

Foremost, the Committee has divided the project into different phases than initially proposed. This revised approach allows us to prioritize the most critical aspects of our renovation while staying fiscally responsible. The first step of which was signing a contract with the Levsen Organ Company. We are anticipating installation of the new organ in late Summer or early Fall 2024.

 

Secondly the Committee has transitioned to a local architect, Gary Kucko, and a local design team, including Rohm Construction as the general contractor, SEH for civil design and environmental analysis, KOA (Krech Ojard & Associates) for structural design, and APEX for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design.  These trusted partners have been involved in several successful projects with us, including the past restoration of Notre Dame, and they have been working diligently with us to simplify the initial phase of construction, with a focus on reducing overall costs.

 

This initial phase will address the needs of the Goldsmith Memorial Chapel, by building an accessible entrance annex with two code-required bathrooms and a small check-in and library area for adorers. Additionally, an information display on the lives of the School Sisters of Notre Dame and of Father Goldsmith will be added. Father Goldsmith’s crypt beneath the chapel will also become more readily accessible for quiet visits and reflection. As such, we invite you to attend an information and feedback meeting which will feature displays for the Goldsmith Annex and explain the next steps in the building project. Two dates for these info sessions will be offered in the GREC Dining Hall: Monday (10/23) at 6pm, and Sunday (10/29) at 11:15am after 10am Mass.

 

In parallel with these design decisions, we have taken essential steps to ensure the safety and feasibility of our construction plans. SEH’s environmental study of the entire campus has identified hazardous materials, such as asbestos, that will need to be addressed. This information will guide us as we create strategic demolition plans of the convent, boiler room, and garage that salvage items of historical importance, helping to preserve our cherished heritage.

 

In the coming months, we will be sharing more detailed plans and updates with you, including the architectural designs and timelines for the Goldsmith Chapel Annex. We are also looking forward to sharing details as we begin the design process of Phase 2, which will include some of the more exciting additions to our parish campus, so stay tuned.

 

We want you to be a part of this journey with us and we invite your thoughts, feedback as we move forward. We are grateful for your unwavering support and dedication to our beloved Notre Dame Parish. Together, we will grow our parish while preserving the essence of our rich history.

 

Thank you for your continued prayers, commitment, and generosity, and hope that you can join us in the GREC Dining Hall for either of the information and feedback meetings: Monday Oct. 23rd at 6pm, or Sunday Oct. 29th at 11:15am.

 

Yours in faith,

 

The Notre Dame Building Committee

9/27/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners,

 

Praised be Jesus Christ! I hope this finds you all well and enjoying the beautiful colors emerging as we slide into Fall. If there is anything that marks this month of September more than just about anything else, it is the beginning of both a new school year and a new year of Religious Education. I have enjoyed having the students back in session at Holy Ghost; there is a lot more life around here! On Wednesdays there is double the life as Religious Education begins after school at Holy Ghost! Later in the evening we are able to be with our older students at Edge and Lifeteen for middle and high schoolers, respectively.

This all leads me to a question: What have you learned about your faith this year? One thing that amazed me during my first years of priesthood is how quickly all that knowledge I learned in seminary begins to fade! I often have to revisit even basic concepts to make sure I have them down both for my own growth in holiness and so I can teach others well. Recently, I have enjoyed Fr. Mike Schmitz’s Catechism in a Year Podcast, “Stunned by Scripture” by Dr. John Bergsma, and several books by Jacques Philippe. None of these are hardcore theological textbooks by any means. In fact, I frequently recommend these books because they are so clear and accessible! If you haven’t had a chance to learn about your faith in a more intentional way, I’d challenge you to do so. Studying for its own sake is something uniquely human and to study topics related to God and our Faith are eternally important. Not to mention they help to enrich our prayer life. You don’t have to be a bookworm either! There are a number of very well done video series on Formed.org (look up “The Search” or any of the series on the Sacraments). Finally, we have a number of “in person” events like Catholicism on Tap (next Monday, October 2nd!) and other adult bible and faith studies. 

Our faith is so rich and beautiful, when we intentionally study it we inevitably encounter God Himself, who is our ultimate goal and source of all truth. Know of my prayers for you!

 

In Christ,

 

Fr. Brandon Guenther 

9/20/2023 Wednesday Message

Last time I spoke about the power of prayer most especially with others.  This time I would like to speak about daily Mental Prayer with God and you alone.  Why is this so hard for many?  I recently listened to a video series on prayer from Dan Burke with the Avalia Foundation on their website Videos - SpiritualDirection.com where there is a great list of resources on prayer.  While he has many great things to say, I will give you the reader’s digest version and hope that you will explore further if you struggle like I do in this area.  He suggests three main things to help you succeed in prayer.

1 - Sacred Time:

Set aside the same time each day of the week.  My time is 6am.  When I succeed, I start my day with at least 15 minutes minimum with mental prayer before I begin my other daily prayer activities such as Morning Prayer Liturgy of the Hours | USCCB.  You might have more time or less but the trick is to begin and grow it as you can.  While I write this I am on a vacation with my little kids and this is a tough thing to do when you are out of routine!

2 - Sacred Space:

I am lucky to have a converted closet that has my spiritual images and quite space.  I have my favorite picture of Jesus (The Divine Mercy Image) as well as other art that brings my mind into a state of prayer.  This space should be like going into church where your mind is drawn to God whom you meet in this space.

3 - Sacred Attention:

Dan tells us this is the hardest part.  How do you quiet your mind but stay present to meet God?  Is that me speaking in my mind or God?  With Sacred Time and Sacred Space your chances increase greatly at being successful in this part.  Dan recommends what the Church calls Lectio Divina.   Start by reading a short section of the bible a couple of times through.  Starting with your favorite gospel would be an excellent choice.  Prayerfully imagine you are at the place where the gospel is unfolding.  Think about what various characters might be thinking and how what is being related might inspire you.  Ask God to speak to you about it and ask Him any questions that you might be thinking.  Scripture is God talking to you.  Now give some time to let God enlighten your mind.  Finally make a resolution to change something you learned in this process to better follow God’s will for your life.  If you would like a more structured explanation see this link.   A Guide to Lectio Divina: What it is and whether it helps prayer life! (spiritualdirection.com)

The big thing about this process is not to expect anything from each individual session.  What you should expect is spiritual growth over time even though each session by itself might not seem that amazing.  I encourage you to start today.  If you can commit to this with another person, you will both be more likely to succeed.

God Bless your efforts!

Deacon Kevin DeCook

9/13/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners,

Please tell me I’m not the only one who feels like I need to have a reason to get together with a friend! Or who feels like there needs to be a reason to approach a stranger and talk to them! It’s silly! I know it is! How do we grow in friendship if we only talk to our friends when there is a need? How much are we missing when we only get to know new people if something in life throws us together?

Sometimes it is helpful to have a reason to meet with a friend or a reason to approach a stranger though! No excuse is needed to seek out friendship or to pursue a deeper friendship with another parishioner, but I’m going to give you one! Invite someone to volunteer with you! It could be a total stranger who you have seen across the church from you, but who you have never talked to. It could be a person who you know, but who you would like to know better.

We all should have this common goal, to get to heaven and to help as many as we can get there too. What better way to do this than when our hands are joined together in service and in prayer to care for our church and our community!? It is so much easier to get to know someone when you share a common experience, working together to do something important!

My mind goes so fondly to the beautiful people who helped me with the hospitality and food for Catholicism on Tap! They are such wonderful volunteers, and it is such a joy to work with them! I think of the ushers and how much they love to tease! I think of going to Agnes Table and laughing with the other volunteers as we prepare to serve there.

Volunteering is a great way to Share the Joy! How will you invite someone to come to discover and Share that Joy with you?

Kate Zweber

9/6/2023 Wednesday Message

THE USE OF LATIN IN TODAY'S LITURGY
The use of Latin at Mass has a long history, but at present is sometimes seen as not useful. Some even believe it was banned by Vatican II. Let's look at this issue a little more closely.

"Didn't Vatican II get rid of Latin?"
No, it didn't! It allowed for the use of the vernacular, but maintained that the congregation should still be able to sing the Ordinary Mass parts in Latin. Vatican II also gave Gregorian Chant "pride of place" in the liturgy. According to Sacrosanctum Concilium, the document issued by the council, "the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites" (paragraph 36.1). 

