Service in Administration: Rick and Nickie Schmidt
Before hosting their first Campanile Dinner at the Pfister Hotel as co-chairs of the Catholic Stewardship Appeal in 2018, neither Nickie nor Rick Schmidt understood the breadth and scope of the support provided by the CSA. As they continued their service, the Appeals increased their funding by $250,000 over two years.
“We learned that the CSA provides help to our communities through family food pantries, mental health counseling, leadership education for our parishes and the formation of new priests and deacons,” said Nickie Schmidt. “We also had the honor of meeting hundreds of very generous Catholics in our archdiocese, and got to know dozens of priests and deacons who work so hard to enrich the faith of thousands of people in Southeast Wisconsin.”
In addition to CSA, Nickie Schmidt has clocked volunteer hours at St. Dominic School, where she and Rick are longtime members, and Pius XI Catholic High School by assisting with the H.R. Committee, various school activities and the Loaves and Fishes Program. She also serves on the board of trustees for Catholic Charities.
Rick Schmidt also volunteered at St. Dominic School and served on the Parish Facilities Committee. He serves on the board of Seton Catholic Schools, the Seminary Board of Trustees and the Archdiocesan Finance Board. Both have volunteered at their parish festival, prepared youth at St. Dominic for confirmation, served as co-chairs for the St. Dominic Stewardship Appeal and are active members in Legatus of Milwaukee.
Their decision to become involved in the Campanile Dinner was due to the outstanding Catholic education their children received, faith leadership by their parish priests and the good works done by the Church.
“We’ve been incredibly blessed and felt compelled to help support the needs of the community throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee,” Rick Schmidt said. “By volunteering, we have grown deeper in our faith and have been inspired by the great faith leaders we’ve been so humbled to meet and the many good works of our church that occur every day to help others.”
The Schmidts celebrated 40 years of marriage in September. They have two sons, Ryan and Bradley, who are both married and live in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. They have three grandchildren and are expecting a fourth.
Rick is the fourth-generation president and CEO of CG Schmidt, one of Milwaukee’s top-ranked construction firms. His grandfather, Charles Schmidt, started the company in 1920, and it expanded under Rick’s father, Dick, who served as company chairman until he died in 2009. Rick’s brother, Eric, and Rick’s son, Ryan, also work at the company.
Nickie serves as a human resources professional in the corporate world. She recently transitioned to consulting and started her own business working with companies to ensure fair compensation for their employees.
Service to the Church: Sr. Marianne Kempa
Before Sr. Marianne Kempa, SSND, was in eighth grade, she lost her father and grandfather to cancer within a short time of each other. She drew on the pain of her loss and daily family prayer to survive any obstacle or hardship that came her way.
While she toyed with several career options, her sixth-grade teacher, Sr. Annora, suggested she consider becoming a School Sister of Notre Dame. During eighth grade, she entered the Aspiranture with two of her classmates. After high school, she joined the Postulancy, followed by the Novitiate.
Sr. Kempa’s first teaching experience was at St. Frances Cabrini Parish and School in West Bend. She served for seven years as an elementary school teacher. From there, she served St. Nicholas Parish School, followed by Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Sun Prairie, where she started a kindergarten program and served as a pastoral associate.
In 1994, she attended Saint Francis de Sales Seminary and earned her master’s degree in pastoral studies.
“I loved saying to everyone that I went to the convent, and now I am going to the seminary,” Sr. Kempa said.
She continued to serve the Church as principal of St. Gregory the Great and in stewardship. She worked in human concerns at St. John Vianney, coached lay ministers and served as a spiritual director for the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
“I have been part of directing retreats at the Sienna Center, but my main ministry is serving in pastoral support, which I do at Notre Dame School in Milwaukee. I am beginning my third year. I love it and am the oldest person on our team. I appreciate and enjoy the energy, enthusiasm and vision of the administration and the young teachers. They have a lot of energy, and are dedicated and committed to their students.”
After serving on the Archdiocesan Synod Implementation Commission (ASIC) for six years, Sr. Kempa was invited to serve as a mentor in the “Called for More” initiative that began recently to assist priests and parish directors, especially at times of transition in their ministry.
“I am honored at the invitation to be part of the coach mentoring group of people on the archdiocesan team,” she said. “It doesn’t take up much of my time, and I say yes because I felt it was important for priests to have somebody who could be objective, and in my case, I have a listening heart.”
