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 in Ecumenism — Laura Hancock
It won’t surprise anyone who knows Laura Hancock that the scripture passage she finds most inspirational is from the 24th chapter of Luke, verse 15: “Jesus himself drew near and walked with them.”
For Hancock, whose professional and personal life has been spent in service to education and the promotion of social justice, these words aren’t merely descriptive — they are a directive.
“I hope to be a person of deepening relationship, someone who walks alongside others with an unconditionally loving presence, and of drawing near to the real-life experiences of people,” she said. “Both the sorrows and the struggles, and the joy and a-ha moments too.”
Following her graduation from State University of New York College at Fredonia, where she studied music education, Hancock embarked on a “gap year of service” with the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers in Denver, working in violence prevention and intervention as a community educator. It was that experience, she said, that really “changed the trajectory of my life to its current path … one of faith, service and relationships of mutuality.”
Hancock has 20 years of experience in education, beginning with her time with the CVV. After her gap year, she taught in a day-treatment center in Denver, a role that was followed by two positions in alternative schools in southeastern Wisconsin.
But Hancock began to feel a call to ministry, which compelled her to study lay ministry at Cardinal Stritch University. After completing her degree, she worked as a theology teacher at Messmer, later transitioning to the role of campus minister, where she began to “more fully experience the beauty and gifts of interfaith work.”
During her tenure, Messmer began a partnership with Serve2Unite, an organization founded after the 2012 shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, in Oak Creek — “so that youth could build peace in their schools and in society at large,” she said.
In addition to her degree from Cardinal Stritch, Hancock also holds an MS in cultural foundations of education. She is also in studies with the Midwest Province of Jesuits to become a spiritual director formed to lead the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
The focus on ecumenism that began in college and blossomed at Messmer is today borne out by Hancock’s membership of the Milwaukee Catholic Jewish Conference with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, as well as the Interfaith Conference of Milwaukee’s Committee for Interfaith Understanding. She is also a member of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Advisory Board for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Hancock has been married to her husband, Erik Hancock, for 16 years. They have two children and live in the Harambee neighborhood of Milwaukee.
Currently, Hancock is the director of social justice and outreach with the Family of Four parishes on Milwaukee’s Eastside, Downtown and Riverwest neighborhoods. “It’s been a blessing to serve as a liaison between parishioners and Milwaukee area service and advocacy groups, as well as facilitating small groups related to Catholic Social Teaching, racial justice, and interfaith work,” she said.