BRILLION — Three letters strung together sum up the life of Regina Fischer: J-O-Y.
Fischer, who is celebrating 50 years as a member of the Holy Family Parish Christian Mothers and Ladies Sodality this year, said joy not only expresses the way she tries to live out her faith. It’s also an acronym she shares with other women as a secret to happiness. It begins by serving Jesus, Others, You.
“I think (the key is to) just remember to put God and anything to do with God in the foreground,” she said.
Since childhood, that’s exactly what Fischer has been doing. Born in Manitowoc, the fourth of 11 children (one died at childbirth) of George and Loretta Schuh, Fischer was raised in the town of Maple Grove in an area called Kasson.
Their family attended Mass at Holy Trinity Church in Kasson, which was within walking distance of their home. Holy Trinity was a mission of the Brillion parish and was served by priests from St. Nazianz. “It’s been closed since the 1960s,” Fischer said.
Her father was responsible for stoking the furnace on Sunday mornings and her family would clean the church on Saturdays. “It was neat because everyone from church was from close around,” she said. “They all knew each other and visited” after Mass.
One of her sisters, Clara, joined the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity and Msgr. John Schuh is a distant relative.
Fischer attended St. Mary (now Holy Family) School in Brillion and graduated from Brillion High School in 1961. She met her husband, Glenmore Fischer, at a cousin’s wedding while in high school and they were married on April 20, 1963. She worked at Ariens Company until the birth of her first child, Kristine, in 1964. Three boys, Gerald, James and Keith, followed and Fischer’s world revolved around her children and the church.
“When I got married, I joined the Christian Mothers and continued volunteering for different things through that,” she said. It began with her children’s activities at St. Mary School, such as playground, library and hot lunch duties, and expanded to activities such as preparing meals for funerals and cleaning the homes of priests and sisters serving the parish.
Fischer said that putting others’ needs before her own was part of the fabric of farm life.
“When I was growing up, the farmers helped each other up,” she said. She saw this in action after her father’s death. “I think this working together thing has kind of stayed with me.”
Fr. Timothy Brandt, pastor of Holy Family Parish, has witnessed how Fischer puts Jesus and others first.
“Her relationship with God is a beautiful one, and that is definitely where her service to her parish and community start,” he said. “She is so generous with her time in volunteering, whether it be with the funeral luncheons, her work in the parish office or in her work with the Christian Mothers. So much of what she does is behind the scenes, things that people wouldn’t even know she’s involved in — and I know she definitely has no desire to be recognized.”
What people do recognize, said Fr. Brandt, is the smile she offers those around her.
“So often, whether it’s at daily Mass, singing with her choir on Sunday mornings, or just in conversation around the parish, Regina has a warm and welcoming smile to greet you with — a true expression of the JOY that she lives in her day-to-day life. Clearly, God does great things through her and we are so blessed to have her be a part of our parish family.”
Fischer said she turned to her faith in God when her husband passed away in 1992.
“If I wouldn’t have faith when my husband died, I probably would have fallen apart,” she said. She lost a brother to cancer a few years earlier and was still mourning his loss. Her faith, family and friends helped Fischer through the difficult time.
Staying active, especially at church, continues to give her satisfaction and renew friendships, especially in the Christian Mothers group. “There are a lot of ladies in their 80s, some in their 90s,” she said. “Getting together and knowing the people, that’s an important part of what we do, socializing.”
Fischer encourages younger women to make time and find their niche at church. It will bring them joy, she said, and satisfy the creed she has lived by: serving Jesus and others before herself.