Service in Communication: Portia Young
Portia Young was a familiar face on WISN Channel 12 News for 10 years as a television reporter. After getting married and giving birth to her daughter, Tatum, she quickly realized the long and often irregular hours were not conducive to family life.
She left the news to become director of public relations at Sargento Foods and has a monthly news show on PBS. 10THIRTYSIX is an in-depth program covering compelling stories and documentaries about issues and concerns, the successes, and the people living and working in the southeastern Wisconsin communities.
“I was surprised and honored to earn an Emmy for the show in November 2019,” Young said. “I love talking about things that affect our community.”
As a product of Catholic education herself, Young and her husband Chris, a convert to Catholicism, send their girls to Lumen Christi School. Both believe children receive a stellar education through Catholic schools.
“I entered the faith later on. I wasn’t baptized until I was 6, and it was around that time I received my first Holy Communion,” she said. “I attended Gesu Elementary School in Detroit and Mercy High School in Farmington Hills, Michigan. It was run by the Sisters of Mercy and was a great experience. We had Catholic and non-Catholic students there, all colors of the rainbow. It was wonderful. After high school, I went to Northwestern University for journalism.”
As a strong advocate for Catholic schools, Young has served on the board of Seton Catholic Schools for four years and as emcee of the Catholic schools’ dinner for three years. Her involvement with the archdiocese began before she and Chris were married.
“I did a story on then-Archbishop (Timothy) Dolan on the legacy he was leaving in Milwaukee through the seminary and how he became a model for a lot of young men who wanted to serve the Church as clergy,” she said. “I focused on four young priests who talked about what the archdiocese meant to them back in 2009. At the time, Bishop Donald J. Hying was the rector.”
Young learned how much Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki is committed to Catholic education in her years serving Seton Catholic Schools.
“It isn’t just about the schools; it is about teaching the whole child, teaching them to be kind, the ways of Christ, the Golden Rule — all of which seems foreign these days,” she said. “We need more of this. I appreciate his commitment to it. Seton is in a wonderful position with a great new president and executive team. They are committed to making sure kids in the city have access to great Catholic education like I did. I will always promote Catholic education. I believe in it deeply because of what has been given to me, and it was a gift given that I want to share with others.”
Service in the Diaconate: Dcn. Thomas Hunt
A pivotal moment for Dcn. Thomas Hunt was walking the steps of St. Ben’s Church with his mentors and teachers, Dcn. Ralph and Elizabeth Wisniewski, who ministered at the Milwaukee County Jail.
“Ralph told me to turn around and sit on the steps. In the reflection of the mirrored wall on the Milwaukee County Jail, you see the image of St. Ben’s,” Dcn. Hunt said. “He said, ‘Remember you are Christ to those men whom you will be visiting and above that, listening and learning.’”
At the time, Dcn. Hunt was in the certificate program at Saint de Sales Francis Seminary, and he planned to enroll in the parish administrator program. During his second year, he realized that God was calling him to something else.
“We were placed in a social setting to further our growth for understanding the Church’s mission to reach out to those in need,” he said. “Our teacher, DeAnne Cortez, told us to go beyond our comfort zone and reach for something uncomfortable. For me, that was prison ministry.”
The semester changed Dcn. Hunt’s life; he switched gears and chose to enter the diaconate. He was ordained in 2000 by the then-Archbishop Rembert Weakland. Originally covenanted at Ss. Peter and Paul, Dcn. Hunt moved to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in 2008, partly because of his call to serve in jail ministry.
In addition to his history of service to the St. Ben’s Meal Program, Habitat for Humanity, Guest House of Milwaukee Homeless Shelter for men and more, he offers a support group called “Doing Time Together” for families of the incarcerated at the Cathedral, along with Carol Pellegrini, Mary Ann Delzer and Mary Norman.
“We listen and open our heart and ears to listen to the families and loved ones to know that there is hope and love and forgiveness,” said Dcn. Hunt. “We assist as a conduit of what Christ means for us to be for each other.”
For more than 38 years, Dcn. Hunt worked at Hydro-Flo Products in Brookfield as a job coordinator for heating and cooling, and as a manufacturer’s rep before retiring.
Dcn Hunt also volunteers with La Sagrada Familia and is an Open Door Café Board member, and serves in wedding ministry and baptism prep. He also began a ministry to the men and women at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Center with Chaplain Kennedy, where they supply backpacks for those leaving jail with no place to go.
