Lay ministry training made easier through satellite site

By | May 8, 2013

For years, travel, particularly in winter, presented challenges for frontier Catholics seeking to grow in their faith through attending Commissioned Ministry Leadership Formation programs (now known as the Emmaus Program) at the diocese.


Deacon Bob Precourt speaks with Audrey Miller, left, and Judy Gossenheimer during a small-group discussion at the Emmaus Program’s Wild Rose satellite campus April 27. Deacon Precourt is an instructor in the Emmaus lay ministry program and Miller and Gossenheimer are members of St. Mark Parish in Redgranite. (Tony Pichler | Special to The Compass)

Travel times to Green Bay from communities like Plainfield and Redgranite rival those between Milwaukee and the diocesan central offices in Allouez.

“Our winters can be wicked out here,” said Audrey Miller, 66, an ardent attendee of Emmaus classes, who lives near Redgranite. “We are really out in the woods here in Waushara County. We talk a lot about nature and the wilderness.”

For people like Miller and Judy Gossenheimer, both active members of St. Mark Parish in Redgranite, a diocesan review of its wilderness needs several years ago produced a welcome benefit, allowing the two women to meet the immediate needs of their church.

In September of 2012 the diocese, with financial support from the annual Bishop’s Appeal, took the Emmaus program to the people of the frontier, establishing a satellite program in Wild Rose, located in the heart of a circle of five rural Catholic parishes.

The program, housed in the Patterson Memorial Library in Wild Rose, provides easy access to surrounding communities, said Tony Pichler, diocesan director of Lay Ministry Formation.

“The Village of Wild Rose became a gracious host, opening its doors for an expansion of Emmaus to this area, which lies almost 85 miles to the southwest of Green Bay,” Pichler said.

The program has offered four courses to date: Integrative Spirituality, Old Testament, New Testament/Christology and Ecclesiology (study of the church).

In the fall of 2013, a sacramental theology course will be offered followed by moral theology/social justice in the spring, Pichler said.

“These people are so grateful the diocese cares about the outlying parts of the diocese. I see this (Wild Rose) as a real source of tremendous innovation of faith commitment and activity,” said Deacon Bob Precourt of St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Waupaca.

Deacon Precourt recently finished teaching ecclesiology at Wild Rose. He is one of several Emmaus instructors who live in rural areas close to Wild Rose.

Deacon Precourt said the first course he taught in Wild Rose attracted 50 participants from the satellite campus area that includes St. Joseph Parish in Wautoma, St. Mark Parish in Redgranite, Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Poy Sippi, St. Paul Parish in Plainfield and St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Waupaca.

“There is interest and it is growing,” Deacon Precourt said.

He said all of the rural Emmaus participants “are so inspired they can’t wait to inspire others,” particularly Miller and Gossenheimer.

When Karen Nesbit, pastoral leader at St. Mark and Sacred Heart, was recently diagnosed with a medical condition, leaving her unable to continue her duties, Miller and Gossenheimer, with help from their Emmaus training stepped up to the plate to split Nesbit’s work load as lay presiders.

Gossenheimer, 67, retired to Redgranite after 30 years as a high school English teacher in Germantown. She recently presided over her first funeral. She helps with music and readings for prayer services in addition to visiting the sick.

“If you are going to know, love and serve God you can never learn enough,” said Gossenheimer, who most recently completed the ecclesiology course. “Emmaus has enriched my life and the work I do for the church.”

Gossenheimer said she particularly enjoys the range of ages and genders of participants at the Wild Rose satellite site.

“Wild Rose has brought out more people, I think,” she said. “A lot of people might have hesitated to drive to Green Bay to take a class. That’s a 90-mile drive for me. What a blessing Wild Rose has been for me.”

Miller’s primary work is as a catechist for children at Mass during the Liturgy of the Word. She presides at St. Mark prayer services three mornings a week in addition to prayer services at two area nursing homes.

“Every single (Emmaus) class I’ve taken has been very helpful. I look forward to taking more classes,” said Miller, who has completed the Old and New Testament classes as well as ecclesiology.

The Wild Rose satellite site saves Miller an 80-mile ride to Green Bay for classes.

“It’s sure nice to travel less than 10 miles,” Miller said.

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