Adopting Parish, Missions Come Together as Equals

Posted: 10/9/2012

Wisconsin parish has adopted two missions over 10 years; plans next adoption soon

Volunteer crew, including St. Raphael parishioners and Waldron (Ark.) mission members, come together to help rebuild homes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Between 2002 and 2012, St. Raphael the Archangel parish in Oshkosh, Wis., adopted two of Glenmary's small Arkansas mission communities and became a true partner in mission. Glenmary has returned both missions to the care of the Little Rock diocese—Holy Spirit in Hamburg (2003) and St. Jude in Waldron (2012).

But the relationships were so meaningful to St. Raphael that they're planning to adopt a new mission soon.

"We're very proud to be part of Glenmary's ministry and want to stay connected," says Maureen Donovan. She and her husband, Tom, coordinate St. Raphael's adoption relationships.

"Through Glenmary's Adopt-A-Mission Program," says program coordinator Allison Barrett, "a willing, able parish and economically struggling Glenmary mission can enter into a covenant based on mutual prayer, financial assistance, and encouragement."

Father Neil Pezzulo, former pastor of the two Arkansas missions and now Glenmary's first vice president, points out those adoptions were "warm, active, multifaceted relationships between equals. Both communities gained new insights into the larger Church. We were fortunate to have an extremely generous partner like St. Raphael."

In 2001, St. Raphael parishioners decided to focus on U.S. missions. And Tom and Maureen learned about another parish's relationship with a Glenmary mission.

"So we contacted Glenmary and later accepted Father Neil's invitation to visit Hamburg," Maureen says. "His dedication really impressed us, and we met very friendly mission members. Then he visited our parish, and we went ahead with the adoption in 2002. Father Neil became our mentor, and we learned what this kind of relationship could be."

In October 2002, for example, youth from the largely Hispanic Hamburg mission visited St. Raphael to talk about the cultural importance of the Day of the Dead (Nov. 2) and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec. 12). In December, a St. Raphael group traveled to Hamburg to participate in the Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration; help build computer desks and hook up refurbished computers from St. Raphael; and bring donated winter coats for distribution, with mission members' help, to county residents.

Then in 2004, St. Raphael adopted the Waldron mission. Father Neil used monthly donations from the parish to help build up this mission's religious education program. St. Raphael members also collected winter coats most years, later collected school supplies periodically, and helped mission members distribute both to area families.

Father Neil was visiting in Wisconsin in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. "I learned that New Orleans refugees were coming to Waldron, and mission members were working to house them in a closed nursing home building," he says. Maureen recalls that "we packed his truck full of needed supplies for the return trip." St. Raphael parishioners later sent more than $20,000 in donations to help serve refugees.

In later years, among other activities, combined crews from the parish and mission put a new roof on the mission's church and a new floor in its parish hall.

"What I'm most proud of," says Father Neil, "is that members of the two congregations went on three mission trips together to rebuild homes—to New Orleans twice, and to David, Ky., after a tornado. We joined together, in Jesus' name, to reach out to others."

Now, St. Raphael is looking forward to adopting another Glenmary mission soon—and building another relationship between equals.

This story appears in the Autumn 2012 Home Mission News and, in an earlier version, in the Fall 2012 Glenmary Challenge.