"But it's a dead language!"
Indeed. And in its "dead" state, it is stable. You don't have to buy a new Latin dictionary every year because slang words have been added to the language. It is timeless and connects us to our history. Latin is the language of the Church Fathers! 

"How can I participate when I don't understand the words?"
Do you fully comprehend the mystery of the Trinity when it's explained to you in English? Just because you understand the words, doesn't mean you fully understand the mysteries of God. You can still enter into a prayerful state of reflection while listening to Gregorian chant in Latin despite not being able to translate it. And I would wager a lot of you know more Latin than you think! Dominus, regina, salve, Agnus Dei...the list might go on even farther for those of you who were raised singing everything in Latin. Fret not over what you cannot understand, but use the calm and tranquil melody of Gregorian chant to worship God interiorly.

Ad Dei Gloriam!
Crystal Biccum is Assistant to the Notre Dame Music Director, Mike Renneke. A professional musician, she holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Music Performance. A retired Air Force Bandsman, she is currently pursuing a Master of Catholic Studies from Franciscan University and a Master of Sacred Music from the Catholic Institute of Sacred Music. You can usually find her seated at the organ during Mass and occasionally chanting. Feel free to come up to the loft and say hello!

8/30/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners,

 

Praised be Jesus Christ!  The last time I wrote the Wednesday Message I gave an update on our parish capital campaigns and projects.  Since more has developed since then, here’s another update.  Praise God, the active portions of our campaigns are complete!  I want to sincerely thank all our many parishioners who participated in the campaigns, either by their pledges, or by volunteering, or both.  To date, our parishes have raised:

 

St. Bridget - $112,329.96

Holy Ghost - $909,764.01

Notre Dame - $3,135,0041.00

 

Pledges/gifts can still be made throughout the course of the five-year redemption period.  If you couldn’t pledge earlier and would like to, you may still do so.

 

At St. Bridget, when the parish finance council met in early May, we agreed to move forward with the church window and interior repainting.  A small committee has formed and is still looking for more members to help advance the church painting and other capital projects.  It has been a struggle to obtain responses and estimates from various contractors.  We have obtained a solid estimate for the restoring and repainting of the church windows and will be seeking others.  Due to the size of the project and contractor availability, this will not begin until spring.  Interior painting will need to follow that.  Please let us know if you would like to join our committee to help advance our projects.

 

At Holy Ghost, we recently finalized our contract with Rhom Construction to begin work on replacing the front exterior steps of the church, several slabs of concrete sidewalk going out from the front of church, as well as constructing a gathering space and confessional below the choir loft.  Work on the interior gathering space and confessional is set to begin September 5th and will likely take about six weeks.  Initially, we anticipated the concrete work on the front of church to begin weeks ago, but we have had difficulty finding a contractor with availability to do the project.  Having made a few modifications to the design and construction process of the steps, we are remaining hopeful that we will be able to start with a contractor before winter.  Even though there will be work being done this fall on the interior and exterior of the front of church, we still anticipate being able to use the church for Mass.  Finally, we are also in the process of obtaining updated proposals for interior painting and plaster work.  This work can’t begin until the gathering space under the choir loft is complete, and until we have replaced the air conditioning units on the interior walls.  Most painting/plaster work contractors at this point are at least a year out on their availability.

 

At Notre Dame, by the end of July, our contract was signed with Levsen Organ Company for the installation of our “new” (used) pipe organ for above the choir loft.  Installation will not take place for another year as Levsen is booked out that far on other projects.  Our building committee last met on August 21st with our new architect, Gary Kucko, to discuss his first design proposal for the Goldsmith Chapel Annex.   The look and size of the building has changed from the proposed design used in the campaign after our committee further refined the priority list of needs for the building.  It’s been determined that we cannot demolish the convent until we are certain of the footprint and design of the Chapel Annex.  We are still hopeful of demolition happening this winter.  We are also considering our options for salvaging materials from the convent building before its demolition.  Many parishioners and others in the community have made requests for various materials.  It is our hope to use some pieces from the convent (e.g., wood trim, flooring, and other architectural elements) in the new chapel annex structure.  You will hear more about this once we have determined our final design for the chapel annex and our process for convent demolition and salvage.

 

This is an exciting time for our parishes.  The funds that have been raised for the abovementioned projects not only help to secure the future of our parishes, but they are necessary for our parishes to accomplish our mission of inviting all people to encounter Christ and inspiring them to become saints.  I ask your patience as our parishioner committee members work to advance these projects.  You will notice that the one consistently repeating chorus in the above descriptions is that the slower speed of our projects is determined mostly by low contractor availability.  Most of these projects will come to fruition gradually over the coming few years as careful planning takes place and both funds and contractors become available.

 

If you have concerns, questions, or ideas regarding any of our parish projects, please reach out to our committee members whose contact information may be obtained through the parish office:

St. Bridget: Ted Amelse, Scott Pulver, Renee Jackson.  Please let us know if you are interested in participating on this committee!

Holy Ghost: Chad Brady, Tim Strader, Larry Dahl, John Abbe, Karin Hawkins, Rachel Ouimet, Paula Hanson.

Notre Dame: Deacon Kevin DeCook, Gary Gray, Jerre Eckes, Sue Van de Loo, Ted Derks, Joseph Klinkhammer, John Shakal, Joanne Stuttgen.

 

In Christ,

 

Fr. Jesse Burish

8/23/2023 Wednesday Message

book.jpeg

My family has spent a good deal of time this summer at the public library. Strolling through the aisles with kids who don’t yet know how to read themselves means that much of “book selection” duty falls to me. 

 

I am writing today to admit to you all that I almost exclusively pick books based on their covers.

 

If the cover has dinosaurs or construction machines, it gets picked. If it has an alliterative title, it goes in the bag. If it has pop-ups or ‘scratch ‘n sniff’ pages, it gets snatched up. If it is a pop-up book about dinosaurs called “Daily Dose of Delightful Dinosaurs” I carry it above my head like the Lectionary.

 

Note: I can hear the collective consciousness of the internet crying out, “don't judge a book by its cover!”

 

I’ll avoid the cliche by taking a more modern approach. What if we were to judge a movie only by its trailer? What if we judged a new activity or hobby only by the initial feeling or reaction? What if we judge an email by its opening line?

 

If you were to continue an activity based only on its initial feeling, what would you never do?

 

I’ll tell you mine. I would never run. Anyone who has been a ‘runner’ for any amount of time will tell you about the euphoria that comes at the end of a run, but the near insurmountable hurdle at the very beginning of a running career gets much less air time.

 

Is there an element of the liturgy that you ‘don’t like’ right now? Is there a part of your prayer life that just isn’t clicking for you - yet? Is it because of a metaphorical book cover? Or might you discover a few pages in or a few miles down the road that the Holy Spirit has gone to work on you through this discomfort and since revealed new joy and understanding?

 

It is only fair to reflect. Everyone deserves a fair shake. Every book deserves more than a cursory glance. As our parishes begin a renewed focus on sharing the joy of the Eucharist, I challenge us all to look for more than the scratch ‘n sniff pages. Pray through the discomfort. Stretch a little bit more. You might just find yourself in the middle of a real page turner.

 

Mike Renneke

8/16/2023 Wednesday Message

Copy of SHARE THE JOY Join us as we seek greater relationship with Christ and each other a

Hello Our Lady of the Falls parishioners and friends! Today is the day after the Solemnity of Mary’s Assumption! How did you celebrate? Were you Sharing the Joy?

 

Yes, I am bringing up Share the Joy again! Why? Because it’s IMPORTANT! Share the Joy is an invitation, a request, that all of you take a step back and then take a step forward. Take a step back to see the goodness of our faith and of the people around you. Then take a step forward by taking action and intentionally seeking deeper relationships and intentionally seeking or picking simple ways to care for your parish family.

There have been a few things that I have been doing as a challenge to myself as Share the Joy has started. I will admit that I did not start planning Share the Joy with the idea that I would be doing anything differently. I am now finding that’s not the case at all!

