Women, “backbone of our parishes,” honored at volunteer recognition day

Bishop Louis Tylka stands with volunteers being honored for their volunteer service after Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral on April 12. The Catholic Post Online/Paul Thomas Moore

On April 12 in Peoria, the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (PDCCW) gathered to recognize the outstanding contributions of volunteers across the diocese.

As outgoing president Mary Ann Hughes said at a luncheon at Spalding Pastoral Center following Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, “I want to . . . thank all the honorees who do so much for their parishes. Women are the backbone of our parishes.”

“If it is of God, it will make the world a new place.” — Bishop Louis Tylka

Earlier at the cathedral, council members honored Our Blessed Mother by placing flower bouquets at the feet of her statue, and then offered her a spiritual bouquet by reciting her rosary.

In his homily, presider Bishop Louis Tylka reflected on the first reading, where the Pharisee Gamaliel advised the Sanhedrin, who were furious with Peter and the apostles for preaching about Jesus, to “be careful what you are about to do to these men.” (Acts 5:35-42)

Bishop Tylka paraphrased Gamaliel’s counsel to them as, “let’s not get too worked up about this preaching about this Jesus guy.” Gamaliel’s point – and Bishop Tylka’s point – centered around the source of their preaching. “If this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them.” (Acts 5:38-39)


Bishop Tylka said that ensuring our activities are of God requires listening. He related that since becoming bishop he had become even more dependent on prayer “to ensure that what I am trying to do . . . is of him, not of me.” He added, “If it is of God, it will make the world a new place.”

Concelebrants were Father Nathan Hopper, Father Timothy Sauppé, Father Martin Mwongyera, and Father Daniel Gifford.

Easter lilies “listen in” on the recitation of the rosary prior to the Volunteer Recognition Mass on April 12.

Deacon Ed Mallow, spiritual advisor to the PDCCW, assisted at Mass and read the intercessions, concluding with:

“For the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, that they may grow and serve the women, children and families of this diocese in true love and sacrifice.

After the lunch and reception at Spalding Pastoral Center, April Adams, vice president and chair for leadership and evangelization for the PDCCW, gave a brief presentation on the Women Connect ministry.

Meet the 2024 honorees

Following is the list of the 40 women who were recognized for their service to 24 parishes around the Diocese of Peoria by the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women on April 12.

2024 Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women Parish Honorees:


Carolyn Cauwels, St. Anthony: Carolyn has taught CCD Confirmation classes, first and third grade, and is a member of the Altar & Rosary Society and past president for 6 years.  She volunteers at Project Pride Food Pantry in Annawan and has served as director of the pantry for the last four years.

Katie Orwig, St. Anthony’s Parish: Katie has been a crucial part of leadership with the CCD program and volunteers often, including during her time as secretary.


Cindy Barnett, St. Anthony: Cindy is a co-chair of funeral luncheons and vice-president of the Women’s Club. She helps at the garage sale and at church serves as a Eucharistic minister and hospitality minister. She has been a religious education teacher, served on the parish council and as co-chair of the Pancake & 50th Anniversary, Italian Buffet, Parish Picnic and Parish Dance.        

Linda Leifeld, St. Anthony Parish: Without Linda, St. Anthony’s would not have its annual event to honor and recognize veterans and active-duty personnel. As coordinator, she has her hand in every aspect of the event, from the external signage to the indoor celebration. Linda is also involved as a greeter, Eucharistic minister, treasurer of the Women’s Club and volunteer at other events.


Margaret Bauer, St. Matthew: Maggie coordinates the funeral luncheons in the parish, working hard to provide not only a delicious meal, but also an environment that honors the family and the memory of their loved one. She also coordinates Communion to the homebound, a list that includes about 50 people each week, and has helped to coordinate the annual parish garage sale, involving numerous volunteers.

Sarah Gantz, St. Matthew: Sarah planned the parish Oktoberfest last year, coordinating an army of volunteers to provide food and entertainment. In addition, she is a lector, Extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and plays the flute for special Masses throughout the year.


Charlene Otto, St. Edward: Char has served as a sacristan and lector as well as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. She also orders sacramental supplies for the parish, serves as a collection counter and meets other parish needs such as the altar linens and vestments.


Betty Grites, St. Paul: Betty has served for many years in the parish Altar & Rosary Society, especially with cleaning altar linens and making sure supplies are maintained in the sacristy. She served as Extraordinary minister of Holy Communion prior to the pandemic. Betty assists with set-up, decorating and clean-up for Women Connect events which are open to the vicariate.  She also helps with parish funeral dinners and Freedom Years’ senior luncheons.