He looks to Henri Nouwen for inspiration in his service to the Church.
“Nobody escapes being wounded. We are all wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. The main question is not, ‘How can we hide our wounds?’ so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but ‘How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?’ When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.”
Service in Ecumenism: Donna Eddy
When Donna Eddy was a child, she doesn’t know why but she remembers being curious of other faiths, especially Judaism. As she grew up, she continued her desire to learn about other religions, studying them, getting to understand others.
“I remember knocking on the doors in our apartment buildings, introducing myself, and asking if I could come in,” she said. “I would talk to the residents, introduce them to my mom and try to make friends. I just loved all the differences of people. Some of them became good friends with my mom.”
Eddy, a member of Congregation of the Great Spirit, never planned to be a teacher; she attended Saint Francis de Sales Seminary to get her master’s in theological studies, as she hoped to minister in a parish or retreat center. She also earned a master’s in Christian Spirituality from Creighton University. She worked as the school secretary at Messmer School while looking for pastoral positions.
“One day, my vice principal asked me to teach theology classes at the high school,” she said. “I told him I couldn’t but then agreed. I thought it would be temporary. Nearly 20 years later, I was still teaching there.” She did serve as pastoral associate at Blessed Trinity for a while as she continued to teach an honors class at Messmer.
Following Messmer, Eddy served as theology department chair at her alma mater, St. Joan Antida High School. One motto to her students was, “Confusion is the beginning of knowledge.”
“Some of the honor students had trouble when challenged,” she said. “It’s important to challenge all kids, whether in honors or not. When students are challenged, they often became frustrated. That’s where ‘confusion is the beginning of knowledge’ comes in. I did a class on confusion and worked with them to understand it is all right to be unknowing in order to be open to learning new things.”
In teaching world religions and Scripture, Eddy helped students to learn about and respect other faith traditions and to deal with their misconceptions on Judaism.
In addition to teaching, Eddy is a longtime member of the Catholic-Jewish Conference and is dedicated to ensuring that her students are properly educated regarding Catholic-Jewish relations. Among her contributions to the Catholic-Jewish Conference were materials designed to help Christian educators address the Passion narratives with sensitivity to the Jewish community.
“It is important to respect the faith of others. A problem I find with young people is that they often don’t know their own faith tradition; to have a dialogue with others is hard if you don’t understand your own faith tradition,” she said. “The more we can dialogue and be open to see how God is working in the other, the more we can encounter God in our similarities and our differences.”
Service in Education: Dr. John Gallam
One of the many aspects Dr. John Gallam appreciates about his 48 years of teaching is engaging with students and discussing major philosophical issues.
“I enjoy the students’ humor that rises out of these discussions. We have a little fun with philosophy and sometimes because of its own limitations,” he said. “I have learned so much from them, their reflections and the fresh way they look at things.”
Dr. Gallam, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame, has taught systematic theology at Sacred Heart Seminary since 1973. He has taught many of the priests who serve in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
A former seminarian, Dr. Gallam has a keen insight and solid dedication to priestly formation. He revises each class based on student feedback, new teaching methods and personal research to hone his ability to reach his students.
“It is always different. Sometimes, I incorporate some of the ideas from materials students read. In recent years, one of our school goals is to make sure the academic stuff has ministerial applications, some feedback and program assessment work,” he said. “It can be a bit of a challenge, but in recent years, our whole faculty is trying to make academics more integrated to ministry. I added sections to all my course notes that have explicit ministerial applications. Students also come up with novel arguments, and I will incorporate those into notes and give credit to my students. Previous students sometimes appear in my notes.”
The years of teaching have not only honed Dr. Gallam’s skills but also increased his faith and reason.
“I think the richness and complexity of the faith have become more evident to me and the need for it to be all things to all persons,” he said. “Again, I think the challenges of our times, and there are many different times and challenges, are reasons we need to engage and respond in faith to others.”
Dr. Gallam and his wife, Claire, have a son, Stephen, and a daughter-in-law, Erin. They have two granddaughters, Tess and August Rose.
Whether it is volunteering in various capacities at the seminary or his parish, St. Veronica, to serve as a lector, Dr. Gallam enjoys helping others. Typically, during non-pandemic times, he assists with St. Veronica’s food pantry.
“I am a long-standing worker for the pantry and generally do that a couple of times a month, though the pandemic put the kibosh on that. They are still operating on a limited basis, but I have been out for the past year or so,” he said. “We will resume full board in the fall, according to our fearless leader.”
