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 Church — Dr. Patrick and Dr. Stephanie Russell
For the Gospel at their nuptial Mass 39 years ago, high school sweethearts Patrick and Stephanie Russell chose the passage where Christ exhorts his disciples to consider the lilies of the field.
“They toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:28-29)
Over the last four decades, the Russells have done their fair share of toiling and spinning — but they have done it together, they have done it for God, and they will both be the first to tell you that the glory belongs to him.
“I think we had a sense that we could trust our love because we knew God was in the midst of it,” said Patrick. “We could go confidently into our future knowing the Spirit was leading us.”
Patrick is a 1982 graduate (magna cum laude) of Marquette University, where he received a B.A. in religious studies; he later achieved his Ph.D. in religious studies at Marquette in 1996. Stephanie is also an MU grad, studying social work for her bachelor’s degree, receiving a master of arts in pastoral studies from Saint Francis de Sales Seminary and earning her doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania.
Together, they spent several years teaching high school theology and doing pastoral work on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota before returning to Milwaukee in 1986. Stephanie went to work for campus ministry at Marquette University and then for the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus. Eventually, she became director of lay formation and social ministry before taking on a new role at Marquette as vice president for mission and ministry. Since 2016, she has served as the vice president for mission integration for the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.
In her work supporting the mission of the AJCU’s 28 universities, Stephanie said her greatest joy is “being able to connect committed people across a large network so that, when they come together, something really amazing can happen that is deeper and better than it would be alone.”
“I get to work with macro concerns about faith and justice, down to really tiny personal conversations with people who are just doing their very best to live the love of God through the work of education,” she said.
Patrick served the parish of St. Dominic in Brookfield as an adult and family minister for six years until 2005, when he joined the faculty at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology teaching biblical studies. In 2012, he was named the chief academic officer and vice president for intellectual formation at the seminary. In this capacity, he is responsible for coordinating and supervising the theological studies of seminarians from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and across the nation
Having known since high school that he was called to the field of education, Patrick said he finds deep fulfillment in “being joined to Christ’s mission” by supporting the intellectual and spiritual formation of future priests and lay ecclesial ministers.
“The Church has the capacity to not only help folks grow in faith, but to move us forward in ways that can help the world,” he said.
The Russells say that their family has taught them most about the abundance of God’s grace. Their four grown sons, four “daughters-in-love” and one granddaughter help them to understand, in a more profound way, the meaning of Jesus’ words about the lilies of the field.
Since 1992, the Russells have been promised members of the Ignatian Associates, a lay ecclesial group rooted in Ignatian spirituality and service. Members of their local associate community, the Companñeros Ignacianos, inspire them and sustain their faith. They are members of St. Sebastian Parish.