REDGRANITE — To the strains of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” under the clarinet leadership of Fr. Joseph Mattern, Karen Nesbit was laid to rest in Redgranite Aug. 17.
The former pastoral leader of St. Mark Parish in Redgranite, and Sacred Heart, in Poy Sippi, died Aug. 12. She had served the two parishes since April 24, 2007, ending her service on July 1, due to declining health.
Nesbit, 56, began her career as a social worker in a group home for mentally ill adults and emotionally disturbed adolescents. She later ran Nesbit Bake Shoppe in Omro. After the business closed, she approached Fr. Mattern, who was then her pastor at St. Mary in Omro. “I think I want to work for the church,” she told him.
There was a part-time position open in religious education, working with seventh graders, and she took it. It was the start of her life’s work. From there, she later took over heading the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and youth ministry, leading 10 youth mission trips for both St. Mary in Omro and St. Mary Parish in Winneconne. She later became pastoral associate at St. Mary Parish, Oshkosh, where she also served as liturgist.
In 2002, Nesbit earned a master’s in theological studies degree from St. Norbert College and later served on the faculty of the Green Bay Diocese’s Emmaus program.
Fr. Mattern, who delivered the homily at her funeral, served as priest celebrant at St. Mark and Sacred Heart with Nesbit. He spoke of her as a staunch supporter of peace and justice, who countered opposition with humble service and a determined will. He told the packed church that, in their many years of “paired ministry,” he had learned to let her take the lead. Her ministry style, he said, was a combination of training, knowledge and impulsive instinct. He compared their working together as similar to St. Francis and St. Clare, or the brother-sister team of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica. “It was Fr. Joe and Karen,” he said.
Nesbit’s devotion to peace showed even at her funeral — which she had planned as her health was declining: the Knights of Columbus were invited to attend, but she asked them not to bring their swords. Her request was honored.
Fr. Tom Long, diocesan vicar of ministers, called Nesbit “a truly inspirational leader. She continued to grow in her love and knowledge of the faith, and found ways to share that faith in her various ways of serving. These past years, as she served as parish director, now pastoral leader, she continually found ways to invite people into deeper involvement with their faith and their parish. Karen fostered a real sense of stewardship among the communities she served. We will miss her deeply.”
Bishop Robert Banks was celebrant of the funeral liturgy. He told the congregation that he had began “praying for a miracle for Karen” as soon as he had learned of her illness. “I really liked Karen,” he added.
Nesbit is survived by her husband, Ed; children, Chad, Trisha, Joel (special friend, Kelly), Andy; parents, Stephen and Judith Triggs of Madison; grandchildren, Jasmine, Taytum, Olyvia; sister, Debra (Craig) Ball of Madison; brothers, Stephen Triggs of Wausau and David (Joe) Triggs-Smith of Eustis, Fla.
Burial was in St. Mark Cemetery.