Norma TruaX, St. Paul: Norma has served as a lector and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, including to the homebound for over 30 years. She has organized meals for the sick, injured and those in need through the Loaves and Fishes Ministry. Norma has also worked with the Freedom Years’ senior lunches and parish funeral lunches for a number of years. She helps to organize the annual parish picnic, and has been active in the Altar & Rosary Society, the Good Shepherd prayer group and with a group that prays a weekly Rosary for our nation.


Ann Brost, Corpus Christi Parish: Ann does landscaping work at two parishes with over 3,000 plants to date. She contributes to all fundraisers and functions and is a member of the Altar & Rosary Society.

Carol McAlister, Corpus Christi: Carol is a steady, quiet worker behind the scenes for both the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Altar & Rosary Society.

Georgia Armstrong, Immaculate Heart of Mary: Georgia is a member of the St. Vincent de Paul and works with the food pantry weekly. She also volunteers at the Immaculate Heart of Mary spaghetti dinner yearly, and serves and provides for funeral luncheons. She hosts foreign exchange students in her home, is a caregiver for many people who have suffered with cancer, and has provided help for the homeless.

Vicki Trant, Immaculate Heart of Mary: Vicki works at parish spaghetti dinners, funeral luncheons, the KoFC fish fry, and participates in “Blessings in a Backpack.” As well, she is Knox College graduation volunteer, is part of NW Illinois Cursillo, and helps at the Fish Food pantry. Vicki was also a Sunday school teacher at a previous church.


Mary Ann Carius, St. Malachy: Mary Ann stepped up to take up the president’s seat at an unexpected passing during the pandemic. She sings at funerals, served on the committee to replace the parish kitchen silverware and coffee maker, and helped as a volunteer for parish fundraisers – all while still running her own business.

Sheila Henson, St. Malachy: Sheila has volunteered to decorate the church for Christmas and Easter for several years. She was a parish council member, and has been president of Circle 2, as well as volunteering at church fundraisers. She plays and sings in the Geneseo Kitchen Band that sings twice weekly at nursing homes, senior living facilities and assisted living facilities.


Patricia Durdan, St. Mary of the Fields: Patricia provides exceptional service as both the Director of St. Mary’s Religious Program and as a lector. Her leadership and dedication have profoundly impacted her community.

Cindy Mickelson, St. Mary of the Fields: Cindy is an outstanding volunteer worker serving both her church and her community. She is selflessly dedicated to making a positive impact in the lives of others.


Sally Adams, St. Paul: Sally has been a prayer partner for first communicants and currently coordinates the prayer partner program. She is an usher and Eucharistic minister, and has been instrumental in organizing meals and assistance for families with newborns and in bringing back coffee and donuts following first Sunday Mass. She co-founded and continues to coordinate the annual Cookie Walk, organizes the St. Paul 5K Flapjack Run, and sits on the committee for the St. Paul Gala school fundraiser. She also helped initiate the international closet on the WHJ campus through the Newman Center, which serves students in need of clothing or other items.

Sara Druffel, St. Paul: Sara is the last living member who attended the DCCW convention in September, 1971. In 1971 – 1972 she served as secretary to the Women’s Guild. She was very active in the Fall Festival In 1986 and 1988 as she and her husband Dave chaired the bazaar. She has consistently contributed to and participated in a variety of events sponsored by the guild, including rummage sales and the Cookie Walk. While Sara is not able to participate at the same level at this time, she continues to support the work of the guild through donations and prayers.


Ruth Sondaq, Immaculate Conception: Ruth has been an active member of Immaculate Conception Parish for 66 years, joining as a convert after her marriage. She is active in the Altar and Rosary Society, Right to Life and she has co-sponsored after-Mass breakfast fundraisers for parish needs and African orphanages as well as Phillipine priest needs. Ruth is a mother of nine and has fostered and raised many children from Vietnam.


Deborah Woodyer, St. Joseph: Debbie exhibits faithful dedication and leadership as both the Director of St. Joseph’s Religious Program and as a sacristan. Her tireless efforts and devotion have greatly enriched her church community.

Mary Miller, St. Joseph: Mary models a steadfast commitment to the Holy Eucharist by attending daily Mass, and proclaims the Word of God through her impactful role as a lector. Her active participation in her Catholic faith and spiritual devotion is truly inspiring.


Donna Hartzler, St. Patrick:
Donna served as a Eucharistic minister for many years. She loves the responsibility of leading the rosary before the Saturday evening mass. In the past she served as CCD Director and also taught CCD. Currently, she is a counter of the Saturday evening Mass collection.

Christy Kline, St. Patrick: Christy is president of the St. Patrick’s Altar & Rosary Society. She volunteers with parish bingo, Family Fun Night, Santa’s Helpers, South Haven Community, KofC Chicken Dinner, parish cleanup days, for fundraisers with various local charities, as secretary of Rutland Cemetery Association, and for St. Jude Christmas for Children.


