COMBONI MISSIONARIES LADIES AUXILIARYOF MONROE, MI
The Verona Fathers first explored the possibility of constructing a Novitiate House in Monroe in 1949 and by the end of the year sixty acres were purchased. Construction began in early 1951. Men from the various parishes in the Monroe area became involved; and on July 31, 1951 the first meeting of the Verona Fathers Men's Club was held. The women started assisting the men and formed the Verona Fathers Ladies Auxiliary holding its first meeting November 13, 1952. The first president was Sadie Mitosinki who served four years as president followed by Shirley Noland who took office in 1957 and served 30 years. Terrie Noland, the third president served for 22 years until May of 2007 when the current president, Barb Heising, took office.
In the early years, the women worked extremely hard, many times working under difficult conditions. They assisted the men with the annual summer festivals serving chicken dinners and manning booths of all sorts. The ladies helped out at the seminary with mending, sewing drapes, canning fruits and vegetables and doing just about anything that needed to be done. Rummage sales were also held. Turkey dinners and bazaars were held, and there was always a Christmas Party for the members and their families. Throughout the years dances were held, millionaire parties, card parties, pancake breakfasts, craft shows, cookie walks, candy sales; and of course the flower sales.
In 1968 the high school seminary was transferred to Monroe, but with the seminary closing in 1987, the convent of St. Anne's Church was acquired and became the new Comboni Mission Center. Mass was held and some of the activities continued, but on a smaller basis. Then in 1994 the Comboni Missionaries announced that they would be leaving Monroe and so in June of 1995, the Missionaries departed.
The Comboni Ladies Auxiliary, however, took it as a challenge. The missionaries were leaving, but they would forge on with their mission work. With no center available, the auxiliary held meetings in various locations; but then went to St. Joseph's Church where Fr. William Fisher and his parish welcomed them with open arms, and we have called it 'home' ever since. Fr. Tom Vermiglio was our moderator for twelve years, but that came to an end in 2006.
We continue to meet at St. Joseph's Parish using their chapel and meeting room. During the last five years, we have become a very close-knit family. No matter what the reason for gathering, time is always spent in "Sharing". This gives everyone the opportunity to tell something about their personal life, their family, their health, or give an update on other members. Through the sharing of our joys and our sorrows, we have come to know and love one another.
Keeping in mind that our main function is to support the Comboni Missionaries throughout the world, we remember the missionary priests, brothers and sisters in our mass intentions, our prayers and the Missionary Rosary. We stay in contact with them through our newsletter, birthday cards, anniversary cards, letters; and of course, e-mail.
Our year is filled with a Day of Recollection, the May Crowning, a spring rummage sale, summer mission visitors, the Lutheran Home Festival, a visit from the Comboni Lay Missionaries, the Annual Memorial Mass and our Christmas Party. In 2012 we met Fr. Manual Baeza, Provincial Superior of the NAP; and in the fall of 2012, the Auxiliary celebrated its 60th anniversary.
Something new and very exciting happened recently when the Auxiliary was approached by Lorie Bronson to partner with the Faith Formation Students of St. Mary's School in Monroe. We are sharing our missionary stories with the students and making them aware of their Baptismal duty of helping peoples in mission lands. We are working together to fund the drilling of a borehole in Africa; and most importantly, the students are praying for the missionaries!
Even though the circumstances and the work of the Auxiliary has changed immensely during the course of the last sixty years, I think St. Daniel Comboni is still very pleased with the Comboni Ladies Auxiliary of Monroe, MI.