The Archdiocese of Milwaukee established the Vatican II Awards in 1991 to honor men, women and young adults who exemplify the Catholic Church’s vision set forth in the Second Vatican Council.
On Thursday, Oct. 12, various individuals will receive the Archbishop’s Vatican II Award for Distinguished Service for outstanding contributions to the Church and society. A prayer service and awards ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee, followed by a dessert reception in the Cathedral Atrium. All are welcome to attend.
Leadership in Administration
Lori Lemke’s smiling face and soothing voice are often the first introduction an individual receives when visiting Our Lady of the Holyland Parish office in Mt. Calvary.
As the parish administrator for the past 20 years, Lemke said she works closely with her pastor, Fr. Paul Koenig, O.F.M. Cap., and the parishioners. Lemke and her husband, Norm, have three children and three grandchildren.
“I do whatever anyone needs and am never too busy for anyone,” she said.
In addition to listening attentively to parishioner requests, Lemke creates an attractive and informative weekly bulletin that highlights the various parish activities. She also assists in setting up for funeral liturgies, the parish outdoor Mass, memorial Masses, parish events and visits to some of the parish’s homebound.
Lemke’s day does not end when she leaves the office — she is available day and night to respond to the needs of parishioners and does so cheerfully and with kindness.
“The most important part of my job is ministering to the people of our parish who rely on me to take care of whatever their needs are,” she said. “Mark 11:24 says, ‘Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that that you will receive and it shall be yours.’ This is one of my favorites; even though I am not great at always believing it, I am hoping for the day when I am better at it.”
Lemke credits her grandmothers and her mother, who taught her compassion and kindness, inspiring her to be a good person and good to others.
“I am truly grateful for this life that God has given me, grateful for my health that I can be at this job for 20 years, grateful for the parishioners, my co-workers and bosses, past and present, who have become an amazing part of my life,” she said. “I am mostly grateful for the wonderful family God has given me in this lifetime. I am truly blessed.”
Leadership in the Church
Martha Cucco is a woman of many hats. She has served as head of stewardship and for seven years as a parish trustee at St. Francis de Sales in Lake Geneva. She also helped to guide the parish through three pastors in the past seven years, and oversees faith formation, building and grounds, and parish rental properties. She has also assisted with liturgical celebrations, handles the parish social media accounts, and sings as a cantor and in the parish choral.
In addition to her parish activities, Cucco is a real estate broker, and she and her husband Richard have two adult daughters and two grandchildren.
“In the past 30 years, I have served on many boards and committees of our parish school and church, which has given me a wonderful perspective of the ‘big picture’ of parish life,” she said. “I helped (our former pastor), Fr. Jim (Bishop James) Schuermann to coordinate a major renovation of our church in 2017 in celebration of the parish’s 175th anniversary. This beautiful update of our historical church was completed on time and fundraised with no debt.”
In January, Cucco traveled to Tanzania, Africa, with a group to visit her parish’s sister parish, St. John the Baptist in the Pare Mountains.
“To see all that Fr. Beda and the Partners for Hope/Tanzania have accomplished in the fields of evangelization, healthcare and education was truly remarkable,” she said. “We witnessed the joy of everyday life of the villagers in this beautiful part of the world.”
Cucco said she was influenced to live a Christ-like life by her high school teachers, who belonged to the order of the Daughters of Charity.
“They were examples of serving others with humility and humor,” she said.
Cucco enjoys parish life in beautiful Lake Geneva, which more than 1,000 parish families call home.
“We also have many visitors who vacation in our area or attend a destination wedding,” she said. “We get a lot of very positive feedback from people coming from all over the world that our liturgies have given them a meaningful experience in our lovely church environment.”
Leadership in the Permanent Diaconate
Dcn. John Ebel
Ordained to the permanent diaconate in 1996, Dcn. John Ebel’s career has been distinguished by service both in pastoral ministry and diaconal and lay formation. As someone who considered becoming a doctor in his youth, Dcn. Ebel has always felt a call to “help people,” and it’s that ministry of support and fellowship that has most defined his work in the church.
