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 the individuals we’ve selected as our most inspiring selected from our 10 most inspiring stories of 2012.

zabler1.  Fr. Charlie Zabler, pastor at Our Lady of Good Hope Parish helped Dominic Boyi, who came to the U.S. from Nigeria in 2008, through immigration issues that separated him for four years from his wife Paulina, and son, Henry, whom he’d never met. Fr. Zabler enlisted the help of U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl’s office and the parish to reconnect the family, raised $3,800 to help the family with household items, and held a wedding reception complete with a wedding cake, bubbly and gifts. Fr. Zabler shared their latest excitement: Dominic, a minister of hospitality since he arrived, and Paulina had a baby girl in October. (April 26)

ryanpuc2. Seeing isn’t believing for Ryan Puc, a senior at St. Joseph Academy, Kenosha. Though his vision is deteriorating because of macular dystrophy, a condition he shares with his mother and sister that allows them to see only peripherally, the 18-year-old is an award-winning saxophonist, earned good grades, competed in sports including cross country, track and basketball ­– winning medals in cross country and the track relay team – was a student ambassador, a member of the student council and involved in campus ministry. The aspiring medical doctor, who enrolled at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota for the fall semester, said his failing sight has strengthened his faith. (May 24)

madremiguel3. Sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mary Miguel Conway, has served for 45 years at the Working Boys’ Center in Quito, Ecuador, alongside its founder, Jesuit Fr. John Halligan. Sr. Mary Miguel, known as “Madre Miguel,” helped Fr. Halligan turn the once-fledgling mission into a center that has served more than 6,000 families or about 30,000 people allowing them to leave poverty forever. The center expanded to a second location in 1991, and educates children in preschool through technical school – it was named best in Ecuador in 1997, 2005, 2007 – and serves three meals daily, offers a health care program, dental care and job training in baking, toy making, industrial sewing, cosmetology, sales and marketing and health promotion. Madre Miguel received an honorary doctorate from Marquette University in May. (June 14)

sosa4. Richard Sosa, professional video producer and catechist, helped form Tech Club, a group of 25 students in grades fourth through eighth from John Paul II Academy and Our Lady of Grace, both in Racine, that creates themed videos set to music to share the Gospel. Sosa met with students on Thursday nights beginning in February to pray and to teach them how to use cameras, lights and computers to create the videos, in an effort bring new life into the church and school. With the help of Kevin Gordon, a teacher at JPII, the Tech Club had created six videos, posted on YouTube, and, to evangelize the Catholic faith. (Sept. 20)

steinle5. Lynn Steinle, 53, of St. Mary Visitation Parish, Elm Grove, died on New Year’s Day in 2011, but the legacy of the wife and mother of three children lives on. Steinle volunteered at all of the parish functions, shared her time and talents with Marquette University and Pius XI high schools, and was involved in the Christian Women’s Society at her parish. Despite her cancer diagnosis in 2008, Steinle went ahead with a kitchen remodeling project, hoping it could be featured in the first Kitchens for a Cause Walk May 2011, benefiting the all-girls Notre Dame Middle School. Instead, her kitchen was one of nine shown in the 2012 tour benefiting the independent Catholic Jesuit Nativity Middle School that serves low-income Hispanic boys in grades six through eight, a school Steinle and her husband had supported. (Sept. 27)

John_Klein-76. John “Chin” Klein, 36, believes there is no challenge that can’t be overcome with hard work, determination and teamwork, a lesson he learned from his parents, Rudolph and Geraldine Klein, both cognitively disabled and unable to read, write or drive. Klein, whose parents raised him and his sister Marie, also cognitively disabled, teaches special education at Oak Creek High School, and has coached rugby at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School since 1998, 12 of those years as head coach. The husband and father of two, and main caretaker for his parents and sister, was named 2008 USA rugby coach of the year, and led the team to six national titles during his tenure. “My parents and my sister will never get the opportunties I have received in life. I feel this strong sense of responsibility to make sure they know I am doing as much as I can with this opportunity I have been so fortunate and blessed to have.” (October Family)

kroll7. Ron Kroll of Sussex, a retired tool and gauge maker, was never the same after visiting Quito, Ecuador, in 2008. He saw men with abilities and skills, but no tools and, Kroll, who had always able to provide for his wife and 10 children, had to do something about it. He founded St. Joseph’s Tool Chest, a non-profit business that receives and refurbishes tool donations from around southeastern Wisconsin and in turn gives them free of charge to worthy individuals and organizations in the U.S. and abroad. Kroll also partnered with Salvatorian Br. Regis Fust and the Salvatorian Mission Warehouse to provide tools to economically depressed communities in Panama. (Oct. 11)

