You have a long, long history of church involvement, don’t you?
I actually worked at the rectory when I was a little girl. I used to go there on Saturday and sort out the children’s offertory envelopes, and sometimes I got to have lunch with Father and whoever he was hosting for lunch. I would sit at the table — this little girl — and have like eight priests with me. I felt like a little princess. I remember being there when Pope John Paul II was elected, and the priest was so excited to tell me we had a Polish Pope because he knew I was part Polish.
Was your Catholic faith always a big part of your identity?
I thought about being a nun when I was a child because I had some really good experiences with sisters in Catholic grade school. I got to sing in the adult choir with my dad when I was a kid. I’ve never been one to separate my faith from who I am.
How did you become a Director of Religious Education?
My good friend worked here at the parish as the DRE, and she’s the one who invited me to apply for this job. At the time I thought, “I can’t work there — I’m not a theologian.” But you don’t need to have that. I started, and I found such a love and an awe for the idea that I’m bringing these little children to Jesus — especially in First Communion. I can’t even put into words how beautiful that has been. I’ve figured out that it’s been like 525 children that I’ve been able to help receive Jesus. It’s always a very emotional moment, and then I get to see them be confirmed years later. What a gift that’s been.
After 22 years, you gave your notice and felt called to focus solely on Gerard’s Embrace — what does the future look like with that ministry?
God called me to this ministry of Gerard’s Embrace five years ago, and I have this nagging feeling and knowing in my head that God really wants me to be the one to do it. I’ve always been the executive director, but I’ve been trying to balance and juggle that role, plus being the pastoral associate at St. Peter, with being a grandma and a mom. It’s just a matter of choosing to be present and see what happens. We’re going to take a leap.
You and your husband live full-time at the house now, where pregnant women can find refuge and guidance for long-term independence — that’s a big commitment on your end.
It’s not an easy ministry — the women who come here don’t know me, and they’ve been on this path a long time, even generationally. That’s where faith is going to be the most important. We pray the litany of humility at every board meeting because I have always said that if God doesn’t want this to be, then it won’t happen — we won’t get the money we need, and we will accept that. But if he wants us to continue, we’ll have the money and the people and whatever we need to do it.
What has changed about the ministry since you started it?
We have a very good, realistic picture of the different types of clients we might get and where our clients are going to come from, which is a lot of different helping agencies. We’ve partnered with New Day Women’s Clinic in Delavan and another ministry, 23:61, which helps post-abortive women heal, and they also help with domestic abuse. They fill in some pieces that I don’t have, and I fill in pieces that they don’t have. So, when New Day gets a client they send them to me, (or) when I get someone who has had an abortion or is going through domestic abuse, I can count on them. We’ve realized we can team up and have each other’s backs.