“It was that privilege of being present to people that has been my greatest satisfaction,” said Dcn. Ebel.
Originally from the New Jersey shore, Dcn. Ebel has called the Milwaukee area home for more than four decades. He and wife Maryann have been married for 45 years, and share two sons and three grandchildren. Prior to his ordination, he spent 20 years as an industrial microbiologist.
He began diaconal formation in 1992, and in 1995 he left his secular career to become the pastoral associate of St. Bernadette Parish in Milwaukee. In 2001, he became the director of diaconal formation for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and he completed a master’s degree in pastoral studies at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary. Other parish assignments include St. John Vianney in Brookfield and Christ King in Wauwatosa.
In 2001, Dcn. Ebel joined St. Francis de Sales Seminary as the associate director of the certificate division, responsible for both lay ministry and diaconate formation. In 2007, he became the director of the Office of Diaconate Formation and was tasked with bringing the program into compliance with national standards. During his years in that position, Dcn. Ebel was responsible for the recruitment, selection, admission and formation of deacons for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
“It was always a real pleasure at ordination to be able to hug each guy and say, ‘Welcome, brother deacon,’” he said. “It always brought me to tears.”
Dcn. Ebel is now retired and is a member of St. John XXIII Parish in Port Washington.
“What’s given me great pleasure and carried me through ministry was being with people,” he said. “Being in their happy moments, their tragic moments and everything in between.”
Leadership in Education
Sr. Eileen Kazmierowicz, O.S.F.
For nearly 30 years, Sr. Eileen Kazmierowicz, O.S.F., has served the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in various capacities. Since 1995, she has served her parish, St. Alphonsus, Greendale, as the adult formation minister. Additionally, she led many adults and children into full communion with the Church through RCIA and RCIC programs.
Her other volunteer efforts include small faith communities, family spirituality, retreats, parish missions, adult learning programs, leadership, stewardship development-council, committee formation, ecumenical relationships, coordinating pastoral care, offering spiritual direction and helping with administrative tasks.
“I have also served as a supervisor for field ed seminarians at Sacred Heart School of Theology,” said Sr. Kazmierowicz. “I am honored to accompany adults on their faith journeys to know Jesus more deeply through embracing the Catholic way of life, and continuing to connect with them as they live out their faith commitment in a parish community, as well as everyday life.”
One of Sr. Kazmierowicz’s favorite scripture passages is the story of Nicodemus in John’s Gospel, when he came to Jesus to seek enlightenment and ended up becoming one of his disciples.
“He was willing to step forward with Joseph of Arimathea to bury the body of Jesus,” she said. “In this story, we see a person raising his faith questions, pondering Jesus’ responses and becoming a steadfast follower of Jesus the Christ. I think it’s important that inquirers and longtime Catholics, as well, realize the value of faith questions as a way of growing in their faith.”
Sr. Kazmierowicz is inspired by the great witness of her ancestors who faithfully lived through life’s challenges and continued to devote themselves to the Church and live sacramental lives.
“I am also inspired by my spiritual mentors and my Franciscan community relationships, as well as the Franciscan approach to life. I am also committed to Ignatian spirituality and have made the spiritual exercises and regular directed retreats,” she said. “I am inspired by many faithful parishioners who offer ‘hidden’ service to their family members and the community at large. St. Al’s Food Pantry team of volunteers steadfastly worked through the pandemic and continues to provide poor families with sustenance and supportive relationships. St. Al’s folks have a spirit of ‘pitching in’ when help is needed.”
Leadership in Families
Cindi Petre has moved around a lot for her husband’s job; from Atlanta to Oklahoma City and Little Rock to Albuquerque, the mom of six has called a lot of places home. But wherever she put down roots over the years, Petre could be counted on to engage in meaningful ministry in the Church.
When the family returned to their native Wisconsin 23 years ago, it was inevitable that Petre would find a way to serve the people of God — and she has, first for over 18 years at St. Anthony on the Lake Parish in Pewaukee and now as Catholic Memorial High School’s campus minister.
“Every morning, I ask Jesus to show me where I should be, what I should do and to help me get it done,” said Petre. “My constant prayer is, ‘Jesus, I trust in you.’”