claudia8. Claudia Brinkley and McKenna Kain, 9-year-old students at St. Mary’s Springs Academy in Fond du Lac, and best friends, became self-proclaimed “swear police” when they noticed obscene graffiti on the Franklin Park playground equipment. Disappointed and disgusted by the disrespect toward others and the park property, the girls wrote a letter to the local newspaper, the Fond du Lac Reporter. Shortly after the letter was published, thanks to their efforts, the graffiti disappeared from the park playground equipment. Their career has just begun according to McKenna. “We will continue to be on the lookout for anything and try to make a difference,” she said. (Nov. 1)

altenburg9. After experiencing the pain of a miscarriage in 2010, Greg and Gina Altenburg decided to adopt a child, but not any child – they wanted to adopt a baby with special needs who might be difficult to place. Gina, who has taught children with special needs for 18 years, and Greg contacted the National Down Sydrome Adoption Network in Cincinnati in early 2011, but stopped the process when Gina became pregnant again. After her second miscarriage, the couple continued the process, adopting their daughter, Gracyn, who has Down syndrome. The Altenburgs moved to Fox Point in September, planning to join St. Eugene Parish, and are expecting their second child, a son, in February. (December Family)

stevensonbellot10. Stevenson Bellot, 40, was born into a poor family in Dominica, a small island in the Caribbean Sea with fewer than 70,000 people. At 18 he was elected the youngest chairman of the council for the Parish of Saint Mark – equivalent to mayor of the city, and used his growing popularity to increase the declining number of Catholics. Though he left for a job on a cruise ship where he met his wife, a Wisconsin resident, and eventually moved to Wisconsin, Bellot continues to help his homeland – he and his wife donated digital thermometers to the hospitals, provided clocks for churches and hospitals paid for by donations from members of his church, Mother of Good Counsel Parish in Milwaukee, and collected more than 600 books to start a library there. (Dec. 20)

— Compiled by Tracy Rusch



The Catholic Herald staff also wanted to include the following people as honorable mentions:

Age doesn’t stop Erv Kovara, 97, from being an involved St. Mary by the Lake, Racine, parishioner. For 10 years he’s shared his faith through his music by playing his violin, accompanying the parish’s adult choir at 9:30 a.m. Mass each Sunday. Kovara was taught by the late Dominican Sr. Mary Benedict to play violin at age 15. (July 26)

Michael and Dawn Marie Hennes of St. Gabriel Parish in Hubertus, parents of four children, two of which they adopted, began foster parenting in 2005 because they wanted to share their gifts with others. Michael, a teacher at Hartford Union High School, and Dawn Marie, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, in addition to their biological daughters, Meguire, 10, and KyLee, 8, have cared for seven foster children including their adopted daughters Taressa, 3, and Olivia, 6. (Dec. 13)

Kathy Norris, a retired registered nurse who lives in Kenosha, has spent about 10 days each year volunteering at La Sagrada Familia, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s sister parish in the Dominican Republic, since 2009. Norris, a member of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish, has helped with house building and digging, and assisting the medical team with the eye clinic on her trips. The family with whom she has lived during those visits even invited her to be godmother of one of their children. She hopes to take each of her grandchildren on a trip because of the difference it has made in her life. (Oct. 18)

Kim Engebregtsen, owner of Kip’s Inn in West Allis, and her patrons have collected gifts for Catholic Charities Christmas Giving Program for six consecutive years. Engebregtsen, a member of St. John Vianney Parish in St. Pete Beach, Fla., and her helpers collected Christmas gifts for 27 people this year, donating an extra $300 and gifts that weren’t on the list. Kip’s Inn is the only bar to participate.  (Dec. 13)

Jesuit Fr. Jose Moreno, pastor of St. Patrick and Our Lady of Guadalupe parishes on Milwaukee’s south side, has been visiting local prisons to celebrate Mass, hear confessions and administer the sacrament of the sick to inmates since 2002. He got his start in Chihuahua, Mexico, before continuing in Milwaukee. His parishes also raise money for their prison ministry, by selling religious items from the parish store. Fr. Moreno, who has master and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering, has also written math textbooks from first grade through senior year of high school that are used in Mexico. Fr. Moreno, who teaches Bible study classe at his parishes and conducts workshops, received the Hispanic Heritage Month Award in 2011 from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. (Oct. 11)