Antigo Area Catholic Churches Newsletter — December 2021

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Antigo Area the

SS. Mary and Hyacinth


a mission to care for those in need

A check was received by Steve Bradley and Gary Smits. Jane Szmanda Zeller and Jim Fittante presented the grant from United Way of Langlade.


n the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells the parable of the sheep and the goats. He says to those on his right, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” They answer him, “Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?” The king replies “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” This parable is the foundation and motivation for the Charity Fund at SS. Mary and Hyacinth. The Charity Fund was set up in 1996 by Fr. Paul Koszarek, who was the parish’s pastor at the time. His brother, Tom, wanted a tangible way to assist the poor in the community. Their brother, Louis, was also involved in this mission, though the fund was mainly the vision of Tom and he provided the majority of the funding. Tom lived a very simple life and wanted to give back and share his blessings with those in need.

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The SS. Mary and Hyacinth Charity Fund Katie Klemp has been a part of the committee for this fund for the last 21 years. “When I was first asked to join the charity fund, we were merging St. Mary’s and St. Hyacinth Parishes,” Katie says. “We work under the idea that, as Christians, we follow Christ and do what we can to feed the hungry and live the beatitudes. “We understand that anyone’s circumstances can change overnight,” she adds. “Their outward appearance does not tell the full story. Generally, we focus on those in need in Langlade County, though we have helped others as well.” As Katie notes, the fund aims to help those that fall through the cracks of other programs and those in emergencies. “We don’t advertise, but our group is known by social services, the women’s shelter, and other programs, so we get referrals that way,” she says. “We have a network of people and that is how the word travels.” The committee meets once a month to review applications though they will review them in between meetings in

emergency situations. “We believe in the power of prayer as we strive to help people and use the resources put at our disposal,” Katie says. “We begin and end every meeting

“We understand that anyone’s circumstances can change overnight. Their outward appearance does not tell the full story. Generally, we focus on the poor of Langlade County, though we have helped others as well.” — KATIE KLEMP in prayer and trust that God will help these people as well. “We ask someone to tell their story and provide information about what they are asking for help with,” she adds. “They need to provide substantiation for the need, such as a specific bill or a

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notice of eviction, as well as two references.” Katie and her fellow committee members have found that the best way to help people is to provide funds for specific needs, such as rent or a bill. “We make out the check to the specific vendor, and the person is responsible for turning in the check,” she says. “It is the best use of our resources, as well as the best way for us to help others.” Tom’s investments generate the majority of the money for this fund. Parishioners and community members have donated to this fund throughout the years, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the fund received a grant from the United Way of Langlade County. “We don’t always see the results of the assistance that we give, but that isn’t really the point,” Katie says. “Occasionally, we receive ‘thank you’ cards. Once, we had a man come in and donate to the fund out of gratitude for the help that we provided him years earlier. But whether or not we see the results, the work we do is necessary and we are blessed to be able to help in a small way.”

If you would like to learn more about the SS. Mary and Hyacinth Charity Fund, or to receive an application, please email 2

A Letter From Our Pastor

Do This One Thing to Have the

Dear Parish Family,



was attending a gathering of priests and we were going around the room introducing ourselves and telling everyone, “What is your favorite season?” Some said Summer, some said Autumn or Spring; one brave soul said Winter. The last priest in the circle said, “Advent.” None of us had thought to name a season of the Church’s liturgical year. But why would he have chosen Advent over Christmas, Easter, or even Lent? Advent is the season that barely exists. It starts on the last Sunday of November when the stores have already been playing Christmas music for weeks. The Church encourages us to “slow down” but the world is telling us to “hurry up!” We bake, buy, decorate, party, all in preparation for Christmas Day. And then it’s all over suddenly, leaving us with more stuff, more weight, and more tired and a little more depressed than before. I’ve been mulling over this problem since my childhood. I distinctly remember the anticipation of the presents, the difficulty sleeping, the joy of running downstairs to a room full of shiny wrapping paper, and then in the afternoon feeling a vague but real sense of disappointment… Is this all there is? Where did the Christmas magic go? I found an answer in the most unlikely place: pilgrimages. Most of us think of a pilgrimage as a trip to a distant country. You fly overseas, stay in a hotel, ride a bus to a Marian apparition site or famous shrine, and hope to receive some insight or blessing, some “aha” moment at the shrine. Previous generations experienced the pilgrimage as a walk, on foot, sleeping at hostels on the way. In the Spring of 2005, while attending seminary in Rome, I made a short 100 km (62 mi) pilgrimage on the “El Camino” to the shrine of St. James. I was hooked! I have since led 11 walking pilgrimages here in the USA. I can

