‘Apple Pie Ambassadors’ welcome new neighbors Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017 -- 12:00 AM

apple pie ambassadors
Tom Coffey, left, receives a pie and a church bulletin from Immaculate Heart of Mary in Monona parishioners Christopher Speece and his daughters Monica and Clare. The Speeces serve as “Apple Pie Ambassadors,” welcoming new families to the parish neighborhood. (Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash).

MONONA -- “Hello, we’re from Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Monona. We understand that you recently moved into the area. We just wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood.”

That greeting -- along with an apple pie, a bulletin, and a smile -- are what the parish’s “Apple Pie Ambassadors” have given out nearly 50 times since May.

Earlier this year, the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Parish Council came up with the idea for the ambassadors to serve as a “welcome wagon” for people who recently moved into the area, both Catholics and others.

They are invited to check out IHM and also informed of some of the bigger events that have a presence in the neighborhood, such as the parish festival and fish fries.

Getting started

An IHM parishioner, who is a realtor, sends program leader Sharon Coffey a list of the new homes sold in Monona every month.

“We’d eventually like to get to the whole parish boundaries,” said Coffey. “Right now, we’re just getting started, and we kind of want to feel our way through these houses [in Monona].”

From there, she assigns which of the dozen ambassadors -- ranging in ages from 30s to 60s -- is to make the visit, typically close to their own residences.

The visits are typically done in pairs and usually on Saturdays when people are likely to be home. Parishioners’ children sometimes go along, too.

Coffey said they hope the ambassadors will make a “connection and then friendship, and maybe it will grow into something.”

“We’re coming in contact with all different kinds of people,” she added, including people of varying ages, marital status, and religion.

If no one is home, the ambassadors will try again on later dates before leaving a door hanger with a greeting from Pastor Fr. Chad Droessler and information about the parish.

Along with meeting new neighbors, “[the ambassadors] get to know different people in the parish too” through making the visits together, Coffey said.

Making connections

IHM parishioner Christopher Speece is one of the ambassadors.

He will typically make the visits with his daughters, Clare and Monica.

“The initial conversations have been much more positive than I thought they would be,” Speece said, expecting negative reactions or door slamming in his face, but “that really hasn’t happened.”

Speece will give the standard welcome, offer the pie and bulletin, and “we just got into conversations from there.”

He added religion topics didn’t come up unless the new neighbors would talk about it.

“It was more a friendly visit,” he said, but also did say he’s hoping to see them at church soon.

He seconded the fact that he’s met a variety of people while making the visits, with conversations typically lasting between five and 15 minutes.

They included a business owner who told his success story, a woman from Africa who came to the U.S. to help her daughter expecting her first child, and even some people he had previously met at a neighborhood block party and were looking for a church.

Some have also been Catholic, but not active Mass-goers.

“Evangelization takes place by building relationships first,” Speece said.

“I hope it continues for the long term . . . eventually every person that moves into Monona gets a visit from IHM,” and he hopes to meet a parishioner in the future who the first person he or she met upon moving to Monona was an Apple Pie Ambassador.

Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish is located at 4913 Schofield St. in Monona. For more information, call 608-221-1521 or visit

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