One of the ways I feel I have been asked to Share the Joy is by having four people who I especially pray for and intentionally walk with. One of those people was obvious, she and I pray together, talk about our faith and our struggles, and help each other through them. Another is someone who is very different from me but who I feel I am especially called to pray for and be present to. Another is someone new and unexpected and I do not know yet how God is calling me to journey with them. As for the fourth person, I don’t know who they are or if it’s going to change every week!

Another thing I am planning to do personally for Share the Joy is to invite a group of friends to do an Adoration hour with me, specifically to pray for each other, and to then get ice cream after.

How each of us chooses to Share the Joy is going to look different. However, there are 2 things that are going to be true for everyone. One, we each must choose to be a part of Share the Joy. Two, we are all called to deeper relationships and to have people that we will journey with.

So, I would like to ask, have you chosen to Share the Joy? Who do you think you are being called to journey with?

Thank you for reading my little note and let me know (for those of you willing to share) if there is anything that has come up since starting Share the Joy that has surprised you!

God bless!

Kate Zweber

8/9/2023 Wednesday Message

🎶 Notes from the Loft 🎶

 

Gregorian Propers for the Assumption Vigil

The Saint Cecilia Choristers have been working hard since June! They've learned not only how to sing square notes (the standard notation for Gregorian chant) but also how to pronounce and sing in Latin! Let's take a look at the Gregorian Propers you will hear if you attend the Vigil Mass on August 14th. Fun fact, the Assumption is Notre Dame's patronal feast day!

 

Introit: 

Assumpta est Maria in caelum: gaudent Angeli; laudantes benedicunt Dominum.

Mary is assumed into Heaven: the angels rejoice; joyfully they bless the Lord.

 

Communion:

Beatam me dicent omnes generationes, quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est, alleluia.

All generations shall call me blessed, for He that is mighty hath magnified me, alleluia.

 

For the Offertory they will sing the Simple Tone Salve Regina, as this is an acceptable option as per the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. 

Worship aids will be provided and we hope to see many of you there. Let's support these young ladies in their endeavor to make a joyful noise to the Lord!

 

Ad Dei Gloriam!

Crystal Biccum

Crystal Biccum is Assistant to the Notre Dame Music Director, Mike Renneke. A professional musician, she holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Music Performance. A retired Air Force Bandsman, she is currently pursuing a Master of Catholic Studies from Franciscan University and a Master of Sacred Music from the Catholic Institute of Sacred Music. You can usually find her seated at the organ during Mass and occasionally chanting. Feel free to come up to the loft and say hello!

8/2/2023 Wednesday Message

Hello Everyone,

 

A few weeks ago we had the parable of the weeds in the wheat. I wanted to share a really great homily that I listened to by Fr. Mike Schmitz on that parable. I hope you find it inspiring. https://youtu.be/xfIrRFrBfB8

 

Keep on fighting for your faith!

 

Paula Hanson

7/26/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners,

 

Praised be Jesus Christ! I hope this message finds you all very well. I have to admit I am a bit tardy in writing my Wednesday Message! But as I’m writing a bit late, it happens to be the feast of Ss. Joachim and Anne; the parents of our Blessed Mother, Mary. At Mass, the prayer after communion helps us to reflect on the mystery of how God uses families in His plan for salvation: 

 

“O God, who willed that your Only Begotten Son

should be born from among humanity 

so that by a wonderful mystery 

humanity might be born again from you, 

we pray that, in your kindness, 

you may sanctify by the spirit of adoption 

those you have fed with the bread you give your children. 

Through Christ our Lord.”

 

God willed that Jesus be born from “among humanity.” God also willed that each of us be saints from “among humanity.” That is, God calls us to Himself no matter our circumstances, especially the circumstances of our families, which can influence us particularly heavily. I, myself, have yet to meet a family (including my own!) that didn’t have some struggles; some smaller, some larger. Nevertheless, God chooses to sanctify each of us “by the spirit of adoption.” We are adopted as God’s children; born again through our baptisms. Of course, we know that our particular family struggles don’t disappear just because we are striving for holiness. However, we can let God begin that healing process, first in ourselves, then in others through us as His instrument.

 

In all of this my heart goes out to those whose children and grandchildren are no longer practicing their Catholic faith. Many dozens of people have expressed their grief and concern on this front and rightly so! We especially want the people we love the most to go to heaven. Not seeing them have that same desire is very distressing. There may be a time and place to discern how we might have done things differently, but most of all we continue to seek their return by prayer, example, more prayer, gentile invitation, and even more prayer. We pray especially that God would soften their hearts to hear His call; to know of His love. We pray that God would continue to form our own hearts to be an example of faithfulness. We pray that God would show us the moment when we might make an invitation back to faithfulness. Finally, know of my own prayers for you all! Ss. Joachim and Anne, pray for us!

 

In Christ,

 

Fr. Brandon Guenther

7/19/2023 Wednesday Message

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Hello Everyone! 

Thank you for all the prayers and support for my brother and on his ordination day! Above is a picture from Father Zweber’s first Mass during one of the most beautiful parts of that weekend, consecration! We should all try to make the Eucharist a source of our Joy!

A few weeks ago Father Guenther spoke of Mother Teresa’s decision to share the Joy of the Eucharist. How she would even Share the Joy of Christ’s presence while feeling very far from Him herself. We all have the ability to do this, no matter where we are in our faith life!

Years ago, as a young college student in a new city, I went to Mass and my only plan was to pray reverently and meet my Sunday obligation. I often felt a great sense of peace and Joy after receiving the Eucharist, but I did not look outside of myself to find ways to share that joy. I see so clearly now how much I missed out on! There is so much Joy and beauty possible when we look outside of ourselves and take a step towards connecting with someone else! A quick word of welcome or a simple act of kindness, even just a smile can show someone else that they are seen, they are known, and they are loved! 

My approach to Mass started to change when a stranger in the pew next to me turned, looked me in the eyes and said, “You, young lady, seem nice but you could really smile more.”

I am a little embarrassed to say how much I needed to hear that! I let self-consciousness, shyness, and a narrow focus prevent me from letting others see my own Christian Joy and from sharing that joy with others. I let those things prevent me from seeking authentic friendships, and even the strengthening of my own Joy in Christ. 

Today, I’m giving you a nudge like the nudge I received from that stranger all those years ago. If we believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist and in us, in our very being, as we receive Him, we know that our lives and our joy should be shared with each other! 

I invite you to begin this journey with Our Lady of the Falls to show everyone here that they are seen, known, and loved. Throughout the year, you’ll see suggestions in the bulletin and the Share the Joy posters every month, but every person is different! How do you think you can join us in Sharing the Joy? 

With just a little bit of extra effort, each of us has the ability to help someone see the Joy of Christ. we can’t underestimate God’s ability to make an impact in us and in others if we are willing to do even a simple thing for Him! Today I, along with Father Burish, Father Guenther, and Deacon DeCook, invite you to grow with us in our Joy in the Eucharist and to come and Share that Joy with each other. 

God Bless!

Kate Zweber

7/12/2023 Wednesday Message

Do we really believe in the power of prayer?  When someone is having a hard time and you know they need prayer, what is your response?  Do you take the easy route and tell them you will pray for them?  This has been my approach for decades.  It is easy and seems to be appreciated.  From a practical standpoint it is quick in a situation that would otherwise be awkward or at the very least uncomfortable to do at the time.  As a matter of fact, that is usually what I get when someone recognizes that I need prayer.

I personally have been having that model challenged.  How about when God nudges us to pray for a person, we stop what we are doing and pray for that person right then and there!  Does that scare you?  It does me!  What if I say the wrong thing, what if I sound stupid, what if the person does not want me to pray for them right then, prayer is supposed to be private, that is a protestant thing, this makes me uncomfortable…  The list of reasons goes on.

I have occasionally got past all these excuses and actually have prayed for people in the moment with a definite quick prayer to the Holy Spirit to help me out first.  In almost all situations it has been a great experience where none of the above reasons not to pray in the moment were true.  The prayer usually only takes a minute or two and the person on the receiving end was very appreciative.  They were heard, they felt their pain was acknowledged, they knew you really cared, and most importantly God was brought into the pain and was invited to bring healing, peace and joy to the issue.

