Family mission statement is her guide

By Amanda Lauer | For The Compass | May 11, 2016

‘We are a sharing family’ meant opening up home to missionaries

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]BRILLION — When Christel Schmidt and her husband Andy read the book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families” by Stephen Covey, they took his advice to heart and created a family mission statement. This was done before they even knew if they’d be able to have children. Now that they are parents of four, this is their guiding principle.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Christel Schmidt (Amanda Lauer | For The Compass)
Your Catholic Neighbor: Christel Schmidt (Amanda Lauer | For The Compass)

“Our mission statement became, ‘We are a sharing family,’” said Schmidt. “Whatever we have, we need to acknowledge is a gift from God ultimately — even our next breath. We reinforce that with the kids a lot, but we want to live that as well. If there’s an opportunity put in front of us to serve in some way, we do that because if it was put in front of you, it’s there for a reason.”

Schmidt, who is from Appleton, and her husband, a Hollandtown native, met as students at Xavier High School in Appleton. She had a career as a Catholic middle school science teacher until they had their first child. Her husband owns Schmidt Boat Lifts and Docks based in Kaukauna.

One of the big factors for them to choose to live in Brillion was Holy Family Parish because it had an active and growing grade school. “Having our kids in a Catholic school really helped us to meet other people,” noted Schmidt, who devotes much of her free time to helping out at the school. Through their oldest children, who were best friends, the Schmidts became friends with Luke and Amy Bolle and their family and Taylor and Katie Schmidt (who are distant relatives).

“Taylor and Katie and Luke and Amy went into full-time Catholic family mission work. They both sold their homes and all their belongings and became missionaries internationally,” said Christel. “The Schmidt family is in Peru with their six children. The Bolles, who just had their sixth child, were in the Philippines.”

It was quite the surprise for Schmidt when both families went into mission work. “When a family decides to commit themselves that deeply to service, you have to do a lot of discernment yourself. It forces you to think, ‘What are we ultimately called to do?’ My first thought was, ‘How can we support them?’ As a parent of four, if I sold my house and all my belongings and went to do mission work, what would I need? I would need a safety net. So we told both of them, when you come back for a week, a month, a year, whatever, you can move in with us.”

The Bolle family took them up on their offer. When Amy Bolle was expecting their youngest child she was experiencing complications with the pregnancy so they were advised to return to the United States to have the baby.

On Sept. 1, 2015, the Bolles and their children Isabelle, Elijah, Gabriel, Maggie and Vivian, now ages 8, 7, 6, 4 and 2 respectively, moved in with Christel and Andy Schmidt and their four children, Libby, Drew, Liam and Josie, who are now 9, 7, 5 and 2. The older children attend school together at Holy Family. Henry Bolle was born prematurely in February but both he and his mom are healthy and doing fine now.

Lucky for both families, the Schmidt house was designed for community living. “The main floor — the living room and the kitchen became the community area. The basement is a walkout so it’s light and airy. It has a living room and we were able to create bedroom spaces for all of the kids. Our kids’ bedrooms are all upstairs. We do family meals as a community. I am in heaven with the cooking. If they want to cook, they’re welcome to but I’d willingly cook every day of the week,” said Schmidt.

This past March, she had the opportunity to connect with the other Schmidt family in Peru when she went with nine other people on a parish mission trip there.

It was her first mission trip and she described it as awesome. “My husband took his two-week vacation so he could take care of the kids at home. He loved it — he said it was the best two weeks of his life because he got to see the kids in the morning and at night every day. When you have a small business you’re tied into it so much.”

While in Peru, Schmidt said she got to help build the foundations of two churches. She’s hoping to go back again next year with the same group of volunteers.

Once the school year is over, the Bolles plan on moving out and Schmidt gets teary eyed just thinking about it. “Having a mission family living with you, we’re living in community, living the way humans are meant to live. Humans aren’t biologically and spiritually meant to live in isolation.”

While it’s been a wonderful experience for their family, Schmidt understands that not everyone would be called to do something like this. “With our mission statement, this has been a great opportunity to reinforce with our kids that we’re a sharing family. Clearly, both our family and the Bolle family have been mightily blessed in the whole situation. We’ve come out of this so much better people.”

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Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Christel Schmidt
Parish: Holy Family, Brillion
Age: 44
Favorite saint: Therese of Lisieux
Words to live by: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
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