tell you from personal experience that it’s a much, much different experience. Being “out on the road” and sleeping in church basements, having only what you carry on your back, changes you in ways you would never expect. You start to notice God’s presence, “on the way,” in the people you walk with, in His providence, and even within yourself. One day I had an “aha” moment of my own. We’ve gotten in the habit of riding the busy “Christmas bus,” stepping off at the “shrine” on Christmas Day, and hoping to find an “aha moment” there. But Holy Mother Church designed Advent to be like a walking pilgrimage. She invites you into quiet prayer each day, which makes you more aware of the simple, humble presence of God in your daily life. When you get to Christmas, you’ve already had lots of little “aha” moments which begin to add up to a beautiful, profound, and life-changing experience of the humble love of God present in your daily life. This is why I wrote Oriens: A Pilgrimage Through Advent and Christmas. There are many other Advent resources you can choose from. The important thing is to make a time, and a place, for prayer each day. Slow down for just a few minutes each day, and perhaps Advent will become your favorite season, too. Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Joel Sember Pastor


Returning to th O

ur Lord has a beautiful way of calling souls home to the embrace of His Heart, deep into the bosom of Holy Mother the Church. “We left the Catholic Church for about seven years, and went to non-denominational churches instead,” says Nanette Griese. “During this time, however, I still kept playing piano for various Catholic churches in the area. Slowly, we noticed we were really lacking something at the non-denominational churches, although we weren’t really sure what it was.” And gently, He reveals the truth to His children, showering them with blessings and irresistible, divine love. “We realized we were really missing the sacraments, the rituals, rich traditions, and ceremonies of the Catholic faith,” Dan Griese says. Above all, Nanette agrees, they were missing the powerful effect of the sacramental graces that only the Catholic Church has to offer. “We were really missing being able to receive Communion and go to Confession,” Nanette says. “Now that we have come back, we have a whole new appreciation for the sacraments. We realized that we had taken these gifts for granted. When you go to Confession, you are able to get rid of it all, and it is all forgiven. You let go of all those things you would be left worrying about. It is such a huge

The Griese family celebrates as their four oldest children receive First Communion.

gift!” In fact, the Griese family has not only returned to the Church, but they have returned with profound gratitude in their hearts for the beauty of Catholicism, as well as for their parish family. “We were welcomed back with open arms, and with so much love and grace,” Nanette says. “I love the

reverence that the Catholic Church has. It is so quiet and beautiful, and you can feel God’s presence in a Catholic church. Since we returned, I have been going to daily Mass a few times a week. I have a real love for daily Mass. There is something very special that comes from it.” Upon returning to the Church, the Griese family prepared their hearts in continued on page 5


