While she might look puzzled if asked whether she would care for a helping of boxty, a slice of black and white pudding or a pint, Sharon Sweeti Ingles is the Irish person of the year, at least according to St. Patrick Parish in Racine.

With not even a wee bit of Irish in her blood, Ingles, of German, Bohemian and Polish descent is as devoted to her parish as the Irish are to their motherland.

Last March, the parish honored Ingles as the Irish person of the year for her devotion to the parish. The annual award is presented to someone in the parish who has contributed time and talent to the church to make the community a better place to live.
POF-ingles1BAt the young age of 11, Ingles realized the importance of faith and convinced her parents to join a church. For weeks, she accompanied a friend to Mass and when it was time for her to receive her first Communion, she asked her parents to bring the whole family.

“My dad decided to join St. Patrick,” she said. “And I have been there ever since.”

Now 60, Ingles, who is retired but manages several of her real estate properties, devotes much of her time to the parish. She is the vice chair of the parish council and co-chair of the DAWN committee, which assists with funerals at the church. She is a member of the social life committee, volunteers as a greeter, and helps count the money after the Sunday collections.

According to Amalia Pardo, parish secretary, Ingles is always ready and willing to give of herself.

“She is very involved here with the parish council and a lot of other activities,” she said. “She is a very good person and really deserved this award.”

Ironically, for the past 20 years, she has also coordinated the decorations for the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration; and chaired the committee that put together the party for six years. But, this year, the party was a tribute to her.

The award was a surprise for Ingles, who volunteers because she feels called by God to do so, and not for any public acknowledgment. A bit self-effacing, Ingles would prefer to speak of the accomplishments of others, rather than herself.

People of Faith

: Sharon Sweeti Ingles
Age: 60
Parish: St. Patrick, Racine
Occupation: Retired, but
manages real estate properties
Book recently read: “Roseflower Creek,” by J.L. Miles
Favorite movie: “The Ten Commandments”
Favorite quotation: “You learn what you live and you give what you got,” Dr. Phil McGraw
(Catholic Herald photo by Amy E. Rewolinski)

“I just have been so blessed and just feel that I have a responsibility to others to give back what I have received,” she said. “I also feel better about doing things for other people rather than having things done for myself.”

In addition to her devotion to her parish family, Ingles spent 26 years as a member of the Junior League and became a sustaining member in 2007. She volunteers with the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and is active in Vittoria Colonna, Roma Lodge’s women’s auxiliary, an organization dedicated to maintaining Italian traditions. She also is a member of the Kiwanis Club of West Racine.

“I grew up in Racine and I love it,” she said. “I have not even thought of moving anywhere else.”

With years of Racine family history, the city is almost part of her ancestry. On her mother’s side were some of the first settlers to the Racine area.

She has a several-decades-old certificate that was passed down to her from her great-grandfather that recognizes the family having lived in Racine for more than 100 years.

The St. Patrick community is a unique family, according to Ingles who is often surprised by the amount of outreach it accomplishes in the community with so few funds.

Much of their outreach serves the Hispanic population that has become a large part of the parish community.

“They started a Thursday night meal program 25 years ago that is still going strong,” Ingles bragged. “They are always willing and find ways to help others either through the St. Patrick’s Day party or offering the gym for those who need space to gather.”

The parish outreach seems to mirror Ingles’ own philosophy and desire to put the needs of others first. It is through giving to others and volunteering where she can, Ingles feels that God strengthens her.

“My faith is built on the premise that we are here to serve the Lord and we serve the Lord by serving others in need,” she said. “This is a great parish – they are my family and I love them all.”