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Women of the Year

The Herald-News continues its long-standing tradition of recognizing women and the valuable contributions they make to their communities.

The women recognized through the Council of Catholic Women will be honored at a Mass on April 29 at the Cathedral of St. Raymond in Joliet.

The Mass will be celebrated by the most Rev. Joseph M. Siegel, auxiliary bishop of Joliet; and Rev. John M. Sebahar, spiritual advisor to the Joliet Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, along with other priests from throughout the diocese.

The theme of the 39th Annual Woman of the Year Mass and Luncheon is "Kindness Begins with Me."

The following women are being recognized as the 2017 “Woman of the Year” by their churches and organizations.

Patricia Bennett

It was with the huge support of the membership of St. Mary Immaculate’s Council of Catholic Women that Patricia Bennett was chosen CCW Woman of the Year for 2017.

In addition to being a long-time active member, Bennett is now in her third year as an officer and treasurer. Her dedication, unselfishness, and pleasant outlook make her an asset not only to CCW but to the entire parish as well.

Marge Cankar

Marge Cankar became a member of St. Dennis Church after marrying her husband John and raising two sons: John and Christopher.

Her involvement in the community of St. Dennis began as a substitute teacher in the school, which turned into 10 full-time years. With religion as one of her main subjects, Cankar's faith deepened through the inspiration of her students.

She's participated in the Liturgy Commission, Eucharistic ministry, writing intercessory prayers for Sunday Masses, lectoring, Faith Formation, the Generations of Faith program, singing in the Resurrection Choir and serving as secretary for the Council of Catholic Women.

Bev Connon

Bev Connon has been named the 2017 Women of the Year by Immaculate Conception Parish Councils of Catholic Women.

Connon has been active in the parish as a lector, bringing communion to the nursing home, a substitute for third grade CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine), chair for the Salvation Army bell-ringers for the parish and as a member of the Faith Formation committee and parish council representative.

She is the first volunteer to make the coffee and the last to leave, staying for the cleanup. Connon is an asset to many group studies and retreat, book club and monthly meeting of the CCW.

Connon and her husband John have three daughters: Tarrah, Rachel and Molly.

Mae Convery

Mae Convery is an active member of St. Anne's Parish and Council of Catholic Women in Crest Hill.

She is a resident of Carillon Lakes Adult Community and previous vice president of CCW, has run many dinners for the group and volunteered for numerous functions.

Convery is married to Charles. They have three children and six grandchildren.

Kelly Corcoran

The Center has named its executive director Kelly Corcoran as its Woman of the Year.

Since 2008, Kelly has served others throughout the greater Will County area as a volunteer.

When the former Christian Youth Center (CYC) closed in 2013, Corcoran and a team of volunteers refused to let the about 125 teens go unserved and created a new youth group called The Center to serve teens in towns such as Channahon, Lockport, Minooka and New Lenox.

Corcoran was appointed executive director in January 2016.

She's served as a single mother of two (now adults) and has become "mother" many others.

Corcoran also serves on the missions committee of Joliet First Assembly, facilitator of Wellsprings of Freedom orientations and prayer team leader that supports other area churches such as Minooka Bible Church.

For many years she has help plan community outreach and service projects such as Joliet Cares. Corcoran is currently planning Joliet Alive to be held this summer.

Mary Lee Gustafson

During her almost five decades of service to St. Jude Church in New Lenox, Mary Lee Gustafson has filled many roles and utilized her talents for the betterment of the Council of Catholic Women.

Gustafson has served as vice president, treasurer, and secretary, as well as community affairs chairman, program chairman, and church commission, the latter including presentation of prayers before meetings and leading the rosary in church and at the May Crowning.

She has been a member of CCW since 1970, occasionally providing programs for meetings.

Gustafson has cooked and baked for meetings, Springfest/Smorgasbord, bake sales, funeral luncheons, St. Joseph Table and Harvest Luncheons.

She has served as a reader at Mass since 1974 and created dozens of banners for the church. She attended classes to teach adult bible study and served as a teacher in New Lenox District 122 for nearly 28 years years before retiring in 2003.

Gustafson is very active in Peace & Social Justice and The Delta Kappa Gamma Society International.

Gustafson and her husband of 50 years, Tom Gustafson, have two children: John (Kathy Martin) Gustafson and Susan (Hans) Kishel. They have three grandchildren: Finlay Graham and Freya Meredith Kishel and Arden Elinor Gustafson.

Jenny Inserro

Jenny Inserro is a member of the St Irene’s school board in Warrenville and has served as secretary, vice president and currently president, and led the Catholic Identity committee.

For many years, she enjoyed being a room mom and organizing the families to walk in the Independence Day parade. She became a lector shortly after joining the parish and currently leads the lector ministry.

This past year, Inserro joined the Just Faith ministry.

Inserro and her husband Tony live in Warrenville and will celebrate 24 years of marriage in June. They are licensed foster parents who have adopted two children and are in the process of adopting No. 3. They are the proud parents of Jacinta (16), Marco, (12) and the extremely active Maria Heaven Grace (2).

