1/24/22 - Meet Father Adam Fernandez
Father Adam at the front door of the St. Agnes rectory
Who’s living in St. Agnes’ rectory?
Meet Father Adam Fernandez Hirudayasamy, SMA, born in the town of Coonoor, located in the district of Nilgiris in the mountainous area of southern India. He spent 15 years in Africa, five years as a student and 10 years as a priest, mostly in Kenya. Since last August he has been the pastor of St. Joseph’s parish in Wauwatosa.
And he lives here in St. Agnes’s rectory. His arrival here at St. Agnes was serendipitous. St. Joseph parish does not have a rectory and St. Agnes’s rectory was vacant because our pastor, Father Joy, lives at the Pallottine Fathers’ provincial headquarters in Milwaukee.
This is the first time Father Adam has lived and worked in the United States. Adjustment to our culture and way of life has been challenging.
“I have to do so many things for myself now,” Father Adam said. He’s never had to cook for himself, so he’s been doing take-out food sometimes and accepting occasional meals from some of his parishioners. Braving the cold weather is also new to him. There will be a lot more of that to come this winter.
Growing up, Father Adam had four siblings, three sisters and a brother, all of them now married. He has five nieces and a nephew. As a youngster, he attended public school, but his family were very devoted Catholics. As a child he would pretend to be a priest, saying Mass. In high school he was a Mass server and his family encouraged his vocation. He started his training at the diocesan seminary, but then he learned of a missionary group (Society of African Missions, or SMA) and transferred to that seminary where he studied philosophy. Then he was sent to Kenya for his theology studies. He returned to India for his ordination and was then sent right back to Africa.
“I enjoy the education of children and receive great joy from being a missionary,” he said. He was sent to Zambia right after his ordination in 2002. Two years later he was sent to Kenya in a small town called Kitengela for the next eight years. His parish was located in Maasai land, about 30 km from the capital of Nairobi. People from all over the country were moving to town, looking for job opportunities.
Fr. Adam with Maasai women and children in one of the Maasai villages
Fr. Adam with Maasai people
St Monica Academy, Kitengela, Kenya
Students of St. Monica Academy
“We had three Masses on Sunday and still could not accommodate everyone,” Father Adam said. Church leaders and Father Adam held fundraisers to expand the church. Eventually they had enough to build a newer, larger school as well.
“As an SMA missionary priest, I was given important pastoral work, and at the same time I recognized the importance of the education of children. I believe that only education can eradicate poverty,” Father said.
In 2012 Father Adam went back to India where he was appointed the Rector of SMA minor seminary. He was involved in the formation of students who were just beginning their lives with SMA after their school studies.
Now he is a missionary here in the United States, at St. Joseph’s parish. “Mission is anywhere God’s people are,” Father Adam said. “I have great joy in being a missionary.” Through his work here, he can support his order and its work around the world. His order has lots of new seminarians. Father Adam is able to help support them through his work here.
“I am very grateful to the people of St. Agnes for allowing me to live in their rectory,” Father Adam said. “I appreciate their support.”
Palm Sunday celebration in the mission station
1/18/22 Elizabeth Ministry at St. Agnes
Elizabeth Ministry is an outreach program to women during the special times of their motherhood. St. Agnes Parish affirms, supports, encourages and assists them during this time in their lives.
The Elizabeth Ministry is based on the Scripture story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45). This Scripture story presents us with two women who are pregnant in difficult settings. Elizabeth is too old to have children and has been criticized for being barren. Mary is very young and finds herself pregnant although she is not married. The beauty of Mary’s encounter with Elizabeth is that both women realize that they had found someone who understood and with whom they could share the marvel of what God was doing for them. As they shared their stories, they helped each other recognize God’s will and the sacredness of their lives.
Theresa Nadolski is chair of Elizabeth Ministry at St. Agnes.
“My whole career as a nurse (32+ years) has been in women’s health,” Nadolski said. “So, I’m very passionate about that. Elizabeth Ministry is about supporting women and families during the childbearing years, so seemed like a natural fit for me. I also feel it is extremely important to help make new and young families feel welcome at church – if we don’t bring any young families into parishes, the parishes will eventually no longer exist.”
Today, many women feel isolated from other women. In the past, the presence of intimacy and support needed during childbearing years were found in the structures of family, neighborhood, and church. Women no longer feel the sense of community that automatically existed years ago.
This program helps us identify, pray for and support those who are pregnant; celebrating birth or adoption; grieving miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, infant or child death; or wanting to become pregnant or adopt.
For example, the Elizabeth Ministry program supports mothers and their newborns.
“We give a gift of a new handmade blanket to each baby/child who gets baptized in our parish,” Nadolski said. “We also send mailings with information about raising a child in the faith and how to do that at different ages. The mailings come about every six months until the child is about age 3.”