Gallam enjoys teaching and his discipline apart from teaching. Surprisingly, he doesn’t consider himself a real scholar, but more of a jack-of-all-trades, as he is interested in many things.
“I have a lot of interests, such as history, and I dabble in mathematics on a basic level. I like it all very much,” he said.
Service to Families: Rogelio (Roy) Salinas
More than anything, the late Rogelio (Roy) Salinas dedicated his life to serving others, especially through caring for his family and raising his niece and nephews as his own. He never married but considered his nieces, nephews, godchildren and students as his own.
In Salinas’ early career, he worked for MPS, and his experience living in an integrated neighborhood in Sherman Park prepared him for working with those of all races, ethnicities and social statuses. Later, he found his calling in religious education. He started at Our Lady of Guadalupe as director of religious education and later moved to Saint John Paul II as director of Christian formation.
Salinas died Feb. 11 from underlying illnesses resulting from a fall at home. He was 61 years old.
He entered formation twice with hopes to be ordained a permanent deacon, but each time health issues interfered with continuing his classes. According to his sister, Graciela Santos, not becoming a deacon was a disheartening setback. Still, it didn’t deter him from his solid Catholic faith, dedication to the Church and his parish community, and his determination to serve unconditionally “from his little corner of the vineyard.”
Salinas wrote a regular column in the bulletin at SJPII Parish during his 14 years of service there. His favorite way of signing off his column was to write, “From my little corner of the vineyard.”
“What struck me most about my brother was his love and devotion to the entire family and myself personally,” she said. “He was an amazing and fun brother to hang out with. Roy was an incredible inspiration to the entire family; it hasn’t been the same since his passing away, but spiritually, the family will be even better because he was always that way. My faith and comfort console me that my brother is at peace, and his everlasting home is the horizons above. I was very blessed and grateful to have had my brother in my life.”
Santos admired her brother’s strong will and passion about what he believed was worth his voice. He assisted families any time of the day with the food pantry, meal program, or to provide them help with and access to spiritual counseling, orientation and other parish services.
“Roy’s personality was magnetic; he was attentive and quick-witted. It was a bonus to be around him and make his acquaintance,” she said. “Roy was nicknamed Rogeré by my daughter when she was in French class. The name stuck, and the family called him Rogeré. Roy was my Gemini twin. June is our birth month. He was also the youngest of us four remaining Salinas siblings.”
Service in Liturgy: Joseph Wittmann
When Appleton native Joseph Wittmann was a young boy, he developed a strong love for the liturgy. He learned the organ and played for daily Mass in grade school and on Sundays in high school.
“I had a great teacher, Miss Pat VanAble. My grandmother, Mildred, was a student of theology. We had countless conversations and debates from an early age until her death; she was a great support,” he said. “I have served three parishes as director of music in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee: St. Leonard, Muskego; St. Rita, West Allis; and Old St. Mary’s, Milwaukee.”
While serving on the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission, Dean Daniels invited Wittmann to chair the committee that created the document for then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan for the construction and renovation of churches in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
“Once the document was completed, the archbishop said to me, ‘You get this stuff. I need your help,’” he said. “I then enrolled in the two-year post-graduate program, Institute for Liturgical Design Consultants, at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. I have been helping ever since.”
In his current role as a liturgical consultant, Wittmann guides parishes through the comprehensive process of building or renovating churches, chapels and other sacred spaces. He believes that for a church to be functional, it must first be beautiful, which happens when the parish community and architectural professionals share a similar vision.
“Each parish church is a unique expression of the Universal Church and the local community, a living church. I tell parishes that are undertaking this process that first and foremost, this planning process is an act of worship and the building of community,” he said. “The reality of the outcome of the project is already in front of them; I am just there to help them realize that. Together we create a vision, and I assist them in identifying the many artists and trades professionals that can best help them realize their vision.”
One of his most comprehensive projects was Lumen Christi Parish in Mequon, where he assisted in merging two congregations and creating space to accommodate everyone. The initial plans were not coming together, so they shared their vision and situation with Wittmann. After reviewing the plans, he told them the altar was in the wrong place.
“The altar needs to be the center of the life of the parish,” he said. “The worship space was too dark and not befitting a parish named after the Light of Christ. The entire campus has since been transformed and now makes sense.”
