Mom and daughter share common bond

By Benjamin Wideman | For The Compass | May 8, 2013

Meanwhile, Guilette, 38, of Forestville, serves as the chairperson of stewardship for St. Mary in Algoma.

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Jean Schleis and her daughter, Jan Guilette (Benjamin Wideman | For The Compass)

In the days leading up to this Mother’s Day weekend, each of them used the word “inspiration” when talking about the other as they sat side-by-side at St. James Church.

“I’m extremely proud of Jan and everything she’s doing,” Schleis said. “I’m inspired by her. She’s just amazing — how she handles family (she’s married with five children) and work and juggles everything in a busy mom’s schedule, on top of everything she does with stewardship. She has come so far and done so much in her parish. I have a lot of pride in her.”

Added Guilette: “My mom is an inspiration to me. She set an example of devoting so much time to church and yet balancing it with family time. She instilled in us the faith. She has always been there for me whenever I have a question or need something, whether it’s about stewardship or anything at all. I can always come to her for help.”

Schleis, the retired office manager at St. James, said there had long been a need for someone to form and lead a stewardship committee for the linkage.

“I think some people felt it would be too much, too daunting … but I felt I could do it based on having worked in the parish office and understanding the need for stewardship education, so that prompted me to volunteer to do it,” said Schleis, who began overseeing the seven-person committee when it formed one and one-half years ago.

Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Jean Schleis and Jan Guilette

Parish: Jean: St. James, Coopertown; Jan: St. Mary, Algoma

Age: Jean, 64; Jan, 38

Favorite saint: Jean, James;
Jan: Monica

Schleis works with representatives from each of the linked parishes to plan activities or focus on prayer services and sharing at different times throughout the year. She said they recently helped the finance council with the Bishop’s Appeal. In addition, she makes sure stewardship is included in the bulletin each week (she serves as the editor for the linkage’s bulletin).

Schleis, who joined St. Mary in 1971, added that she loves the creativity she’s able to express within the committee. During her time at St. James she has also served at varying times as the religious education coordinator, a catechist, extraordinary minister of holy Communion, chairperson of the worship committee, finance council member and “Fun Night” fundraiser chairperson.

Guilette, who began overseeing her 10-person stewardship committee 10 years ago, said her committee has numerous activities throughout the year. These include an Advent “giving tree,” ministry fairs, food pantry collections and new parishioner welcoming.

Since their stewardship duties overlap in many regards, they said it helps being able to bounce ideas off of each other.

“We compare notes a lot,” Schleis said. “For example, we were kind of stuck for Lent this year, and there were other groups within our parish that had activities lined up. I didn’t want to overwhelm people at Lent, so I felt we needed a different focus. So we did something at Easter time, kind of an evangelistic outreach. We had cards made with an Easter message, plus a stewardship message, that we gave out after Easter Masses. The cards had the website on them, so if people were looking for information and weren’t regular churchgoers they had some information.”

To which Guilette added: “So after Easter Sunday I got one of those cards and I thought, ‘Oh, we’ll have to do this, too.’ So we do share materials back and forth. … Every couple of months at least we’re exchanging ideas or sharing articles in our bulletins.”

Stewardship is near and dear to both of their hearts.

Schleis said her late parents, Robert and Louise Vogel, were heavily involved in church while she was a youngster attending St. Michael in Whitelaw. She said that mindset has since been passed on to Jan, and, in turn, now to Jan’s children.

“I grew up in an environment where faith wasn’t just going to church on Sundays, but part of your everyday life,” said Guilette, who attended St. James before getting married. “It was helping out the community and parish, and it was prayer. I think that’s so important going forward. That’s the example I want to give my children — that ongoing faith, because it’s something you grow into, I think.

“Every day I get a little bit closer to Jesus,” she added. “I continue to grow myself. That’s something that’s so important to echo at home. It’s like my mom teaching me, and her mom teaching her, and me teaching my kids.”

Added Schleis: “I’ve become so much more aware of framing my life around stewardship, and it’s something I’ve grown into. Can’t say I did that every single day as a younger person. Seeing how everything is connected to stewardship, and when you frame it as being thankful to God that you have a gift and you’re thankful to be doing it, that’s wonderful.

“Stewardship just makes sense in my life.”

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