Elizabeth Ministry holds open house, presents awards to church leaders, groups

KAUKAUNA — “Never underestimate the power of a single visit.”

Bruce and Jeannie Hannemann, co-founders, along with Capuchin Fr. Kurt Gessner, of Elizabeth Ministry International in Kaukauna, are dressed as Zechariah and Elizabeth at the May 31 Open House. (Submitted Photo | Special to The Compass)

Since 1991, Elizabeth Ministry International has been living that mission, based on the Gospel account of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth.

The Lord God gave Mary a gift in her relative, Elizabeth, according to Jeannie Hannemann, co-founder of Elizabeth Ministry. “What was that great gift?” Hannemann asked people who packed Elizabeth Ministry’s headquarters in Kaukauna for a May 31 open house. “Another person who would understand. That’s the gift; somebody else, who has done something similar, lived through it and who can now love and support you in whatever you’re going through. That’s what Elizabeth Ministry is about. It’s about that power of connecting to somebody else who is going to understand.”

The open house marked the inauguration of annual awards given by the Elizabeth Ministry to groups and organizations who live out the mission of Elizabeth Ministry. There are three sets of awards:

Permanent Room Dedications at the international headquarters;

Visitation Awards “given to those who exemplify the profound faith sharing that can happen with a visit;”

Mission Awards for those who share in Elizabeth Ministry’s own mission “to offer hope, help and healing on issues related to childbearing, sexuality, and relationships.”

Room dedications

  • The Gessner Library, honoring brother Capuchin priests, Frs. Kurt and Glenn Gessner. Fr. Kurt, who died in 2000, was a co-founder of Elizabeth Ministry, with Jeannie and Bruce Hannemann, and its first spiritual advisor. Fr. Glenn served for many years as a missionary in Nicaragua and is a spiritual mentor for the ministry.
    The Janssen Entrance honors Fr. Orville Janssen and his family, including his mother, brother Tom, and sister Therese. Fr. Janssen was pastor of St. Bernard Parish, where Jeannie Hannemann first developed the program that became Elizabeth Ministry, and offered encouragement and support.
  • The Vande Hey Veneration Room honors longtime volunteers Jan and Ken Vande Hey.
  • The Wallace Welcome Lobby is named for the late Dolores and Clarence Wallace, who provided seed money and advice on establishing a nonprofit that allowed Elizabeth Ministry to start.
  • The Visitation Chapel was dedicated in honor of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. Elizabeth Ministry’s headquarters is located in the former convent for St. Mary (now St. Katharine Drexel) Parish, which was originally staffed by the Manitowoc-based religious community.

Visitation Awards:

  • Relevant Radio in the Apostolate category for providing “talk radio for Catholic Life” and home visits through media.
  • The Compass newspaper in the Diocesan category for visiting homes in northeast Wisconsin with stories of faith via print media.
  • Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Robert Morneau in the Individual category. Bishop Morneau is the current spiritual advisor for Elizabeth Ministry and an acclaimed author and retreat leader.

Mission Awards

  • St. Gianna Clinic in the nonprofit category for offering medical, fertility and maternity care “that complements the childbearing outreach aspects of Elizabeth Ministry International.”
  • NOPARH (National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing, Inc.) in the Affiliate category. NOPARH is directed by Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel and a member of Elizabeth Ministry’s board of directors since its founding.
  • Elizabeth Ministry chapters at the Kaukauna parishes of Holy Cross and St. Katharine Drexel received the Chapter award.
  • The May 31 event ended with an outdoor eucharistic procession using the last monstrance blessed by St. John Paul II. It was led by Fr. Jon Thorsen, parochial vicar at Sacred Heart and St. Bernadette parishes in Appleton, assisted by Michael Schmelzer as thurifer.