Wittmann has helped more than 30 parishes in the Wisconsin Province. He also assisted the Office for Worship to manage the liturgical review process during the Confirmation season. He has published several works on liturgical art and the environment.
Service to the Missions: Reine Assana
When Reine Assana visited her hometown of Ziguinchor, Senegal, West Africa, in 2015, she hoped to find a church on the property her parents gave to the community for that purpose. Instead, she saw residents worshipping in the open air, without a church building.
“The faithful came to worship with their chairs, and the altar was just a table nicely dressed,” she said. “I thought of the sun and the rain. Then I set out to help (complete) the project.”
As one of 16 children, Assana looks to her parents’ example. Both loved their community and evangelized their neighborhood without the benefit of a theology background. Continuing in their footsteps, she moved to the United States to study at Marquette University, earning her master’s in communication. She graduated in 2020 from Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, where she earned her master’s in theological studies.
She serves as the public relations assistant for the National Association of African Catholics in the US (NAACUS). She also serves as the national advisor to the Senegalese Apostolate, a liaison between the community and the USCCB’s sub-committee on Pastoral Care for Migrants, Refugees and Travelers. Assana desires to bring African American Catholics together.
“I believe that Africans and African Americans are the same people. Our African American brothers and sisters were brought to America, and this painful journey and separation from the motherland took away very important socio-cultural values from them,” she said. “Being part of the Black Commission allowed me to work side by side with my brothers and sisters, listening to them and understanding the struggles they went through and still go through to live their Catholic Faith in the city of Milwaukee. Through the African Ministry of the archdiocese, we can collaborate in different programs, one of them being the Lenten day of reflection which we jointly organize yearly.”
In addition to her other ministries, she supports two priests with small monetary donations to help further their theological education and evangelization ministries. This ministry, she said, is dear to her heart.
“These are people who decided to work for the Lord, too often leaving very promising careers,” she said. “It can be very challenging, especially in Africa, where resources are far and few. When they come here, they do not have anybody and need to adjust to the new environment. I want them to know that we are here, and they can count on our support. Priests, nuns and seminarians should not feel lonely; the goal here is to make sure they feel at home with the local community.”
Assana is a member of Blessed Savior Parish.
Service to the Priesthood: Fr. Mike Strachota
The desire to serve the Church as a priest came very early to Fr. Mike Strachota. When he was just 8 years old, he would dress up as a priest, go into the basement, and play Mass. He enjoyed it so much, his dad built a tabernacle and altar for him to practice. As the oldest of six, he would have one sister serve as a nun and a brother as an altar server. Somehow, he convinced his siblings to sit and listen to his “homilies.”
“My desire to be a priest continued to grow,” he said. “My mom and dad were very supportive of my vocation. I love the priesthood and have been ordained a priest 42 years on Sept. 1.”
According to Ellen Heitman, pastoral associate at St. Joan of Arc Parish, Fr. Strachota is charismatic. In her 10 years working for him, she has observed former parishioners from his original parishes join one of his current parishes because they appreciate his leadership.
“He has this incredible energy, and the first time my daughter came to church at St. Joan of Arc, she looked at me and said it was ‘So good to see a priest who loves what he does,’” she said. “Father made quite an impression on her.”
Following Fr. Strachota’s ordination at St. Rita’s in West Allis, he was assigned to St. Kilian, Hartford, then Our Lady of Lourdes, Milwaukee, Corpus Christi, and St. Philip Neri. He currently serves St. Joan of Arc, Nashotah, and St. Catherine of Alexandria in Mapleton.
He teaches religion in the day school, oversees sacramental preparation of parishioners, and also endorses the Family Program for their parishioners’ religious preparation.
“The kids love him as their teacher,” said Heitman. “When they come back to be confirmed and are part of our formation program, they all want their picture taken with Fr. Mike. He has such a great rapport with all kids.”
With a heartfelt love of the poor and those in need, Fr. Strachota is an avid supporter of the St. Vincent de Paul Conferences within the parishes.
“My greatest joy is to be with the community celebrating the joys and the struggles of their lives and announcing the Good News that ‘God is with us’ always,” he said. “I very much enjoy preaching at weddings and funerals in which I can tell the stories of the couples or the deceased and reveal a glimpse of their faith reflected in what they vow and how they lived. These stories are always new, unique, and surprisingly Godly.”