Raised in Greendale, Petre has a background in elementary education and high school special education. Her first ministry in the Church involved creating a sacrament program for children with special needs, and though the family moved before she could see the program brought to fruition, “it started my interest in parish work and ministry,” she said. She continued ministry as a catechist, scripture study leader and NFP speaker, while also working in pro-life ministry, Elizabeth Ministry and in marriage preparation before falling in love with high school ministry.
She and husband Mark are high school sweethearts who have been together for more than 45 years. In addition to their six children, they have 15 grandchildren.
Petre joined the staff at St. Anthony on the Lake as the youth ministry coordinator, eventually taking over the role of director of youth and family high school ministry, where she was especially passionate about the family program for multigenerational catechesis, retreats and mission trips. After obtaining her master’s degree from Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology through the Cor Unum program, she came to Catholic Memorial High School.
“I found my niche and CMH feels like home,” said Petre. “My greatest joy is seeing teens grow in their faith. The hope is that that experience of Christ grows into a deeper, lifelong and life-giving relationship.”
Leadership in Liturgy and Worship
Despite her Midwestern upbringing, Janat Davis’ roots are pure Creole Catholic, stretching back more than three centuries to a time when Black Catholics had to fight for their lives and their faith.
Her seventh great-grandmother, Marie Thérèse “Coincoin,” was born in slavery and later had children with a French landowner. “She insisted that her children be baptized Catholic and were raised Catholic,” said Davis. “For Black Catholics, there was no place to pray and worship. My family — my ancestors — gave the land and built the church where we could pray and worship, St. Augustine Catholic Church on Cane River in Isle Brevelle, Louisiana.”
Two hundred years later, the embers of faith enkindled by Marie Thérèse burn brightly in Davis and her ministry. Raised by devout Catholic parents at St. Boniface Parish in Milwaukee, Davis drifted from the practice of her faith as a young adult, but her mother’s invitation to return to Mass at St. Agnes made a difference. “I was like, ‘Oh, wow. I think I belong here,’” recalled Davis. The rest is history: she became involved as a lector, a Eucharistic minister and member of various committees, and eventually enrolled in the Julia and Lincoln Valle Lay Leadership Program and earned a certificate in pastoral studies from Saint Francis de Sales Seminary.
She has planned countless prayer services and liturgies for various communities, including the Prayer of Lament at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. She has served on the Black Catholic Ministry Commission for more than a decade and is the current secretary.
A member of All Saints and St. Martin de Porres parishes, Davis is a caretaker for her father and is the proud aunt of four nieces and nephews and nine great-nieces and nephews.
Davis said that she is inspired by the words of Servant of God Thea Bowman: “I come to my Church fully functioning. I bring myself, my Black self, all that I am, all that I have, all that I hope to become. I bring my whole history, my traditions, my experience, my culture, my African American song and dance and gesture and movement and teaching and preaching and healing and responsibility as a gift to the Church.”
“This is true for me whenever I prepare or lead prayer,” said Davis. “I bring myself — my full self — into every experience.”
Leadership in the Priesthood
Fr. Dennis R. Ackeret
Fr. Dennis Ackeret can first recall the stirrings of a priestly vocation in the fifth grade, as he observed the joyfulness of the associate priests serving at St. Monica Parish in his native Whitefish Bay.
One of five children in a devout Catholic family, Fr. Ackeret also names his parents as profound influences on his early faith.
“My parents’ example by living their faith gave me a foundation for and inspired me to live and love my own faith,” he said. “Their support and the support of my four siblings was essential in my pursuit of my vocation as a priest.”
Fr. Ackeret enrolled in Saint Francis de Sales Minor Seminary as a freshman in high school and was ordained to the priesthood May 18, 1968. His parish assignments have included St. Lucy in Racine, St. Mary in Menomonee Falls, Christ King in Wauwatosa and St. Theresa of Avila in Eagle; additionally, he spent 20 years as a faculty member and chaplain at Catholic Memorial High School, from 1969-89. During his time at Christ King Parish, he served as the dean of the district.
