THE CATHOLIC GLOBE
PO BOX 5079 (51102)
1825 JACKSON ST.
SIOUX CITY, IA (51105)
Parish pitches in after accident
By KARA KOCZUR,
Globe staff reporter
Enjoying his last day of vacation back in June, Mel Wieseler was
fishing in Nebraska. As he tried repositioning himself on the cooler
he was sitting on, the cooler went off the seat in the boat and he
lost his balance.
Unsuccessful in his attempt to catch himself, the custodian at
Nativity in Sioux City fell out of the boat, catching himself by his
knees. Unknown at the time, Wieseler had shattered the blood vessels
in his right leg and ruptured the main artery behind his knee.
"I was 3 ½ hours from a hospital and by the time we made it there
it was too late and they had to amputate my leg up above the knee,"
said Wieseler, 64.
Upon hearing the news of their custodian's accident and knowing
he would be unable to perform his duties, Nativity parishioners
sprang into action to help.
"We met about two days after Mel had his accident and we knew
what his situation was," said Father Gerald Feierfeil, pastor. "I
invited as many people in the parish as could come to an evening
Five committees were established: one to clean the church, one to
mow the grass, one to clean the school, another to set up for
special events and one to take care of fix-ups.
"Between those five committees they took care of absolutely
everything all summer long," Father Feierfeil said. "They mowed the
grass, they cleaned the church, they got the school ready for the
new school year [and] did a lot of little painting and fix-up
projects that Mel would have taken care of."
John Wiederin estimated at least 45 people attended the initial
meeting. Wiederin, along with fellow parishioner Jerry Schulte, had
regularly helped Wieseler during his 25 years as custodian, but not
in the same capacity as after the accident.
"After school was out, all the rugs in the school had to get
cleaned," Wiederin said, adding that he really enjoyed helping his
friend. "I did probably 90 percent of that. We put in some long
days, but it wasn't that bad."
Volunteers also helped scrub and clean the floors, wash windows,
mow the grass, repair the wood fence, clean the church, replace the
lighting and ceiling tiles and perform tractor maintenance, he said.
There were many more people, Wiederin said, who wanted to
volunteer, but couldn't because of their work schedules.
Schulte said he was used to helping Wieseler out.
"When he went on vacation or had a doctor's appointment or
something, I took the keys and opened up and locked up again,
cleaned the floors - whatever are the necessary things a custodian
does," Schulte said.
Judy Verschoor organized a group to clean the church after
Wieseler's accident. She stepped forward, she said, because she knew
the parish needed help and the parishioners needed to "take up the
"There were an awful lot of people that came forward to help,"
she said. "It was wonderful to see the parish pull together in
support of Mel and in support of Father and the parish as a whole."
While a new custodian was recently hired, Verschoor and her
cleaning group will continue to clean the church. Volunteers will
also continue mowing the grass, Father Feierfeil said, adding that
volunteers will also probably help with snow removal when that
season rolls around.
"I'm just so very, very proud of the parish and how they stepped
up and volunteered all over the place to take care of things,"
Father Feierfeil said. "We've kind of got the spirit going of people
taking some real ownership of the facilities and that's been a
Besides supporting Wieseler with their labor, parishioners have
also been supporting him with their prayers. The morning after his
accident, over 250 people gathered for a Mass offered for his
intention, Wieseler said. It was that morning that he had his leg
"It makes you stop and think how much a person is appreciated,"
he said of the support he's received. "It's choking,
While the accident affected him at first, Wieseler said his faith
and a lot of prayer have helped him get through it. He added that he
often wears a finger rosary that gets its use.
The parishioners at Nativity are not finished helping out
Wieseler quite yet. A Sneaky's chicken benefit dinner will be held
from noon-2 p.m., Oct. 5. The dinner will be a freewill offering.
"We're certainly welcoming any gifts, any well-wishes that people
would like to extend to him," Father Feierfeil said. "It's a thank
you for 25 years of service and it's also a benefit because there
are some expenses that he needs to take care of."
Some of those expenses include making his house wheelchair
accessible. While Wieseler, who is currently training the new
custodian, will eventually get a prosthetic leg - two actually, a
nicer one with a computer and one that can get wet while hunting and
fishing - he will still be in the wheelchair from time to time.
He doesn't know exactly how he's going to do it, Wieseler said,
but one thing he hopes to do soon is thank everyone for all their
"I just want to thank everybody for what [they] have done," he
said. "I've got a big job to do on that yet."