She follows footsteps of faithful ancestors

By Bob Zyskowski | For The Compass | October 19, 2016

Like the Bohemian pioneer women before her, the spirit of joy fills Brei’s life

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]LEOPOLIS — Ask Delores Brei a question and you’ll end up with both an answer and a chuckle.

More often than not you’ll be joining her in outright laughter.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Delores Brei (Bob Zyskowski | For The Compass)
Your Catholic Neighbor: Delores Brei (Bob Zyskowski | For The Compass)

Joy bubbles out of the mother of 12, grandmother of 31 and great-grandmother of 21.

“We Bohemians are a joyful people,” Brei explained simply. “I’m a joyous person. The spirit of joy fills your life.”

Hers has been a full life in many ways.

Over the years she’s been involved in countless activities at St. Mary of the Assumption in Leopolis, about 55 miles west of Green Bay.

On a recent Saturday afternoon she was up at church early to serve as sacristan for the evening vigil Mass. She wasn’t scheduled to be an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, but that’s one volunteer activity she said she finds really satisfying.

“For one thing, it’s special because it’s bringing the Lord to us,” Brei said, “and I want to be part of that.”

With her joyous nature and her ever-present smile she’s naturally part of St. Mary’s hospitality ministry. She values the togetherness of parish life and activities, Brei said, because socializing and volunteering builds community and gives people a sense of belonging.

“We keep an eye out for others to get them involved,” she said. “We are a warm, welcoming parish, and the families are very inspirational,” she said. “You just kind of want to be a part of everything that’s happening here.”

Brei grew up on a dairy farm about five miles from St. Mary Church, where her first memories of knowing the importance of faith are of her grandmother, Anna Kresl Brunner, who was always praying.

“She’d be washing dishes and her lips would be moving,” Brei remembered.

When then-Delores Kriefall married Richard Brei she moved “about 40 acres,” she said with a smile.

The farming couple’s home eventually was wall-to-wall beds, Brei said, adding, “When we went to Mass, we had two pews full of kids.”

As busy as her household had to be, Brei was always doing something at St. Mary’s. Fellow parishioner Carol Sybeldon said, “Delores has been involved in every aspect of our parish. Worship Council, Council of Catholic Women, eucharistic minister, CCD teacher/coordinator, altar server trainer, annual Autumn Fest chairperson, just to name a few.”

A certified catechist, Brei taught in the parish faith formation program for 31 years, was a youth group leader, and over the years was active in the right-to-life movement, the parish council and chaired the funeral dinner committee.

Brei said she felt it was her obligation to be involved in parish life, and she sees herself as just following in the footsteps of the immigrant Bohemian pioneer women who had settled the Leopolis area 140 years before and established St. Mary of the Assumption.

“It’s in the DNA,” Brei claimed. “The women were robust of body and spirit. They had a vision and a dream. They deeply trusted in the Lord and their faith was unwavering. They were rich in belief and taught their children the Catholic faith and how to live it.”

The parish’s women were the heart and life of the church, handing down the faith from generation to generation, Brei said.

“I’m a hand-me-down. I’m a cradle Catholic of St. Mary’s and I witnessed and admired those church ladies. Now I’m one of them. We walk in the footsteps of our founders, keeping alive what they have given to us.”

Brei was widowed 23 years ago, and that was when she put her life in God’s hands.

Doing so, she felt, seemed to enable her to grow in a number of ways — in ministry, discipleship, leadership, stewardship and spirituality — and, along with the parish work she loves, she took on tasks on the Green Bay diocesan level as a board member of Camp Tekakwitha and as an area leader with the Council of Catholic Women.

“As I grew in spirituality,” Brei noted, “I learned how to give thanks and how to give praise, how to listen as the Spirit speaks, to discern and to converse with the Lord. How to be an instrument.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]

Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Delores Brei
Parish: St. Mary of the Assumption, Leopolis
Age: 84
Favorite saint: Blessed Mother
Words to live by: “Freely you receive, freely you give.”
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