“My greatest joy as a priest is first and foremost presiding at the Eucharist and preaching, and then offering the Sacrament of Reconciliation,” said Fr. Ackeret. “I also found great satisfaction as a staff member at CMH being able to share my love of the Catholic faith with the students in my classes.”
He retired in June 2012, and assists at various parishes and serves on the Archbishop’s College of Consultors. His hobbies include reading, traveling and doing yard work. He is also an enthusiastic cook, creating dinners for friends and donating dinners for Life’s Connection auctions and other church-related fundraisers.
“It’s an honor to join with my brother priests who have previously received this award, and I am humbled to be listed with all the others who have been and are being recognized for their service in the Lord’s vineyard,” said Fr. Ackeret.
Leadership in the Priesthood
Fr. Dave Filut
It’s a full-circle moment for Fr. Dave Filut to receive an award recognizing leadership in the priesthood, as his own vocation has been positively shaped — since its earliest stages — by the influence of his ordained brethren.
When Fr. Filut entered Saint Francis de Sales Minor Seminary in the mid-1950s as a high school freshman, he did so with the express desire of becoming a priest, following the example of the men who served his home parish of St. Anthony on Historic Mitchell Street.
“I wanted to be a priest since the seventh or eighth grade. My parents were very Catholic, and the priests at St. Anthony’s were really influential in my life,” said Fr. Filut. “They certainly affected me.”
After his ordination in 1968, Fr. Filut was assigned to be the associate pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Racine, where the mentorship of his pastor was an invaluable aid to his development, he said. “Especially in terms of parish management and financial managers, he was very good at that,” said Fr. Filut.
As an associate pastor, Fr. Filut would also spend time at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Milwaukee and St. Anthony Parish in Menomonee Falls. His early experience at Sacred Heart came in handy during his tenure as pastor at St. William in Waukesha, where he oversaw the building of the current church in 1992. “That was very thrilling for me,” he said.
He later served the community of Holy Apostles in New Berlin as pastor, retiring 12 years ago. Fr. Filut currently lives in Muskego and is a help-out priest at St. Mary’s Visitation in Elm Grove and a variety of other parishes and retirement communities in the area.
“I’m very honored,” he said of being recognized with the Vatican II Award for Leadership in the Priesthood, though he insists it is the people he serves who have inspired him during his time as a priest. “Over the years, it has struck me how faithful they are in spite of their troubles and their difficulties. People are so good.”
St. John XXIII Award for Spirit of the Council
At one time, Randy Nohl had thoughts of becoming a priest — he holds a bachelor’s degree in theology, and was two years into the graduate program at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary when he sensed that God had other plans for him.
“Parish ministers have always been an inspiration to me,” said Nohl, who grew up in Sheboygan at St. Dominic and Holy Name Parishes. “They are being of direct service to people who are striving to grow in their faith and to find balance in their lives and their families’ lives.”
Nohl completed his master’s of theology degree while working in parish ministry, first as a director of religious education as well as youth and young adult minister in parishes in Racine, Whitefish Bay, Waukesha and Milwaukee. In 1987, he became the associate director for engaged and marriage ministry for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, a role that eventually came to encompass family ministry, ministry to separated and divorced Catholics, adult formation and bereavement ministry.
A defining moment of Nohl’s ministry was the Archdiocesan Synod called by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, which took place on Pentecost weekend in 2014 and which Nohl helped to oversee.
“The Synod remains as one of the most spirit-filled events that I was part of in my ministry, and set a tone and plan for the archdiocese, which is still interwoven into archdiocesan ministry today,” said Nohl. As director of Synod Implementation, Nohl assisted parishes throughout the archdiocese to embrace and realize the priorities identified at the synod. He retired from that role in 2021.
Nohl and his wife Laura Leonard have been married since 1987 and currently reside in Bay View.
“One of the greatest joys about my work with the archdiocese was seeing the people who were touched by the vast number of programs and services being offered,” he said. “I am extremely humbled to receive this Vatican II award and know that it is because of so many other people who have surrounded me and supported me that I was able to be a part of the Church’s ministry for over 40 years.”
