Catholic Charities holds Faith in Action Celebration Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Mary C. Uhler, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018 -- 12:00 AM

catholic charities

MIDDLETON -- Catholic Charities (CC) in the Diocese of Madison held its 23rd annual Faith in Action Celebration November 8 at the Madison Marriott West in Middleton.

Jackson Fonder, president and CEO of Catholic Charities, welcomed the guests, noting that this marks 23 years of recognizing community leaders and sharing stories of Catholic Charities’ clients and volunteers.

He thanked the Edgewood High School Jazz Band for providing music during the cocktail time and thanked the Edgewood High School Honor Society students for helping check coats and the volunteer greeters from St. Ambrose Academy.

Fonder introduced Leslie Orrantia, who co-hosted the evening with Fonder. Orrantia is director of community relations at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a member of The Beacon Community A Team.

“This is an opportunity to celebrate putting our faith into action,” said Orrantia, who praised the “tremendous work” of Catholic Charities in such areas as services for seniors, affordable mental health, and serving the homeless.

Recognized staff

Fonder recognized Catholic Charities staff, including:

• Jeff Collins, clinical supervisor at Hope Haven.

• Suzanne Herritz, accountant.

• John Adams, new director of The Beacon.

• Emily Jamie, school-based mental health programs.

• Todd Paskey, a leader in the Community Living Program.

• Carrie Fox, marketing specialist.

• Kaitlin Erdmann, lead recreation specialist at the Adult Day Center.

• Kathy Stellrecht, retiring in May of 2019 as chief operating officer after 31 years of dedicated service.

Also thanked were retiring Catholic Charities Board of Directors members Colleen Donnelly, Laura Anderson, Dr. Peter Lake, and Msgr. Larry Bakke.

‘Something beautiful’

Bishop Robert C. Morlino also greeted those attending, saying, “Thank you so much for coming out in wonderful numbers. Catholic Charities reaches out to the poor and needy. It is something beautiful for our Church.”

He also said, “Scripture says that charity covers a multitude of sins. But some sins have not been covered,” he said, referring to the sexual abuse crisis in the Church. “Please keep the bishops in your prayers, and keep victims of abuse in your prayers that all steps will be taken so this will not happen again once and for all. We are taking steps in our diocese.”

Fonder asked for a moment of silence to mark the passing of Sr. Kathleen Malone, OP, a 2014 Leadership Award recipient who died recently. Fonder noted that she was adopted through Catholic Charities. She was a former teacher and principal at Edgewood Campus School in Madison.

President’s Awards

Fonder presented the President’s Awards to a family of volunteers and three clients. The client awards recognize success stories of Catholic Charities’ clients to acknowledge the accomplishments of those who receive their services. The recipients’ stories were shared in video segments. The honorees included:

• The Zakrzewski Family (Ryan, Laura, Rory, Annika, Sam, and Luke), Respite Care Team Ministry volunteers.

Catholic Charities assists with team formation, training, supervision at monthly team meetings, continuing education, community resources, and consultation for volunteers and those seeking respite.

In 2013, father Ryan Zakrzewski was matched with an older gentleman, and the family has become increasingly involved. Mother Laura joined the team in 2015, and all the children have participated.

“This is something we can all do together,” said Ryan. “We can make an impact.”

• Adam Drozdowicz, a client with Community Connections in Janesville.

Community Connections is a center that provides adults with developmental disabilities or traumatic brain injury the opportunity for daily community integration and meaningful activity, both in the community and at the Janesville program facility.

Adam, age 29, was born with a rare birth defect called Agenesis of Corpus Callosum (ACC). Since starting at Community Connections, Adam has had improvement in ambulating, which helps his posture and keeps his muscle tone in shape, and he has acquired more independence during meal time and has been an active participant in activities.

• Rebecca Meyer, a client at the Community Living Program.

Catholic Charities’ Community Living Program provides individualized support for adults with developmental disability or traumatic brain injury that enables the clients to live as independently as possible in the community.

Rebecca first became part of the program in 2012. Due to her various mental health disorders, she was considered a danger to herself, her family, her fellow students, and the community at large. For several years, living in an institution was the only feasible option to keep her safe.

With the help of Community Living support staff, Rebecca has a life in the community, goes to the pool, goes roller skating, has lost over 100 pounds, and has a safe and structured future.

“I am happy with Community Living,” said Rebecca in receiving the award.

• Julie, a 60-year-old woman with mental health issues who has received help from The Beacon, the homeless day resource center operated by Catholic Charities in Madison.

Julie came to The Beacon in November of 2017 with two backpacks, two bags, and a cat carrying case. She was counseled by The Beacon’s guest service specialist and connected with trained professions. Julie’s primary physician registered her cat as a therapy pet, allowing her to stay at the Salvation Army. She now has stable housing in a one-bedroom apartment with her cat.

Michael Moody, guest services specialist at The Beacon, accepted the award for Julie.