Martha Johnson

Martha Johnson was voted ‘Soror of the Year’ by the members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Kappa Mu Omega Chapter. This is the chapter’s highest honor bestowed on a member who has achieved excellence in sisterhood and service.

Johnson has been a member of Kappa Mu Omega Chapter for 41 years. During this time she has served on many committees, held many positions including: Graduate advisor, to the undergraduate chapter at Lewis University in Romeoville, treasurer, vice-president and president.

She works in the community to represent Kappa Mu Omega Chapter and to implement its programs of service, which includes: educational enrichment, health promotion, family strengthening, environment ownership and global impact.

Johnson is also the vice-president of the chapter’s Tealight Foundation, Inc.

Johnson is a retired teacher from Joliet Public Schools. She is an active member of Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

She is married to Ronald Johnson. They have two sons, Christopher, Kevin (Betina) and one grandson, Khai.

Linda LeBreux

Although a relatively recent newcomer to Winfield and St. John’s, our 2017 Woman of the Year, Linda LeBreux was the overwhelming choice of our members.

LeBreux serves as CCW’s pro-life advocate, and she’s also the co-leader for the parish Catholics for Life group. She leads prayer at meetings and plans the annual May Crowning mass. When needed, she leads the rosary at funerals, and always represents CCW at
First Saturday masses.

She readily lends a capable hand with Young at Hearts, CCW fund raisers, and bakes or cooks for our events when the need arises. LeBreux serves the parish Prayer-Line where she prays for parishioners when notified of a need. Linda graciously and prayerfully takes the Body of Christ to patients at Central DuPage Hospital.

LeBreux volunteers the 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift at St. John PADS and was a PADS volunteer at her former parish and led that group for many years.

She will crown the Blessed Mother after the 8:30am Mass at St. John’s May 6.

She recently volunteered at her daughter’s company to help move their offices and worked with more effort than the employees. She works with her Cursillo group weekly and by committing to prayer and sacrifice for those who attend Cursillo weekends.

LeBreux has also visited many holy places in the world to pray at those sights.

Colleen Maietta

Colleen Maietta was elected this year’s Woman of the Year from Immaculate Conception Parish.

Maietta has been a volunteer or chairperson/organizer in many activities in the parish and grade school. She helps with Mass at Elmhurst Extended Care and Donut Sundays. She has been a participant and then a leader in the last five Christ Renews His Parish retreats.

She and her husband, Pat, have been members of the parish for 19 years. They have three daughters who attended or currently go to ICGS.

Michelle Naujalis

Michelle Naujalis has been named the 2017 Women of the Year by St. Matthew's Parish Council of Catholic Women of Glendale Heights. 

Naujalis is a longtime member of the parish and has served on the CCW board for many years. She has taught faith formation classes to young children in the parish. For many years she scheduled the Eucharistic ministers.

Most recently, she has planned the religious programs for CCW. Naujalis is married and has one daughter

Irene Nowak

Irene Nowak of Romeoville has been named the 2017 Woman of the Year by St. Andrew the Apostle Council of Catholic Woman. 

She has been a member of St. Andrew for almost 20 years.  She is active in the St. Vincent de Paul Society.  Her spirituality is evident as she was a home-bound minister for 10 years and is a member of the Council of Catholic Women.  She also helps at the We Care food pantry.

Gloria Nussbaum

Gloria Nussbaum has been a parishioner of St. Patrick Catholic Church for the past 40 years and involved with the Council of Catholic Women (CCW) for the past 15 years.

During this time, Nussbaum has also served as chairperson for the Ways & Means committee as well as serving on the hospitality committee for the past three years.

Nussbaum has volunteered in the rectory office and serves as Spanish interpreter when required. Along with her sisters, Nussbaum bakes for many parish and CCW events. Nussbaum also served as president of the Catholic Woman’s League of Joliet from 2013 to 2016.

Nussbaum and her husband, Bill, have been married for the past 60 years. Bill and their three children all graduated from Saint Patrick's Grade School.

Marguerite Pirritano

Marguerite Pirritano has been named Woman of the Year by St. Ambrose Council of Catholic Women of Crest Hill. She is a retired high school, formerly of New Jersey.

Pirritano was active in her home parish as a reader and minister of the Eucharist. She served on the parish school board and parish council where she was president for over two years.

She represented her parish on the deanery level and served on the archbishop's pastoral council. In this capacity, she was a conference coordinator, secretary and president for two terms. She also baked for a soup kitchen.

Pirritano was chosen as a lay representative to St. John Paul II's address to the laity in San Francisco, California.

She moved to Illinois in 2007 and joined St. Ambrose. She became a reader, minister of the Eucharist and picnic volunteer. She joined the CCW in 2008 and then chaired several committees and served as vice-president. Pirritano is currently president. She has been elected for a second term.

Pirritano has been a library volunteer for Richland School and bakes desserts and holiday treats for Daybreak Center in Joliet.

