Musicians in Oconomowoc will “Enter the Season with Song,” on Sunday, but the joy of the season will be mingled with the sad reality of an epidemic sweeping Wisconsin communities.
As it has for more than two decades, St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish will host its annual concert, but this one will be in memory of a parishioner from neighboring St. Joan of Arc Parish, Nashotah, who died of a heroin overdose earlier this year.
Heroin addiction is on the rise, and it’s a problem the Oconomowoc community is working hard to end.
This year, the offering collected at the annual concert will be given in memory of Archie Badura to help in the fight against heroin addiction. The Saving Others for Archie fund contributes to heroin prevention education, making treatment more accessible, and providing resources to talk about it.
The concert tradition started 22 years ago when Bill Frederick and Steve Johnson worked together in the Madison Diocese and formed a musical group.
Each year, a free will offering is taken up for a different charity. Through the years, more than $100,000 has been donated to helping the community.
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“Enter the Season with Song,” will be presented Sunday, Dec. 14 at 2 p.m. at St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish, W359 N8512 Brown St., Mapleton. Free will offering will be accepted in memory of Archie Badura to help in the fight against heroin addiction.
“We really want to draw attention to this heroin problem in the community,” said Frederick, director of liturgy and music as well as pastoral associate and youth minister at St. Catherine.
Archie died the morning of May 15 at age 19 due to acute heroin intoxication.
“Archie’s death was one of the most tragic things I’ve ever seen,” said Frederick.
Archie started smoking marijuana in high school as a way to cope with his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The marijuana led to other drugs, and he began using heroin in January 2014.
“Heroin didn’t define him,” said Archie’s mom, Lauri Badura. “He was a wonderful kid, he just got stuck. That’s how quickly it can take a life.”
Archie was a young man with a great sense of humor and a personality that allowed him to get along with everyone, according to parish officials.
“He was very involved in his faith,” said Frederick, who has worked at St. Joan of Arc for four years. “He really took part in the church. He just had a beautiful soul.”
Archie also attended church regularly, was an altar server and worked at St. Joan of Arc as a custodian.
Since Archie’s death, the Badura family has joined several efforts to speak out about the dangers of heroin use.
“In this area, his death, among others, has become a catalyst to raise awareness,” said Fr. Michael Strachota, pastor of St. Joan of Arc and St. Catherine parishes. “It affects others. The whole area needs to understand the influence of what’s out there and we need to act on it.”
Badura works on community and state levels in an effort to make a change and prevent the spread of heroin. She is involved in several heroin/opiate meetings and committees on a volunteer basis, including the National Governors Association’s Policy Academy on Reducing Prescription Drug Abuse as well as the Waukesha County AODA Advisory Committee and the Oconomowoc High School AODA Advisory Committee. She also helps organize and coordinate the Stairway to Heroin event, a parent and community resource fair and program about the growing heroin problem.
“It’s an actual epidemic in Waukesha County and in the state,” said Badura. “It’s a full-time fight, and I’m completely volunteer.”
Heroin use, which often stems from an addiction to prescription drugs containing opiates, has been on the rise in recent years, particularly in Southeastern Wisconsin.
In 2013, Milwaukee County reported 67 deaths from heroin overdoses, a number that has continued to increase since 2008.
“In all my years, I’ve never seen as many tragic deaths of young people through drugs or suicide,” said Fr. Strachota. “It’s so important for young people to realize they’re not invincible and to be aware of their choices.”
In October, a vigil was held for Archie at St. Joan of Arc cemetery immediately following the Stairway to Heroin II presentation. Many people gathered in song and prayer to remember Archie, as well as their own loved ones lost by addiction, suicide or mental illness. The event saw a significantly increased attendance compared to the first presentation in April.
“Last spring, before Archie died, Stairway didn’t have much turnout; last month there were over 800 people at the candlelight,” said Frederick. “It’s really been around, and people are just tired of it.”
Archie’s younger brother Augie, 18, was a speaker at the Stairway to Heroin II event. He speaks out about his brother’s death to different schools and at heroin awareness events.
“It’s been helping him a lot,” said Badura. “He’s had several kids come up to him at school and he talks to them.”
Speaking out about how heroin affected Archie and their family helps the Baduras give purpose to Archie’s death, but they find the most comfort through their faith.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without my faith,” said Badura.
“Coping with life and the death of a child can put any mother, parent or family member into pure desperation. It’s our belief in Jesus Christ that gets us through this.”
The Badura family is grateful for the support of the Oconomowoc community and Oconomowoc High School, as well as their parish.
“Fr. Mike gave Archie a beautiful burial,” said Badura. “The entire community wrapped their arms around us. When I left that night, I really felt lifted – like the Holy Spirit came down on me.”
It’s important for the family to give back to the parish and the community for all the support they’ve been given. The Baduras want to make sure fewer families suffer the same pain they experienced.
“We’re hoping that we, as Catholics, can work together to try and help the other families,” said Badura.
The concert at St. Catherine is an event the Baduras and those close to Archie are hoping will continue to raise awareness of the dangers of heroin abuse.
“The concert draws people together,” said Fr. Strachota. “It lifts the spirit through the enjoyment of music and it continues to do good for other people.”
Frederick anticipates a full house for the concert, with more than 650 people in attendance.
“Bill Frederick was very close with Archie; they were like brothers,” said Badura. “For Bill and Steve to do this beautiful concert, we really appreciate it.”
Besides Frederick and Johnson, singers for the event include Gail Wagner, Barb Lancelle and Katie Czarnecki with performances by instrumentalists Mike Welch, Pam Miller, Elaine Jaeke, Mike Hirsch, Garry Niebler and Brad Urban. The St. Catherine Handbell Choir will also perform.
Archie’s memory lives, as his family and friends spread his message to save others.
“Archie was a young person that really cared about others,” said Fr. Strachota. “Archie, like some of the saints, will spend his time in heaven doing things for people on earth. He would be very concerned about those he left behind. He would want his death not to be in vain.”