St. Paul VI Award for Leadership in Justice and Peace
Believing that the Sermon on the Mount is the heart of the Gospel message, Anne Haines said, “Jesus radically challenges us with a clear vision of the life we are called to live.”
Taking Jesus’ message to heart, Haines opened St. Bakhita Catholic Worker House to provide a loving home for women who are survivors of human trafficking. Inspired by Dorothy Day, who served the poor, and St. Bakhita, the patron saint of human trafficking, Haines, the mother to six adult children and a grandmother to one, continues her mothering role by living in the residence.
“We also have made education part of our mission. We hope to become a place where youth and adults can come learn about the Catholic faith, considering the Gospel and the social teachings of the Church,” she said. “We would like to emphasize both/and the message that Dorothy Day’s witness exemplified. She was a devout Catholic, a daily communicant, who also stood up for and served those on the margins by boldly and consistently advocating for those in poverty and for the life and dignity of all people — no exceptions.”
Haines is a member of St. Martin de Porres Parish. She served as director of urban ministry/episcopal representative for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and as an educator/faith formation director/campus minister in archdiocesan Catholic schools (Messmer, Pius XI, St. Francis Borgia) and public-school educator at Malcolm X Academy (where she aided in their transition to being the only African American immersion middle school in the nation). She also developed the Catholic social action movement called the Tablesetters, which brings Catholic Social Teaching in theory and practice to students from K5-12.
“I believe that my work in formal education and through sharing the witness of the Catholic worker movement have both served to inform, inspire and send forth disciples,” she said. “In both instances, there is an intentional effort to encourage encounters with Jesus Christ, through the Eucharist, and then to go forth together, as the mystical Body of Christ, to build the kingdom.”
St. John Paul II Award for Youth and Young Adult Leadership
From volunteering at parish events, participating in lay ministry and staffing the parish thrift shop and Vacation Bible School, there are few areas of church life that Elliana Baudry has not had some involvement in.
Baudry said she is passionate about volunteering because, “I love that I am using my abilities to support someone who needs it or a vulnerable community that is deserving of the work we are providing.”
“I love the smiles and laughs and genuine conversations I have with the people I serve,” she said. “Seeing how grateful people are for something as simple as a meal or clothes teaches me in my life to appreciate and be grateful for the many gifts God has blessed me with.”
A resident of Wauwatosa, Baudry is entering her senior year at Pius XI High School in Milwaukee. She belongs to St. Jude Parish in Wauwatosa and St. John Vianney Parish in Brookfield. Her hobbies include softball, volleyball and camping.
In addition to serving at Mass, volunteering at the St. Jude Thrift Shop and leading VBS crews, Baudry has participated in parish mission trips, serving communities locally and across the globe. A ministry particularly close to her heart is the St. John Vianney sister parish in Piura, Peru, where she visited last summer.
“It was a wonderful, eye-opening experience that changed my perspective on my life, and gave me a deeper understanding of my faith,” she said. “I saw God in the face of all of the beautiful people that we worked with.”
Baudry is still finalizing her college plans but has an interest in studying medicine, education or a related STEM field. Whatever career she chooses, she hopes it will include a service element.
“Service has always been an important part of my life and I plan to continue with that,” she said. “I have been so incredibly blessed in my life, so having the ability to give back to my community in a way of volunteering is something I will so passionately continue doing.”
St. John Paul II Award for Youth and Young Adult Leadership
At just 22, Michael D. Vázquez Muñiz has already served in all the lay ministries his parish, St. Patrick’s in Milwaukee, has to offer.
Beginning at 8 years old, he volunteered as an altar server for 10 years, later volunteering as a lector, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and First Holy Communion catechist.
He then volunteered with St. Patrick’s and Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Summer Camp for children, later moving up to co-director.
“For the past six years, I have been the Confirmation catechist for our 15- and 16-year-olds, who are preparing themselves to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation,” he said. “My involvement with the Confirmation class holds great importance to me. My passion for serving the youth and guiding them in their faith journey has led me to find a sincere desire to teach, walk and work with the youth of Milwaukee. Through my role as a catechist, I have found that our young people have so much to offer. Our young people offer insights and an innate desire to know more about the ‘whys’ of the Church and faith. Ultimately, I have come to see that with guidance and a genuine commitment toward young people, their talents can be shared with the wider Milwaukee community.”