Linda Quinlan

A 22-year member of St. Mary Mokena Catholic Church, Linda Quinlan joined the St. Mary Council of Catholic Women in 2007 and is currently recording secretary for the organization; she served as President from 2012 to 2014.

Quinlan also served as membership chairman in 2015 to 2016 and was the CCW delegate for the 2015 St. Mary Parish Octoberfest, in charge of ticket sales. In 2013 she joined the Clothing God’s Children Ministry which currently makes clothing, blankets and book bags for children in the Philippines.

She has served in numerous capacities for St. Mary Mokena Parish, including lector, usher and adult Mass server. Quinlan has resided in Mokena since 1994.

Michelle Rubovits

Michelle Rubovits, wife of Rabbi Charles Rubovits of Joliet Jewish Congregation is a Holocaust survivor.

As a child, she lived in a French farm and attic with her family in order to stay out of sight of the Nazis.

Rubovits visits people who are homebound and in hospital and nursing facilities. These are not just congregation families but also friends and/or neighbors of congregants. She cooks and bakes to feed 12 to 16 to 40. She is a caring mentor.

Rubovits is the first to volunteer, especially in the kitchen to cook or even wash dishes. She's involved in book club and game night. She crochets gloves and hats for homebound and nursing home residents.

Joan Sak

Joan Sak has been a member of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Minooka for 27 years and a member of the Council of Catholic Women for 23 years. She's served as past president, secretary, c-chair of the CCW church commission.

She's helped with a variety of CCW activities, including funeral luncheons, Giving Tree, confirmation and church commission.

She volunteers on a weekly basis at the church rectory, She's a greeter at 7:30 a.m. Mass. She's volunteered at Daybreak Center's Shepherd's Table for 20 yeas. She's a member of St. Mary's book club. She's also volunteered for Meals on Wheels, Minooka, for 20 years.

She's been married to Ron for 56 years. She's the mother of Carrie and Steve, and grandmother to granddaughters Katherine, Lauren and Lourdes.

Patricia Scheidt

Patricia Scheidt has been named the 2017 Woman of the Year for the CCW of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Rockdale.

Scheidt has taught religious education for over 30 years and has sung in the church choir for over 25 years, as well as having lectored for Mass.

She has worked on many service projects for the church, such as making Valentines with the children and delivering them to residents at Sunny Hill Nursing Home in Joliet. She also helps purchase, pack and deliver Christmas food baskets to the Rockdale community.

Scheidt and her husband Robert Scheidt have six children. They have belonged to St. Joseph for about 40 years.

Kristine Schlismann

The Zonta Club of Joliet recently named member Kristine Schlismann as the club’s 2017 Woman of the Year.

Schlismann has been a Joliet Zonta member since 2012. She was selected to serve as a delegate at the 2016 Zonta International Convention in Nice, France. 

She contributed as a Zonta Board member from 2014-2016 and has served as Zonta public relations chair, a Z Club committee member and a service committee member.

Notable achievements include her support of the Fearless Females Z Club, which was chartered by the Joliet Zonta Club last year in partnership with Joliet Central High School; the promotion of the Zonta Club’s first-ever Festival of Cultures; and the Zonta Club’s first-ever Women & Girls Health Expo hosted this year in partnership with the National Hook-Up of Black Women at Joliet Central High School’s Student Center.

Schlismann is also a member of the Joliet Region Interfaith Education Council, the Council for Working Women (Board Member from 2010-2016), a Cathedral Area Preservation Association board member, a Joliet United Soccer advisory member, a JTHS Student Ambassador coordinator, a Women and Girls Health Expo planning committee member, a Women’s History Luncheon planning committee member, a Community Services Council member, a JTHS Strategic Planning Team member and a United Way of Will County programs and allocations committee member.

Karen Isberg Sorbero

Karen Isberg Sorbero, a native of Joliet, has been selected as CCW Woman of the Year by the Church of St. Anthony, Joliet.

A member of Church of St. Anthony for the past 26 years, Sorbero assists in the Mass as lector and cantor and will begin service to the parish’s CCW as secretary in September.

Sorbero is a founding member of The Friends of Sunny Hill and a member of the Visitation and Aid Society of Joliet.

She enjoys sharing her long-time love of music performance as a local entertainer for charity events, a monthly “gig” at Giovan's Restaurant in Crest Hill and local concert events, including recording a Christmas CD featuring holiday standards and a duet of the classic song, “Mary Did You Know” with friend and local artist, Tony Ray.

Now residing in Shorewood with her husband Tom, Sorbero is currently serving as administrator of Sunny Hill Nursing Home of Will County.

Kelly Tichacek

Working full time at her family business (with an hourly commute) in addition to her  two children with special need, Kelly Tichacek of Mokena remains devoted to Parkview church, where she attends church regularly, is a religious education teacher and works on service projects in Kentucky in her spare time.

Tichacek puts God first, family second. She spends hours reading brain research and how healthy food can help her teenager with attention deficit disorder and her preteen with autism.


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