Denise Tascher, St. Thomas the Apostle: Denise is a member of the RCIA team, and for many years has participated in the music ministry and with the parish Christmas Open House. She also assists in holding receptions for sacraments and graduations, is the “Decorating Queen” for parish school events, and supports clergy and parish staff in countless ways.


Monica Barry, St. Patrick: Monica never “sits still,” and shares her “time, talent and treasure” with so many people. She is an awesome cook, loves to clean, and has the skills to fix broken things.  Monica will make any garden come to life with her green thumb. She brings home-cooked meals to the elderly and constantly visits people who are lonely, sick or in need.


Cathy Erickson, St. Patrick: Over the years Cathy has taught CCD, been a sacristan, Eucharistic minister and lector. She is also a member of the Altar & Rosary Society. Cathy is part of the TEC and Cursillo family and is on several community boards and committees here in our local community.

Cindy Schaibley, St. Michael the Archangel: Cindy is chairperson of the Parish Light of the World Retreat Program, and serves as facilitator for faith formation for the parish. She is also an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist to the homebound and in nursing homes, a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in charge of household items and distribution, and assists with parish social activities.


Teresa Coopman, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Teresa is a member of the Ladies Group OLG; she participates in the men’s fish fry and has served many meals at the Senior Center. She puts in countless volunteer hours assisting in various parish events.

Mary Stonecker, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mary is a member of the Ladies Group OLG.  She helps in changing the altar cloths, helps to decorate the church for Advent and removes decorations as needed.  She also prepares the church for Easter, helps the men’s club with their fish fry and assists with the harvest dinner.


Diane (Ducey) Anderson, St. Patrick: Diane is part of a third-generation family at St. Patrick Parish – totaling 165 years of faithful family, friends and fellowship! She is active in the Altar & Rosary Society, and as a lector and choir member. Diane regularly writes articles for the local paper about the parish volunteers serving others.


Monica Schumacher, St. Ann: Monica currently chairs the Outreach Poverello program, which provides financial assistance to those who want to help themselves, but are temporarily unable to meet one-time basic expenses.  She also volunteers as a collection counter and church decorator.

Brenda Knight, St. Ann: Brenda has been a member of the St. Mary’s choir for more than 25 years and has recently dedicated her time and talents to St. Ann’s parish in Toluca.


Sharon Lawhead, St. Patrick: Sharon has served as an assistant to the parish sacristans for over 20 years. She has tirelessly laundering altar cloths, corporals, purificators and other linens and towels for the liturgy. Additionally, she volunteers with the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry as a bagger. She also ushers, donates sides when called on for funeral luncheons, and is in charge of procuring altar flowers for weekend liturgies.

Susie McArthur, St. Patrick: Along with her late husband, Susie hosted the parish “Coffee Shop” after 8 a.m. Mass for over 30 years. Following her husband’s passing in 2019, she has kept this vital Sunday morning opportunity for fellowship going. Additionally, she is member of the parish’s homebound EMHC, bringing Christ to the homebound and nursing home residents. She also volunteers with the St. Patrick funeral team to serve and care for grieving families.  


Anne Robbins, St. Aloysius: Anne is active in the Altar & Rosary Society. As well, her role as church organist is of the utmost importance to the parish, enhancing worship services and creating an atmosphere that uplifts spirits and draws souls closer to God.


Judy Latoz, St. Mary: Judy is a longtime member of St. Mary’s church choir. She maintained an ethnic foods booth at the annual International Food Festival that was held at St. Mary’s for many years. She contributed a table full of handmade items for the St. Mary’s Christmas yearly bazaar, and has supplied many dishes over the years for funeral dinners. Through their local business, Judy and her husband Mike have supported St. Mary’s with time, talent and treasure.

Sue McFadden, St. Mary: Sue has been a money counter for many years for St. Mary’s Parish.  She has also faithfully served as one of the famous St. Mary’s Noodle Ladies who make hundreds of bags of noodles that are sold at the Christmas bazaar each year. Sue has volunteered to make food dishes for St. Mary’s funeral dinners and has used her talents working the Food Festival. As well, donates her time to make “No-Sew” blankets for several ill parishioners, and is extremely supportive of the St. Mary’s Altar & Rosary Society.


Deb McLaughlin, St. John the Apostle: Deb is a member of the St. John Altar & Rosary Society where she has held office; she taught CCD for many years, served as chairwoman of a major fundraiser and assists yearly with Christmas decorating.

Annie Wood, St. John the Apostle: Annie currently teaches CCD and is a Eucharistic Minister.  She is a member of the Altar & Rosary Society and works at a major fundraiser. As well, with the help of her family, Annie leads a major annual social event at the church.

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