Catholic Herald Staff
Each year, the Superior Diocesan Council of Catholic Women solicits nominations for its Pax Christi award and selects a finalist from each deanery. Finalists Carol Landry, Hudson; Amy Geisler, Bruce; and Murlene Wiener, Mellen, were recognized June 15-16 at the SDCCW convention in Rhinelander.
A self-described “behind-the-scenes person,” Murlene Wiener has spent the last 40 years serving the Holy Rosary, Mellen, community through her parish women’s group.
A wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, the nominee for the SDCCW’s 2015 Pax Christi award also cooks, sews, sings, crochets and gardens.
“Most places need a behind-the-scenes person, which I am,” she said, “being sure the little things are done, too many to mention.”
Wiener was born in Ashland in 1939 and grew up on a farm a few miles outside of Mellen.
“There was a grocery store, cheese factory and the Cozy Valley School, which I attended from first grade through seventh grade,” she said. “The eighth grade was transported to the Mellen school.”
Wiener learned sewing and gardening from her mother — skills she put to use in 4-H as a teenager. After graduating from Mellen High School in 1957, she worked for Munsingwear, a clothing factory in Ashland.
Wiener married husband Carl in 1960 and stayed home to raise the couple’s six children, who in her words “grew up in a normal, prayerful, happy household.” Her family tree has branched out to include 11 grandchildren, two step-grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and two on the way.
While her children were growing up, Wiener continued using the talents she’d learned from her mother.
“The community needed a seamstress, which I was for many years,” she said. “Made many bridesmaid dresses, wedding dresses and veils, flower girl attire, leisure suits, coats, mending, etc.
“Needless to say, our family grew up wearing mom’s homemade clothes through graduation,” she added. In church, “whenever there is sewing to be done, I’m there sewing baptismal gowns in detail, etc.”
Wiener and her mother used to decorate the church, and she also made altar cloths and painted altar frontals for holidays and liturgical seasons. She designed and decorated the altar of repose and, as a member of the altar guild, ensured fonts were filled, votive candles were replaced and plants were watered.
Cooking is another of Wiener’s skills — one she has used in church and in her community. When her youngest daughter was in eighth grade, Wiener got a job as an assistant cook at the Mellen school, where she worked “for 18 very enjoyable years.” She’s also served as the cook and chairperson for 20-plus years for the pancake breakfast during Holy Rosary’s annual harvest festival.
Wiener taught catechism classes for a few years, and she was the secretary of her parish’s women’s group for many years. When she became active in the organization 40 years ago, it was the Altar Sodality; about 20 years ago, they changed their name to the Council of Catholic Women at their priest’s suggestion. The group continues to raise money for the poor through bingo socials, raffles, holiday bazaars and other fundraisers.
Wiener’s other church activities include serving on the funeral committee and singing in the funeral choir, leading the rosary and the Stations of the Cross during Lent, and joining fellow parishioners on the Good Friday procession to the church.
When she isn’t volunteering, Wiener’s days are still busy.
“I like to spend my time with my family, sewing, crocheting, taking care of the flowers and gardening. Of course, I can’t forget walking and exercise,” she said.