APPLETON – Jesus described the Kingdom of Heaven as a tiny mustard seed that, when planted, would become a tree.
This is a fitting parable in the Fox Cities, where much of the area’s well-woven community safety net can be traced to a few faithful men who immersed themselves in the Bible with a desire to live as the gospels commanded. .
âTalking is one thing,â said Jim Hyde, a member of the Fox Valley Catholic Bible Study Group. “Doing it is another, and these guys did.”
The Bible study, which takes place weekly on the Sainte-Bernadette campus east of Appleton, is in its 38th year, drawing on parishes in the community as the fruits of the weekly gatherings have touched thousands of people.
Member Tom Schiltz put his inspiration from Bible study to work in 1982 by founding the St. Joseph Food Program. Today, the program distributes groceries to approximately 1,000 families each week with the support of nearly 300 volunteers. Reverend Orville Janssen, who led the study for 17 years, founded COTS in 1998. The organization provides transitional housing to homeless residents.
Other local organizations with roots in the Bible study group include Leaven, Hortonville Community Food Pantry, and Loaves and Fishes.
Hyde, who joined the study group just months after its inception, is now hosting the next Thanksgiving Shepherds Fundraiser. Churches of all faiths will participate in the annual campaign, which will benefit eight Fox Valley agencies serving the less fortunate. They will collect food, clothing and monetary donations on November 28 and 29.
Reverend Don Zuleger, who serves in St. Bernadette and Sacred Heart Parishes in Appleton, has led Bible study since 1999 and described the upcoming fundraiser as “the newest branch of the branch.”
Yesterday and today, its social outreach has been based on the group’s guiding scripture, as spoken by Jesus in the book of Matthew: âFor I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. stranger, and you invited me to your home. “
âTheir hearts were ready to receive inspiration and they took off with it,â Zuleger said of the original members. “It’s a wonderful thing.”
The group meets every Friday morning in the cafeteria at St. Bernadette School, and the study begins at 6.30 am Many of the 100 or so people present last week have arrived half an hour earlier to pick up the little one. lunch, chat and laugh.
A bell rang as the clock reached the end of the hour, the room quieted and attention turned to the lectern.
Members say the camaraderie among those who meet is strong and important, but secondary to the hour-long teachings each week.
“It answers something that I need,” said Maury Reed, deacon at St. Bernard Parish in Appleton. It’s been part of his Friday mornings for 37 years.
The group started with Reverend Bill Alcuin at the helm in 1977, and began with eight men fresh out of an energizing retreat in the old Monte Alverno retreat center.
Alcuin’s challenge to those studying alongside him was “to establish the kingdom of heaven in the Fox Valley.”
Schiltz said the posts have a way to follow members outside and in their daily lives. He recalled his early thoughts and observations that ultimately resulted in the St. Joseph Food Program.
He had heard of a major layoff at Fox Valley and said to himself, “What if it was me?” He passed a field with rows of tomato plants and their ripe red berries falling to the ground. The cucumbers were turning yellow nearby and it was striking that “we are growing five times more than we need, and we are leaving the rest to rot,” he said.
He brought the idea of ââa pantry to St. Joseph’s Parish in Appleton, and it quickly sparked interest. He took four months away from his business to get the program up and running, then enlisted the help of Jim Asmuth, who set the stage for his growth.
Schiltz humbly dismisses the acknowledgment of his role, declaring “it was not so much me as it was Christ working through me”.
âI learned in a hurry that if God wants something, you don’t tell Him you’re busy,â Schiltz said.
Monica Clare, Executive Director of the St. Joseph Food Program, finds inspiration in the foundation of the nonprofit organization and in particular in acknowledging that it has distributed 3.4 million pounds of food to the community in the year. last. Agencies, on the other hand, continued to improve the way they serve those in need, whether through strong collaborative relationships that can address the root causes of an individual’s difficulties or St. Joe’s to improve nutrition.
âIt started with a person and an idea,â she said. “It’s amazing what a person can do.”
The energy of the Bible study group has not ceased. They changed teachers twice, and while such changes may mean decline for other groups, the Fox Valley Bible Study has only grown.
Study member Tom O’Hearn said it was a great way to end the week, and those who gather share the understanding that the lessons don’t mean much if they aren’t put into practice. .
He only needed a few words to describe the motivation and challenge the study gave him.
âLive the word rather than just listen to it,â O’Hearn said.
Collier Jim: 920-993-1000, ext. 216, or [email protected]; on Twitter @JimCollar