The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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October 27, 2000 Issue
Local News

A perfect end to the week

Fox Valley bible group has met every Friday for 23 years

By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor

Looking for a good way to wrap up your week?

Try the Friday morning Fox Valley Catholic Bible Study held at 6:30 a.m. at St. Pius X Parish in Appleton.

"There's only one bad feature about this Bible class," says Bob Harper. "It's addictive. Once you work it into your schedule, it's like missing school."

Harper has been coming to the weekly classes for more than 10 years. Others have been coming for even longer.

One is Fran Zimmer. "It would not be a complete week if I missed a Friday," he says.

Zimmer has been with the group since it started in 1977, an offshoot of a weekend retreat for men held at Monte Alverno Retreat House and led by Fr. William Alcuin, OFM Cap.

Another of those original eight members was the late John Reardon. "John thought it would be nice to continue the experience on. Why just have it for one weekend? They asked Fr. Alcuin, who said, 'Gather some men and we'll meet,'" recalls his widow, Mary, who begann coming to the classes about 10 years ago, the time that women started joining the group.

The group was born from that one retreat. Since then, it has been led by Fr. Alcuin, Fr. Kiernan Hickey, OFM Cap., the late Fr. Orv Janssen and Fr. Don Zuleger, pastor of St. Pius. The group has grown from the original eight to more than 100 attendees each week. And for each of them, it's an event not to be missed.

"Some people get up at 5 a.m. to come in and make the coffee," says Jim Hyde, a member of St. Thomas More Parish, who informally oversees the group. Others set out the donuts, rolls and napkins. And, after the hour-long session is over, clear and wash the tables. Any leftovers are delivered to St. Joseph Food Pantry. The session wraps up with 7:30 a.m. Mass.

"I have learned so much," says Harper. "You get to the meat of things. You can read it yourself, but this gives you the background. It's more clear."

"The Bible comes alive," says Joan Neton, who has been part of the group for two years. "I felt like I could be in that group, just as if we had Jesus walking with us right now."

"What I try to do is convey a love for the Word of God," says Fr. Zuleger. "And, as we have a deeper understanding of the Word of God -- Scripture -- so we grow in a deeper understanding of our faith response to the call of God."

In preparing to present each class -- he doesn't call himself the leader, since discussion moves back and forth between the members -- Fr. Zuleger draws on his background as a teacher, pastor, high school principal, a masters degree in theology and three trips to the Holy Land. (One of them, as a seminarian, was for six months.) Besides his work at St. Pius, he also teaches in the Commissioned Ministry Program of the diocese.

He, too, calls the weekly meetings "the highlight of my week."

"Just walking down there to the parish hall and seeing it half full of people (at 6:20 a.m.), it's just tremendous," he says. "It's like a community."

And that sense of community has spread out into the local community. Fr. Zuleger is amazed at the number of service organizations that have sprung out of the Bible study group. These include:

• St. Joseph Food Pantry, Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry and the Hortonville Community Food Pantry

• Pioneer Village and Pioneer Haven, providing assisted living, housing and vocational rehabilitation for veterans of various ages.

• LEAVEN (Local Ecumenical Assistance Valley Ecumenical Network)

• FISC, which provides free financial assistance

• COTS community shelter

• Casa Clare home for women

• Widows of Prayer, who pray for priests

"When Fr. Alcuin started the group," Hyde explains, "he said it was to establish the Kingdom of God in the Fox Valley. These people have done a pretty good job of that."

Bob Harper sums it up in three words: "Cooperation, camaraderie, Catholicity."

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