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CMC celebrates 10 years under Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Laura Green, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Sep. 12, 2019 -- 12:00 AM
cmc meal
Msgr. Ken Fiedler, pastor, Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Madison, serves a meal with fellow parishioners. (Contributed photo)

MADISON -- Ten years ago, Msgr. Ken Fiedler of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish had “keys to an empty building, no money, and no staff” after he boldly decided to take on the task of operating the Catholic Multicultural Center (CMC) when the Diocese of Madison shut it down due to budget concerns.

On August 3, 2009, the CMC reopened under Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish with a budget of $250,000, a staff of four, and a handful of community programs, including a free meal three times a week.

CMC Director Andy Russell said he was nervous when the CMC reopened. “Can we really keep this going? I not only want to be able to keep it going, but to grow it substantially.”

Today, the CMC serves people in need with a budget of $1.7 million, 16 permanent staff positions, and roughly three times the amount of programming, including Dane County’s only free community meal served all seven days of the week.

The CMC is celebrating these accomplishments by looking back at the moments 10 years ago that enabled this success.

Reactions to closing

“When I got the news that the CMC was closing, it felt like a loved one just died; I felt numb,” said Russell.

Service Coordinator Antonio Quintanilla said when he heard the news, he couldn’t accept that the center could close for good. “I was just thinking, God will provide, I will wait and see what happens.”

On Pentecost Sunday, a couple days after the closing, Monsignor Fiedler was sitting in his backyard, upset about the news of the closing.

He was familiar with the CMC, because Queen of Peace had been collecting food for the CMC pantry for many years and because the parish had become quite involved with the campaign to build the new CMC building in 2002.

He began praying for the CMC, and then he very clearly heard a voice say to him, “Why don’t you just do it?” with “it” being to have his parish take on operation of the CMC.

“I wanted to not only help facilitate the reopening but to run it. Because helping the poor is in our blood as Roman Catholics following the Gospel,” explained Monsignor Fiedler.

Parish takes over

So he contacted the vicar general, and a mere one and a half days later, Monsignor Fiedler had the keys to the CMC and a press release written by the diocese explaining the official transfer of the CMC’s operations to Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, who would take on responsibility of running the center.

Step one was to hire back the four staff members who had been working at the CMC when it closed: Director Andy Russell, Steve Maurice, Antonio Quintanilla, and Lilliam Post.

“If the original four hadn’t come back, we might not have pulled this off. I am very grateful for them and for the trust they put in me and in Queen of Peace,” said Monsignor Fiedler.

Step two was to get donations to fund the operation of the center. By the end of the day when the public announcement was made that Our Lady Queen of Peace was taking on the CMC, Monsignor Fiedler had a slew of emails and voicemails offering to help with this endeavor, including pledges in donations totaling $30,000 just over the span of a few hours.

“The key to me was how generous people were in sharing their prayers, financial support, and volunteering their time. To me, this speaks to the goodness of the people in Madison,” said Monsignor Fiedler, adding that the “CMC started as a grassroots effort, and I wanted to keep it grassroots, where all parishes had some responsibility in running it.”

While Monsignor Fiedler and community supporters worked on laying the groundwork for the CMC to reopen, staff kept the mission of the CMC alive even while its doors were closed.

Quintanilla and his wife continued accepting the food collection from Queen of Peace, running a food pantry out of their front porch. Maurice operated the meal program out of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. After two months, these programs were able to resume operation within the walls of the CMC when the center reopened.

Reopening, expanding

On the day of the big reopening, the CMC offered its usual evening meal, the media came to cover the occasion, and supporters and beneficiaries alike were excited to see the CMC up and running again.

Hopes were running high, but the closing was still fresh in everyone’s minds. “The main goal was to ensure that everything we did was sustainable,” said Russell.

Not only did CMC sustain the programs of the past, it greatly expanded its offerings. Shortly after reopening, the CMC expanded its meal program from three to five days a week, then to seven days.

Monsignor Fielder himself began to lead one of five Queen of Peace Parish groups to serve the meal once a month. “I like serving the meal, so I can visit with everybody. It’s important to treat [meal program attendees] like our guests. They are part of God’s family, and they should be made welcome,” said Monsignor Fiedler.

A couple years after the reopening, Culinary Creations Catering job training enterprise was born, with Queen of Peace being the first customer, asking the CMC to cater all their funeral luncheons. Later QP became the first of four schools the enterprise now caters for.

Around the same time, a low-cost immigration legal services program was created due to high demand in the community. The food pantry quickly expanded from once a week to twice a week. A few years later, it expanded again, doubling the number of visits families were allowed to make in a month.

A community environmental program was added so that CMC could live the social teaching of Caring for Creation and take steps to protect the low-income and minority populations it serves from disproportionate negative environmental impacts.

Looking to the future

Reflecting on this incredible growth that followed the closing and reopening, Russell explained, “Queen of Peace has been crucial to our success, but so are a lot of other organizations that have helped us. We wouldn’t be here today doing what we’re doing if not for everyone’s support.”

Looking back on the 10 years that took the CMC from being a vacant building to becoming a bigger, stronger, and more effective organization in serving people in need, Russell said, “[For the future,] we hope to continue to see it grow and flourish to help our brothers and sisters in need even more.”

Monsignor Fiedler echoed these thoughts, saying, “I want us to continue a strong financial base so we can increase all ministries depending on the needs of our community, especially immigration services and also job training. I want us to treat everyone with dignity in a very hostile world. We have to be a beacon of welcome to everyone.”

He wants to continue to see the whole community be involved in the operation and success of the CMC, saying that it’s not just up to Queen of Peace. “I hope it continues to be grassroots supported, as it began in 1946 [when CMC was founded] and has been since then. That’s the only way this will continue to work.”

To learn more about the CMC or how to get involved, visit cmcmadison.org or contact Laura Green, grants and volunteer coordinator, at 608-441-1180 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 
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