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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinJuly 11, 2003 Issue 

Diocese's first lay, married parish director retires

Karin Posdal served for five years at linked parishes in Shiocton and Stephensville

By Joanne Flemming
Compass Correspondent

Although Karin Posdal's title at St. Denis Parish in Shiocton and St. Patrick Parish in Stephensville was parish director, she found often during her five years in those communities that she was mother to the people.

Posdal, the Green Bay Diocese's first non-religious and married parish director, retired from the two parishes on June 30. She is 65.

She said people would call her about baptism or marriage, then tell her they had not been to church in several years. She would invite them over. "I just opened the door and said, 'Come in.' I think maybe that was the mother instinct in me."

She particularly remembered a Shiocton family that asked about a funeral for their mother, who had been baptized at St. Denis, but had been away from the church. After Posdal welcomed them, the husband became a faithful parishioner. The son, with his family, went through RCIA.

Posdal has served in various ministerial roles throughout her life. She joined the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity at 16 and started teaching when she was 20. She taught "every grade" in parochial schools for 37½ years.

During that time she left the Manitowoc community, married and became the mother of a girl and a boy. She earned her bachelor's degree, a master's degree in pastoral studies and a doctorate in ministry.

After leaving teaching, she spent two years setting up family life programs at St. Bernadette Parish in Appleton. For the next four years she was pastoral associate at the Chilton Area Catholic Ministry's six parishes.

When Posdal became parish director, one of her first challenges was living arrangements. While the diocese wanted her to be a presence all the time at Shiocton and Stephensville, she and her husband did not want to give up their home in Appleton, where they planned to retire.

As a compromise, she lived five or six days a week in St. Denis' rectory, going home to Appleton on her day off.

Parishioners at St. Denis and St. Patrick include farmers and people who commuted to jobs in Appleton or Green Bay. Because of their work schedules or travel, they were not likely to come to nightly meetings, but they "were very hungry for spiritual things."

Her goal was helping them find their spirituality in family life. She especially remembered a farmer who told her that he prayed as he plowed. "That really struck me. That is what spirituality is all about," she said.

Because the parishes are linked, she continued or started joint programs. The parish councils met on the same night. She maintained the marriage and baptism preparation programs.

Her first year she started the joint religious education program; her second, joint spiritual life and worship committee; her third year, joint social concerns committee, and last, joint stewardship.

"As they worked together, they found they had resources they could use together," she said.

Her day began about 5 a.m. and ended after meetings around 9:30 or 10 p.m. She attempted to keep specific office hours at each parish, but that was not always practical. Instead, she went where the need was.

Posdal retired to spend more time with her husband, who has some health problems. She will continue to teach a course in integrated spirituality for the diocese's commissioned ministry program. Sacred Heart Parish in Oshkosh has asked her to help set up programs.

She plans to pursue her hobbies -- reading, sewing and quilting and gardening. She wants to learn to spin on the spinning wheel her husband gave her when she got her doctorate.

Through her five years as a parish director, she said she realized that she and other lay people in similar roles are "pioneers in the church." Her advice to them is: "Be yourself. Have a prayer life. Have a balanced life."

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