MILWAUKEE — Fourteen people will be honored with the Archbishop’s Vatican II awards for distinguished service for outstanding contributions to church and society on Tuesday, Nov. 10. A prayer service and awards ceremony will be held at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, 812 N. Jackson St., at 7 p.m.
The recipients of the 2009 Vatican II awards are:
Service in Administration: Steven J. Smith, St. John Vianney, Brookfield. Smith used his expertise as chairman and CEO of Journal Communications to assist the archdiocese’s Faith in Our Future Campaign and your Catholic Herald. He also served as a schools advisory board member.
Service in the Church: Maureen Gallagher, St. Anthony on the Lake, Pewaukee. Gallagher spent 22 years serving archdiocesan parishes and schools, including service as director of the Waukesha Catholic School System. She has also worked with a national consulting firm, conducting planning for parishes, schools and religious communities.
Service in Communication: Vue Yang, St. Peter Claver, Sheboygan. Yang has worked with the Hmong-Catholic community to bridge the cultural gap and foster an understanding of what it means to be a good Catholic and maintain a strong connection to Hmong heritage, and was involved and routinely organized Hmong Masses, taught English at his parish, and served on the parish council. He also works with the Hmong Sheboygan radio program, promotion of publications and Hmong Union Market.
Service in Ecumenism: Margaret Bemis, Our Lady of the Lake, Random Lake. Bemis was inspired by her husband, a practicing Methodist, to get involved with ecumenical work. She’s involved with interfaith communities, the promotion of ecumenism through education about other faith traditions, and other unity opportunities.
Service in Education: Kathleen Cepelka, Gesu Parish, Milwaukee. Cepelka is associate dean and director of teacher education at Marquette University, Milwaukee, and is also an active member of Pius XI High School Board of Directors; the Dominican High School Leadership Transition Team; St. Clare Center Advisory Board; Capuchin Province of St. Joseph Public Relations Ministry; and Schools’ Theology and Faith Formation Committee.
Service to Families: Deacon Ralph Kornburger Jr., St. Catherine Parish, Milwaukee. Deacon Kornburger co-developed the Interfaith/Interchurch Engaged Enrichment Programs and has worked with the Marriage Task Force Resolution.
Service in Liturgy: Judith Straus, St. Dominic, Sheboygan. Straus instituted choir exchanges to introduce her parish’s music to others, created a “Sister Act” group that entertained for five years, held musical fundraisers and worked closely with schools to foster their involvement in church services. In 1976 she was named the first parish music director in Sheboygan, and in 1992 was placed on the Sheboygan Music Wall of Fame.
Service to Missions: Patricia Parks, St. Mary Visitation Parish, Elm Grove. Since 1976 Parks has handled the stateside activities for the Working Boys Center, a Catholic organization committed to helping working boys and their families in Ecuador. Parks’ sister, Sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary Miguel Conway, traveled to Ecuador in 1967 as a missionary and is one of the founders of the Working Boys Center. To assist the center, stateside, Parks founded Family Unity International, a not-for-profit organization that further supports the Working Boys Center.
Service to Priesthood: Fr. Joseph Juknialis, pastor of Shepherd of the Hills, Eden. For more than 40 years Fr. Juknialis has empowered his parishioners to “be the church.” He taught seminarians at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, St. Francis, and for 15 years has written Scripture reflections for your Catholic Herald, where he focuses on helping people look beyond the surface of faith in their lives.
Service to the Priesthood: Fr. Robert Gosma, temporary administrator at St. Mary Immaculate Conception, Burlington. During his 50 years of teaching religion in grade schools and religious education programs, Fr. Gosma served as an associate or pastor of various parishes in southeastern Wisconsin. He helped parishes grow in the spirit of Vatican II through emphasis on developing parish ministry staff, promoting strong outreach programs and enabling laity to share in pastoral ministries.
Service in Society: Fessahaye Mebrahtu, All Saints and St. Martin de Porres parishes, Milwaukee. For 25 years Mebrahtu has worked to ensure African immigrants have access to resources, employment and education when arriving in the United States. The Pan-African Community Association formed out of his parish’s Pan-African Committee, and he serves as the association’s executive director, as well as the Christian formation director at his parish. He is a national consultant to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, serving on the Pastoral Care for Migrants, Refugees and Travelers Committee, and is a member of the Black Catholic Ministry.
Youth Service to the Church: Ryan Jonas, St. Alphonsus Parish, Greendale. Jonas has served as a kindergarten, second grade and confirmation catechist for four years, and has provided technical support for the parish by helping members with computers, projectors, video cameras and PowerPoint presentations. He has also set up a phone tree system, coordinated the technical aspects of parish trivia nights, auctions and presentations.
Youth Service in Education: Julie Twohig, Shepherd of the Hills Parish, Eden. Twohig’s positive experiences with mission trips led her to start teen mission trips within her parish, where through these trips teens learn the true meaning of service and how to fully give of themselves.
Youth Service to Society: Kathleen Geraghty, Mother of Good Counsel Parish, Milwaukee. Geraghty has organized and participated in tutoring programs at Mother of Good Counsel and Pius XI High School, Milwaukee, and represents the youth at her parish council’s meetings. She has participated in the Nehemiah Project’s Youth Leadership Institute, worked with a crime prevention agency to better her parish’s neighborhood and participated in service-based projects as part of the National Honor Society.