I invite you to get over the fear of praying for others in their immediate need and bring God’s love, peace and joy to them right away!  If you believe in the power of prayer, do not delay in bringing God’s healing power to a soul in need.

God Bless your efforts!

Deacon Kevin DeCook

7/5/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear friends, 

 

Just last week I sat down to meet with a newly married couple. As we enjoyed our beverages at the new Caribou Coffee shop in Chippewa, they told me how they have been desiring to join the Christian Initiation program and become Catholic. Except, guess what? It turns out that they were already baptized Catholic, but their parents were not practicing Catholics and did not intend to raise their kids in the Faith. One of the individuals that I was meeting with was only baptized because it was his Catholic grandmother's dying wish... so he was baptized at the age of 14 years old, and almost never set foot in a Catholic Church again, since his parents did not find it important. When I asked them both why their parents chose not to live and share the faith, the answer I received was disheartening but all too common. It is the same reason that many of my Catholic neighbors have given to me when explaining why they no longer go to Mass or Reconciliation. This reason has been crippling faith for generations, and it needs to stop. What is it? That the Catholic Church is judgemental and makes people feel guilty. 

 

Now, why so many people have this impression of Jesus' Church and its adherents may be various and complex, and we won't get into it here. However, can we all, as disciples of Jesus Christ, pray mightily against this notion and spirit of religious joylessness that many people have experienced? Regardless of how or why, many lapsed Catholics who view the Church as an unhelpful option have it all wrong: the Church is the center of joy and life because it is built upon Jesus Christ who abides with us in the holy sacraments! If we as Catholics have lived our faith without a spirit of joy (at times, I know I have), Jesus is calling all of us to renewal, both personally, and as a Catholic Community. The Trinity is communion of perfect love, and the Trinity is at work in the life of the Church. 

 

As such, I invite you to consider how the Lord is calling you to live a life of greater Christian joy. I invite you to invite others to experience the joy of the risen Lord as well, who is alive in His Church. Perhaps an invitation to Catholicism on Tap on July 10th can kickstart this endeavor. (The topic happens to be "The Blessed Trinity: God in Himself.")

 

PS The young couple I met with has felt a warm welcome from our Catholic Community, and are joyfully pursuing Christ in His Catholic Church. They even invited a friend to join CHristian Initiation as well to be confirmed. And guess what, he said "yes," because they shared the Joy of the Gospel with Him: Jesus is alive, is present in the Eucharist, and desires to unite us all in a bond of peace! 

In His Peace, 

John Shakal

Catholicism on Tap 7-10-23.jpg

6/28/2023 Wednesday Message

Mike R.png

She sat behind me in my 10th grade Biology class. I went to a high school with 2,500 other students so it was fair to admit that she and I weren’t close. She had spent nearly the entire semester sitting behind me as we learned about plants, fish, and trees in a shared silence.

 

One day I felt a stern tap on my shoulder.

 

“Your shirt collar is wrinkled.”

 

It was quite the opening.

 

“Thanks,” was my clever reply.

 

“I work at a dry cleaner,” she continued. “You should unbutton your Oxford collar before you put it in the wash.”

 

We never spoke again.

 

Do you know how many times I think of that? Do you know how many times that piece of advice rattles around in my head? It is an underestimation to say that I think about that every week. Every week since midway through 10th grade I have thought of the advice to unbutton my shirt collar before putting it in the wash.

 

I’m certain that we all have advice, sayings, or thoughts that live inside our hearts and minds. Small things in the day can bring these tidbits, profound or not, bubbling back up to the surface. 

 

Now, imagine the flipside of this - how many things have YOU shared with someone else that might be bubbling in their brain on a near daily basis?

 

Catholic author and speaker Matthew Kelly says that our actions are determined by our last, most dominant thought. If you knew that something you were going to say to someone would continue to roll around in their consciousness long after the conversation concluded, what would you say? Would you be more careful with your words?

 

Living with a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old I have learned very quickly that most of what I say outloud is going to settle deep into my children’s souls. At the very least it will get repeated in front of their mother.

 

We often get to see the impact of our words and actions on those closest to us. Children grow, relationships change, and connections are made and broken every day with words and actions. We rarely get to see the impact that a kind word, a friendly smile, or a tap on the shoulder with a bit of wisdom can have.

 

At Mass this weekend I’d encourage you to share a word. Start with a word of welcome. Build up to a word of encouragement. You just never know the impact you might have.

Mike Renneke

6/21/2023 Wednesday Message

In a few short days, my brother will be ordained a priest! Growing up, we were very close in age, and I have jokingly told him that he should give some credit to his sister for his vocation. If anything, I think I’ve at least helped him develop the patience needed to get through 8 years of schooling and formation!

All kidding aside, I have been able to be a part of my brother’s vocation in a small way. I was able to be there for the different steps that the (almost) Father Zweber has taken to get to this point. I have been able to laugh at him when he seems too serious. I have been able to pray for him and his vocation. Because of these things, he knows that he has the love and support of myself and the rest of the family and that is not insignificant!

I am sure that each of you can say that you also, have been there for someone in your life, or you can think of someone who has been there for you. In seemingly small ways we can make an impact! My sister-in-law said to me recently that everyone needs to know that they are seen, known, and loved. Even without knowing the lady walking into church with you, or the man in the pew in front of you, you can treat them in a way that reflects this truth, that they are seen, that they are known, and that they are loved. We all need to be shown this and reminded of this sometimes!

My challenge to you then, is to think of this and consider how you can show the people in church these three things. You do not need to know the person. You do not even need to engage in a conversation if it’s not the right time or you do not feel ready. A modest smile, a word of greeting or goodwill, and a simple action is all that is needed! And who knows, your act of kindness might change someone’s day, their view of the church, or how they view themselves. A simple thing you do might turn into a remarkable friendship that you needed too.

I hope that you all have a beautiful summer! Please know that you are seen, that you are known, and that you are loved and please pray for Deacon John Zweber as he prepares for his ordination this weekend!

In Christ,

Kate Zweber

6/14/2023 Wednesday Message

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Would you consider yourself someone who is more contemplative/prayerful or more outwardly active in your faith life? Are you a stereotypical "Mary" or "Martha"? 

The truth is that both dispositions are good, both are necessary in the life of the church, but contemplation is "the better part" as Jesus tells Martha. A few in the Church spend their lives in contemplative religious communities, immersed in prayer. Many, on the other hand, work in active ministries or apostolates as missionary disciples in the world. 

Why do I draw attention to this apparent dichotomy? First, I want to point out the complementarity of active ministry and contemplative life in the Body of Christ. As one who works in the apostolates of motherhood and Catholic education, I probably more often appear as a "Martha" but I am deeply grateful for the contemplative orders, the "Marys" whose prayer sustains me and others. 

Second, each one of us needs to find ways to tap into God, the spring of living water, in order to sustain our active ministry and not become like dry, broken cisterns filled only with pride. (I highly recommend the book The Soul of the Apostolate for more on this point.) Daily prayer is essential, of course, among other practices, but I want to focus here on the importance of consecrating longer periods of time to the Lord: the role of regular retreats in the life of missionary disciples.

Personally, I am in the habit of taking two multi-day quiet retreats each year. Typically, my Advent retreat is to a pilgrimage site such as Holy Hill in southeast Wisconsin. In the summer, I often retreat to my family cabin in Hayward, with an Adoration chapel close by in town. Often, people will say something like, "Good for you that you are able to do that. I am way too busy etc." While it is true we are all in different seasons of life with varying responsibilities, I can safely say I am also quite busy. However, in my experience retreats are needed precisely because I *am* so busy. (Thanks be to God I have a husband who is supportive!)

Every retreat, in some way, often unexpected, I grow closer to the Lord and, by His grace, allow my heart to be conformed more closely to His. I fuel my spiritual tank to go back into the world with renewed energy. 

So go. Go on retreat. Find rest for your soul.