Service to the Priesthood: Fr. Robert (Bob) Bales
At 92, when most priests are likely relaxing and enjoying retirement, Fr. Robert (Bob) Bales continues to serve as a helper priest at parishes such as Resurrection, Allenton, and St. Mary Immaculate Conception, Town of Barton. He helps at Holy Trinity, Newburg, and has assisted at St. Peter, Slinger. Additionally, he has assisted with confessions at Holy Hill.
Fr. Bales, who has been a priest for 64 years, has a simple reason for continuing to celebrate Mass well into his retirement.
“God has been good to me,” he said. “What else can I say?”
Born in Cudahy, Fr. Bales credits his early education and supportive family with his becoming a priest. He attended St. Frederick Catholic School, where the Lake Drive Sisters of St. Francis educated him.
“Our assistant priest was Fr. Victor Kemmer; I looked up to him and loved to serve his Masses,” Fr. Bales said. “Years later, he was the one who introduced me to Msgr. William Groessel, rector of the Minor Seminary, who welcomed me to the Seminary College. That’s how it all started.”
Fr. Bales has a younger brother, Fred, and a sister, Kathy. He also has a sister, Nancy, who went to Heaven when she was 3 years old, and Fr. Bales was 5.
“She has been praying for me all these years, and I expect that she will come to get me when the time is right,” he said.
When Fr. Bales was in the seminary, his family moved to West Bend. His first Mass after his May 25, 1957, ordination was at Holy Angels Parish. He began his ministry as an assisting priest at St. Joseph Parish in Fond du Lac.
“In Milwaukee, I served at St. Agnes, Our Lady of Sorrows, and at St. Anne. After that, I served at St. Jerome in Oconomowoc,” he said. “My first pastorate was at St. Augustine in Bay View for nine beautiful years. Then I became pastor at St. Peter in Slinger, where I spent 17 fabulous years. After I retired in 2001, I was invited to serve as the assisting priest at St. Mary in Barton. I love celebrating Holy Mass and preaching. I love hearing confessions and am grateful for the opportunities to do so.”
Midway into his priesthood, Fr. Bales attended a three-month sabbatical at the North American College in Rome in 1989.
“I loved every minute of it. We had a private audience with Pope John Paul II, and we spent 10 days in the Holy Land,” he said. “I also love to travel. With three of my classmates (Frs. John Endejean, Paul Esser, and Charlie Scheuerell), we took two very enjoyable river boat trips: one from Amsterdam to Vienna and another from St. Petersburg to Moscow.”
Service in Society: Michael Bloedorn
There’s an old adage, “if you want to get something done, ask a busy person to do it.” It seems to fit Michael Bloedorn, who admits he has a tough time saying no.
While attending undergraduate school at UW-Green Bay and UW-Madison, he did his field placement at Mendota Hospital, where he counseled and mentored young boys. After graduating with his master’s in social work, he worked in juvenile court for Washington County, where he worked in the department of human services.
His experience working with troubled youth led him to become the first director of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Washington County. In 2019, Bloedorn received the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Lifetime Achievement Award.
“I believe in the program,” he said. “I was the very first match in our area in 1970 with a little brother named Dale. He was 6 years old, and we still see him and his wife, who live in Elkhorn, several times a year. I am very proud of having maintained that connection for 56 years. We were matched for 11 years and enjoy that connection.”
In addition, Bloedorn worked with Family Promise in West Bend to help families and the homeless. He has also served 12 years on the board of Catholic Charities, serves on the Faith Coalition Against Sex Trafficking Board of Directors, Celebrate Children’s Foundation, and recently established a new Optimist Club in Sussex.
Volunteering and service are integral to his lifelong Catholic faith, and Bloedorn is happy when he can give children and families hope.
“It gives me great joy to know that we can help children and families in life through mentoring, counseling and giving them what they need,” he said. “On the other hand, on a global level, my heart is broken with the conditions of life for families in third world countries. Locally, it is heartbreaking to see children caught up in the sex-trafficking business, as well as seeing children in abusive situations.”
A member of Good Shepherd Church, Bloedorn and Lucy, his wife of 43 years, have a daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter in Jacksonville, Florida. While he is officially retired, he continues to serve others. He started the Sussex Optimist Club at the behest of the lieutenant governor who suggested it.
“I was a member of the Optimist Club in West Bend, and every year the lieutenant governor would come to West Bend and swear in the officers,” he said. “In 2019, we moved to Menomonee Falls, and the lieutenant governor lives there. He suggested I charter a meeting, and that’s how I got involved.”
