“I never feel alone. I always have a friend in God,” said Daniel, who lives with Down syndrome, a developmental disorder affecting physical and mental growth. But the condition hasn’t stood in the way of Daniel’s ever-growing love and friendship with God.
“God is very holy and does great things for our future and our life,” said Daniel, 24, the son of Mark and Glinda Luebke, members of St. Mary of the Seven Dolors Parish in Stockbridge.
Active and well-liked as a Mass server and member of St. Mary’s adult choir, Daniel’s immediate passion in life is to become a greeter for the parish’s regular Saturday evening Mass.
“A greeter opens the doors, welcomes the people in, says ‘Hi. How are you’ or if the person is new, ‘Welcome to our church.’ I would love to have that job,” Daniel said. “When you are opening the doors to the people you are welcoming them into God’s house. That makes me happy.”
Glinda Luebke said the family moved from Milwaukee to Stockbridge about 10 years ago.
“When we moved up here we looked for ways to fit into a smaller community. Daniel wanted to be a server right away,” Glinda Luebke said.
Daniel is part of a family tradition, including his brother Matthew, now 21, and 16-year-old sister, Maggie, of serving at Mass.
“Why do I serve at Mass? That’s my job,” Daniel said. “Serving is very important in order for people to worship God. During Mass we get to pray to him every week and every weekend. I pray to God at breakfast, lunch, dinner and at bedtime. Praying, that’s how you talk to God. It’s important to talk to God often. That’s how you connect with God, to talk to him every day. We all live in a house of God and he is up in heaven watching us.”
Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Daniel Luebke
Parish: St. Mary of the Seven Dolors, Stockbridge
Favorite saint: Paul
Words to live by: “Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” — Mt 22:37
A graduate of Stockbridge High School, he participated in choir in high school and joined St. Mary’s choir three years ago.
“When I graduated someone asked if me and my mom would like to join the adult choir. I thought that was cool. My mother is an alto and I’m a tenor” Daniel said. “I really love to sing. Singing makes me feel happy. When I sing I feel holy.”
Daniel said he sings “for the good of the Lord.”
“We want the people to hear us, but we are singing to God. God is listening and hears the choir. We sing so beautifully. We sound like angels,” Daniel said. “We (choir) work for God. We give him thanks. He always looks down on us and follows us. In a sense we follow him too. That’s very important.”
Daniel said he always feels God’s presence in church.
“When I am in church I am always thinking about God. I talk to him. We see heart-to-heart and share our feelings.”
Daniel always has a smile on his face when he is singing, said James Fett, St. Mary’s organist and choir director.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Daniel is conversing with God,” said Fett, who is also chief executive officer at St. Paul Elder Services in Kaukauna. “Daniel is a neat young man. He’s very faithful and a very enthusiastic singer. Daniel has this jubilation about him and always has a smile on his face.”
When Daniel isn’t working two days a week as an environment associate at Affinity Health System’s Lincoln Street location in Neenah, he sometimes rides his blue, three-wheeled bicycle the nearly two miles from his home to “downtown” Stockbridge or goes on tandem bicycles rides with his father.
Whenever he goes, talking to God through prayer is never far from Daniel’s thoughts, Glinda Luebke said.
“He doesn’t let distractions interfere with what he wants to do,” she said.
For nine years Daniel has participated in track, basketball and bowling during the annual Special Olympics in Wisconsin.
“I pray to God before every event. I gather up our team, we bow our heads and say grace before we compete,” Daniel said. “It’s important to pray to God because he wants to hear from us. I’m not looking to help my personal self, but to help my team to win. I also just want to tell God what we are doing.”
Sitting in the driveway of the family’s home on the shore of Lake Winnebago near Stockbridge, the self-proclaimed sturgeon capitol of the world, is a weather-worn sturgeon spearing shanty with the name “Daniel Luebke” painted in large letters on a sign alongside the shanty door.
“I go sturgeon spearing with my father. We haven’t got one yet, but we’ve tried,” Daniel said.
Staring through the ice in the darkened shanty for hours at a time often finds Daniel’s mind drifting toward God and prayer.
“My dad thinks it’s boring staring down into the hole, but I think it’s fun,” Daniel said. “I have some nice conversations with God. I pray about what my life is. I also hope and pray that I get a sturgeon.”