54 parish volunteers recognized by Diocesan Council of Catholic Women

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, is surrounded by the volunteers honored by the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women last April. This year's Volunteer Appreciation Mass and Luncheon has been canceled because of coronavirus restrictions. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Quoting from Proverbs 31, Kim Padan told the 54 volunteers who were about to be recognized by the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women that “Many do noble things but you surpass them all.”

“I know that you women have been doing so many things on a local level — many on the diocesan level — for a number of years, so we’re excited to have you here today and we’re excited to celebrate your good works on behalf of Christ and his church,” said Padan, DCCW president, at the organization’s annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon. It was held April 24 at the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria.

Jane Harris reads the Diocesan Award citation honoring Sister Ann Gill, FSJB, and Sister m. Lea Stefencova, FSJB. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Prior to the luncheon, the volunteers and their guests attended a Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, which was concelebrated by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, and several of their pastors. Among the clergy was Msgr. Dale Wellman, a senior priest from Port Byron who is the longtime spiritual adviser to the DCCW.

Msgr. Wellman presented the certificates of appreciation to the volunteers as they were called forward by Padan. She said the DCCW had received more names this year than ever before.

“While I would love to read a summary of everything you’ve done, we’d be here until Mother’s Day,” Padan said. (A brief description for each volunteer is found here.)


In addition to the parish volunteers, the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women recognized Sister M. Lea Stefancova, FSJB, and Sister Ann Gill, FSJB, diocesan archivists, with the Diocesan Award.

Noting that many DCCW events are held at the Spalding Pastoral Center, Jane Harris, treasurer, said, one thing they could always count on is a friendly greeting and cheerful smile from the Franciscan Sisters of John the Baptist.

Dan and Dr. Jeanne Smith received the Imperative Award from Mary Anna Meyer. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“On more than one occasion the Sisters have helped us by downloading information when we couldn’t get on our own computers or email during a meeting, even sending files to the copier so that they can be ready for one of our events,” Harris said. “Of course, the Sisters insist that this is nothing special, but it is their very humble, quiet service that makes it special. . . . They always radiate the joy and love of Christ.”

The Imperative Award, given for special service to the church, was presented to Dan and Dr. Jeanne Smith of Peoria.

An attorney, Dan has served on the advisory board of the Family Resources Center and is past president and a member of the board of Central Illinois Right to Life. He organizes the Heart of Illinois Life Chain each October.

Jeanne has also participated in diocesan and central Illinois pro-life activities, using her medical training to give talks on a variety of topics related to abortion and contraception. She opened the Peoria chapter of Gabriel Project, a crisis pregnancy support ministry, in 2001 and oversaw it for seven years. Currently she and Dan provide foster care for infants and toddlers with special needs.

The Smiths are the co-founders of Rafiki Wa Bukoba, which provides financial assistance for health and education projects in the Diocese of Bukoba, Tanzania.

They are members of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights, where Dan is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and Jeanne sings in the choir.

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