Snowbirds find familiarity in second Catholic homes

Written by Karen Mahoney, Special to your Catholic HeraldThursday, 14 February 2013 09:22

Like many retirees, Howard and Agnes Maney of Milwaukee travel south for winter. They escape Wisconsin’s cold and snow, leaving Milwaukee in October and returning in May. In previous years, the couple traveled to Wisconsin for Christmas, but this year opted to stay and enjoy the sunshine.

“We used to come home at Christmas, but we nearly froze to death, so we said ‘forget that,’” laughed Howard.
While many of South Florida’s winter-only residents spend the season playing canasta in ocean-side condos or battling bogeys on inland golf courses, a few, like the Maneys, enjoy a combination of fun in the sun as well as worshiping in the neighborhood Catholic church.

“At home, we are members of St. Matthias Parish and here we are members of St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral,” said Howard. “We aren’t really involved in either parish any more because we are both 86-years-old and not up to doing too much these days. When we were younger and we had our kids in school at St. Matthias, we were more involved in parish life.”

When they first began trekking to their home, built by Howard, a former Milwaukee police officer and homebuilder, they would often play bridge and travel with a group of eight friends they met in Cape Coral.

“There are only three of us left, my wife, me and a guy from Detroit,” said Howard. “Everyone else is gone, and that’s the hard part of getting older – so many of our friends are dying.”

While the weather is balmy and relaxing during the six months the Maneys live in Cape Coral, neither are all that anxious to live there full time.

“We have many ties in Milwaukee because our children live there, and we have a lot of real estate there as well,” said Howard. “We have thought of moving here and maybe we would if we didn’t have so many ties back home – but we also really don’t like the heat down here in the summer.”

One way the couple brings their hometown with them is through forwarding their subscription to the Catholic Herald to their Florida home.

“We enjoy being able to keep up with what is going on back home and in the church as a whole,” said Howard. “Of course, we also like to see what is going on in our parish and in the diocese.”

For the past seven years, Richard and Jean Mehring travel to Surprise, Ariz., where they rent a home in an RV park.

“We leave in January and return in mid-April,” said Richard. “We are in our third location; each time we seem to get a bigger place so we have room for our kids to visit. It’s been very nice for us and when we see how bad the weather is back home, we enjoy it here even more.”

At home, the couple belongs to St. Frances Cabrini Parish in West Bend. In years past, both were involved in their home parish; Richard was an usher and served on the parish council and Jean taught in the parish school for 17 years. While in Arizona, they attend St. Clare of Assisi, a recently constructed church just outside their complex in Surprise.

“The church is quite an edifice, there is a lot of marble, and it reminds me of some of the churches we have seen in Europe,” said Richard. “We aren’t really involved in this parish, but we do attend Mass every Saturday evening. It’s nice to have a parish so close by.”

Despite the universality of the Catholic Mass, there is one distinct difference between the Mehrings home parish and their Arizona parish home.

“Here in Arizona, they do a lot more singing, or chanting than we do back home,” said Richard. “We are not used to having nearly all of the Mass sung and we definitely like the way we do it back home a lot better. On special occasions, I guess, I can appreciate all the singing, but they seem to do it at all the weekend Masses, too.”

Because they enjoy keeping up on the activities of their home parish and the archdiocese, the Mehrings also receive their subscription to the Catholic Herald in Arizona.

We like to know what is going on and we want to keep getting the paper,” said Richard, adding, “We also get the Catholic paper from here, it’s called the Catholic Sun, and it is nice and has a few more pages, but we like getting our local news with the Catholic Herald.”

Since 2002, Joe and Kathy Hoepfl, members of St. Matthias Parish, have traveled to North Redding Beach, Fla., where they soak up the sunshine for a couple of months before retreating back to Milwaukee. Both are involved in the St. Matthias parish food pantry, Joe serves as a lector and Kathy makes sleeping bags for the homeless.

“We stay in a condo right on the beach,” said Kathy. “And we have been lucky to have made friends from people all around the country and have instant friends when we come down there. We stay in contact all year.”
Generally, Joe, 74, plays golf a few times a week, but one of his golfing partners is in his 80s and not up to playing as often.

“Joe would like to go more, but works around his friend,” said Kathy, 73. “We spend a lot of time relaxing and just doing whatever we want.”

 At first, the couple attended St. John Vianney in St. Petersburg, but go to Blessed Sacrament Parish in Seminole because it is closer.

“We are here for such a short time, so all we do is attend Mass on Sundays and Ash Wednesday if it falls during the time we are down here,” said Kathy. “There isn’t a lot of difference between attending Mass here or at St. Matthias, except that there are a lot of old people here, and no one seems to want to sing here like we do at St. Matthias. There are also a lot of people who leave right after Communion and before the singing is done. One time, the priest even said something about it.”


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