he Arms of Jesus a very meaningful way. This past year, 15; Triston, 13; Wesley, 11; Lillyanna, 9; someone makes a point to stop and talk their four oldest children received their and Caleb, 7. to them. They often say they are well First Communion. “All of our children are involved behaved, and they thank us for bring“We went through family faith for- in Faith Formation, and they enjoy it,” ing them to Mass. It makes my children mation classes all together so that feel so special, important, welwe could all get caught up,” Nacomed, and loved.” nette says. “We loved the classes! Impressively, the Griese “We were welcomed back Each member of our family was family has also brought their in a different place when it came newfound love for Christ deep with open arms, and with so to receiving the sacraments, so into the walls of their “domesmuch love and grace. I love we didn’t fit a certain curricutic church” by taking up some lum. However, the Faith Formawonderful family traditions. the reverence that the Catholic tion Team got together and built “Last year, we did the whole Church has. It is so quiet and a curriculum that worked for our Advent season as a family tofamily. We are so thankful for all beautiful, and you can feel God’s gether for the first time,” Dan of the time they put into it.” says. “We took it seriously. We presence in a Catholic church. From a father’s point of view, have also been praying the RoSince we returned, I have been Dan treasured the opportunity sary as a family almost every to share this remarkable journey night.” going to daily Mass a few times a with his children. When asked what they week. I have a real love for daily would recommend to someone “While my kids were asking questions, I got to ask queswho may be considering comMass. There is something very tions alongside them,” Dan says. ing back to the Church, Nanette special that comes from it.” “Together, we learned about the offers some helpful advice. history of the church and differ“I would tell them to just go — NANETTE GRIESE ent philosophies that make the to Mass, and God will speak to Catholic Church unique. I really your heart if you are ready to enjoyed learning.” listen,” she says. “Everyone in Furthermore, they have also come Nanette says. “Their teachers are full of our parish is so welcoming and loving. back with a deep appreciation for our love for the faith. The parish commu- I would encourage them to just give it parish family, and the kindness that nity is so understanding of our family. a try, and make an effort to meet some they show to their children — Logan, Every time we bring our kids to church, new people after Mass.”



The Four Pillars

You’ve heard about the three Ts of stewardship, but what about the four Ps? The three Ts — time, talent and treasure — describe the personal gifts we offer to the Church. The four Ps are the “four pillars” of parish stewardship described by the renowned pastor Msgr. Thomas McGread. They are the hallmark of a stewardship parish — hospitality, prayer, formation and service. Let’s take a look at each of them to understand how we can improve in each area.


Christian Kindness “When I was a stranger, you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35). The Gospel teaches that whenever we welcome the least of our brothers or sisters, we welcome Christ himself. That is why the first mark of a stewardship parish is hospitality. Being friendly is one of the first ways we can be Christlike toward others. Modern Catholic parishes are often so large and have so many Masses that many parishioners don’t know one another. To create a sense of community, be sure to smile and greet others as you enter and exit the Church. Let’s try harder than ever to be a welcoming community.


Heart-to-Heart with God “Do not become so involved in the work of the Lord that you forget the Lord of the work,” a seminary professor once taught. In other words, don’t get so caught up with parish projects and outreach efforts that you forget to draw aside to spend time with God in prayer. Every great saint has taught that prayer is the most essential component in the life of the Christian. Through prayer, we nurture our most important relationship — the one that will last for all eternity. A healthy prayer life should include communal prayer such as Mass, as well as personal prayer and family prayer. The two biggest obstacles to prayer are lack of time and lack of understanding of how to pray. We have to schedule time for prayer just as we would for an important appointment. And we have to learn how to pray from other people. Many saints have written spiritual books that describe different methods of prayer.


Continuous Conversion Pope John Paul II always emphasized ongoing conversion. From childhood through adulthood, our whole life must be a process of drawing closer to God. He never stops calling us forward to learn more and to examine ourselves more deeply. Very often our society values material things more than interior virtues. But as personal experience shows, when we finally acquire the car or house or “toy” that we wanted so badly, it doesn’t really satisfy. On the other hand, we don’t tend to desire spiritual virtues with the same kind of longing, but when we actually have them, we find them far more rewarding than material things.


Love in Action “Amen I say to you, whatever you did to the least of my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). This Scripture was one of Mother Teresa’s favorites. Each time she picked up a poor and hungry child, she knew she was ministering to Christ. While we may not view ourselves as saints, we too are called to such heroic service right within our own community. As Mother Teresa said, “To be a saint is not the privilege of a few, but the duty of everyone.” We have many service opportunities right here within our own parish. If you have the willingness to serve and take the initiative to find where you are needed, you’ll find that there is no end to the families and individuals who truly need help. How can you reach out to them in love?