Fonder also called John Terry to the stage. Formerly homeless, Terry now works as a volunteer at The Beacon, said Fonder, noting that he has put in over 500 hours of service there in one year. “Thank you, and thanks for giving back,” said Fonder to Terry.

Scholarship Awards

The annual youth scholarship award pays tribute to Mary Jeanne Kennedy Anderson in recognition of her devotion and service to children in schools and honor her life guided by Catholic faith.

Nominated students write an essay discussing the ways they live out their faith in parish, school, and community service. The winners receive a $2,000 scholarship.

Fonder presented awards to:

• Matthew Gille, who attends Stoughton High School and is a member of St. Ann Parish in Stoughton. In his parish, he sings in the choir, leads Vacation Bible School groups, and has participated in mission trips, including Love Begins Here. He serves food at the Catholic Multicultural Center.

He has also been involved in founding Kids4Kids, a nonprofit organization which holds events for community members in need.

He said, “Mother Teresa once said, ‘Faith in action is love, and love in action is service.’ These are certainly words to live by, and I do my best to put my own faith in action by serving others in every opportunity presented to me.”

• Rosemary Philip, who attends Baraboo High School and is a member of St. Joseph Parish in Baraboo. “Rosemary is an exemplary young lady whose presence and assistance and talent are very visible in many areas of the St. Joseph faith community,” said Fr. Jay Poster, pastor, in a recommendation letter. “She is very mature and responsible, always willing to share her gifts and to help out without being asked.”

Rosemary said she struggled with her faith until she participated in a parish youth group. “I realized that God was with me and that he would always be with me if I was with him. So, I started to get involved with my parish.”

Leadership Awards

The Catholic Charities Leadership Award honors Catholics who consistently incorporate Catholic values in their leadership and enrich the lives of many. This year, the honorees were:

• Christine Eshun, a member of Good Shepherd Parish in Madison and a teacher at the parish’s St. James School since 1985.

She was nominated by Sr. Kathleen Loughrin, OP, who said, “Chris makes a difference in the lives of others through her activities . . . she is always ready to help students; she sees what they need, she pushes them to work hard, and helps those who need more help when they need it.”

Besides her position as a teacher, she has also been a Student Council leader, Mass server trainer, leads youth groups to visit the elderly in nursing homes, leads music during weekend Masses, has been a member of the Parish Council, has been a foster and adoptive parent, sponsored children becoming Catholic, and sheltered homeless adults and children.

She said, “It is when I least expect it that I find true joy by doing something for someone and not realizing how I impacted their lives. There are so many people who reach out and volunteer who also deserve this honor. I am humbled to receive it on behalf of them, because they are my ‘moral heroes.’”

• Ginny and Bob Joyes, members of St. Ann Parish in Stoughton who have been married for 37 years.

Called a “powerful duo,” they are both involved in the Our Daily Bread meal program (Ginny is the coordinator), Christian Experience Weekends as lay directors, faith sharing/study group facilitators, RCIA team members, Prayers on Wheels, members of the Evangelization and Catechesis Commission, lectors, extraordinary ministers of Communion, and sacristans. They have been missionaries to El Salvador with three Helping Hands Medical Missions. Bob has been a facilitator for Theology of the Body for Teens and a Parish Council member.

They said, “While we participate in a wide array of activities within our church community, we feel that our strongest charisms are compassion and hospitality. Sharing Mass with the elderly at Nazareth House, visiting the sick in their homes and in hospitals, being with the dying, welcoming the stranger, encouraging the seekers, reaching out and ministering to the very poor of El Salvador -- these are often profound moments of encountering Christ.”

• Mary Ann Schulte, a member of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Madison. She was nominated by previous award winner Mary Uhler, who said, “Mary Ann has made a difference in the lives of many people in her parish and the community through her quiet, steady volunteer leadership efforts. She exemplifies the Catholic values of love of neighbor (both in our country and around the world) and service to those in need.”

Mary Ann said her journey of faith is entwined with that of her husband of 59 years, Emmett. “His choosing to work in Africa and South America has given me the opportunity to teach religion not only in Madison but in other countries. Together we chose to work with St. Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity on the Navajo Reservation for parts of five summers.”

Mary Ann continues to be a volunteer with Pregnancy Helpline, prepares food for the Grace Episcopal food program, helps serve meals at Luke House, donates food for parish funerals, is a member of the parish Respect Life Committee, and is an extraordinary minister of Communion at church and to the homebound. She also volunteered for 13 years in the Madison Food Pantry Gardens.

Members of the Faith in Action Celebration Committee were Michael Morey and Toni Prestigiacomo, event co-chairs, and Dan Fitzpatrick, Jenny Grantham Stein, Mary Uhler, Jane McGowan, and Bridget Wittwer.

To learn more about Catholic Charities’ programs and services, or to donate securely online, visit

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