MEQUON — The parking lot at Lumen Christi Parish was so full Saturday, June 1, people invented their own spots. Once inside the church, finding a seat wasn’t any easier as pews were full and chairs were brought in to fill every space.
The faith community of Lumen Christi was rocked with the death of Katherine Weiss, 46, who died May 28, leaving behind a husband, Bryan, and three children, Alex, Madison and Christopher.
During her funeral Mass, the parish’s pastor, Fr. Dan Sanders, commented on the enormous outpouring of support the family received in the days following the accident.
He also described Weiss as a giving member of the parish who often displayed “a tremendous spirit.”
Last year, he recalled, Weiss gathered all the children in her daughter Madison’s eighth grade class at Lumen Christi School for activities and to strengthen their bond as a class.
“She took it upon herself to do all the organizing for that and helped get the other volunteers,” Fr. Sanders said. “She felt the need for the kids to appreciate their classmates and their classmates’ families … she’s known as the mom who cares for all the kids.”
Fr. Sanders said it will be difficult for the parish to move forward without her.
“It sounds like hyperbole or exaggeration, but a lot of parents looked to her and her husband as role models for themselves as parents,” he said. “That’s why it’s such a tough blow. They looked to her for leadership.”
Weiss was a volunteer at the parish and “room mother” for her son, Christopher’s sixth grade class.
“These room mothers at Lumen Christi, a Catholic school that is a little light on the funding, the room mothers might as well be on the payroll,” said Jeff Wenzler, friend of the Weiss family and parishioner. “They do so much for the teachers. They do so much more for the students and the parents.”
Wenzler, founder of Pivotal Directions, a nonprofit organization that engages students in “service-learning” projects around the world, was asked by Fr. Sanders to offer grief counseling to the students particularly those in sixth grade.
“It was the most amazing thing,” Wenzler said about his discussion with the students. He said he asked them what they should talk about when referring to Weiss.
“They just started saying, ‘She was always positive; she always had a smile; she was always giving; she was an amazing lady,’” Wenzler said. “It’s a terrible tragedy but it does bring out the best sometimes.”
Noting that death and funerals aren’t common occurrences for grade school children, Fr. Sander said, “(Wenzler) talked about what a funeral is like, where our faith is at when someone dies … topics that we don’t take time out (to discuss) so he was able to help with that for the whole class.”
During this process, Wenzler thought about his own interactions with Weiss and remembered a coffee conversation they had about Pivotal Directions. Weiss had a friend who worked closely with the organization.
“We talked at length about Catholic education; we talked at length about service and her dreams and her hopes,” Wenzler said. “And what she wants to see better for the kids.”
Wenzler also heard about a past staff appreciation day at Lumen Christi where she placed a “banner or flower on every teacher’s door in the whole school,” he said, describing Weiss’s way of acknowledging others.
She also had a way of making things happen, noted another parishioner, John Truffert.
Truffert didn’t know Weiss until they worked together painting the “upper room” at Lumen Christi.
“It essentially was an abandoned attic with a lot of character,” Truffert said. He added that Fr. Sanders thought it would be a nice place to hold parish meetings. “Kathy just kind of ran with that … she’s just such a natural leader.”
Truffert added, “Kathy knows how to make things happen. Without her (painting the upper room) probably wouldn’t have happened.”
The news of her sudden death was shocking to those at Lumen Christi. Minutes into the funeral Mass, people dabbed their eyes with tissues and the sound of sniffles echoed throughout the church.
“It was so abrupt,” Wenzler said. “This isn’t cancer … this is the middle of the afternoon where a mom just didn’t come home when her kids got off the bus.”
Weiss was on I-43, outside of her car when another car struck and killed her just before noon on May 28. The authorities are investigating the accident.
Fr. Sanders reminded the people gathered for the funeral that no evidence suggests any negligence on the part of the driver.
“We hold, not only her family in prayer, but the driver of the vehicle that struck her, who must be going through great torture these days,” Fr. Sanders said. “We pray for peace for that individual.”