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Guided by the Holy Spirit and Raising Hearts to the Lord in Song accompanies our

he music that liturgy has the power to elevate our prayer and make us more aware of Christ’s presence. For Sharon Schroepfer, the Music Coordinator for the Antigo Area Catholic Churches, her approach is simple. “Just get involved and watch what happens on that journey,” she says. “Give all the glory to God — it makes all the difference when you sing.” Sharon, a parishioner at St. Wenceslaus, sings and plays the guitar at Mass. She works with the cantors and musicians at St. John and Sts. Mary and Hyacinth to plan and schedule the music at all of the churches. Currently, Sharon is working on rejuvenating the Music Ministry after COVID-19 disrupted the choirs that sang at St. John and Sts. Mary and Hyacinth. When Mass was being livestreamed, Sharon and another musician had the idea of adding a cantor and musician. The simpler music worked well and the Music Ministry has continued to use cantors accompanied by a musician. Even though the full choirs have not yet reunited, Sharon believes having music with the Mass is invaluable.

“It helps people to actively participate in the liturgy itself,” she says. “Music moves individuals to pray and to glorify God in some form. Music helps people to unite as a church.” Sharon has learned a lot about her ministry throughout her journey with liturgical music. She emphasizes that providing the music at Mass is not about performing as one individual. “It’s not a performance — I stress that all the time,” Sharon says. “You’re there to glorify God. It’s not for your own self — it’s for everyone.” When a musician comes to the liturgy with their heart in the right place, God makes great things happen. Earlier in Sharon’s Music Ministry career, a priest asked her to sing the Exsultet on Holy Saturday. That evening, Sharon was incredibly nervous. She went for a walk to calm her nerves and, on her way back, felt a sense of peace. “When I got up there, it was as if I was alone singing,” Sharon says. “It was like there was no one in the church but me and God. It was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had.” Sharon encourages other musicians

Barb Payant and Nanette Griese, SS. Mary and Hyacinth

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“We are given gifts not to keep as our own, but to share. I feel God wants us to bless each other. Music has a way of piercing your soul deeply.” — SHARON SCHROEPFER

Joann Kekula, St. John


Saint John the Evangelist 415 6th Ave. Antigo, WI 54409 (715) 623-2024 Saints Mary & Hyacinth 819 3rd Ave. Antigo, WI 54409 (715) 623-4938 Saint Wenceslaus N5340 Church Rd. Deerbrook, WI 54424 (715) 627-2126

Our Music Ministry

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to take the leap and trust that God will use their talents for the benefit of the whole church. “When you know that the Holy Spirit is guiding each word you sing, in a way that God is present and felt throughout the congregation — I think that it’s important for people to get to that point in every area of their life,” she says. Sharon welcomes new voices and instrumentalists to the Music Ministry. “We are given gifts not to keep as our own, but to share,” she says. “I feel God wants us to bless each other. Music has a way of piercing your soul deeply.” If you would like to find out more or to offer your talents to the Music Ministry, please contact Sharon Schroepfer at 715-627-0414 or Lana Gray, St. John

MASS & CONFESSION TIMES SAINT JOHN: Masses: Monday, 8:15 a.m., Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, 8:15 a.m., Thursday, 8:15 a.m., Saturday, 6 p.m., Sunday, 9 a.m. Confession: Tuesday, 5:30-6:15 p.m. & Sunday, 8-8:45 a.m. SAINTS MARY & HYACINTH: Masses: Wednesday, 7:15 a.m., Thursday, 7:15 a.m., Friday, 7:15 a.m., Saturday, 4 p.m., Sunday, 7 a.m. Confession: Saturday, 3-3:45 p.m. SAINT WENCESLAUS: Masses: Tuesday, 8 a.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. Confession: Sunday, 10-10:45 a.m.