December 10, 2013

Monroe County parish relies on prayer, parishioner involvement for successful campaign

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Located in south Monroe County north of Toledo, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Community is debt-free and has 23 acres of land with several shrines on the property. Parish structures include the church, administrative offices and meeting rooms, a two-story classroom center, social hall, gymnasium, rectory, convent, playground, ball diamond, storage building, and cemetery.

The parish family at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (OLMC) in Temperance has grown by about one thousand families since the Catholic community’s first Mass was celebrated at midnight, December 25, 1958. Despite the fact that there was no heat in the building at the time, 380 faithful attended.

That dedication among parish families continues, evidenced through a successful Changing Lives Together campaign in 2012 that has funded church renovations emphasizing the liturgical importance of the altar, new carpeting, reupholstered pews, re-padded kneelers, and the removal of a 100-foot glass wall that separated the vestibule from the worship space. The choir and music area, previously located immediately adjacent to the altar was moved to the side, and the altar was made handicap accessible.

Rita Wehrle and Dick Wehrle

Rita and Dick Wehrle, co-chairs of Changing Lives Together and longtime parishioners at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Temperance, chat with Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron at a campaign event.

“We’re very pleased with the changes to the altar, which is now the singular focus during Mass,” said Kory Bialecki, who served as a Changing Lives Together co-chair at OLMC. “The accessibility improvements mean our permanent deacon, Marty Selmek, who is in a wheelchair, can now participate in Mass from the altar,” she said. “We also took care of the biggest single complaint among the parishioners, reupholstering our worn-out pews and kneelers,” she added.

Future improvements as Changing Lives Together pledges are fulfilled at the Monroe County parish include building a smaller stained glass divider in the church vestibule in the spring, followed by a summer remodeling of the parish hall kitchen and possible improvements to the baptismal font and surrounding floor. Parish leaders are also interested in providing more and newer learning tools for the parish religious education program, which has about 400 children and youth enrolled.

“We decided to communicate the campaign and ask for support at group gatherings where parishioners could be together and meet each other,” said Bialecki. “So we did events where we presented what we planned to do with the campaign, which everyone seemed to embrace, because many made pledges on the spot”, said Bialecki, whose husband Jeff Mohlman served as a co-chair.

OLMC CLT Leadership team

The Our Lady of Mount Carmel Changing Lives Together leadership team, including Rev. Sama Muma (left), former associate pastor, with Archbishop Vigneron at a campaign reception in 2012.

Longtime OLMC parishioner Dick Wehrle and his wife Rita also co-chaired the OLMC campaign with Bialecki and Mohlman. “This was the first time we were involved in something like this and it was a great comfort to be teamed up with Dick, who has been a leader at OLMC for decades,” said Bialecki.

“The Archdiocese helped us organize a good program,” said Wehrle. “We had good informational materials and committees, especially our prayer team,” he continued. “They got us off to a good start and were amazing folks, as were the parishioners who volunteered to make phone calls to all the families in the parish,” Wehrle explained. “Father made a request from the pulpit at all the Masses on Sunday for volunteers to help with the calls, and about ten people at each Mass responded,” he said.

Rev. Stephen Rooney

The Changing Lives Together campaign at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Temperance was organized and initiated under the pastoral leadership of Rev. Stephen Rooney, now pastor at Our Lady on the River Parish, based in Marine City. Rev. Don LaCuesta has been pastor at OLMC since August 2013. Photo courtesy of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish

“Every registered household got at least three phone calls asking for prayer intentions and encouraging all to join us at Mass,” recalled Bialecki. “Our prayer committee put up a cross in the church narthex on which they draped a paper chain of the prayer intentions received through the phone calls or were added by parishioners coming to Mass,” she continued. The prayer committee prayed every day and held a 24-hour Eucharistic adoration, praying for all our intentions and the success of the campaign. The power of all this prayer changed everything for us. That kind of involvement with prayers all around is what made our success possible.”

Wehrle, 78, has been an OLMC parishioner for 40 years, three decades of which have included his serving as a member of the parish finance council. “The campaign also got younger people coming forward to take over things, and that’s good for everyone,” he said. The parish religious education program contributed to the campaign by learning about stewardship and having a “penny war” competition in which children contributed loose change to the campaign and parish youth organized other fundraising events.

For Bialecki, Changing Lives Together at OLMC was a transforming experience. “The campaign enabled me to interact on a personal basis with people I would see at Mass, but didn’t know their names, who they were, or what they did,” she said. “We’ve all gotten to know each other much better through the campaign and I’ve learned that so many truly care about their parish,” said Bialecki. “This was much different from other church projects where the same people seem to do all the work. New people got involved and I think it has brought us closer together as a parish community.”

Updated December 2013

 Changing Lives Together at Our Lady of Mount Carmel – Temperance

Pastor: Rev. Don LaCuesta
Parish founded: 1957
Registered households: 1,392
Campaign launch: March 2012
Parish Goal: $600,124
Pledged: $649,506

Parish priorities:

  • Overhaul pews, kneelers, and chairs
  • Removed the glass wall in church building
  • Improve church lighting and sound
  • Repair/replace the roof over the Narthex
  • Explore building a Baptismal font/pool
  • Religious education program improvements
  • Update parish office communication systems