KIEL — Leslie Schuette does a lot of things for her parish and community. Ironically, though, it’s something she didn’t do years ago that serves as one of her greatest motivations.
“When I was working in Manitowoc at Weyerhaeuser in 1981, after I graduated college and before I was married, my grandma (the late Hattie Clark) sent me $20 for my birthday,” said Schuette. “Someone at my job had a fire and lost pretty much everything. I was in my early 20s at the time, so I gave them $10 to help.
“I remember calling my grandma after that. I was so proud of myself for helping my co-worker and I wanted my grandma to be proud of me, too. So I said, ‘I gave half of my birthday money to that family.’ There was this long silence on the other end of the phone and my grandma said, ‘Why didn’t you give it all?’ I felt about this small (as she showed her thumb and index finger about an inch apart). My grandma was right. Yeah, why didn’t I? That has always stuck with me. How selfish was I? Ever since then, I’ve tried to use that situation as a guide. I’ll never forget that.”
If Grandma Hattie were alive today, she’d undoubtedly be impressed with her granddaughter’s impact over the years at Ss. Peter and Paul Parish and St. Vincent de Paul, both in Kiel.
At Ss. Peter and Paul, Schuette serves as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, teaches a weekly seventh-grade religion class, holds a seat on the parish’s Capital Campaign Cabinet and assists with various other tasks as needed.
In years past, she also served as president of the parish’s Home and School Association and was a member of the parish school board, council and school accreditation committee. In addition, she volunteered at parish fundraising events held in conjunction with Green Bay Packers games.
Schuette said she enjoys being active in so many facets of the parish.
“It’s such a welcoming parish, and the friends and families here are very inspirational,” said Schuette, noting that she and her husband, veterinarian Dr. Jeff Schuette, both natives of Michigan, consider Kiel a second home. “You just kind of want to be a part of everything that is happening here. I feel that Christ’s light is shining brightly here. You want to be involved and share that with people.”
The Schuettes have four adult children — Chris, David (wife, Maria), Hattie (husband, Jake Ledvina) and Grace — all of whom graduated from Roncalli High School in Manitowoc.
About five years ago, as her children were graduating and moving on with their life plans, Schuette began volunteering at St. Vincent de Paul in Kiel. Her dedication to the organization is so strong that she now serves as its interim president, in addition to being a member of the society itself.
“I just love St. Vincent de Paul. It’s an amazing place to be,” she said. “We have more than 80 volunteers and a store manager who are incredible. The operation itself is amazing. All of the money the store raises is able to fund the ministry of St. Vincent de Paul (Society). We get people who come to us who are in some kind of temporary crisis where they can’t meet rent or they’re behind on electric or heating bills, that kind of thing. We can help them with that. Over the years, my role grew from being a store volunteer and processing everything that came in to actually becoming a Vincentian and doing the home visits.
“Being a part of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, it’s very satisfying. It’s very difficult sometimes, but it’s very satisfying having someone come in — and they’re sometimes not in a very good place — and knowing you can help them. And then to see them come back with a smile on their face and know they’re on their feet again is very satisfying.”
Schuette hails from the Detroit suburb of Warren, while her husband is from Flint. They met while attending Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. Schuette graduated first and in 1981 accepted a job as a design engineer at Weyerhaeuser in Manitowoc, and her husband moved to the area one year later after he graduated and took a position in Kiel. They were married in Michigan in 1982 and upon returning to Kiel shortly thereafter they became members of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish (Schuette was a member of Holy Innocents during her year in Manitowoc).
Religion had been a part of Schuette’s life throughout her childhood. She stopped being active in the Catholic Church later in high school and early college, but when she met her husband, “he was very faithful, and he helped bring me back to the church.”
Schuette’s faith has been unwavering ever since.
Each day, she proudly wears a grieving Mary medal she acquired in Rome in 1999. It was blessed by one of her greatest inspirations, Pope John Paul II, who happened to be in residence at the time she was in Rome. “I love how much he used the ‘Be Not Afraid’ verses from the Bible, and I frequently use that when I bless my students before they leave class,” she said.
Schuette also said she has been inspired by Catholic sisters, both locally and around the world. And she said there are numerous women from Ss. Peter and Paul Parish who have been encouraging over the years. “I learned so much from them,” she said.