Sturgeon Bay area parishes hold ‘Salute to Veterans’ program

By Monica Sawyn | For The Compass | November 14, 2018

Event is part of new ‘Parish Mission Planning’ initiative

STURGEON BAY — Parish Mission Planning is something the four Sturgeon Bay area parishes take seriously. It’s a new process promoted by the Diocese of Green Bay, so working together is something they’re learning how to do.

That’s why, after seven months of meetings and planning, there were grins all around as their Nov. 10 “Salute to Veterans” event was declared a rousing success — by the planning team and those who attended.

Boy Scouts Jack Konop, left, and Ryan Melville, with Door County Veterans Service Officer Scott McFarland, lead the Pledge of Allegiance at the Salute to Veterans dinner held Nov. 10 at Corpus Christi Church in Sturgeon Bay. It was the first four-parish event held as part of their “Parish Mission Planning” initiative. (Monica Sawyn | For The Compass)

It started when Fr. Carl Schmitt, pastor of Corpus Christi in Sturgeon Bay and Holy Name of Mary in Maplewood, and Fr. Bob Stegmann, pastor of St. Joseph in Sturgeon Bay and SS. Peter and Paul in Institute, were asked by the diocese to be pilot parishes for this Parish Mission Planning process.

“We’re looking at a new way of planning for parishes and schools, and since those parishes share a school, they were a good place to start,” said Barry Metzentine, director of the parish life mission team for the Green Bay Diocese.

Bill Sauvé, Corpus Christi’s parish council president and facilitator for the quad Parish Mission Planning group, said 23 parishes, seven schools and 12 planning teams from throughout the diocese came together last April in a session to train them to look outward at their communities’ needs, instead of just inward at their own parishes.

The parishes began by “rebranding” themselves for this and future cooperative efforts: The Catholic Community of the Greater Sturgeon Bay Area.

Although the parishes maintain their own identities, and will still plan their own unique events, this coming together is part of the directive from Bishop David Ricken: to shift from maintenance to mission.

“We’re better together than apart,” Sauvé said. “The idea for this is to subtly model the Catholic faith in a positive way by responding to needs in the community. No other diocese in the United States is doing this, and I have to credit Bishop Ricken for getting this started.”

The group worked with the support of their pastors, and parish staffs were encouraged to attend social outings during the summer in order to get to know each other.

A Parish Mission Planning team was formed, with representatives from each of the parishes, to take a look at community needs, trying to find something that everyone could embrace. They agreed to focus on veterans. By doing so, they could minister to people of all ages, all religions or no religion at all, and do it without preaching.

“We agreed this is more impactful than getting in people’s faces about why they should go to Mass or pray or join a church,” Sauvé said.

At the same time, this was still a Catholic event. It began mid-afternoon Nov. 10 with the patriotic rosary, followed by Mass and then a spaghetti dinner. Working with Scott McFarland, Door County Veterans Service officer, free tickets were offered to veterans and their guest. About 150 meals were served in Corpus Christi’s social hall.

Some private donors made the free tickets possible, as well as supplies, but other things were taken care of by volunteers from all the parishes. The Knights of Columbus handled the pre-dinner refreshments; volunteers from the Sturgeon Bay High School band provided dinner music; St. Ann’s Society from Corpus Christi provided desserts and helped decorate tables; and 25 people that included adults and youth helped serve and clean up.

Holy Name of Mary Parish made gift bags for each veteran and added a table with free holy cards, CDs and a display with biographies of some of the Catholic “big guns” — saints who were connected with the military. St. Joseph Parish put together a “memory table” where anyone could fill in the names of veterans who will be remembered in a special Mass next year.

The keynote speaker for the event was the Rev. Michael Morris, a veteran and Methodist minister from Egg Harbor. During his talk, he recognized the members of all the military skirmishes or wars.

“One Vietnam veteran approached me with tears in his eyes,” Sauvé said. “He said many of those who served in Vietnam are only now beginning to heal from some of the negative treatment they received as they returned from duty in that country.

“‘We were scorned, but it’s events like this where we’re recognized as having equal value with the World War I and II veterans that really helps,’” the veteran told Sauvé.

Sauvé said the Parish Mission Planning team will talk about other ways to assist veterans. In so doing, “we can reach out as Catholics even to people with no religious affiliation. They can see Catholics coming together on their behalf without preaching. There are many ways to model faith — and the works of mercy are among them.”

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