While he is busy, Bloedorn said he’s received more from volunteering than he ever imagined.
“I hope my work and volunteer efforts have reflected my faith,” he said. “I hope that how I have interacted in the causes I am involved in are a demonstration of my Catholic faith.”
JP II Youth Award: Augustin Khey
Born in a refugee camp in Mae Hong Son, Thailand, Augustin Khey, the youngest of four children, belongs to the Karenni people. His family fled Thailand due to conflicts with the Burmese Regime and moved to the United States 11 years ago. His father’s family was Catholic, and his mother converted to the faith and raised their children in the faith.
Khey, 17, attends Cristo Rey Jesuit High School and is a member of St. Michael Parish. In the fall of 2020, when many drew back from Mass attendance and involvement in activities, he led the school in community service hours by volunteering as a catechist for the children at St. Michael. He also volunteers at the Milwaukee Consortium for Hmong Health, where he translated between patients and doctors for a locally held health clinic. Khey said he enjoys serving and helping others in the community.
“Communities can be consolidated from a wide range and within my perception of community; some aspects that belong are the Southeast Asian, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Karenni communities,” he said. “I believe, especially since I was/am an immigrant from Thailand, I know the struggle of being an outlier in the grand scheme and having fewer physical possessions or lacking in the connections and support for assistance. Therefore, within my abilities and presumed successes, I want to be a person that can give back and help out when able because in the end, we only have each other in the world and helping each other out is a necessity in providing a sensible and great experience for everyone while living on this planet called Earth.”
As a Karenni-American, Khey understands the plight of the Karenni, whose history is not well known or understood since they were driven from their homes by the Burmese military. He enjoys translating and helping in the Karenni community when volunteers are needed.
“I am reminded by a quote from William Shakespeare, ‘The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away,’” he said. “As persons on earth, we are destined to be with and for each other. We tend to flock toward groups and have a sense of communication and belonging, and we will all need help in one way or another. So I am offering the skills that are accessible to me and providing it not with a return in investment but just recognition of the need that I can fulfill through interpretation and assistance.”
Khey plans to pursue a degree in computer science/software engineering and possibly a double major in business/finance. He is in the Computer Science and Robotics Club and part of MIT’s STEM program called MOSTEC and participated in an internship at Northwestern Mutual this summer.
JP II Youth Award: Dulce Contreras
Dulce Contreras’ father, Eloy, serves the Catholic Community of Central Racine as a youth minister, so community service and helping those in need has been a big part of her life. Her father’s example has compelled her to serve St. Patrick, St. Richard and St. Edward parishes, the three parishes that comprise the CCCR.
Contreras has helped organize the youth festival and volunteered as an altar server, lector and Eucharistic minister. When the government implemented COVID-19 restrictions, she helped procure equipment and learned how to keep the parish communications going. Each Sunday, Contreras attends and live-streams two Masses, one in English and one in Spanish. Throughout the pandemic, she live-streamed daily Mass before starting her virtual high school classes.
“When COVID hit, I had just returned from a pilgrimage with the World Mission Office, and I was motivated and on fire to continue to do what I could; but as I returned, there was not much to do,” she said. “So, when our pastor, Fr. Juan Camacho, threw the idea to my dad, I knew that I could help with some of the technology parts of it. It was a blessing in disguise because, while many people were locked at home and churches were being closed, I was one of the lucky ones to be able to go in person and be part of the Mass in person.”
In addition to her dad, Contreras’s mom, Fr. Juan Camacho and Fr. Antony Thomas enliven and influence her faith journey.
“They all inspire me to be a good person by their example,” she said. “I’m the youngest in my family; I have an older brother that passed away when I was very little and an older sister. I’m also an aunt; my nieces are my age, so they are more like my sisters. I’m blessed to have them because a lot of my volunteering is done with my family; I guess you could say, a family that volunteers together stays together.”
A senior in high school, Contreras plans to travel to Europe on a pilgrimage after graduation. She plans to attend college and hopes to major in young childhood education and earn her master’s in special education. Not surprisingly, she is involved in several clubs and volunteers at school, too.
She is part of a student ambassador group that helps with leadership responsibilities and plans to become a mentor at the John XXIII Educational Center. Volunteering seems to be part of her DNA and has anchored her faith.
“I love attending Mass, and when the deacon or priest says, ‘This Mass has ended, you may go in peace glorifying the Lord by your life,’” said Contreras, “I like to think I do just that by my community service.”