MENASHA — Volunteers from Neenah-Menasha parishes are advancing the cause of evangelization in the Diocese of Green Bay by feeding the Spiritus missionaries at Mount Tabor Center. Now they are inviting others to join them.
About 12 volunteers currently prepare meals for the 16 people who make up the Spiritus volunteers, said Marilyn Shutte, who is organizing the effort. “We have groups of women (men are also welcome to volunteer) who make a meal in their home for the 16 evangelizers. They donate their time, the food and the preparation,” she said.
Spiritus is a ministry that works to inspire young Catholics to spread the Gospel and renew the church by forming young adults as lifelong missionary disciples and leaders for the church. Much of this is done by the young adult missionaries, who go into parishes and direct retreats for students of all ages. For example, three of the retreats are “Faith on Fire” for all ages, “Shine Retreat” for grades 2-8, and “Challenge Retreat” for grades 9-12.
The evangelizers, who come from all over the country, stay at Mount Tabor, and the rectories at St. John in Menasha or St. Bernadette in Appleton.
Some of the volunteers do a meal once a month, or once a quarter or maybe just one time during the nine months that the Spiritus volunteers are in the Fox Valley. She said there are often leftovers because the cooks make more than enough for one meal, so the missionaries can heat something up for lunch the next day.
“This idea came out of the Human Concerns Committee at my parish (St. Margaret Mary in Neenah),” said Shutte, who heads that committee. “We wanted to help and to support the evangelizers. At first, it was just our Human Concerns Committee, but now we’ve branched out to include volunteers from St. Patrick (Menasha) and St. Gabriel (Neenah) parishes. Someone serves a meal once a week at Mount Tabor.”
“This is a huge support for us,” said Spiritus director Eden Foord. “The missionaries have such busy schedules. This saves them time from cooking their own meals and it also defrays the cost of providing food for them. It’s a dual gift and a huge help. It also brings in a way for other people to participate in our mission. It’s not just the 16 missionaries, but also the volunteers and benefactors who are all doing this for God.”
The evangelizing ministry has its roots in the La Salle Retreat Center, which was started in 1983 at St. Mary Parish, Menasha, under the direction of Dan Landowski and Richard Roller, FSC. It provided hospitality, faith formation and youth retreats. In 1999, Franciscan Sr. Mary Jo Kirt became the administrator and the name of the center was changed to the Mount Tabor Center. The new name reflected the mission of the youth retreat facility as a place of transformation.
In 2003, Eden and Katherine Foord became directors of the center and the ministry began to grow rapidly. In 2009, Spiritus began in order to keep up with the growing ministry and in response to the call of Pope Benedict XVI for young adults to enter into the mission of the church. Since then, Spiritus has expanded to multiple teams, providing the ability to inspire more than 6,000 young adults through 150 retreats each year, according to the Spiritus website.
There also are “Prayer Warriors” who join the evangelization effort by offering their prayers and sacrifices interceding for the ministry of Spiritus.
Shutte’s meal volunteers also provide food for the opening and closing retreats for the 16 missionaries and Mount Tabor staff as a way to welcome them in August and bid goodbye in May.
“We’re looking for more volunteers,” Shutte said. “We are trying to keep it to just once a month for each volunteer to hold down the individual cost for everyone.” Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Shutte at [email protected]
Anyone who would like to learn more about the Spiritus program and what the missionaries do is invited to a special event called “Spirit Alive” on Tuesday, Sept. 26, at St. Mary Central Catholic High School, 1050 Zephyr Drive, Neenah.
A welcome begins at 6:15 p.m. and the program runs from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Robert Morneau is the speaker and refreshments include wine, cheese and chocolate. Reservations by Sept. 17 are appreciated, but walk-ins are welcome, Shutte said. For information or reservations, call Andrea at Mount Tabor at (920) 722-8919.