The Vatican II Awards were established in 1991 to honor men, women and young adults who exemplify the Catholic Church’s vision set forth in the Second Vatican Council. These individuals have been selected by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki to be recognized for their service to the Body of Christ in southeastern Wisconsin. While an awards ceremony is typically held annually in October, this year’s festivities are postponed until such a time as it is safe to gather such a large group.
Service to the Missions — Dcn. Gary Nosacek and Dr. Cindy Jones-Nosacek
Dr. Cindy Jones-Nosacek always wanted to be a missionary. “As a kid, you always dream of going to these exotic places,” said Jones-Nosacek. But after she married husband Gary in May 1980, life as a young wife, mother and family practice physician meant that she had to settle for mission work a little more locally.
“I worked at free clinics and tried to motivate my group to accept more patients on Title 19,” said Jones-Nosacek, who also volunteers as the medical director for pregnancy crisis clinics like Milwaukee Birthright and the Women’s Support Center. “I just tried to do what I could here.”
For his part, Gary Nosacek had grown up thinking of becoming a priest, attending Saint Francis de Sales Preparatory Seminary. But after meeting Cindy the summer before his senior year, he switched gears, graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a degree in mass communication. He would go on to enjoy a successful career in radio and television. After his ordination to the permanent diaconate, he has become known in recent years as “the archbishop’s circus guy,” active in ministry to workers in the circus industry.
Together, the couple have five children and five grandchildren. After years of supporting the overseas missionary efforts of their parish from afar, they were finally able to do so in person. In 2010, they traveled to Tenejapa in Chiapas, Mexico, with Ss. Peter and Paul, doing work that included training healthcare workers in natural family planning. In 2018, they began the first of several trips to Padibe, Uganda, to visit Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Three Holy Women’s sister parish. They have been back on several occasions over the years, one time staying more than a month, and during the COVID-19 epidemic, they keep in close virtual contact with the parish.
During her visits to Padibe, Dr. Jones-Nosacek (called “Dr. Adyero Cindy” or “the one who gives” by the Padibe community) has focused on implementing and strengthening a medical infrastructure that can benefit the patients even when she isn’t there. From giving lectures to medical staff on the practice of natural family planning to optimizing resources for the treatment of high blood pressure and diabetes, “I want to make sure whatever I do when I go there, they can continue when I’m gone,” she said. She was also able to take two ultrasound machines with her to Uganda and pay for staff training on the machines, thanks to efforts of the Knights of Columbus and the Milwaukee Guild of the Catholic Medical Association.
Dubbed “Deacon Gary Okot” when he is in Padibe (“Okot” means “the one who brings rain” — “because every time I went to a village after a drought, it rained”), Dcn. Nosacek assists at Mass and ministers to the community, who do not have their own permanent deacon.
Their relationship with the people of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish has enriched the couple’s understanding of the universal nature of the Church, they said.
“We always say in the creed ‘One holy, Catholic and apostolic Church,” said Dcn. Nosacek. “Most people think that means Milwaukee — maybe the USA. But when you go on these trips, you realize — wow, this really is a universal, worldwide Church.”