Growing up in Mequon, Mary Mueller thought she’d follow in four generations of her family’s footsteps — working in the restaurant business.

That’s why she earned a minor in business at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, Minnesota, to go with her degree in Catholic studies and theology.

Mary Mueller is the new director of marriage and family life for the archdiocese. (Photo by Larry Hanson)

However, the immersion into the Catholic studies program changed her trajectory, and she has now been on the job as the new director of marriage and family life for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for about a month.

“It kind of changed my understanding of how I view the world,” Mueller said.

Her interdisciplinary course work allowed her to study for a year in Rome and to take an internship in Sweden. Her thesis was on the impact the Catholic church has had on communities throughout history.

“Being in Catholic studies, my faith became the trajectory of everything and my faith became the pinnacle of everything,” Mueller said. “It was so important to me that I would live that faith out no matter what. I didn’t necessarily leave college saying, ‘I absolutely need to work in ministry’ but I knew that my faith had to be on the front burner at all times.”

After leaving college, Mueller was the director of evangelization at St. Charles Parish in Hartland, helping with RCIA, baptism prep and smalls. From there, she was the director of the Newman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for three years.

In her new position, Mueller is taking on some of the responsibilities Rich Harter had assumed when the position wasn’t filled.

“My role is going to be focused on how do we foster, uphold and encourage community within all areas related to marriage and family life with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee,” Meuller said.

She will focus on building community among families, form those entering marriage prep, support those with any issues regarding human sexuality and sexual identity, working with couples who are struggling  in their marriages and assisting those who have experienced divorce or the loss of a loved one.

“I think one of the biggest focuses is always how do we make someone feel received and make sure that they remember the Church is their home, no matter what they’ve experienced, no matter what they’ve gone through, no matter what difficulties they’ve encountered,” Mueller said. “(We want them to feel) that the Church still loves them, that Jesus Christ still loves them, that this is always their home, no matter what.”

Among her ideas for the future of family ministry in the archdiocese would be an annual retreat for families or couples.

“There’s big ideas but there’s also the realization that there’s so many people that have so much experience in those areas that I’m entering in really needing to learn from those people,” Mueller said. “I need to learn from the people on the ground, the people in the office. There’s definitely some big picture things that we would all love to see.”

Her family’s Heineman’s Restaurants (slogan: Natural Quality since 1923) featured local, homemade food and eventually grew to eight locations in the Milwaukee area before closing in 2009.

“We were a family institution,” Mueller said. “Customers that I served as a waitress in high school my dad had known since when he was serving there as a waiter.”

Mueller lives in Menomonee Falls with her husband, Michael, and their 1-year-old daughter. She can be reached at

“We want to support the people in this archdiocese, we want our priests to feel supported, we want to help our families feel supported,” she said. “We want to equip and support those that are doing ministry on the ground. Any event we do is important, but only if it’s rooted in supporting our people in the archdiocese.”