NEENAH — “Gifts of service and quality time are my love languages,” said Jackie Weninger. That is the reason she and her family are quick to respond when they see someone in need. In February, the Knights of Columbus Council #5514 honored them as its Family of the Month.
While both Jacob and Jackie Weninger are flattered and humbled by the honor, they quickly point out that they do not do service to gain attention. They serve because that is what God wants from his people, and for their family. Service, they said, is a way of life.
As active members of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish, they all minister at Mass. Jacob is a lector, Jackie plays the flute, sons Michael and Garrett are altar servers, and daughter Madeline is a cantor. They also helped homebound parish members during the COVID-19 pandemic by delivering cookies and letting them know the parish is still connected to them.
They hosted a Global Outreach student from the Czech Republic during the 2017-2018 school year and were set to host a Guatemalan exchange student this year, but that had to be put on hold due to the pandemic. In the past, Jackie has also been a faith formation teacher.
The cookie delivery was “an easy way to help my neighbors,” Jackie said. They made 20 deliveries at Christmas and then again at the start of Lent. “It was nice to see some of our older members and families,” she said. “We would just go to the door and exchange conversation about how they were doing. Many told us they were watching Mass on TV these days.”
At Christmastime, the deliveries were mostly to people in their 80s — those confined to home because of the “safe-at-home” order in the state. For Lent, the deliveries were to people who hadn’t been seen for a long time. It was a way to check on parishioners as well as provide a sweet treat, Jackie said.
The Weningers moved back to the Neenah area in 2011 when Jacob retired from the Navy after 28 years of service — 10 in active duty and 18 in the reserves. He was deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq for about a year each time.
Life in the military is “a life of service,” he said, and it is a life he continues through his church. “It is important for children to see how we can serve one another and let them know how important it is to serve, to focus on other people and what is going on in their lives instead of our own. It is about giving something back. It gives you a positive mental outlook on life. That is instilled in you when you join the (military) service — and you serve selflessly.”
He added that his joy of service is why he started lectoring. “Now, the boys serve at Mass, Madeline cantors and my wife plays the flute. It is something we all do together and bonds us as a family,” he said.
Jackie is also grateful for this family time together. She said she believes God made it her job to take care of her husband and family. Michael is a high school senior at St. Mary Catholic High School; Garrett is a freshman and Madeline is in seventh grade at St. Mary Catholic Middle School.
“I do what I can to help others, but I have found that it is important to have balance,” said Jackie. “If I’m running ragged doing too much outside the family, then not only am I not giving them all they need, but I’m setting a frantic example rather than a balanced example. I need balance to have free time to help others as the need arises. I believe I need to be intentional in parenting, faith and relationships.”
As part of this philosophy, she stresses the need to have standards and boundaries and to make sure everyone knows what they are. “I want my children to know what it feels like when you do things the right way — when you have a plan and meet your goals, giving you success in life,” she said.
Family time is most important to her, Jackie said. “COVID has given us more time together, and that has been a benefit of the pandemic. My children know they need to spend some family time together each weekend. We enjoy outdoor activities like skiing, kayaking and biking together,” she said.
Jackie continues to help with her children’s school and sports activities and also works on fundraisers. Now that her children are older, she has also gone back to work as a part-time bookkeeper at SPIRITUS in Menasha.
“I’m a doer,” she said “I don’t like meetings too much,” she added with a laugh.
Your Catholic Neighbors
Names: Jacob and Jackie Weninger
Ages: Jacob, 47; Jackie, 42
Parish: St. Gabriel, Neenah
Favorite saints: Jacob: Francis of Assisi; Jackie: Blessed Virgin Mary