The rectory at St. Boniface in Chetek will be the new home for three religious sisters from Mexico City, Mexico, who are coming to the area to do outreach mission work with local Hispanic communities.
The sisters, members of the Eucharistic Missionaries of Saint Therese, will be here for five years, said Patty Gerber, parish director for the Catholic church cluster of Barron’s St. Joseph, Cameron’s St. Peter and Chetek’s St. Boniface. They will also serve the parish clusters in Rice Lake, Cumberland and Ladysmith.
“We’re hosting them at the rectory,” Gerber said, which is the residence adjacent to the church for clergy. After a deacon left, it has been empty.
Two of the sisters are Sister Gabriela Luna Diaz and Sister Juana Celaya Ruiz, Gerber said. A third will be joining them, but has not yet been named.
“They will have a big circle of outreach where they are hoping to reach out to the Hispanic community and offer them some ministry,” Gerber said.
Steve Tarnowski, director of stewardship and development for the Diocese of Superior, said the sisters are coming as a part of the U.S. Latin American Sisters Exchange Program, funded through the Catholic Extension and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. An $800,000 grant awarded to the diocese will help pay for their stay, education and mission work for five years, he said. He added he was looking for a reliable vehicle to be donated for their use, to help keep costs down.
For two years, director of Catholic formation and superintendent of schools Peggy Schoenfuss and safe environment coordinator Kathy Drinkwine have worked with Tarnowski to bring the sisters to the diocese. The diocese—or district of Catholic parishes—covers 16 counties in Northern and Northwestern Wisconsin.
Tarnowski noted that 10 of the most impoverished counties in the state are in these 16 counties. Generally, this means there is less local funding to support Catholic causes and charities and funding usually comes from outside of the area. That is one reason why the mission grant was awarded here. The other reason, was the need.
“We have a lot of Hispanic individuals and immigrants that are working in dairy farms, of course, as Wisconsin is cheese country,” Tarnowski said. Many are Catholic or come from Catholic backgrounds. “Unfortunately some are in the shadows. They are here, but they are keeping to themselves, especially in this political climate.”
The sisters will work to welcome people into the community and do what Tarnowski called “human development.”
“Helping them in any way, such as with resources, with education and in anyway the person is elevated. Another word could be social justice,” he explained. Out of the shadows, they can receive communion or other Catholic sacraments that they had been avoiding.
During their stay, the sisters will also be earning degrees, likely in religious studies. Tarnowski said the sisters are the promising leaders and the best in their order.
Tarnowski will be picking up the sisters at the airport on Wednesday, Sept. 25, and they will come to Chetek. On Saturday, Oct. 5, they will head to San Antonio, Texas for an eight-week orientation before they return to the area in December.