MENASHA — Mary Krueger is preparing for a new chapter in her life as she leaves her pastoral leader position to move back “into the pews” at St. Patrick Parish. The last Mass she will share as pastoral leader will be June 27.
Her professional life began after she graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She spent 29 years working at American National Can as a production scheduler, and other positions, before Deacon Jerry Cross encouraged her to go through the diocese’s Commissioned Ministry program.
In 2002, Fr. Roy Geenen hired her as pastoral associate at St. Patrick, and that began 19 years of “dedicating myself to a life of service to the church,” she told the parishioners in her retirement announcement.
As pastoral associate for 11 years, she said, she visited the homebound and listened to their stories, sharing them through the parish newsletter. She’s also shared weekly columns in the parish bulletin and monthly newsletters. “I enjoy writing,” she said. “I love the people here.”
Her duties were varied and also included visiting the sick, leading prayer services, teaching Bible studies, leading RCIA, planning funerals and greeting people after Mass. “Each person I met enlarged my heart and taught me more about love,” she said.
In 2004, she and her family joined the parish as members, leaving their home parish of St. Mary in Menasha. In 2013, she asked to be considered as a parish director.
“It began as just being a member of a pool of candidates for openings around the diocese,” she said. Then, she was asked to interview for an opening at St. Patrick and Bishop David Ricken asked her to become the leader at her own parish, which had been led by a “series of priests who were here for six months or up to two years.”
“He wanted more steady leadership at St. Patrick,” added Krueger. “I remember he asked me, ‘Do you think you can handle a parish of this size?’ I said, ‘Probably not … but I will certainly be holding tight to God’s hand!’ I felt strongly that I could do the ministry … and I loved the people.”
When she took over the leadership role, she said, “OK, now I have to run this parish.” She credits many priests and diocesan mentors for helping her.
“My biggest challenge was learning about finance with no business manager. I asked a ton of questions,” she said. “I am so grateful for the skills and gifts that parish members shared. I had to figure it out and work out the minutia. The people at St. Pat’s were very accepting and very forgiving.”
Her ministry role was also about building relationships, “listening to others voice their thoughts and opinions. So much of moving our parish forward was dependent on our faithful parishioners,” said Krueger.
Because it’s a small parish, Krueger said it means “you wear a lot of hats,” including teaching parishioners to take the lead in different areas. “We have so many people who do ‘behind-the-scenes’ work, but now we need to develop more leaders,” she said.
Krueger said she grew into the job of pastoral leader.
“When I started working with RCIA, for example, I found that the more I did it, the more I loved it. When it comes to adult education, I like to get people to go deeper into their faith and to self-reflect,” she said.
Krueger is looking forward to more family time. Her son, Fr. Ryan Krueger, is pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Sturgeon Bay. Her daughter, Erin Goyette, works at St. Patrick as discipleship and communication coordinator. There also will be more time with husband, Jeff, and — best of all — her grandbabies, Ellie, who is 1½ and John, 3.
“I want to play my piano again, read the one million and one books that I have, convert my son’s bedroom into my office, sit in my backyard on my magnolia bench and just relax, and maybe get involved in local politics,” she said.
Come June 30, she will willingly turn the reins of the parish over to Fr. Jude Egbuna and she plans to have “longer dates with God,” as she calls her time with Scripture. She is looking forward to time with her faith, her family and her parish, but this time it will be from the vantage point of the pews rather than the sanctuary.