He’s a Vincentian and much more

By Nancy Barthel | For The Compass | May 20, 2015

Nier, president of local SVDP district council, encourages others to volunteer

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]GREEN BAY — A simple invitation, that’s all it took to change Ken Nier’s life.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Ken Nier (Sam Lucero | The Compass)
Your Catholic Neighbor: Ken Nier (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

Nier, a member of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, is also president of the District Council of Green Bay Society of St. Vincent de Paul. He was recently among those honored for their service to the Green Bay area community at the Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) Volunteer Awards sponsored by the Volunteer Center of Brown County.

Revitalizing membership within individual parish conferences as well as growing the personal home visits that are so critical to the society’s outreach are two of the reasons he was recognized.

“I call myself the ‘volunteer president,’” said Nier, as he proudly showed off the new Personal Service Center of the Green Bay Council, located adjacent to the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store at 1529 Leo Frigo Way. “I want people to know that we couldn’t even operate without volunteers.”

He began his three-year term on Oct. 1, 2013.

A graduate of UW-Green Bay, Nier worked for 24 years as an accountant for International Paper in Kaukauna, living in Little Chute. After he moved to Green Bay in 1990, he began investing in older homes and apartments and by 1999 decided to leave his job and start managing his properties full-time.

Nier described himself back then as “a part-time Catholic,” always making Christmas and Easter Masses, but not a whole lot in between.

Then one year he heard about the Christmas Eve Mass at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral and decided to attend. He walked in that night and, he said, he knew he was home.

“I truly think it was the hand of Christ who … pushed me to go back to church,” said Nier. He began attending Mass regularly and then one day someone asked him if he would like to usher.

Nier distinctly remembers his response: “I don’t do those kinds of things.”

But, he recalls now, “I had to come out of my shell.”

With some encouragement he began ushering in 1997 and by 2000 Nier was appointed head usher at the cathedral. In that role he not only oversees the team of ushers for the parish Masses but is also integral in planning all major diocesan events at the cathedral, from ordinations to the Chrism Mass.

It was Judy Deuchert, who was trying to start a St. Vincent de Paul conference at the cathedral, who asked Nier to be part of that endeavor. “I had no idea what St. Vincent de Paul did,” he said.

That was a dozen years ago, and as Nier learned more it became apparent that his years of owning rental properties made him keenly aware of the needs in the Green Bay community.

“Many of them don’t have options,” said Nier of people living in poverty here. “There are reasons why they’re cash strapped,”

The motto of the SVDP National Council is “End Poverty Through Systemic Change.”

It’s a motto that Nier heartily agrees with, and he said it’s the unique approach the society takes — making home visits to personally meet with those needing assistance — that is the difference.

Whether one of the 24 parishes which currently have conferences in the Green Bay Council hears of a need or someone comes directly to the Personal Service Center, it is representatives of the local conferences who make all visits and make recommendations for assistance.

“I like to let people know how important the home visit is. It’s the core of St. Vincent de Paul to go into the homes of those who need us,” he said.

“By going into the homes we put them much more at ease and we get to see what the problems might be,” stressed Nier. Rent and utility assistance are often critical as is help with food which can be provided on an ongoing basis through Paul’s Pantry. Furniture, bedding and clothing are often needed, and sometimes mortgage assistance is provided.

The Green Bay Council also operates House of Hope Green Bay, a shelter for homeless pregnant and parenting women who are ages 18 to 24. Begin ANEW is another Green Bay council program. It provides transitional housing and support to women who are acclimating to independent living after incarceration.

Funding for all these services comes from sales at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Stores on Leo Frigo Way and the newest store at 940 Hansen Road.

According to Jody Kasten, managing director for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Green Bay, it’s Nier’s “excellence in leadership” that has helped grow the individual conferences.

“Compassionate and energetic,” that’s how Kasten describes Nier, who despite a busy schedule as district council president continues to be active within the cathedral conference and volunteers at the thrift store as well as the cathedral parish’s Dignity of Human Life Committee.

Nier encourages individuals to become involved in their own parish conference or to start a conference within their own parish. He especially encourages retired individuals to get involved.

“You are serving the Lord. … Just give us a try. It would be a wonderful thing,” said Nier.

For more information on the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Green Bay visit www.svdpgb.org.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info” style=”rounded”]Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Ken Nier

Parish: St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Green Bay

Age: 64

Favorite saint: Francis of Assisi

Words to live by: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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