MIDDLETON -- “My gratitude to Catholic Charities is beyond words. It’s my safe haven and my hope,” Laurie Christy said in a video presentation at the 17th annual Catholic Charities (CC) Awards Dinner held on November 8 at the Marriott Hotel in Middleton.
Christy was one of three recipients of Catholic Charities’ President’s Awards, given to CC clients. Their stories show how Catholic Charities makes a difference and brings hope to people — and how these individuals in turn help others.
In the case of Laurie Christy, she suffered from alcohol abuse and depression. It wasn’t until after she had been arrest for driving under the influence (DUI) for the fifth time and served six months in jail that she was able to begin the Pathfinder Jail Diversion Program offered by Hope Have in Madison.
She spent nine months at North Bay Lodge, a residential treatment program in Madison. She transitioned to her own home, but eventually she volunteered and then found full-time employment as the lead staff cook at North Bay. “Hope Haven continues to give me my purpose and my life back,” she said.
Record attendance again
Over 515 people heard this and other inspiring stories at the Awards Dinner. This was another record attendance, observed Msgr. Michael Burke, pastor of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Madison and member of the CC Board of Directors.
“Thank you for your tremendous support of Catholic Charities,” said Monsignor Burke in welcoming people to the dinner.
The event honors those who put their faith in action and provides financial support for Catholic Charities’ many programs. This year’s Awards Dinner proceeds will especially benefit CC programs which help families and aging persons.
Dedicated to charity
Bishop Robert C. Morlino, in his comments, thanked those attending “for the ongoing sacrifices you make so we might make the witness of charity.”
He said that “charity has to be strong and tied to the person of Jesus Christ.”
Amid the divisions in our country and even in our Church, Bishop Morlino said unity through charity “will pull us together.”
Of the virtues of faith, hope, and love, the Scriptures tell us “the greatest of these is charity,” the bishop reminded those attending the dinner. “It is wonderful to see such a turn-out of people dedicated to charity. I thank you very, very much for coming.”
Master of Ceremonies Jay Wilson of WISC-TV, Channel 3, introduced priests, Sisters, and deacons present at the dinner as well as past award recipients, members of the Catholic Charities Board, Awards Dinner Committee, and CC staff.
Brian Cain, CC president for the past 24 years, thanked Bishop Morlino, the CC Board, and the CC staff for their encouragement and support for the past 24 years. Cain is retiring, and a retirement celebration/open house will be held on Thursday, Dec. 6, from 12 noon to 3 p.m. at the Bishop O’Connor Center.
Cain began the President’s Awards in 2001 to recognize success stories of CC clients. “Our mission creates hope. We want to show how we’ve had an impact on our clients and how they’ve overcome obstacles and challenges,” he said.
The recipients told their stories in video segments, alongside Catholic Charities’ staff who work with them. The honorees included:
• Laurie Christy, a client in the Hope Haven-Pathfinder Jail Diversion program and North Bay Lodge programs dealing with persons experiencing difficulty with alcohol and other drug abuse issues. After many years dealing with the aftermath of divorce, depression, and alcohol abuse, she was arrested for driving under the influence five times and served time in jail.
She began the Pathfinder Jail Diversion Program offered by Hope Haven. Eventually she went to live at North Bay Lodge, where she was able to transition into her own home, volunteer there, and eventually find full-time employment as the lead staff cook at North Bay.
• Cody Dunlavy, a client in the Supportive Living Program, which provides residential support to persons with disabilities so that they can live as independently as possible in their own homes. Catholic Charities has supported Dunlavy since 2006.
Shortly after he was born, Dunlavy developed encephalitis, which resulted in cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder, and cognitive delays. He lived with his parents until the age of 17. He was hospitalized in 2006 for a detached retina, likely the result of self-injury and aggressive behavior.
Catholic Charities started giving him support while he was in the hospital and after he was released. He was able to graduate from high school and began working at Pathways of Wisconsin, a small supported workshop in downtown Madison. He moved into a residence with a roommate while continuing to work and learning how to communicate with others and express himself. He is involved in a number of hobbies and activities in the community.
• Meredith Jones, a client in the Developmental Disability Counseling program. After a motor vehicle accident in 2001, Jones needed intense occupational, physical, and speech therapy. She could no longer care for her two small daughters and had to move to a group home.
She has made great strides over the past 11 years. She has been living in her own apartment, works part-time, and takes care of her daily needs. She began attending the Rock County Brain Injury Support Group run by Catholic Charities; her story has been an inspiration to others. She is now an assistant to the group to help with outreach and coordinate activities.
• Kathy and Al Oglum, clients in the Elder Mentor Program. The Oglums had experienced some complicated health challenges. Al lives with a number of chronic physical and mental health conditions. His wife Kathy, a nurse, has been caring for him.
A case manager called Catholic Charities asking for a male volunteer to visit Al to spend some time with him and offer Kathy some respite time. Dick Sparks became their volunteer. He visits Al weekly and takes him out for a ride and time together. “I know they have a good time, because they always come home smiling,” said Kathy.
Youth Faith in Action Awards
Catholic Charities established its Youth Faith in Action Awards three years ago to provide a scholarship for deserving high school seniors who put their faith into action through service in their parish, school, home, and community. Students who are nominated write an essay discussing the ways they live out their faith.