Donated baby blankets, some store-bought, some homemade.
Families with little children are welcome at St. Agnes, but we understand it is difficult to keep them occupied during Mass. The Elizabeth Ministry offers toddler bags for families to use during Mass.
“Toddler bags are available in the prayer room, but I’d like to move them out to the area with the Elizabeth Ministry table,” Nadolski said. “Each bag has a book, coloring book with crayons, and toys for toddlers to play with that are Bible-based to help teach the child about God.”
Coloring books, crayons, toys are in the toddler bags.
The Elizabeth Ministry Rose Bud Program is located in the northwest corner of the Gathering Space on a table and shelf.
“This is for people who would like prayers said for them for specific things, centered around pregnancy and trying to get pregnant, family life, loss, etc.,” Nadolski said. “We pray for Elizabeth Ministry prayer requests as part of our petitions at each Mass.” Each color of rose bud is for a different need:
Pink Rosebud ~ honoring pregnancy and unborn babies
Red Rosebud ~ celebrating births and adoptions
White Rosebud ~ grieving with families suffering a miscarriage, abortion, still birth, infant or child death
Yellow Rosebud ~ those waiting to conceive or adopt
Blue Rosebud ~ troubled times
Purple Rosebud ~ grandparents’ concerns
The shelf has prayer cards (photo above left) and notecards (photo above right) to be filled out and attached to the rose you put in the vase, so we can all pray for the specific intentions.
In the file box below the table, you’ll find an index of 27 specific prayers for pregnancy, celebration of birth, and for miscarriage and infant or child deaths. The item number corresponds to a folder in the file box with those specific prayers.
All of this takes a lot of time to organize, replenish and care for. “I can always use volunteers,” Nadolski said. “There are many other things that could be done as part of the Elizabeth Ministry. I just can’t do it all by myself!” To volunteer, ask questions or offer suggestions, you can reach Theresa Nadolski at [email protected]
1/4/2022 Church Environment - Christmas Decorating
Deck the Halls, er, Church
Wreaths on the walls, a manger scene in the lobby, Christmas trees in church and poinsettias of all colors everywhere!
This magical transformation of St. Agnes church isn’t the work of Santa’s elves… oh, no. The beautiful seasonal décor, whether Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, or Pentecost, is the result of the labor of nearly a dozen people, all organized by Gerry Gross and Maryrose Wolf and anchored by Gerry’s extended family and several faithful parish volunteers.
(Back) Cindy Singer and Patty Kaiser (Gerry’s daughter)
(Front) Gerry Gross and Karen Knurr (Gerry's daughter)
“I started decorating the church back in the ‘70s when Father Trepanier was here,” Gerry said. “At the beginning, I did it all myself, but I gradually got other volunteers—Cindy Singer, Arlene Hathaway, Marilyn Schultz, Linda Barrington, Maryrose Wolf and others.” Gerry’s children, grandchildren, and in-laws are also integral to each season’s work teams.
“We always do this for Mom,” Patty Kaiser, said. “She’s very dedicated. Gerry’s grandson, Ian, has been helping for years. Gerry’s sons, Lewis and Harold, put up the evergreen trees and hang banners and wreaths in church. This year her grandson, Ben Kaiser, also helped hang wreaths. Her son-in-law and daughter, Woody and Karen Knurr, put the lights on the trees.
All the seasonal banners have been made by members of the parish. In fact, some of them are showing their age. “We need new purple banners,” Gerry said. “They’re wearing out. I’m looking for a volunteer to make them.” (Call the parish office to volunteer.)
It takes about five hours (not counting prep work) to ready the church for Lent and Advent, according to Gerry, 10 hours to set up everything for Christmas, and 15 hours to turn over everything for Holy Week and Easter. Take-down afterward goes much more quickly. Candles need replacing, the brass followers (atop the candles) need to be cleaned and polished, flowers need to be ordered and their delivery scheduled, outdoor planters need seasonal decorations, and the lobby area decorated for each season.
Cindy Singer with her Flower Shop tool box. Joanie Kaiser, Gerry’s granddaughter, behind her.
“In the beginning years, we’d work until midnight sometimes, making the wreaths from scratch,” Gerry said. Cindy had attended the Milwaukee School of Flower Design and had taken Flower Design classes at MATC. Now the grapevine wreaths are stored and redecorated for each season.
Linda Barrington, working on wreaths.
Once all the decorations are up, there is continued maintenance: watering the live Christmas trees and poinsettias (or many flowers for Easter) when needed. Overwatering can be a problem sometimes, Gerry said, when well-meaning parishioners take it upon themselves to do this but end up drowning some of the plants.
