Local first-time authors pen books on God’s grace, providence, life’s milestones

From left are Joyce Heiple of Germantown Hills, author of "Grace Through the Seasons"; Steve Mamanella, former diocesan communications director, author of "Providential"; and Ottawa Marquette Academy teacher Clara O'Neal, author of "You're on Your Way!"

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Feb. 28 edition of The Catholic Post included stories on three first-time authors with ties to the Diocese of Peoria who have recently had their books published. We’ll start their stories on this page, and link to the full accounts.


GERMANTOWN HILLS — Joyce Heiple knows well enough by now that if God wants something, she’ll get the message if she’s willing to listen. That’s what she hopes her new book, “Grace Through the Seasons,” will help others do, too.

She’s so attentive to God’s grace because “it’s what’s made me who I am,” she explained.

Heiple defines grace as “God’s presence in my life” and said, “It’s who I am. I wouldn’t be alive without God’s grace.”

While many authors hope for good sales, Heiple has a different goal.

“I just hope it touches people in a way that they become awakened,” she told The Catholic Post. “Everybody knows they have God’s grace in their life, I think, but I think we take it for granted. So I hope the little things in the book awaken them to God’s grace.”

Heiple’s first book signing is scheduled for Saturday, March 13, at Lagron-Miller Company, 4517 N. Sterling, in Peoria. Books and bookmarks will be available at the event, which is planned for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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A friend refers to Steve Mamanella as the “Catholic Forrest Gump” because of his involvement in several major church events, including the visits of two future saints — Mother Teresa to Peoria in 1995 and Pope John Paul II to St. Louis in 1999.

But if life is like a box of chocolates, as Gump’s mother says in the movie because “you never know what you’re going to get,” Mamanella — a former communications director for the Diocese of Peoria — believes God’s hand is at work in arranging the assortment.

Mamanella is the author of a new book, “Providential,” an autobiographical exploration of the gift of God’s providence.

In the book’s introduction, he defines providence as “how the hand of God works in our lives in conjunction with our free will.”

“I am convinced that God is blessing us in ways we often are unable to comprehend in the moment,” says first-time author Mamanella, a veteran Catholic communicator who shares providential anecdotes from his own life throughout the 300-page paperback, published earlier this month by En Route Books and Media of St. Louis. He hopes the book helps readers “come to a greater understanding of and appreciation for the role of God’s providence in their own lives” and leads them to share their stories of God’s love and care with others.

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OTTAWA — Clara O’Neal never intended to write a book. But words came to her one day, so she wrote them down.

“The words just came from my heart — they came from God ultimately,” said the Power Preschool teacher at Marquette Academy. “It was something he wanted me to do and I never set out to do.”

The result is “You’re On Your Way!” which was published last fall by WestBow Press and available just before Thanksgiving. The 38-page hardcover book, illustrated by Marquette senior Madison Pha Snook, is intended to be given as a gift to people of all ages as they approach milestones in their life.

“As a school teacher I am asked every year to sign books for parents or grandparents. It’s called ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’ by Dr. Seuss. Each teacher, as the child moves along, makes a little entry, from preschool all the way up to high school,” O’Neal explained. “Typically the parent or grandparent gives that child this gift and then they can reflect back on all their teachers who make an entry into it.”

With her book, O’Neal invites readers to look forward at key moments and consider “Now what will you do? You’re special, you’re talented, and creative; it’s true. But the next chapter in life is driven by you!”

“There is no other book out there that is Christian oriented, and I thought this would be a great book for many milestones — for baptisms, for graduation, for confirmation, Communion, for somebody getting married, an engagement, moving into a new home, starting a new career,” she told The Catholic Post. “Whatever that next chapter is in your life, may God be with you along that journey.”

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