Two Wisconsin Parishes Reach Out to Adopt New Tenn. Mission

Posted: 1/18/2013

When Sister Pam Biehl, OSF, became parish director of the two St. Mary parishes in Omro and Winneconne, Wis., in 2007, her first priority was “to get our own house in order,” she says. She and church members worked together to build up the parishes as vibrant, active communities and to refurbish physical facilities.
After three years, she gave them a new challenge. “I asked them to look at what more we could do for others, to reach out in some way beyond ourselves and our own local communities.” Based on her own past experiences, she recommended that they look into “adopting” a Glenmary mission in the South or Appalachia.
“I served as director of liturgy and pastoral director for many years at St. Raphael Church in Oshkosh, Wis., where we adopted two of Glenmary’s Arkansas missions,” she says. “I know how much those relationships meant to St. Raphael and Glenmary parishioners, and I wanted our St. Mary parishes to have the same kind of experience.”

Through Glenmary’s Adopt-A-Mission Program, a willing, able parish and economically struggling Glenmary mission can enter into a covenant based on mutual prayer, financial assistance and encouragement.
In January 2012, the two St. Mary parishes joined forces to adopt Glenmary’s new St. Michael the Archangel mission in Erwin, Tenn., pastored by Father Tom Charters.

Since then, the congregations have been steadily building their relationship. They include one another in their weekly Mass intentions, and the parishes have provided financial and material support to the mission. Sister Pam and Father Tom talk by phone regularly and share parish updates. The congregation members read each others’ parish Web sites. And the church communities have sent cards to one another for various occasions.

In addition, three Erwin mission members have visited the St. Mary parishes, with one speaking to both congregations. And one family from the Wisconsin parishes has visited Erwin and delivered some needed items.

To Father Tom, the adoption means several things. “The St. Mary parishes have generously assisted us. And it’s beautiful knowing there are two parishes out there that care about us, are in prayer for us, and are ready to help. It’s also good for our mission members to realize they really are part of the larger Church. In turn, we are reaching out to them in prayer and other ways.”
Father Tom has invited Sister Pam and other Wisconsin parishioners to visit. “I’ve told him we’re ready to make a service trip to Erwin when the time is right for them,” she says. “We hope to keep strengthening our friendship.”

In the meantime, she continues to ask Father Tom what else her parishes can do to help. “They’ve sent us an alb, a new lectionary, and an Easter candle and candleholder,” says Father Tom. “And they’re also sending us about 200 Spanish Bibles. These gifts are a great help because of our limited budget, and we’re really thankful.”
He and Glenmary Lay Missioner Kathy O’Brien, the mission’s pastoral associate, say the majority of the Bibles will be included in welcome packets for migrant workers who work at nearby farms six months a year. The rest are for mission members in future Bible study classes or for local people who need them.

“The Winneconne religious education students wanted to take on the Bible project,” Sister Pam says. “They’ve raised funds and Omro mission members have sent in money, too. It’s been a great community builder for us to reach out this way. We’re looking forward to future opportunities to partner with the mission.”

This article appears in the Winter 2013 Home MIssion News