 

In hope,

Molly Bushman

6/7/2023 Wednesday Message

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

The quote above is often attributed to Socrates. Whether it truly is or is not his quote is not the point of my sharing it. The point is that in our modern day we can get discouraged about our youth, however, that discouragement is nothing new. Sometimes it is easier to look at what is going wrong and pick out the negative than to see the good around us. It is especially easy to see the negative in others while overlooking the goodness in them. We were all made good and there is goodness there, even when we don't see it. Sometimes we have to actively seek it out, but where there is good, there is God.

 

With this in mind, I wanted to share some good words from today's youth. If you didn't know, my daughter Megan graduated from McDonell Central Catholic High School this year and was awarded the Bishop's medal. Along with this great honor, she gave a speech at graduation. I hope it inspires you and gives you hope about our future. Her speech begins 15 minutes into the video.

 

 https://cesa10.mediaspace.kaltura.com/media/t/1_2pqcurqp/255922113 

Paula Hanson

5/31/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners,

 

I believe I may hold the diocesan record for spending the most consecutive months doing parish capital campaigns (September 2022 – June 2023).  Unfortunately for me I don’t think they’re giving out any trophies.  While I’ll be happy to be done at the end of June (when Notre Dame’s campaign concludes), I must say I’ve been learning a lot.  By now most of us have probably heard of the “Inspired by the Spirit Campaign,” a campaign initiated by the Diocese of La Crosse to raise funds for capital needs such as making updates to the Holy Cross Diocesan Center, the establishment of a diocesan foundation, and including last fall’s Diocesan Annual Appeal.  This was also an opportunity for the parishes of our diocese to raise funds for their own long-term needs with either a percentage or fixed amount of their total campaign goal being allocated for the diocesan needs.  Our three Our Lady of the Falls parishes have been “taking turns” doing their parish campaigns.  I thought I would take this opportunity to give you an update on the parish campaigns and projects so far.

 

We began St. Bridget’s campaign last September and quickly met and exceeded our goal of $90,000.00 by Thanksgiving raising over $100,000.00.  The case statement items for the campaign were: new furnaces for the church, repainting the church interior (which includes repainting and reglazing the church windows), new refrigeration for the parish hall, and addressing the parish parking lot by seal coating or whatever seemed appropriate.  The parish finance council met in early May and, with over $23,000.00 of campaign funds already in hand, agreed to move forward with the church interior repainting.  A small committee has formed to collect a few more estimates to advance the project.

 

We began the Holy Ghost campaign in January and completed it by the end of March, with over $907,000.00 raised (as of 5/24/23).  While short of our initial $1.1 million goal, we still have significant funds to begin our proposed projects: reconstruction of the crumbling front steps of church as well as sidewalks, exterior lighting, some exterior brick repair, seal-coating the parking lot, constructing a gathering space and confessional below the choir loft, updating the HVAC units, repairing the church interior plaster and decoratively repainting the nave and sanctuary, installing new church pews, sanctuary flooring, and altar furnishings.  We have contracted with local architect Gary Kucko.  His plans have been finalized and a permit from the state has been requested.  We are also in the process of securing our general contractor.  We anticipate exterior work on the church beginning as early as July and interior work on the gathering space and confessional as early as August.

 

We began the Notre Dame campaign in May with a goal of $3 million.  As of 5/24/23, about $2.4 million has been raised.  Our projects fall into three main areas: taking down the old convent building to construct a new entrance facility to the Goldsmith Adoration Chapel with handicap accessibility, bathroom, and parish meeting space; construction of a first phase of a parish center on the south side of the church with meeting spaces and indoor accessibility to the church, along with reconstruction of the church sacristy; and renewal of the church organ.  We are establishing a committee of parishioners to assist in the selection of an architect, contractor, and to assist with the design and construction process.  We are aiming to begin the process for demolition of the convent as early as this fall.

 

This is an exciting time for our parishes.  The funds that have been raised for the abovementioned projects not only help to secure the future of our parishes, but they are ultimately necessary for our parishes to accomplish our mission of inviting all people to encounter Christ and inspiring them to become saints.  I want to thank all our parishioners for investing in the future of our parishes.  May God reward you!

Fr. Jesse Burish

5/24/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners,

 

I hope you have had a blessed Easter! As we find ourselves between the great solemnities of Christ’s Ascension and Pentecost, we have made several appeals concerning the Order of Christian Initiation for Adults and Children (we refer to these as OCIA and OCIC respectively). We were very blessed to accompany a number of people in to the Church and the fullness of the sacraments this year. I myself was very blessed to be more closely involved in our first year of OCIC. The desire that these two young people had for our Lord was nothing short of inspiring! Their baptisms at Easter were nothing short of beautiful! I know that my own faith was strengthened by their zeal. I could go on, but I guess my point is: Whom do you know that might be open to the Catholic faith? That could mean any number of things. A Catholic that has fallen away; a baptized Christian that might be open to the fullness of the faith in Catholicism; or an unbaptized Christian who hasn’t yet heard the Gospel. I would challenge you not so much to invite them, but to walk with them as a friend or family member; To share with them the gift you have received in your own faith. This can be intimidating, but know that Christ is with you on this journey of faith…and so are we! If you need help our have questions, we would love to help you. 

 

Practically speaking, there are a few things that we can attend or invite others to over this next year. On Monday evenings we will have OCIA and OCIC; these are designed more specifically for those who hope to become Catholic or Catholics seeking sacraments outside of their normal reception ages (first confession and communion, and confirmation). There are also a number of opportunities for faithful Catholics to deepen their faith, keep an ear out for announcements and an eye on the bulletin for details on Catholicism on Tap, Christ with Us Adult Studies, and more!

Know of my prayers for you all!

 

In Christ,

 

Fr. Brandon Guenther

5/17/2023 Wednesday Message

Hello everyone, I hope you all had a beautiful Easter!

 

There are so many powerful moments leading up to Easter! It would be hard not to be moved during  Holy Week as we walk with Christ and the other figures from the Passion. For a short while, we are immersed in the life of Christ, then, at the Easter Vigil we go through the Creation, and other parts of our history. In all of this, we are reading of God’s great love story to all of us. We are part of that great love story still! As we walk with Christ in His passion, He wishes also to walk with us in our lives. Lives that He cherishes!

Are you willing to let Christ be with you in your life and to walk with you in everything that you face? Are you willing to let others be Christ to you and to walk with you? Are you willing to be Christ to others and walk with them in their lives? Sometimes the answer is an easy “Yes”. It is not always though. Sometimes we give up little opportunities to be there for others or we refuse to let others who want to be Christ to us care for us! What is a way that you can walk with someone today, tomorrow, this week, or this year? Let us not ignore the different opportunities we are given to be Christ to others!

 

Kate Zweber

5/3/2023 Wednesday Message

The World Day of Prayer for Vocations was this past Sunday April 30th.  On this day in the Church’s calendar, we are asked to pray for vocations.  The USCCB states “While appreciating all vocations, the Church concentrates its attention this day on vocations to the ordained ministries (priesthood and diaconate), consecrated life in all its forms (male and female religious life, societies of apostolic life, consecrated virginity), secular institutes in their diversity of services and membership, and to the missionary life.” If you missed praying for this intention, please do so now for if we don’t pray for vocations, we will not get them!  If you happened to hear Father Burish’s homily this weekend, he expressed how a sign of a flourishing parish is to see what vocations are being produced in there.  This had me reflecting on recent vocations in our parishes in Our Lady of the Falls. 

Starting with Notre Dame, we recently have had two men enter the seminary for the priesthood.  John Francis who grew up in the parish is formally entering seminary this fall.  The other, Dr. Michael Tupta, who joined the parish two years ago, has become a seminarian for his home diocese in West Virginia.  Then, of course, somehow, I got ordained a deacon last May (truly anything is possible with God).  We also remember Sister Mary Veronica of the Sacred Heart who joined the Poor Clare Sisters a few years back and just made her simple profession of vows.

At Holy Ghost, Sean Hanson has been working his way through the five-year diaconate program and, God-willing, will be ordained a deacon next year.  Even though not a recent new vocation, I would be remised if I did not mention Sister Yvonne Hiess, SSND who has been serving St. Bridget’s for years in the parish where she was born and raised.

