Deacon Richard Sage         Contact Deacon Sage

The Sage File

On January 20, 2010, Richard was named one of two recipients of the Iverson Freking Ecumenical Award presented by the Bethany St. Joseph Corporation. For that occasion, the biography below was written by Gale Bruessel. Since that writing, Richard has retired from Catholic Charities and is able to devote more time to our MMOC parish family. His leadership, his presence, and the example of his life are an extraordinary blessing to us. Among his many ministries to us is that he is chairman of our Building Our Future Together Commission.

A Profile of Rev. Mr. Richard Sage

Sage "Faith is a gift although some people interiorize it more than others. Everyone receives faith but it's how you respond to it that makes faith an essential part of a person," expresses Deacon Richard Sage. He adds that faith is usually defined as a feeling and it sets into motion all sorts of inside things such as emotions, feelings and responses that have accumulated throughout a lifetime. "If you experience faith, it requires you to do something!" and he further borrows from Mother Theresa, "God didn't call us to be successful. God called us to be faithful."

Born in La Crosse, WI, and raised with his 5 brothers and sisters in Onalaska, WI, Deacon Sage experienced how his parents' gift of faith set them in motion to take care their fellow man all the while raising a young and busy family. His mother and father were founding members of St. Patrick's Catholic Church of Onalaska and he has many memories of his parents volunteering in the church men's and women's groups. Since his father was a plumber, he worked on several of the church work crews. His mother, a homemaker, used her talents to put her faith in action. Their attitude of helping people always portrayed feelings of care and concern.

Richard met his wife, Mary Bell, at Onalaska High School and continued dating into college at UW-La Crosse for a year. After attending Holy Cross Seminary in La Crosse for a year, he changed course and enrolled in the accounting program at Western Technical College. He and Mary were married in 1969 at St. Patrick's Catholic Church. They live in La Crosse and raised 3 children over 40 years. Jennifer Schmeling, married to David, lives in Brookfield, WI, and has a daughter named Alicia. Tom Sage, married to Michelle, lives in McFarland, WI. David Sage, married to Cindy, lives in Apple Valley, MN, and has two sons, Jacob and Cody.

He received his associate degree in accounting from WTC and later attended Viterbo University and received a bachelor's degree in Business Administration. He worked for 17 years in the finance office for the Diocese of La Crosse and then for 13 years as the chief financial officer for La Crosse's Family and Children's Center. On June 19, 1983, after a 5 year course of study, he was ordained to serve by Bishop John Paul as the area's first Catholic deacon. The focus of the ordination is to work for the less fortunate. He has been deacon for 26 years with the St. Pius Parish which later merged with the St. Thomas Moore Parish and now is known as Mary, Mother of the Church Parish. Deacon Sage received a master's degree in Servant Leadership through Viterbo University and in 2006 joined Catholic Charities as its interim director. In May 2006, he accepted the offer and is currently the Executive Director of Catholic Charities. (Note: Dn. Sage retired in 2014.)

Deacon Sage became involved in the church at a young age as an altar boy, choir member and as a high school sophomore, played the church organ for services. He was influenced by watching the prayerful life of the Benedictine Sisters with their lives of simplicity and the kindness they exuded. He has been further influenced by many priests including Bishop Frederick Freking who he worked with for 7 years. Sage states, "Bishop Freking was so kind, gentle and a brilliant man who attended all sessions of the Vatican II Council. I saw him as a good administrator, warm, approachable and he had fun!"

He worked side by side with influential good friends Earl Madary, Tom Thibodeau, Joe Kruse and Dick Berendes to develop A Place of Grace, a place of hospitality "where you can just be." He also worked with Rev. Ted Dewald as founding board members of the WAFER food pantry. He reflects, "I've always tried to surround myself with good people."

He is a servant leader for area disaster recovery efforts, displaced workers and the Hunger Task Force where food is recovered and channeled to programs which provide for those less fortunate. He has served on the Jail Ministry Board and has a special interest in refugees and immigration—even creating a clothing center for the newly arrived Hmong refugees. Under his direction, Catholic Charities now serves the Hispanic population and has an immigration attorney on staff. The basic principle with immigration is that people have a God-given right to migrate to improve their families' lives. Sage currently serves on Viterbo University's Board of Advisors. His sense of community is tied to the elements of the common good and rooted in justice. He remarks, "The hallmark of a community is how well it takes care of its weakest. We need to express compassion."

When not busy with career and volunteering, his hobbies are yard work, listening to classical music, cooking (especially soups and Paella, a Spanish rice entré, enjoying his family and maybe thinking about meeting another community need.

In March 2015 Dn. Sage received the Bill Medland Faithful Servant Award from Catholic Charities.


Deacon Sage reads the Gospel on Palm Sunday, 2010.

Deacon Richard reads the Gospel of our Lord's Passion on Palm Sunday.

Sage family

On November 16, 2008, Richard, Mary, and all the Sage clan were on hand as MMOC celebrated the 25th anniversary of Richard's ordination.

Updated 1 May 2021