Kiel parish director brings skills, passion to his ministry

By | February 16, 2011

NFL allegiances aside, Fr. Nys has nothing but praise for Zenk, who has been at Ss. Peter and Paul Parish — in Green Bay Packers country — since August 2008.


Joe Zenk, parish director at Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Kiel,plays the guitar in a classroom at Divine Savior School in Kiel. Zenkhas served as parish director in Kiel since 2008. (Josh Diedrich | For The Compass)

“It has been wonderful to see the parish grow so well under his leadership,” said Fr. Nys, who has been at Ss. Peter and Paul Parish for 15 years, having retired in July 2008. “He seeks advice from a lot of different people so he can serve our parish the best way possible.

“Joe and I just have a tremendous relationship. There’s a lot of respect for each other. We complement each other and work so well together. He’s just an excellent person.”

Zenk, who was born in St. Paul, Minn., and grew up in River Falls in western Wisconsin, said he enjoys everything about being a parish director.

Zenk said his duties on any given day may include visiting homebound parishioners, teaching young children, assisting with funeral planning, helping lead prayer services, working with the parish finance council, teaching adult formation, working ecumenically with church leaders or giving reflections over the weekend.

“The only thing that is typical about a regular day for me is that it’s atypical,” Zenk said. “I like being so involved and helping people.”

In his role as parish director, Zenk can do everything except celebrate sacraments, said Fr. Nys, who handles the sacramental ministries.

Zenk said the arrangement “is a good model for the church. People have taken to the arrangement very well. Fr. Loren and I work so well together.”

Zenk said he was invited by the diocese to participate in a pastoral leadership formation before he even started at Ss. Peter and Paul Parish. He went for two years until the summer of 2010.

“It was outstanding,” said Zenk, noting that he learned tips on strategic planning and how to work with a finance council. “The experience was just a really good thing.”

Zenk said that the training he received — in large part from funds generated by the Bishop’s Appeal — is put to good use every day.

The Bishop’s Appeal is the annual fund-raising campaign conducted by the Catholic Foundation to support the ministries and services of the Diocese of Green Bay to parishes, schools, families and individuals.

“We’re all grateful to the diocese for its support of this parish and the people who give to the campaign,” Zenk said. “There could be people in Florence who are donating and benefiting people in Kiel. And vice-versa.”

The Bishop’s Appeal supports numerous endeavors, including ministry formation in the training and forming of deacons, parish directors and lay ministers. Fr. Nys noted that prior to Zenk’s arrival, the Bishop’s Appeal helped in the training of parish Deacon Pat Knier.

The Bishop’s Appeal is important, Fr. Nys said, because “it’s helping people see it’s more than just Kiel — it’s the diocese, too, and the country, the whole world, the whole universe out there. We’re supporting each other.”

Zenk lives in Sheboygan with his wife, Renee, and their five children, who range in age from 7 to 13.

“As a layman, Joe can identify with people in the pew better than maybe other people might,” Fr. Nys said. “The people in our parish really enjoy having Joe here.”

To learn more about the Bishop’s Appeal or to make a gift, call the Bishop’s Appeal office at 920-272-8197 or visit

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