Throughout the year, the Catholic Herald staff enjoys telling the inspirational stories of people of faith. Several from the last year were especially touching and inspirational. Following are our 10 most inspiring individuals of 2010.

lynnNeuAfter living through the shock of her ovarian cancer diagnosis in 2003, Lynn Neu, 62, a Kenosha-native, wrote “The God Box: Hope Strength, Courage @ Your Fingertips,” as a spiritual roadmap for others facing the disease. Neu, who lives in San Diego with her husband, Jerry, is a former parishioner of St. Mary Parish, Kenosha. She spent 10 years working for the Milwaukee Archdiocese in youth ministry and 10 years teaching at St. Catherine High School, Racine. With the cancer news, Neu said she wasn’t ready to die, but she wasn’t afraid to join her parents and other loved ones in heaven, so she took action and notified friends and family and asked for prayers. She received her fourth round of chemotherapy in December 2004 and shared lessons learned in her annual Christmas letter along with the ultimate blessing that followed the diagnosis. (Feb. 11, 2010)

KirstinHolumSisterFranciscan Sr. Catherine Mary was born Kirstin Holum in Waukesha and skated in the 1998 Olympics as a senior at Pius XI High School. During those Olympics in Nagano, Japan, when Kristin was not yet 18, she announced her decision to retire from speedskating. She earned a college degree in art, and discerned joining a religious congregation. Sr. Catherine professed first vows Sept. 22, 2006, and, after seven years with the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, professed final vows in June. She lives in Leeds, England. (Feb. 25, 2010)

lisa2Lisa Calderone-Stewart, 52, lives with a terminal illness that’s expected to take her life within months, but remains upbeat and is determined to leave something behind: “Tomorrow’s Present,” a leadership program for teens that she started in 1999. When the archdiocese ran into financial problems and had to cut back, Calderone-Stewart was determined to keep Tomorrow’s Present going and found a new home for the project with the House of Peace, a Capuchin ministry center in the central city. The author of 20 books on youth ministry and several articles and chapters in other books, Calderone-Stewart applied for grants and used donations to fund the project and her salary. With the cancer news, she worked to raise money to ensure that Tomorrow’s Present would continue. The Leadership Center of Cardinal Stritch University has begun “The Legacy Fund for Tomorrow’s Present: A Lasting Tribute to the work of Dr. Lisa-Marie Calderone-Stewart,” which had raised $40,000 at the time. Her father died “much too quickly” of a heart attack, and her mother died “so slowly” that her family never knew when to say goodbye; Calderone-Stewart said she is dying in the “perfect way,” because she has time to say goodbye. (March 4, 2010)

John_and_Louise_Vos-3John and Louise Vos, members of St. James Parish, Menomonee Falls, have devoted 34 of their 44 years of marriage (in October) to preparing couples for marriage. The couple adopted a child after they learned conception wasn’t likely, but later had three children of their own. After struggling with communication issues in their marriage, an invitation to join a marriage ministry, “Day for the Engaged,” as a couple, is what Louise called, “a work of the Holy Spirit.” The program enriched their marriage even after their family moved to California in 1991. The couple has also been doing premarital inventory for more than 30 years in Wisconsin and California. When they moved back to Wisconsin in 2008, they worked with Fr. Art Heinze to initiate the August Engaged Encounter weekend and continue the ministry, with the goal of establishing a local unit of National Engaged Encounter in Milwaukee. (March 2010 Catholic Marriage)

POF-grace1Known as “Amazing Grace” among friends and people of rural Kentucky, Grace Czarnecki, a teacher for 36 years in the Milwaukee Public School system, has spent the last 27 years helping the poverty-stricken community of Booneville in the Appalachian region. The Our Lady of Lourdes parishioner makes five to eight trips each year from her Milwaukee home to the mountains of Kentucky, transporting a truckload of donations from friends, co-workers, fellow parishioners and anyone who has heard of her ministry each trip – food, furniture, books, household goods, holiday items and toys. Czarnecki, who has made the three-day trips since 1983, continues the ministry that has grown by word of mouth, and even built a large shed in her backyard to accommodate donations received in between trips. (March 18, 2010)

