Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki with Mary Ann and Art Wigchers, 2022 Treasures of the Church Awardees, at the Greater Milwaukee Area Lenten Luncheon. (Submitted photo)
Sr. Sylvia Leonardi has lived a life of service since she was a girl growing up in Kenosha. She’s spent much of her life visiting with nursing home residents and collecting donations for the poor. Now, after more than 50 years of leading religious education, she continues to teach. Since 2010, she has been a teacher of meditation at St. Joseph Catholic Academy — her alma mater — while also serving as campus minister.
In partnership with Catholic Charities, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki has chosen Sr. Sylvia to be a recipient of the 2023 Treasures of the Church Award. Sr. Sylvia is one of the individual recipients of the award, along with organizations and religious orders, to be honored at one of four local Lenten Luncheons.
The awards are modeled after the legend of St. Lawrence, a deacon of the early Church in Rome during the third century. Prior to his martyrdom, St. Lawrence was ordered by tyrants of Rome to forfeit the Church’s treasures under his stewardship. Instead, St. Lawrence spent three days giving away those possessions and brought forth, as he declared, the Church’s true treasures, the abused, abandoned and poor.
At the Lenten Luncheons hosted by parishes throughout southeastern Wisconsin, Archbishop Listecki, president of Catholic Charities, will present the Treasures of the Church Awards, which he established when he was bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse.
Those receiving the award are honored for their service of charity as represented by St. Lawrence and the mission of Catholic Charities: compassion, service and support for people in our communities who are impacted by poverty.
This year’s 15 awardees are recognized for caring for the sick, marginalized and unborn, providing food for the hungry, leadership in Catholic education and support for refugees and immigrants in our communities.
Erica P. John is among the award recipients to be honored Feb. 28. John has lived an extraordinary life that includes war, family, service and a belief that a good education is the way out of poverty. From her first days living in Milwaukee in the 1950s and raising nine children, she and her husband, Harry, made caring for those most in need a priority. Through Catholic Charities, she became an ardent supporter of refugees and immigrants who have experienced the tragedy of war and political revolts in their home countries and now call Milwaukee and southeastearn Wisconsin home.
Also being honored are Barbara and Dr. John Lent (March 9), whose maxim through their 55 years of marriage has been inspired by St. Ignatius Loyola: “Who are the marginalized in our community and the world, and how can we be of help?” To live up to that personal challenge, Dr. Lent established a free medical clinic in Fond du Lac for uninsured people and those experiencing homelessness, and Barbara Lent helped found a violence prevention program at St. Agnes Hospital, in addition to leading an effort that helped prevent the damage of secondhand smoke in restaurants across Wisconsin.
The organization honoree at St. Anthony on the Lake Parish will be Family Promise of Waukesha County (March 28), which lives up to its motto that “every child deserves a home.” Family Promise is part of a movement redefining what homeless shelters are, having served more than 100 families facing homelessness by providing food, shelter, transportation and case management.
Attendees will be treated to a simple soup and salad lunch and the inspiration of hearing from the archbishop. Events begin at 11:30 a.m., with the archbishop promising to end at 1 p.m. so members of the business community can confidently take this time for a Lenten Lunch.
The four events this year are scheduled for:
- Feb. 28: The Greater Milwaukee Area luncheon will be hosted at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary. Awardees will be Erica P. John, Women’s Care Center and the Order of St. Camillus.
- March 9: The Quad-Counties luncheon is being hosted at Holy Family Church, Fond du Lac. The awardees will be Dr. John and Barbara Lent, Charis Pregnancy and Family Help Center, Dcn. Ed Cody and Sheboygan North Catholic Parishes.
- March 21: The Tri-Counties luncheon will be hosted by Sacred Heart Parish, Racine, at Bristol Oaks Golf Course. To be honored are Jim Corona, Love INC and Sr. Sylvia Leonardi, S.S.S.F.
- March 28: The final Lenten Luncheon will be held at St. Anthony on the Lake Parish, Pewaukee. Awardees will be E. Michael McCann, Family Promise and Carmel of the Mother of God.
The cost to attend is $25 per person.
To register, become a sponsor and learn more about Catholic Charities, Lenten Luncheons and the Treasures of the Church Award, visit www.ccmke.org/Lenten-Luncheons. All proceeds from the luncheons support the programs and services of Catholic Charities throughout the 10 counties of southeastern Wisconsin.
For more information, contact Catholic Charities Parish Relations Coordinator Jessica Brandt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 414-769-3414.