Know these vocations don’t just happen by accident.  For vocations to take fruit they need the prayers and encouragement of the parishioners of the parish.  If you are inspired to speak a word of encouragement to a person that you think may have a vocation, please pray for them and then it is important to let them know that you see in them a potential vocation.  Sometimes the individual will not see it in themselves until someone else points it out to them.  In fact, this is a question I was asked when discerning the diaconate, “have others told you that they thought you might have a vocation to the diaconate”?  Hopefully many called to God’s service in this way will be able to give a resounding Yes!

Please pray often for vocations from our parishes!

Deacon Kevin DeCook

4/26/2023 Wednesday Message

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It might be a side effect of my day job as a high school band director, but I’ve seen a lot of parades. As a musician I’ve been lucky enough to march in parades as varied as the Pure Water Days parade in Chippewa Falls to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. I’ve even marched in a parade down the Via della Conciliazione towards St. Peter’s Square where my college band played for Pope Benedict on New Year’s Day. The picture is of me, 15 years and 15 pounds ago, shortly after the Pope delivered his New Year’s blessing. (The torch was handed to me as the Pope departed, but I think it was more related to a local sporting event and less about the Vatican.)

 

While the word “parade” is synonymous with “procession” the two words typically don’t conjure up the same mental imagery. When we think of processions we typically think of funerals or a graduation ceremony. A parade is something boisterous and entertaining, whereas a procession tends to be mellow and dutiful - a dignified way to get from Point A to Point B. I like to think back to Palm Sunday when Jesus entered Jerusalem to shouts and songs of “Hosanna!” - what a parade that must have been!

 

Something equally remarkable happens at the beginning of Mass and yet it is so familiar we might miss it. Mass begins and we rise and we sing. Are we that excited to see Father Burish? Is the music that good? Does Father Guenther inspire a sort of liturgical Beatlemania?

 

While we are always happy to see our faithful priests, truly we are welcoming Jesus. Through his Holy Orders the priest is configured to Christ and is a sacramental sign of the presence of Jesus. It is more than just a way for Father to make it from the back of the church to the front. 

 

If we believe that he who is processing down the aisle of the church is not Father Burish nor Father Guenther - would you stand a little straighter knowing it is Jesus Christ, robed in priestly vestments, come to minister to us in Word and Sacrament? Would you turn and watch Him enter? Would you sing a little louder?

 

The beginning of Mass is an opportunity for us to witness the arrival of Christ into our churches. How beautiful that our lives and liturgies are filled with the opportunity to follow in his footsteps, quite literally down the aisle, whether that be for communion or veneration, confession or adoration. I pray that we may not lose the thrill of Palm Sunday in the joy of Easter. What a parade, indeed!

Mike Renneke

4/19/2023 Wednesday Message

Friends, this is the week. To summarize "phase 1" of our Eucharistic Revival initiative, nationally known speaker and author Chris Carstens is coming to town. You don't want to miss it! Bring your family and friends (and kids! Email Kate kzweber@ourladyofthefalls.org for childcare). 

  • Thursday (4/20) at 6:15pm

  • St. Charles Fellowship Hall | 810 Pearl St, Chippewa Falls, WI

  • Event is free-will offering

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Second, the Vatican International Eucharistic Miracles display will be at the Notre Dame GREC Dining Hall this Sunday, April 23 from 9am - 1pm! What a tremendous gift to view dozens of Eucharistic Miracles on the same weekend as the First Holy Communion for our young people at Notre Dame. Make a plan to check out the display and browse our inventory of merchandise (excellent First Communion gift resources!) this Sunday (4/23) between 9am-1pm. 

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Questions? Email John jshakal@ourladyofthefalls.org

 

I will pray for you; please pray for me and my family!

 

In His Peace,

 

John Shakal

4/5/2023 Wednesday Message

When I realized that my week to write the Wednesday message was Holy Week, I felt rather unworthy. I’m not a theological expert or a priest and there are so many others who could speak more clearly about the beauty and gift of Holy Week.

 

Then, I realized that the very gift of Holy Week is that none of us are put above or below another in the eyes of the Lord. Jesus suffered and died for us all, regardless of our merit. All he asks is that we walk with him and in his way.

 

As Jesus walks through Holy Week, let us walk with him and be his comfort. Below are some ways I like to reflect on Holy Week.

 

Palm Sunday- Jesus is humbly entering Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna in the Highest”. The people hail him as their king. Jesus is entering into his passion to show us what being a true king is about. How do I hail Jesus in my life and show others that he is my King? How do I humble myself as he did?

 

Holy Monday- Jesus is keeping fairly quiet. It is believed that Jesus stayed at the home of his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus on this day. I imagine him spending some of his last quiet hours with those closest to him, enjoying the fruits of his creation through friendship and good food. How am I spending time with the Lord, accompanying him in his last days? Have I made a peaceful home for him in my heart?

 

Holy Tuesday (Fig Tuesday)- Jesus is hungry and curses a fig tree after he finds no figs on it. The tree had many leaves and appeared fruitful, but it was not fig season. Are we waiting for it to be fig season before we produce fruit? What spiritual excuses do we allow ourselves that prevent us from bearing fruit?

 

Holy Wednesday (Spy Wednesday)- This is the day that Judas goes to the chief priests and accepts money in exchange for handing Jesus over to them. It is the most painful when those closest to us betray us. It is a gift to be close to Jesus, but sometimes our closeness can breed over-familiarity and spiritual sloth. God has made himself vulnerable to us through his condescension. How do I abuse this relationship?

 

Holy Thursday- Jesus is sharing his last meal with his disciples. He institutes the priesthood and the Eucharist. Afterwards, he goes to the garden at Gethsemane to pray and his disciples fall asleep. He is arrested. Jesus spends the night imprisoned underground. It is believed that while he was alone there he prayed Psalm 88 . Pray it with him.

 

Good Friday- Jesus dies. God dies. We kill God. My sin puts him on the cross and his love for me keeps him there. Mary is watching her son and savior die. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

 

Holy Saturday- All is still. Jesus’ body lays in his tomb. The earth waits in stillness for the resurrection of its Lord. Jesus is at work. He descends to the abode of the dead (Sheol) to free the just ones who have been waiting. Imagine Christ freeing Adam and Eve. This is one of my favorite icons of the “Harrowing of Hell” explained.

Paula Hanson

3/29/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners.

 

Occasionally people tell me that they don’t like to watch the news because they get depressed, or angry, or frustrated.  I’ve often heard people make the claim that our society is getting worse, that the world is… “goin’ to Hell!”  Perhaps they are right.  Either way, whether things in our world are just as bad as they always were, or they truly are getting worse, one thing is for sure:  Our world is fallen.  Sin and Satan still reign, not only on the grand scale of war, social injustice, and in the moral decay of our culture, but also in our own thoughts, actions, and omissions. 

 

This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.  Jesus enters Jerusalem where he knows he will die.  He knows he will encounter the worst of human depravity and be put to death on a cross as a result.  But Jesus also enters the depravity of our world right now, and into our own lives and hearts.  He willingly takes all this upon himself.  He enters right into “our Hell” with us and shows us the way out, through his cross, and our own crosses.

 

As I look back at my own Lent, I’m more aware of some of the faults and sins that I just can’t seem to rid myself of, things that I don’t know how to rid myself of.  With some things I feel greater discouragement and frustration.  If you feel at all like me, Holy Week is just what we need!  It is the time to completely surrender ourselves and let Jesus enter “our Hell” to take control.

 

During this Holy Week, what do you need to surrender more completely to the Lord?  During this week especially, come to as many of the Holy Week liturgies as you are able.  Pray for the conversion of our parishes and Catholic community.  Pray also for the resolution of the great problems of our world and society.  Pray for peace and for those suffering persecution.  Pray for elected officials.  Pray for the leaders of the Church.  Pray for the protection of life, and religious freedom, and the family.  Might I suggest offering a Rosary and/or the Divine Mercy Chaplet every day this week, or a visit to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for these intentions.  Why wouldn’t special graces flow at this most holy time of year?

 

When all we hear of in the news are things that make us depressed, or angry, or frustrated, or we feel that way about ourselves and our own failures, let us not forget our greatest Christian power and duty!  We may or may not feel that we are in a position to take “action.”  Really though, we are!  We are taking “action” when we surrender all these things to the Lord in prayer and place him in charge.  Don’t forget that Jesus willingly enters Jerusalem and he will ultimately leave victorious.

