During the annual Vatican II Awards prayer service award ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 30, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki shared that the recipients have lived their lives witnessing love for Christ and his Church. With generous spirits, he said they contributed their lives for the betterment of the Church and the common good of their brothers and sisters.
“They have faced the challenges presented by the modern world to help forge the dignity of the human person, lived their lives during the challenge of the pandemic and supported their ministries,” Archbishop Listecki said. “They have used their gifts and talents to bring others to Christ, and for this, (I) as the Archbishop of Milwaukee — and I, as archbishop personally — will be forever grateful.”
Established in 1991, the Vatican II Awards honor men, women and young adults exemplifying the Church’s vision set forth in the Second Vatican Council. Selected by Archbishop Listecki, the awards recognize their service to the Body of Christ.
Before distributing the 14 Vatican II Awards, Archbishop Listecki quoted from St John XXIII’s opening address to the Second Vatican Council. “Illuminated by the light of this Council, the Church — we confidently trust — will become greater in spiritual riches and, gaining the strength of new energies therefrom, she will look to the future without fear. In fact, by bringing herself up to date where required, and by the wise organization of mutual cooperation, the Church will make men, families and peoples really turn their minds to heavenly things.”
He added St. John the XXIII began the renewal of the Church with a vision — one that witnesses would emerge renewed in the faith of the gospel, thereby shaping the Church for decades to come.
“This witness has continued to this very day. The spirit of St. John XXIII influenced many individuals in the post-Vatican II Church, encouraging them to seize their Christianity and proudly witness it to the world,” Archbishop Listecki said. “One young Jesuit priest was Jorge Bergoglio, whose life would be fashioned by that challenge. And who would, in turn, fashion others throughout the world.”
In 2012 as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) gave this reflection: “When Jesus sent his disciples to proclaim the kingdom, he told them, ‘Freely you have received, freely give. The Lord wants his kingdom to be spread through gestures of love freely given.”
Archbishop Listecki added, “This is how men and women recognized the first Christians as they went about spreading the message that overflowed through them. Freely you have received — freely give. ‘I would like these words,’ said Archbishop Bergoglio, ‘from the gospel to be engraved deeply on our hearts. The Church grows by attraction and by its witness.’”
Focusing on the close of the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Listecki encouraged Catholics to think of the many Christians who brought forth the dramatic transformation taken in the life of the Church. Their witness to the Holy Spirit has guided and directed the faithful to lead lives of holiness, which has affected us all.
“Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI said today’s world stands in great need of witnesses, not so much of teachers, but witnesses. It is not so much about speaking but speaking with whole lives, living consistently, the very consistency of our lives. This consistency means living Christianity as an encounter with Jesus that brings meaning to others. Witness is what counts,” Archbishop Listecki said.
Receiving the 2021 Vatican II Awards were:
Service in Administration – Rick and Nickie Schmidt (St. Dominic, Brookfield)
Service to the Church – Sr. Marianne Kempa (School Sisters of Notre Dame)
Service in Communication – Portia Young (Lumen Christi, Mequon)
Service in the Diaconate – Dcn. Thomas Hunt (Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee)
Service in Ecumenism – Donna Eddy (Our Lady of Lourdes and Congregation of the Great Spirit, Milwaukee)
Service in Education – Dr. John Gallam (Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, Franklin)
Service to Families – Rogelio “Roy” Salinas, posthumously (St. John Paul II, Milwaukee)
Service in Liturgy – Joseph Wittmann (Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee)
Service to the Missions – Reine Assana (Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, Franklin)
Service to the Priesthood – Fr. Michael Strachota (St. Joan of Arc, Nashotah, and St. Catherine, Mapleton)
Service to the Priesthood – Fr. Robert Bales (Senior Priest, West Bend)
Service in Society – Michael Bloedorn (St. Frances Cabrini, West Bend)
John Paul II Youth Awards – Augustin Khey (St. Michael, Milwaukee)
John Paul II Youth Awards – Dulce Contreras (St. Richard, Racine)