HOBART — The theme for the 2018 Bishop’s Appeal, “Embracing a Life of Discipleship,” fits longtime donors Don and Florence Banaszak. The couple, who will celebrate 53 years of marriage this summer, serve several ministries at St. Joseph Parish, Oneida/Hobart. Their support of the appeal is an extension of that service.
“When you contribute to the Bishop’s Appeal, it empowers you to lend a helping hand to those who are most in need through many (diocesan) departments,” said Don. “It’s something a person couldn’t do on their own. The reward at the end is you are fulfilling your obligation as a steward; something the good Lord calls us to do.”
The Banaszaks have been members of the Crozier Society — donors who give $500 or more to the Bishop’s Appeal annually — since 1998. When deciding their level of support, how the campaign benefits them or their ministries has never been a consideration, said Florence.
“You can’t think of it that way,” she said. “You have to think of the diocese and the whole area. You can’t just look at what it’s doing for you. More so, look at what it’s doing for other people, those who need it.”
“We are so thankful for their friendship and longtime generous support of the Bishop’s Appeal,” said Josh Diedrich, executive director of the Catholic Foundation. “The Banaszaks, along with other Crozier Society members, support ministries of the diocese that reach out to our parishes, Catholic schools and communities throughout northeastern Wisconsin. Stewardship is truly a way of life for them.”
The Banaszaks are thankful for the faith examples in their families. Don grew up in Crivitz, where his father, John, was a business owner. John was in partnership with his brothers in the theater, built a furniture store and was also a tree farmer.
“My dad took part in the theater, but if there was a Mass or church doing, church (St. Mary Parish, Crivitz) came first before the movie,” said Don.
Florence describes her father, Vincent Pelegrin, as being “knee deep in the church” as a member of St. Benedict Parish, Suamico, including serving many years on the building committee.
“We had good mentors,” said Florence. “Faith, family and friends are our base. We grew up in the Catholic faith right from the start. We had good solid Catholic families.”
Florence babysat for Don’s sister’s family, who lived in Suamico. The couple met when Don was in town for a family wedding.
“It was meant to be,” said Florence with a smile. “God said, ‘There, there is your partner.’”
Don retired from teaching in 1997. He taught in Goodman before moving to the Ashwaubenon School District. Florence retired from nursing/caregiving in 2008. She was originally an art teacher, but said she found her calling in helping patients.
“I worked at St. Vincent (Hospital, Green Bay) most of the time in the oncology/cancer clinic,” she explained. “I did a little bit of time at St. Mary’s (Hospital Medical Center, Green Bay) and home health, where you travel. Mostly I was on the ninth floor (oncology) at St. Vincent. It was a challenging floor, but also very rewarding. You got to know the families. Many of the patients would be there for a long time.”
The Banaszaks, who have two sons, Christopher, an attorney in Milwaukee, and David, a chemical engineer in the Green Bay area, have been members of St. Joseph for 41 years. They have been active since they joined the parish.
A recent project for the couple involved completing the parish directory. Don took all the photos of the staff and ministry groups. Ministries for the couple include serving as sacristans and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion. They also serve on a church cleaning crew. Florence manages the cleaning teams.
“I make out the schedule,” she said. “I call people and ask, ‘Will you be on a cleaning team?’ People need to be asked. I make cold calls. I just take the parish list and start calling.”
Florence, an avid runner, including the Boston Marathon twice, also keeps up the gardens outside the church and leads the St. Joseph 40 Days for Life group, which participates in the campaign outside Planned Parenthood on Oneida Street in Green Bay.
“We are out there walking and praying,” she said. “We usually have eight, nine, 10, 12 people. Most parishes have one or two. We pride ourselves on having a lot of people. It makes a statement when you have a group.”
Don is a member of the Knights of Columbus and ministers as an altar server at Mass every Friday.
“I did (serve at Mass as a child), but I had a short career,” he said with a laugh.
“He’s making up for it now,” said Florence.
The Banaszaks, who have one grandchild, a granddaughter who will attend college in the fall, are thankful for the gifts they receive from being active in the church.
“It’s a blessing, getting to know people,” said Florence. “When I say faith, family and friends, the church is involved in all of that. The friends we have are mostly from church. They form the basis of our friendships.”
“What you give, you always get in return,” said Don. “The Lord blesses you in that way.”