Jacque Kelnhofer, pastoral coordinator at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Milwaukee, wanted to offer something special for her parish and the surrounding community during Lent.

So, she decided to offer a program called “Soup and Substance.” The Lenten speaker series is being held on Saturdays in Lent, from 6 to 7 p.m., in Sampon Hall at St. Margaret Mary Church, 3970 N. 92nd St., Milwaukee, following the 5 p.m. Mass.

The purpose is to invite people to deepen their Lenten experience by gathering as a community to share in a simple soup dinner and spiritual nourishment from local leaders.

“The idea really is to come, deepen your relationship with God in a way that helps you to take what you hear and live it out with purposeful action,” Kelnhofer said. “This is really meant to set your heart on fire and then release you to the world.”

God’s Hand

While St. Margaret Mary Parish has had guest speakers before, this is the first time it has offered “Soup and Substance,” an idea that Kelnhofer got from her time working at St. Mary Parish in Hales Corners.

“At St. Mary’s, the Soup and Substance program was part of the outreach ministry. I decided to do it here as a Lenten series around themes of Lent,” said Kelnhofer, who started working at St. Margaret Mary Parish in June.

To find speakers, Kelnhofer relied on connections from her previous work, as well as following recommendations she received from others. She started making calls to people whom she would like to speak. She wasn’t sure how they would respond, and she was nervous that she was calling with too short of a notice.

But, she ended up with an impressive list of speakers.

“I really believe God had a hand in this. I got yeses from people who normally say no. I think the whole series is going to be incredibly engaging,” Kelnhofer said.

Kelnhofer also wasn’t sure how she would be able to offer a soup supper every week. But all she had to do was mention the idea, and a parishioner, Cheryl Vosswinkel, volunteered to cook a different homemade soup each week for the community.

“It is going to be delicious, but it will be a simple soup. The idea is to be in solidarity with those with less,” Kelnhofer said.

Attendees are asked to RSVP for each event to ensure there is enough soup for everyone. Bread, crackers and water also will be served.

“On the RSVP, there is an invitation to help with setup or cleanup, and we have had a wonderful response. So, Cheryl is spearheading the cooking, but we do have some great volunteer support,” Kelnhofer said. “Everything has just come together unbelievably well. I really do think God is looking out for this.”

The series will offer something for everyone.

“My prayer for the Soup and Substance series is that it bears fruit, whether that is introducing someone to Christ in a way they have not yet met him, or whether it is stirring someone to take their relationship with Christ to a deeper level,” Kelnhofer said. “It meets you where you are at and helps nudge you along farther down the road.”

The Speakers

The Soup and Substance series kicked off Saturday, March 5, with a presentation on “Heart to Heart Prayer” by Margaret Rhody, associate director of the Archdiocese Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for Adult Ministry.

Upcoming presentations include:

March 12 – “Fasting and Temptation,” presented by Al McCauley, director of Adult Faith Formation at St. Anthony on the Lake Parish

March 19 – “Forgiveness and Reconciliation,” presented by Tom Chmielewski, retired theology teacher and campus minister at St. Pius XI High School, and Nancie Chmielewski, parish director at Our Lady of Lourdes

March 26 – “Gifts of the Desert,” presented by Fr. Tim Kitzke, pastor of Three Holy Women, Old St. Mary, Ss. Peter and Paul, and Our Lady of Divine Providence parishes

April 2 – “Almsgiving, Social Justice and Encounter in Milwaukee,” presented by Vincent Noth, executive director of Riverwest Food Pantry

April 9 – “From the Manger to the Cross: Walking the Journey with Jesus,” presented by Mary Matestic, M.T.S., retired pastoral associate of St. Mary, Hales Corners

Want To Attend?

An RSVP is not required to attend Soup and Substance, but it is helpful in planning for food. If you know that you will be attending any of the presentations, email jkelnhofer@stmmp.org or call 414-461-6073, ext. 107.