dematthew2Even after Dan De-Matthew, 52, suffered spinal injuries from a bicycle accident in 2009 that resulted in quadriplegia, a significant loss of feeling in his arms and legs, he continued to live his life for God. DeMatthew, who mowed lawns, washed cars, shoveled walks in front of the Racine Police Department, volunteered with St. Catherine High School sports teams, served at the annual Holy Name Society fish fry and befriended a cognitively disabled man by taking him to lunch and for a haircut, spends most of his time confined to a motorized wheelchair and needs help with personal care. DeMatthew, known as “Papa Dan” to students and alumni of St. Catherine High School, has gained some use of his arms and legs through extensive physical therapy, and hopes to walk unaided someday and resume some of his volunteer activities. Doctors are optimistic though DeMatthew’s long-term prognosis is uncertain. He’s not bitter and doesn’t ask why this happened to him; instead DeMatthew uses his disability as a “springboard for prayer and gratitude toward others.” (April 15, 2010)

maryroseWhen Mary “Mama” Rose’s husband, Greg Rose, died on Holy Satur-day in 2001, so did their plans for retirement and travel. But Mary found her voice again when Sister of St. Francis of Assisi Edna Lonergan invited her to Bafut, Cameroon, where the Tertiary Franciscans ran St. Joseph’s Vocational High School for Girls. Mary sought guidance from Sr. Edna, whom Mary’s husband Greg got to know as he was a member of the St. Ann Center for Intergener-ational Care board of directors. Mary accepted the invitation that changed her life forever and led her to work to give the young women of Cameroon a voice in their futures. Mary raised money to replace soiled dormitory mattresses, and spearheaded fundraising efforts totaling more than $500,000 that have led to the construction of an educational development center completed in fall 2008 with sanitary toilets and showers. She was instrumental in changing the school’s name to St. Joseph’s Comprehensive High School for Young Women to reflect the school’s mission of developing leaders, not just teach vocational trades, and instituted a pen pal program where Cameroonian students correspond with pen pals in Milwaukee from Divine Savior Holy Angels and St. Joan Antida high schools. With the help of friends, Mary continued her work even after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer, three years ago. (Sept. 2, 2010)

AlbertoAlberto Figueroa, 18, stopped a break-in in progress in his south side Milwaukee neighborhood at age 17, thanks to training he received from the Milwaukee Police Explorers Unit, an organization with which he had been involved for the past three years. Figueroa called non-emergency when he saw three suspicious men riding through his neighborhood on bikes, but all units were busy. When the men knocked on his neighbors’ door and put their hoods up and entered, he dialed 911 before running home to alert his mother of the situation, and threw on a police shirt and duty belt. The neighbors arrived home while the men were in the house, so Figueroa alerted them of the situation, eventually catching and handcuffing one of the three men. He received the “Crime Prevention” award in February, an honor presented to him by Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. The St. Thomas More High School graduate, who is thankful for his Catholic school education where religion classes helped him “get a better relationship with God,” plans to become a police officer. (May 27, 2010)

Haiti-Trip-Feb-08-142When Bill Delaney, 66, was told by his orthopedic surgeon that he must walk nine miles a day within three months following his spinal fusion – major back surgery – for the bones to fuse well together, he chose a unique form of motivation: he chose to do a “Walk for Haiti,” where he vowed to walk 270 miles from April 16 to May 16, to raise money for the Haitian people whose lives were affected by the Jan. 12 earthquake. He and his wife, Mary, 65, became acquainted with Haiti through the outreach ministry at their parish, St. Frances Cabrini, West Bend. Bill traveled to Haiti in 1997 with his daughter to volunteer at the St. Joseph Family of Homes a total of seven times in 13 years with Mary; they saw the poverty that existed before the earthquake and were “stunned” with the television pictures after the earthquake. Bill thought about and prayed for the children he and his wife met during their visits as he walked a total of 270.9 miles, and raised $4,156 for Haiti. A belated donation of $1,000 brought the total to $5,156 for Haiti, particularly the St. Joseph Home for Boys in Port-au-Prince, and Wings of Hope for disabled children in Fermathe. (May 6, 2010)

pof-jolitafrank2Jolita Frank, 43, always wanted to play the organ at church, but had no chance to do that until she moved from Soviet-occupied Lithuania to the U.S. with her husband, Arturas, and 4-month-old son, to escape the religious persecution that led to the deaths of her grandfather and uncle. A few years later, after the birth of her second child, Arturas died. Jolita learned the American ways and language, got a job and returned to school to earn her master’s in vocal accompanying from UW-Milwaukee and a teaching certification. As a substitute teacher teaching piano at UWM, Jolita met her second husband, Daniel, who helped raise her kids and watched them while she was at school, busy with rehearsals at church or teaching piano at home. Today, Jolita, who once had to mask her Catholic faith out of fear of being sent by train to Siberia, is director of music at St. Leonard Parish, Muskego. Faith helped Jolita through religious oppression, moving to a foreign land, learning the American way of liturgy, and to meet her husband; and music kept her coming back to the Catholic faith. (Oct. 28, 2010)