 

Praying for a grace-filled Holy Week for you all,

 

Fr. Jesse Burish

3/22/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners, 

 

I think last time we talked about some of my favorite things as a priest: accompanying couples and young families though wedding and baptism preparation. On the other end of the spectrum, another very important part of priestly ministry is being with the dying and their families; those moments where eternity is in sight. During such times, the Church gives powerful sacraments and prayers to prepare souls for their journey. We hear in the prayer of anointing: 

 

Through this holy anointing 

may the Lord in his love and mercy 

help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit…

May the Lord who frees you from sin 

save you and raise you up.

 

We also hear the beautiful commendation for the dying that is prayed in those final moments before death: 

 

Go forth, Christian soul, from this world
in the name of God the almighty Father,
who created you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God,
who suffered for you,
in the name of the Holy Spirit,
who was poured out upon you,
go forth, faithful Christian.

May you live in peace this day,
may your home be with God in Zion,
with Mary, the Virgin Mother of God,
with Joseph, and all the Angels and Saints.

 

With all this in mind, as a practical note, if you have any friends or family that are sick or elderly, Fr. Burish and I would love to visit them to receive the sacraments as soon as possible! Emergencies happen, but it is much better if we can make an appointment to come while your loved one is still lucid and can participate in the sacraments, especially to receive the Eucharist and make a good confession. Please do not hesitate until the last moment to call, if at all possible! 

 

Finally, we are all called to reflect on the fact the we will one day die; we will enter eternal life and come before our Judge, all just and all merciful. We hope that, with an eye on eternity, we might truly live during the time we have been given! That we might truly strive for holiness and the works of charity, to which we are called as Christians, especially during this holy season of Lent.

 

In Christ,

 

Fr. Brandon Guenther

3/15/2023 Wednesday Message

Some of you may not know this but I love music! Do you ever listen to a song and wish there were words so you could sing along? Perhaps you hear something and you start wishing you knew how to dance without feeling self-conscious or funny. Music can express something we wouldn’t know how to express in words, something joyous and meaningful. Sometimes life seems like a song. The other day I had asked a volunteer to help with something totally new for her. She fell into this role so gracefully and well; it literally felt like a dance was being played and she knew all the steps. Where do you think the music is playing in your own life? Would you be ready to dance?

The answer might sometimes be “no”. I think back to all the wedding dances I’ve been to. Have you ever been one of those people who sat on the side and watched everyone else dance? Have you ever left a wedding wishing you had danced more? I certainly have! I let uncertainty and self-consciousness hold me back. We all let things from life hold us back sometimes. Memories of when we’ve been hurt or let down. Fear of taking on something because you don’t know where it will lead. Fear you won’t be able to measure up somehow. Sometimes another person’s failings or mistakes that leave us feeling unvalued and unwilling to make ourselves available again. Unfortunately, this is something we see at church sometimes. I myself, am far from perfect. There are things I wish I could undo or fix, but with new humility and hope I will try to be better. We all need to hope for the future!

Less than perfect people have been leaders in the Church. They have said and done things that should never have been said or done. These things are hard to deal with; hard to understand. We might be left with questions and feel uncertain or like we don’t matter. But you do matter and to say otherwise would be one of the biggest lies that anyone could utter! We are part of a different sort of symphony when we will turn to God and decide to love Him and His creation despite seeing the more broken part of the world that we live in. The song that we are a part of is made more beautiful because of the trials that we overcome to continue playing it.

Today, especially in this Lenten season, let us think if there are any things that hold us back. It could be many things: fear of commitment, fear of not being who we think we are, fear of failure, fear of being less than perfect, fear of the unknown, fear of being judged, but these things make an even more beautiful “yes” when they are overcome.

Blessings to all of you! You are in my prayers.

In Christ,

Kate Zweber

3/8/2023 Wednesday Message

Hello friends, 

 

Last week I wrote about the Eucharistic Revival. This week I would like to continue that theme, a theme that we will be emphasizing and exploring for many months to come. Please see the poster and videos attached to see the short and long term ways that we are devoting ourselves more deeply to Jesus Christ, present in the Eucharist. Put April 20th in your calendar when Chris Carstens comes to town to explain the Mass in depth. This speaker capstone event will be hosted in the brand new St. Charles Borromeo Fellowship Hall in Chippewa Falls! 

John Shakal

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3/1/2023 Wednesday Message

What aren't we more amazed? How come more Catholics aren't shocked and in joyful awe about Jesus being really and truly present in the Eucharist? As we continue our journey of Eucharistic Revival hear what St. John Paul II had to say about this essential topic:

https://youtu.be/GhvRv863Gng

Want to hear more? Grab a coffee/tea and join your Fathers as they discuss our next steps into this revival

https://youtu.be/z0NQf-Yxgus

Clear your calendar for April 20th 6:15pm as author and speaker Chris Carstens comes to Chippewa Falls to discuss "A Devotional Walk Through the Mass

John Shakal 

2/22/2023 Wednesday Message

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The picture I’m sharing today is of my great-grandparents, Arnold and Laura Renneke. My Great-Grandpa died when I was young, but my Great-Grandma Laura lived to be 105 years old. Like most Midwestern farmers, my great-grandparents lived on the farm next to my grandparents; they shared a long gravel driveway. 

 

After she died, my family spent some time cleaning the farmhouse. Have you ever been cleaning the home or storage area of an older relative and stumbled upon some ‘ancient’ gizmo or gadget? At first glance it seems arcane, out of date, or woefully inadequate. A cute sort of nostalgia sets in - “Can you believe people used to think this was helpful?” we’d laugh to ourselves. 

 

Popular magazines have tried for decades to imagine or predict what future technologies would look like. Full of renderings and mockups they have tried to guess what a future decade would find useful or advanced. The modern understanding is that whatever the future holds, it needs to be bigger, brighter, louder, and flashier.

 

Going through my Great-grandma’s farmhouse I found myself bringing home a cast iron skillet. It has now become my favorite tool to cook with. It can saute, fry, sear, reheat, boil, bake, and a whole number of other things that I haven’t tried yet. The cast iron skillet has found great use in its simplicity. It doesn’t need any accessories. It doesn’t need any ornament. It does what it is supposed to do while also being capable of so much more that I don’t know about yet. 

 

As I continue to spend time with it and marvel at its humble simplicity, it continues to reveal mysteries to me that as a young cook I would have never found on my own.

 

Sound familiar?

 

As Lent begins we modify our liturgy to its simplest forms. We skip the Gloria. We cover the statues. We use silence in the place of music. It is easy to think of Lent as a time of less, or as an arcane practice that has no place in the complexity of our modern lives; a cute gadget from a less sophisticated time. But to view Lent in such a way would be to miss the beauty of its simplicity.

 

Where in your daily life is there room for simplicity? Where in your daily prayer is there room for silence? Where might the lives of the saints lead us if we follow their simple instructions?

Mike Renneke

Music Director, Notre Dame Parish

2/15/2023 Wednesday Message

Hello Everyone,

 

Wasn’t it just the other day that I was writing and wishing you a merry Christmas? Now it is almost lent! There have been many good and beautiful things that have happened at our parishes in the last month, and there are also many good things coming up! One thing I am especially excited about is that we have 8 new ushers who were just trained in at Notre Dame! We are also continuing to grow our group of greeters which has been another wonderful blessing at our parish!

With all our new ushers, we decided it would be a good idea to do an usher refresher and training session. Preparing for the training gave me the opportunity to reflect on the role of our usher. Our ushers look out for the needs of our parishioners, often in ways that seem very simple. However, what they do in each of their duties helps us to put our attention more fixedly on our purpose in going to Mass, glorifying God! During lent shouldn’t we try to do something similar? Choose to do often very simple things that will help us fix our attention on Christ. Picking up from my last message, have you picked a new way to love God more this year? What will that look like as we approach lent?

Have a blessed lent!

 

In Christ,

Kate Zweber

2/8/2023 Wednesday Message

I enjoy praise and worship music by a somewhat controversial group Hillsong United. Songs like "Oceans" and "What A Beautiful Name" play regularly on my Spotify. If you want, take a listen to their music!