Patty Chryst, co-chair of the Awards Dinner Committee, said all parishes in the diocese were invited to nominate outstanding high school seniors. The award winners are:
• Nicholas Doll, a senior at Sun Prairie High School and member of Sacred Herts of Jesus and Mary Parish in Sun Prairie. He is involved in his parish as an altar server and is active in Catholic Youth Connection at St. Albert Parish in Sun Prairie. He is involved in the community as a a mobile food pantry volunteer, YMCA volunteer, and other activities. “I believe that helping others is one of the best ways to dedicate my faith to God and Jesus,” said Doll.
• Angela Drefcinski, a senior at Platteville High School and a member of St. Mary Parish in Platteville. At her parish, she teaches third grade catechism classes, assists with the Vacation Bible School, served at Mass, and volunteered at the parish festival and school fish fries. She is involved in the Platteville Area Catholic Teens, sings in the St. Augustine Contemporary Choir, and has participated in the Catholic Heart Work Camp. “The Church asks us to give our time, talent, and treasure to our parish in whatever way possible and at any age. I have done my best to do this so far and will continue to make this a way of life,” she said.
Faith in Action Awards
Dr. Ed Kramper, chair of the CC Board of Directors, honored two former CC board members for their commitment and contribution of time, talent, and treasure.
Recipients this year with some of their comments (in italics) are:
• Linda Gorchels is a member of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Madison who served on the CC board from 1989 to 2003. She developed a training program for board members. She works at the UW-Madison School of Business
“I try to do the everyday things (at work, home, and community) according to my morals and conscience, but I can’t claim credit for any ‘Big Act.’ That’s why I was really humbled when Brian Cain asked if I would accept the Faith in Action Award.”
• Gary Gorman is a member of Holy Mother of Consolation Parish in Oregon. He served on the CC board from 2008 to 2011. He used his business and legal expertise especially in helping the agency with its housing projects, including the All Saints community. He is the president of Gorman and Company, Inc., in Oregon.
“My effort to put my faith into action is to emulate those in my life who have accomplished that goal with much more success than I have. My parents, Phil and Gladys Gorman, have consistently, over 90 years, put others first and have shown unwaivering commitment to each other and their family. My much more humble efforts have been to serve on nonprofit boards and commissions, including Catholic Charities, and to attempt to do the right thing in business and in life.”
Deb Palm, co-chair of the Awards Dinner Committee, presented four Leadership Awards to Catholics in the community who consistently incorporate Catholic values in their leadership and affect the lives of many others.
Recipients this year with some of their comments (in italics) are:
• Sr. John Rose Acker has been involved in pastoral ministry at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Cross Plains for 22 years, where she ministers to the sick, elderly, and dying. Prior to that she was a teacher for 32 years. She celebrated 61 years as a School Sister of St. Francis this year.
“When Fr. Felix Oehrlein was my pastor, he said I should help with the sick. He told me the whole parish would be my classroom. In my ministry with the sick and elderly, I cheer them up and cheer them on to finish the race of life ”
• Fr. Larry Bakke is pastor of St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Monroe and diocesan director of the Apostolate to the Handicapped. He was ordained a priest in 1975. He is honored for offering guidance and caring leadership in the ministries and parishes he has served.
“I love being a priest. There’s nothing more challenging and rewarding and exciting. I find life a wonderful adventure. It’s about Jesus Christ and the wonder of the Church.”
• Bonnie Moschkau is a member of Good Shepherd Parish in Madison, where she served as co-chair of the team for the merger of St. James and St. Joseph Parishes. She has been active at St. James Parish and served in board positions at Edgewood High School and Edgewood College
“I believe that we are a part of a greater community that requires us to help one another, to find the good in each other, and support those we love and those who are in need.”
• William Morehead is a member of Good Shepherd Parish in Madison, where he served as co-chair of the merger team with Bonnie Moschkau. He has been active at St. Joseph Parish, serving on the parish council, volunteering with parish festivals, and being a marriage preparation facilitator, along with serving as a Scout master.
“I believe that trying to emulate the love Christ shows for others is the way to put my ‘faith in action.’”
Bishop gives recognition
Bishop Morlino gave three special recognitions:
• In celebration of the celebration of the centennial of St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, Bishop Morlino recognized the contributions of the hospital over the past 100 years. The bishop said “our Catholic heritage has a home at St. Mary’s Hospital” and recognized the hospital for a “century of putting faith in action in our community.”
The bishop presented the award to Dr. Frank Byrne, the hospital’s president, who said, “It’s a privilege to accept this award on behalf of the 190 Sisters who’ve served at St. Mary’s, staff, physicians, and volunteers.”
• The bishop presented the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice to Joseph Tisserand, a member of St. Bernard Parish in Middleton, and member of the CC Board of Directors. Bishop Morlino said this award is bestowed by the Holy Father for “outstanding work and clear devotion” to the Church and the pope.
• The bishop presented the Knight of the Order of Pope St. Sylvester to Brian Cain, retiring president of Catholic Charities and a member of St. Albert the Great Parish in Sun Prairie. The bishop said this honor is given to lay men “who work faithfully and tirelessly in the Church.” Cain has served Catholic Charities as president for 24 years.