Fr. John Radetski was the Religious Recipient of the 2024 Treasures of the Church Award during the Quad-Counties North Lenten Luncheon at Holy Family Catholic Community in Fond Du Lac. (Submitted photo)

Much more than soup, salad and a dessert, Catholic Charities Lenten Luncheons are a tradition for many in southeastern Wisconsin. In a time of austerity, it’s a way to indulge in fellowship, appreciation, and most of all, recognition of good works.

It was Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki who began Lenten Luncheons, saying, “When I arrived here as your archbishop, I saw the need to shine a light on the important mission of Catholic Charities, the great social service arm of the archdiocese. I’m proud that these luncheons have become a cherished special event in our Lenten season.”

Growing to 700-plus attendees, this year’s Lenten Luncheons with Archbishop Listecki broke an attendance record. That’s not surprising since many come back yearly with friends. “This is part of our Lenten tradition,” said one couple. ‟We have such a great time.”

Today, Lenten Luncheons have expanded throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The 2024 hosts were Saint Francis de Sales Seminary in St. Francis, Holy Family Catholic Community in Fond du Lac, the Tri-Parish Catholic Community of Burlington and Lyons in Bristol, and St. Anthony on the Lake in Pewaukee.

At each of the luncheon locations, host parishes elevated the impact of local individuals, organizations, and clergy and religious order recipients who were honored for their compassion and commitment to service in their local communities and in their partnership with Catholic Charities.

Awardees were presented with a Treasures of the Church award commissioned by Archbishop Listecki. His good friend, Fr. Anthony Brankin, illustrated the legendary story of St. Lawrence, which was framed and awarded to the recipients.

Fr. Dan Sanders, who received an award for his efforts in creating the Open Arms free health clinic in Elkhorn, said, “It’s so, so important to recognize the many great folks who are engaged in works of love.”

This year’s individual awardees included Libby and Jon Baranko, Diane and Joe Thome, Cathy May, and Ginny and John Horning. Organization awardees include Baird, Solutions Center, Lake Country Caring, and Health Care Network. Clergy and religious order awardees include Sisters of Charity of St. Joan Antida, Fr. John Radetski, Fr. Joe Hornacek and Fr. Sanders.

Hours before the luncheons began, its caterers were busy preparing the unofficial stars of the programs: the soups.

If you had the chance to attend this year’s luncheons, you know they were a huge success. “But it couldn’t have happened,” insists Jessica Brandt, the Catholic Charities staff member who organized the event, “without the support of our host parishes, sponsors and volunteers from local Catholic middle and high schools.”

Add Archbishop Listecki to that list, too. About Catholic Charities and this event, he remarked, “After 21 luncheons, we’ve raised awareness about this great social service arm of the archdiocese that does what no one else is doing in our communities: responding to changing needs without duplicating services. Each person’s journey is unique, and we are here to walk with them and to offer solace and guidance.”

The Catholic Charities mission is threefold: to serve people in need, to advocate for justice, and to call upon others to do the same. That need often comes from individuals and families who experience poverty. In 2023, Catholic Charities impacted more than 53,000 people. Ninety-six percent of the people Catholic Charities serves are impacted by poverty.

Support generated from the luncheons benefits the thousands of people served every year by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Ricardo Cisneros, Chief Operating Officer of Catholic Charities, said, “The event brought awareness to the mission, which is so important. It was a welcoming and enjoyable experience for those who attended. I heard many people say Lenten Luncheons are their favorite event of the year.”

An attendee from Fond du Lac said, “I really do look forward to the luncheon each year. It’s such a happy day celebrating what God is doing through his people and Church.”

With 104 years of continuous service, Catholic Charities is committed to helping neighbors who are impacted by poverty and experience times of crisis. Programs include adoption services, adult day services, community counseling, hoarding intervention and treatment, outreach and case management, pregnancy and parenting support, refugee and immigration services, and supported parenting.

After congratulating the Treasures of the Church Awardees, Fr, David Reith, Vicar for Catholic Charities, said, “We are inspired by your compassionate and dedicated service. As Archbishop often says, ‛No one organization, parish or individual can accomplish this mission alone.’”

This vision is shared by one of this year’s sponsors who noted, “Catholic Charities is my family.”

The 2025 Lenten Luncheon dates will be March 13, March 25, April 3 and April 10.

For more information about upcoming events, contact Catholic Charities at 414-769-3400 or visit