One song gets me every time. "So Will I" moves from creation to salvation, proclaiming a resolve to worship God and ultimately to serve His children. The final verses are as follows:

 

[God of salvation,]

I can see Your heart in everything You've done

Every part designed in a work of art called love.

If You gladly chose surrender, so will I.

I can see Your heart

Eight billion different ways

Every precious one

A child You died to save.

If You gave Your life to love them, so will I.

Like You would again a hundred billion times

But what measure could amount to Your desire?

You're the One who never leaves the one behind.

 

The Church is a mission. Our schools are the preeminent apostolate of that mission. We are here to provide a Catholic atmosphere and teaching to Catholic students as well as to all who are open to receive it.

 

Some expect a Catholic school to resemble a banal painting of heaven: cherubic children playing harps on puffy clouds. I am sorry to disappoint, but the only time you will find heaven on earth is during the Holy Mass (see attached photos from Catholic Schools Week Mass!). However, what you will find in our schools is faith, hope, and love. In the midst of the messiness of the human condition, He is here. We worship Him, we proclaim Him, we serve Him. No, Catholic schools are not heaven on earth. Rather, they are the beginning of the narrow road leading to eternal life.

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2/1/2023 Wednesday Message

One of my favorite events of the year is being able to witness First Reconciliation. It is such a blessing to watch students go into the confessional nervous and come out at ease and almost shining with grace. I can remember feeling like that as a kid as well. Feeling lighter and almost giddy after going to confession. I didn’t know why; it just was the way it was. Children are so humble and receptive that I think God delights in filling them up with grace. They just come to him with open hands and receive his mercy so fully.

 

 As adults, the simple acceptance of God’s love is sometimes more difficult and mistaken as something we need to earn or don’t deserve. The truth is that we will never deserve it, but that it is given to us nonetheless as a completely free gift. We just need to get over ourselves and accept it. Our feelings of shame stand in the way of our being open vessels to God’s mercy. We have to work harder at accepting the fact that our sin isn’t bigger than God’s love and that there is no price tag on God’s love. It’s open to everyone, at all times, no matter what we’ve done or who we are.

 

It took me a long time to realize this in my own life. As I’ve mentioned before, I fell away from the Church after high school. It took my own daughter receiving her First Reconciliation to get me to go back to the sacrament of reconciliation after 16 years. I dreaded it. I didn’t want to admit to all of the stupid things I had done in my young adulthood. In fact, I had convinced myself that my sin wasn’t that big of a deal and didn’t really affect me. After I finally went to confession, my life started to change. It was a slow change, but I can still point to that confession as when my life started to make change. My anxiety started to fade away, I was happier, my life started to make more sense, and I had a deep sense of peace starting to take root in my soul.

 

My challenge to everyone, including myself, is to try to receive God’s mercy in confession like a child does. Believe that you really are forgiven and live as if you’ve been given the most wonderful gift imaginable, because you have. God delights in filling you up with grace just as much as He desires you to run to him with open hands and receive His mercy.

Paula Hanson

1/25/2023 Wednesday Message

Dear Parishioners,

 

Praised be Jesus Christ! With a new year comes lots of new things. For myself, it seems like a lot of new appointments on my calendar, almost all of them wedding and baptism preparation meetings. What a joy! Some of my favorite things at the parish are helping couples prepare for marriage and prepare for a child’s baptism. The only thing better is actually doing the weddings and baptisms! I look at these two moments, the moment when a family is formed and when a family is increased, as profound opportunities for God to be especially present. Even if a couple has been far from the Church or simply fell away from practicing their faith, both marriage and baptism help to open their eyes to the great mystery of creation and God’s unconditional love for them. First, when a couple becomes one flesh, we see in a particular way God blessing a natural union, but more than a blessing, a sacrament. That is, in a unique way God elevates the love of a husband and wife to reflect the mystery of his love for us and the Church. Then God invites that same couple to participate in creation (even if a couple isn’t able to have a child, God still calls them to fruitfulness in some way). I don’t believe I have met a couple that hasn’t been humbled at the birth of their child; how they are called to sacrifice so much, but do it willingly out of love. In the greatest act of love, the couple, through their child’s baptism, gives their child entry into God’s covenant; God’s everlasting covenant, by which we have the opportunity for eternal life in heaven.

These are just some musings on the profound moments I’m blessed to accompany people in, but each of us is afforded these same opportunities to encounter God every day! In particular through our daily prayer, but profoundly in the healing and forgiveness offered in confession, but most profoundly in the Eucharist at Mass and in adoration. In all these ways and in many more, God calls each of us everyday into the depths of His love. He calls us to eternity.

 

In Christ,

 

Fr. Brandon Guenther

1/18/2023 Wednesday Message

Hello and happy new year!

With the new year comes new opportunities, new sorrows, new joys, new struggles, and new discoveries. These things we expect with the coming of the new year. They are inevitable. Many of us are also looking at new ways to live our lives with new year's resolutions like eating better, exercising more, or getting out of bad habits. In this new year, why not look for a new way to consistently choose to love God more? Especially the goodness that he has placed in you and in your life. 

 

I think about many of our volunteers who are remarkable examples of this. A volunteer with artistic skills volunteering to decorate the church. A volunteer with leadership skills volunteering to help with a church project. A volunteer with administrative skills volunteering to coordinate other volunteers for Sojourner House, Agnes Table, SCRIP, or the Homebound Ministry. I don’t know if all of these volunteers have thought about this, but they have taken something that God has given them and are using it to give Him glory! 

 

If you’re wondering what it would look like to find a new way to love God this year, there are Adoration hours available, needs for volunteers in different areas, and things you can do in your everyday life to love Him more. You could choose one song to listen to every morning and sing the Lord’s praises. You could give up drinking anything but water on one day of the week. St. Therese and her little way was all about looking to do ordinary things with extraordinary love; let that be a guide for you!

 

I hope you will also take me up on an invitation of self-discovery. Find something good that our good Father has placed in you. Give Him thanks for this gift and seek ways to love Him more by using this gift. If you are not sure how to use a gift, go ahead and call the parish office, or, if you are a Notre Dame parishioner, please just give me a call! 

 

Let this year be a year of new discoveries! Discovery of God’s love for you and discovery of how you can love Him in return! Let me know how your journey with this is going, I’d be delighted to hear about it! 

 

Kate Zweber

1/11/2023 Wednesday Message

Friends, in my time as a Catholic evangelist and catechist, I have observed two practices (in addition to a personal sacramental and prayer life, which are essential) in the life of a Christian disciple that are particularly impactful: (1) study of Sacred Scripture (2) and spiritual mentorship/accompaniment. I invite you to see what is happening in OLF Catholic Community below, and consider if you might be poised to encounter God in either or both of these areas. 

1. Want to dive deeper into Sacred Scripture? Our Lady of the Falls is excited to be offering two new Bible Studies: on the Gospel of Matthew and the Salvation History. Both Bible Studies are offered during the week on Tuesday at 9:30am in the GREC.

  • The Gospel of Matthew: Just in time for the readings for the year C Mass readings, take a deep dive into the Gospel of Matthew and unlock the hidden treasures of the most famous synoptic Gospel! All are welcome to join this 16 week Bible Study, which begins January 3rd. If you are interested in joining this study group, email Deana at jdsuilmann@gmail.com

  • Salvation History: Does the "big picture" of the Bible confuse you? Buckle in for a fast paced journey through the Bible and witness the breathtaking harmony of God's plan to save his people!   All are welcome to join this 14 week Bible Study, which begins January 10th. If you are interested in joining this study group, email John at jshakal@ourladyofthefalls.org.

  • Note: Do you have experience leading a Bible Study small group or would you like to learn? Our Lady of the Falls is offering small group formation to equip all Catholics to understand and share Sacred Scripture though Bible Studies. For more info, contact John at jshakal@ourladyofthefalls.org

 

2. Spiritual mentorship and accompaniment goes hand in hand with following Christ in His Church. We are all in need of authentic friendship with other people who are running after Christ. (The alternative is what the Devil prefers: isolation and autonomous practice of our faith.) For example,