Currently a college counselor for Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Vázquez Muñiz said he learned while he was a student at Marquette University to serve and not to be served. (Mark 10:45)
Inspired by his mom, Ellist, and Fr. Jose Moreno, S.J., to live a Christ-like life, Vázquez Muñiz said “journeying with the youth” is one of the Universal Apostolic Preferences presented by the Jesuits that he has taken to heart in his work with young people.
“My work has demonstrated the importance of encouraging others to be servant leaders,” he said. “Much of the time, we may get caught up with daily activities that may stray us from placing God at the center, and the work of serving others in Church and beyond has allowed me to grow closer to him and my community.”
Pope Benedict XVI Award for Leadership in Scholarship and Academia
Dr. Dan Scholz
Dr. Dan Scholz’s leadership in education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has spanned nearly four decades, and his instruction has helped to form generations of priests, lay ministers and fellow teachers.
“Serving others is a visible and concrete way for me to live out the Gospel values and help in building the Kingdom of God,” said Dr. Scholz.
Growing up in West Allis at St. Aloysius Parish, religion and Catholic identity “was always a part of my life,” said Dr. Scholz. “My mom in particular was a huge fan of Vatican II.” Dr. Scholz received his Ph.D. from Marquette University in 1997 in biblical theology and for several years taught biblical studies at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary. In 2004, he joined the faculty of Cardinal Stritch University, eventually becoming chair of the religious studies department and helping to form the St. Clare Center, where he was the executive director until 2011. He served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 2011-17 and as vice president of academic affairs from 2018-20.
Dr. Scholz has published three books with Anselm Academic: “Jesus in the Gospels and Acts” (2009; revised edition, 2013), “The Pauline Letters” (2013), and most recently, “The Catholic Epistles, Hebrews, and Revelation” (2016), and he has co-authored five workbooks for Liturgy Training Publications. He has written weekly pieces for Liturgical Publications, Inc. since 2004.
A parishioner of Christ King Parish in Wauwatosa, Dr. Scholz regularly conducts “Between the Masses” scriptural presentations, typically during the seasons of Advent and Lent.
In his free time, Dr. Scholz enjoys reading and golfing, and he and his wife Bonnie are the parents of three adult children.
“Faith is central to our family life,” said Dr. Scholz. “We tend to view the ups and downs of family life through the lens of faith.”
Pope Francis Award for Missionary Leadership
Lidia Bonilla began her work in the Church as a young girl, helping at her parish in Panama. “I participated in youth mission trips that would go from place to place evangelizing and serving others,” she recalled. “I have been involved in religious education and formation for as long as I can remember.”
After achieving a degree in mathematics at the Panama National University C.R.U.V. in Veraguas, Bonilla came to the United States in 1994 as a Fulbright scholar to study a course of English at Southern Illinois University. She later received a master’s degree in mathematics from Marquette University and a Ph.D. in engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she also taught for several years.
Bonilla is the current director of religious education at St. Adalbert, and the head of public relations at Radio Católica Internacional. Her radio show, “The Hour of Divine Mercy,” has aired on several radio stations in Latin America.
Bonilla is frequently invited to give talks, and travels across Wisconsin to provide formation for youth and family ministries. The greatest joy of her life, she said, is motherhood — she has three children.
“Teaching them about the Catholic faith brings me joy that nothing else does,” she said. With her children, she is active in a youth ministry program, Apóstoles En Acción. “We want all kids out there to know that Jesus loves them and that there is hope. Through music and service, they can be the difference that is so much needed in this world.”
“I love serving others because it gives me the opportunity to be an instrument of Christ helping people to realize that he is alive — ‘Él está vivo’ — and that he wants to bring meaning to our lives,” she said. “So many have lost hope because their eyes are not fixed on God anymore. I love most seeing God working in somebody’s life. I have witnessed so many marvelous things over the years. Jesus is alive, healing his people and bringing hope to those who open their hearts to him.”