Their harmony comes from faith

By Nancy Barthel | For the Compass | February 23, 2022

Your Catholic Neighbors: Dave and Nancy Stellpflug (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

DE PERE — Dave and Nancy Stellpflug each have a twinkle in their eyes as they recant the day they met.

It was 1973 and “registration week” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Unlike today, when registration is done online, they needed to go early to campus to sign up for the classes they wanted. Besides that, registration week was a fun, social week — it was “a volleyball mixer” that brought the two of them together.

Dave was on one side of the net, Nancy on the other. With a smile on her face and enthusiasm in her voice, she explained that the 19-year-old version of herself quickly sized up this obviously very athletic “jock” — and words flew between the two of them.

“She’s yelling at me,” reminisced Dave, “and I asked her if she wanted to study together.”

“After that, it was history,” said Nancy. “This year, we’ll be married 46 years.” They have two children, Michael and Sara, who are both married, and four grandchildren.

Both retired in 2015 from busy careers: he is an attorney and she is a certified public accountant. Since then, they have thoughtfully created the space and time for daily prayer in their lives: their living room is now their “prayer room.”

“If I truly pray every single morning, my day is so much better,” said Nancy. “I accomplish so much more, even though I took a half hour to ‘sit on the sidelines.’” Typically, they pray together, she said. “We try to begin every day with the (daily) Mass readings,” said Nancy.

Among the prayers they also say are for those people who no longer practice their Catholic faith who, she said, “fell away before ‘the miracle’” of discovering what the Catholic faith can do for their lives.

The Stellpflugs married one week after graduation, on June 4, 1976, at Nancy’s lifelong parish of St. Francis Xavier in De Pere, which remains their parish today. “You need to have a commitment and you need to have forgiveness,” that is important to a successful marriage, said Dave.

”I think Bible studies had a major impact (on our lives) and we also did a Marriage Encounter,” as well as Cursillo spiritual renewal weekends, said Dave.

The Stellpflugs now help coordinate the Bible study they have participated in for years, which is held at St. Matthew Parish in Allouez, and were also done via Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bible study begins in the fall using materials from Ascension Press and are held every other Monday. “We’re always looking for people to join,” said Nancy.

A few years back, in quiet prayer time, Dave said he found himself having conversations with God: “I’m approaching retirement. What do you want me to do?” The answer of “youth ministry” surprised him, he said, and led him to become a catechist at St. Francis Xavier Parish. In January, he once again began guiding 10th-grade students in preparation for the sacrament of confirmation.

“Just like so many other things you do, you get more out of it than what you put into it,” said Dave, who is also an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, parish trustee and a member of the St. Mary-St. Francis Xavier Conference of St. Vincent de Paul. He is also a member of the De Pere Rotary and oversees its annual scholarship awards for college-bound graduating seniors.

Nancy has also been a parish trustee and serves as a minister of hospitality at St. Francis Xavier. Every Monday, she also helps count the weekend collection.

And for almost as long as she has been married, Nancy has been a member of the Altrusa Club of Green Bay, the local chapter of an international service organization which, 20 years ago, built the Altrusa House, 1116 E. Mason St. in Green Bay. This house serves as a “home away from home” for people who are in Green Bay for outpatient care or for loved ones supporting those who are hospitalized. She was instrumental in the Altrusa House’s founding and is treasurer of the Altrusa International Foundation of Green Bay. Dave also serves on the Altrusa House advisory council.

Since last fall, the Stellpflugs have been on a new journey together: assisting Afghan refugees.

Nancy first went to Fort McCoy in September 2021 for two weeks and, in November, Dave joined her for another two weeks of service, coordinated by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Green Bay. At one point, nearly 13,000 refugees had temporary housing there.

Both Nancy and Dave volunteered with the MWR program, which stands for “morale, wellness and recreation.”

“Everybody who is there has been through trauma,” Nancy emphasized. Their role with MWR was to support the women and children. “It’s something that you can’t even picture unless you’re there,” said Dave. Nancy served as a supervisor during very busy days that included outdoor and indoor activities.

“You get there at about 9:30 (a.m.) and you have to set the place up,” she said. “We made little dolls, we colored, we played bingo so we could teach numbers and letters,” said Nancy, adding, “I spent hours playing soccer outside.”

“Those days are intense because there’s so much energy,” said Dave, noting, “It was a significant shared experience that we did.”

Since Dec. 1, through Catholic Charities, the Stellpflugs have provided support to and become friends with an Afghan family of nine now living in Green Bay.

They, along with staff from Catholic Charities, picked them up from the airport in Green Bay and, ever since, the Stellpflugs have spent hours each week supporting the family in the new life they are creating in northeast Wisconsin.

In August 2021, when Afghan refugees were flown out of Afghanistan, Nancy said she remembers thinking, “I really want to mentor a family.”

“It’s just one of those things on the path of life that you can’t anticipate,” said Dave.

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