Mueller’s vision for Parish Hall close to reality – Empty Nest, by Curt Swarm


But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
The snow was wet and heavy as Mike Mueller walked down to the cabin by the creek. He was wearing tennis shoes and should have put on boots. Mike stood in contemplation for a while and silently asked his brother, “What in the heck did you do this for?”
When he got home, Mike took off his tennis shoes. His socks and feet were dry and warm. How could that be after walking in wet snow?
Mike and his family had been in church several weeks before. The sun was shining beautifully through the stained-glass windows. Mike felt strongly that something was happening. When they left church, there was a message waiting for him. His brother Dan had taken his own life at the age of 63.
Dan Mueller had been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. He was receiving treatment and looking forward to returning to work at Merschman Seed in West Point where he was a processing manager. Retirement was just around the corner. He knew the odds of beating pancreatic cancer—about 10%, but was optimistic. Just the day before he had been at a wedding and told people that he was going to beat it. Whether it was out of love for his family, not wanting them to watch him die slowly, or just not wanting to go through the pain and suffering of this evil disease, no one knows. There was no note.
Dan was the chairman of the committee to build a Parish Hall for St. James Catholic Church in St. Paul, Iowa. Several years before they had renovated the church at a cost of $500,000, and that was pretty tough to raise. Estimates for tearing down the old school and building the Parish Hall came in at $2,000,000. People said it would never happen.
The day after Dan’s funeral, Brian Merschman called and asked Mike if he could help chair the Parish Center Committee along with Mike. Brian had lost a family member to cancer. Mike agreed and started making calls. Lo-and-behold, one parishioner said he would donate a large sum, and then another parishioner stepped forward. Bingo!
Brian Merschman and Mike Mueller, along with Father Bruce, made a trip to see the Bishop in Davenport. Brian would explain the construction, Mike the fundraising. The Bishop, an old farm boy, could see their enthusiasm. He said that if they could get 60% pledged, they had his blessing.
With a lot of labor, material and services donated, the actual cost of the 130′ x 60′ Parish Hall came in at $950,000. The final proposal was put before the church in May, and a capital campaign started. Within a month they had their 60%. The Parish Hall is expected to be completed in April.
A memorial service for Dan brought in $20,000. Then, tickets for a memorial euchre tournament, at God’s Acre Sale, sold for $75 each. People said, “We have to get this done, for Dan!”
Mike Mueller has always believed that there is a battle between good and evil. When he spoke at Dan’s funeral, he mentioned faith, hope and love, from Corinthians, with love being the greatest. “Dan loved his family, he loved life, he loved this church. We have the opportunity to combat the evil that was destroying his body and mind, with the good that this Parish Hall will bring. Dan was a man of few words. He did not talk about his feelings. He was a man of action. Rome was not built in a day. If Dan had been in charge, it would have been built in a day! Dan is not here, but by golly we can finish the job that Dan started.”
If you would like to donate to the St. James Catholic Church Parish Center in St. Paul, checks can be sent to St. James Catholic Church, St. James Parish Center, P.O. Box 100, Houghton, IA 52631. The greatest of these is love.

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at or visit his website at

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