A couple of years ago Annie Jay was sitting at Mass in St. Mary Church, Kenosha, as Fr. Michael Newman announced a need for Christian formation teachers for classes that fall.
Despite her longtime desire to teach Christian formation, Jay did not sign up and had not planned to volunteer. But after a couple of weeks of appeals, she called to see if she was needed and learned that the director was desperate for someone to teach seventh grade.
“I told her that I knew how to talk to seventh graders because I had a daughter who was in sixth grade at the time. I enjoyed teaching right away,” said Jay. “I asked to keep seventh grade this year as I was used to the program.”
A similar situation happened last summer when the appeal went out for parishioners to become members of the parish council, only this time, her 11-year-old daughter Melannie prodded her into being considered.
“She gave me a hard time last year because I didn’t do it, and I told her that I didn’t have much time and I had only been a parish member for a couple of years,” said Jay, “And then this year, when the announcements came in, she began poking me in the ribs every time it was announced.”
Occupation: Kenosha County assistant district attorney
Book recently read: “War Horse,” by Michael Morpurgo
Favorite movies: “All that Jazz” and “Beauty and the Beast”
Favorite quotation: “If any good thing shall go forward, something must be adventured.” – St. Thomas More
After looking down at her daughter’s beseeching blue eyes each week, Jay finally added her name to the list and figured that if the members wanted her as part of the parish council, they would call, and if not, she would be content sitting in the background.
After a couple of weeks, she was called for discernment, and began serving her term as a member of the parish council last August.
“They immediately checked me in to being a secretary,” said Jay. “I love it though, and it is so exciting to be part of a decision making process and to know what is going on and doing my best to contribute.”
According to her pastor, Fr. Newman, Jay is a passionate member of the parish who uses her gifts for the betterment of the parish and community.
“I personally have found her insightful and very enthusiastic about the future of the church,” he said. “She teaches in Christian formation and the fact that she will tackle that of her own free will and is not blowing her own horn is indicative of her character. She takes excellent parish council minutes for us and with 15 people having various views on things, trying to summarize that and have a professional rendering of the minutes while cutting through the chatter to get through to the essence, is a gift.”
Serving as parish council secretary and Christian formation teacher are only two of the hats that Jay wears. In addition to her primary role as mother to Melannie,
she is a Kenosha County assistant district attorney, and serves as secretary of the Kenosha Bar Association and is a long-standing member of the pro-life organization Democrats for Life of America and the Feminists for Life.
Acting was Jay’s first career before leaving it to attend University of Delaware to major in political science and minor in German, and then University of Wisconsin Law School. Since middle school, she’s performed in local theater, touring shows and television commercials until entering college at 22.
“While I had always wanted to be an attorney, I didn’t know anyone who went to law school and it seemed like one of those things that others did. But then some friends of mine from high school were in law school and weren’t any smarter than me, so I decided to go. I moved here to Kenosha in August of 2008 due to my new position as the assistant district attorney,” she said. “I had always wanted to be a prosecutor from as long as I can remember – even before acting. It is so incredibly cool to go to court and protect victims which is really combined theater with law while protecting crime victims.”
Last October, her efforts were recognized when she received the Lee & Lynn Copen Family Justice Award for her work with sexual assault and domestic violence victims. The award is presented each year by Women and Children’s Horizons in Kenosha.
“It was a total surprise and a major honor because I became a prosecutor to protect the most vulnerable victims in society,” said Jay.
Her involvement in Pro-Life Democrats and Feminists for Life go back about 10 years ago when she was still living in Pennsylvania.
“The Democrats for Life is a national group that brings people together and makes you feel better about politicians who are working for the Catholic values of life and social justice issues,” she explained. “I got involved because Bob Casey was our governor (in Pennsylvania) and was very vocal about being a pro-life Democrat – in fact, he was so pro-life that he wasn’t allowed to speak in primetime (at the 1992 Democratic Convention) about pro-life issues. Now his son is active and that was part of how the organization came to my attention.”
Similarly, her association with Feminists for Life occurred after hearing “Everybody Loves Raymond” television actress Patricia Heaton thanking her mom for having her, and she later learned that she was part of that organization.
“Feminists for Life do college women outreach and believe in the strength of women and the potential of every human life. They refuse to choose between women and children,” she said. “The problem is so many college women are not aware of resources to help them.”
Careful scheduling of her workdays and weekends ensures that she and Melannie have dinner together each evening, and spend fun time together on the weekends.
“This past summer, I was able to travel with my daughter’s CYO marching band, and that was such a great experience,” said Jay. “With the number of things I do, I am very careful of the time I have with my daughter. It is so important for me to set a good example for her, and I want her to know that everyone has different gifts and talents that can be used to help the church and the community.”