Here are photos of some of the work crew, getting ready for Christmas.
Gerry Gross and her grandson, Ben Kaiser
Karen Knurr, Gerry’s daughter
11/15 St. Agnes students to perform “FROZEN” Thursday through Sunday, Nov. 18-19, 21
The popular Disney movie, “Frozen, Jr.” will come to life on Thursday at St. Agnes’ Kemp Hall as middle school students perform this beloved musical. The classic story tells of a conflict between two sisters, Princess Elsa and Princess Anna, and how their love for one another reunites them. The title reflects the magical power of one of the sisters who can freeze things. A gift or a curse? She must learn to deal with this in a constructive way. But how does this happen? Come to St. Agnes this week to see this musical: Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Admission is free; donations accepted.
Corinna Ramsey and Gerry Wolf directed the play. Mark Mauer headed up lighting and sound, while Tim Nolan and a team of parents created the sets. Student-actors’ parents created their costumes.
The Drama Club was started by Jim Santilli more than 25 years ago. Wolf said he is doing his 15th show here at St. Agnes. The volunteer time for everyone is enormous. But Wolf is still enthusiastic about his work with the students.
The cast of “Frozen” (*See cast list below.) has been rehearsing on Tuesdays since school started. In the last two weeks they have had at least six rehearsals. This is a big-time commitment for everyone.
“I love seeing students, who have no idea what they’re capable of [when they start doing this], realize they can sing, dance, act!” Wolf said. He and Ramsey make sure the experience is positive for everyone. At the end of each rehearsal, everyone shares affirmations about one another. Students also begin and end every rehearsal with a prayer. “This is so good for students,” Wolf said.
As soon as “Frozen” was decided on, the directors purchased a pre-recorded professional soundtrack from Music Theatre International. The soundtrack helps to create the mood, intensify dramatic situations, and provide transitions between scenes. And actors can use the soundtrack to learn the songs which they will sing live.
Lighting is also important. Mark Mauer uses it to set the atmosphere, which contributes to the setting and mood. Scenery is kept simple. Music, acting and script carry the play. Mauer said he is a stickler for these details.
Typically, the audience is mostly parishioners and families of the cast. Wolf said that the opening Thursday performance usually has a smaller audience, but then the word gets out about how great the show is, and more people attend on Friday and Saturday. “Alumnae come back to see what the current students are doing,” Wolf said.
No admission fee is charged, but Wolf says they have managed to break even for the last 5-10 years. Students pay $25 to join the cast and crew. Ads and donations make up the rest of their income.
CAST (in order of appearance)
- Young/Middle Anna: Derhue Yang
- Young/Middle Elsa: Samantha Hathaway
- King Agnarr: Brendan Allen
- Queen Iduna: Audrey Whiten
- Pabbie: Lorenzo Austin
- Bulda: Maliah Jackson
- Bishop: Ava Stelter
- Housekeeper: Zaryia Lipscomb
- Handmaiden: Serenity Stank
- Anna: Josephine Nolan
- Elsa: Maya Towns
- Kristoff: William Avant
- Sven: Kaiyah Cordoves
- Hans: Brady Jozwiak
- Duke of Weselton: Austyn Kroeplin
- Olaf: Dannyka Troka
- Oaken: Brendan Allen
- Snow Chorus: Cassidy Matthews, Savannah Perdue, Zamaya Satterfield, Claire Vogel
- Hidden Folk: Samantha Hathaway, Audrey Whiten, Derhue Yang
- Summer Chorus: Maliah Jackson, Cassidy Matthews, Savannah Perdue, Zamaya Satterfield, Claire Vogel
- Oaken’s Family: Samantha Hathaway, Audrey Whiten, Derhue Yang
Behind the Scenes
- Co-Directors: Gerry Wolf and Corinna Ramsey
- Choreographer: Morgan White
- Scenery Foreman: Tim Nolan
- Lighting & Sound: Mark Mauer
- Rehearsal Assistants: Katie Toniolo, Karen Papador
- Stagehands: Lewis Gamble, Jaelynn Satterfield, Kierra Xiong
- Production Assistants: Butch Brockman, Jim Santilli
- Scenery/Sets: Bobbie Jo & Aiden Frederick & Serenity Stank; Cathy Bisswurm-Vogel & Emily Vogel; Nicole Kroeplin; Karen Papador; Derhue Yang; Julie, Carlin, Emily & Josephine Nolan; Holly & Brady Jozwiak; Nicole & Maya Towns
- Program Layout/Design: Patty Kaiser
BEHIND THE SCENES
(left) Karen Papador, fifth grade teacher at St. Agnes, works on sets in the evenings.
(right) Bobbie Jo Frederick, a parent of one of the cast members, volunteers her help as well.
Archives of all that has been new: