MILWAUKEE — Fourteen members of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee will be recognized with Vatican II Awards on Thursday, Nov. 10, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee, for their contributions to the Catholic community of southeastern Wisconsin.
This year’s award recipients are:
Service in Administration: Tonya L. Johnson, All Saints Parish, Milwaukee. As director of administrative services for four parishes in the central city of Milwaukee, Johnson is the “face of Christ to everyone she meets” at All Saints, St. Martin de Porres, St. Michael and St. Rose of Lima parishes. She is also a member of the Stewardship Synod Pastoral Priority Team, Business Administrators of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee executive board and the Archdiocesan Synod Implementation Council (ASIC).
Service to the Church: Brenda Cline, St. Joseph Parish, Grafton, has been involved with ministry to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in an official capacity for 16 years. Cline began as director of youth and young adult ministry for St. Joseph and became parish director in 2011. She also serves on ASIC, the commission that advises Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki regarding the Synod implementation process.
Service in Communication: Connie Bach, Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee. Since 2008, Bach has been coordinator of the archdiocesan Pallium Lecture. She is also involved with several faith formation programs such as “Scripture with Scholars,” a collaborative series between the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization and the cathedral.
Service in the Diaconate: Deacon Thomas Surges, St. John XXIII Parish, Port Washington. Ordained to the diaconate June 11, 1978, Deacon Surges began his ministry by directing the religious education program at St. Peter of Alcantara Parish, Port Washington. Since then, he has served on numerous committees, including Admissions and Scrutiny. He continues to be involved in baptismal preparation, marriage preparation, a post-confirmation program and the training of altar servers and lectors. Deacon Surges serves as a member of the bereavement committee, the human concerns committee, the parish worship committee and recently started Communion services in nursing homes.
Service in Ecumenism: Deacon James Banach, St. Gregory the Great Parish, Milwaukee. Ordained to the diaconate June 11, 2005, Deacon Banach has been a leadership team member for the Roman Catholic/Episcopal Deacons Relationship and participates in the Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers (CADEIO) workshops. He presents for Continuing Formation of Clergy Session on Ecumenism and Interreligious Relations and participated in two national workshops for Christian Unity.
Service in Education: James Podewils, St. Mary Parish, Hales Corners. Podewils, director of administrative services for St. Mary Parish, he has served as a board member for St. Thomas More High School, Milwaukee (2000 to 2014). He is a member of the working group and task force for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s Seton Catholic Schools and was a member of the Wisconsin Governor’s Council on Financial Literacy (2010-2011). Podewils and his wife, Sadie, have worked as volunteer coordinators for the Soles for Catholic Education Walk since its inception.
Service to Families: Franciscan Missionary Sister for Youth Janeth Vásconez Pazmiño, St. Anthony Parish, Milwaukee. Sr. Janeth is director of Catholic Identity for St. Anthony School, Milwaukee, previously serving as director of religious education for the parish and school.
After primary studies in Ecuador, Sr. Janeth earned a doctorate from the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome. From 2005 to 2011, she served as an assistant in the office of the National Missionary Center of the Episcopal Conference of Ecuador. She was president of the Union of Religious Native Communities in Ecuador and has served as delegate for Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador in the Assemblies of the International Union of General Superiors in Rome.
Service in Liturgy: Paul Thelen, Holy Family Catholic Community, Fond du Lac. Director of music and liturgy for 16 years at Holy Family, Thelen’s service to the church began when he was in fourth grade and a member of Holy Rosary Parish, New Holstein. He became the parish organist and continued in that capacity into his college years. He’s been director of music for many organizations and parishes, including St. Joseph Church, Fond du Lac (1983 to 2000). Thelen’s been a member of the Archdiocese Liturgical Commission (2006 to 2009 and 2014-2016). He is also a liturgical musician for the Sisters of St. Agnes, since 2001 and Dorcas Chapel – Marian University, Fond du Lac since 2004.
Service to the Missions: Miguel Antonio Méndez Gerómino, St. Gregory the Great Parish, Milwaukee. A native of Los Toros in the Dominican Republic, he moved to the United States in 2001. In 2008, during a visit to the D.R., he purchased solar lights for families who relied on candles and propane lamps. Seeing the impact it had, he and his wife, Melanie, founded “Luz Para Educación,” “Light for Education” in 2011. Thanks to this program, nearly 1,500 families have received safe, indoor solar lighting for their homes in the D.R.
Service to the Priesthood: Fr. David H. Reith – Vicar for Catholic Charities, pastor of St. Dominic Parish, Brookfield. Ordained a priest June 5, 1976, he has served in several parishes including Immaculate Conception (St. Mary), Burlington, Mary Queen of Heaven, West Allis, Blessed Sacrament, Milwaukee, and Good Shepherd, Menomonee Falls. He was school chaplain and head of the religion department at St. Joseph High School, Kenosha. Fr. Reith has served several archdiocesan roles, including on the Priest Placement Board, moderator of the Council of Priests, member of the steering committee for the Faith in Our Future campaign, and board member at St. Joseph High School, Catholic Central High School, Burlington, and Catholic Memorial High School, Waukesha.
Service to the Priesthood – Fr. Charles Schramm, St. Mary Parish, Hales Corners. Ordained May 22, 1971, in addition to serving at St. Mary Parish, Fr. Schramm has served at St. Sebastian, Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Matthias parishes, all in Milwaukee. He was secretary to Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland in 1978.
Service in Society: James T. Henry Jr., St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Milwaukee. A teacher, counselor and principal in Milwaukee Public Schools for more than 40 years, Henry has served on the Milwaukee Center for Independence board, taught religious education to seventh and eighth graders at St. Francis of Assisi and is a lector at Mass. He is a member of his parish’s scholarship committee and it was his suggestion that a “Mass for Peace” be celebrated in the city last year.
John Paul II Youth Award: Heath Brozovich, St. Anthony on the Lake Parish, Pewaukee. Brozovich has been assisting in the youth ministry program at St. Anthony on the Lake for eight years. He has also taught classes for catechetical and family programs, facilitated confirmation sessions, assisted with retreats and attended mission trips. He’s been playing the drums at Masses for 13 years and has volunteered at the Waukesha County Food Pantry since 2009.
John Paul II Youth Award: Louisa Fredriksson, St. Anne Parish, Pleasant Prairie. Fredriksson, a 2016 graduate of St. Joseph Catholic Academy, Kenosha, is a freshman at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater. For the past three years, she was the lead catechist for kindergarten children at her parish.