GREEN BAY — There’s a lot that has changed in the 75 years since Cathedral Book & Gift was first founded as St. Catherine’s Lending Library, later evolving into St. Catherine’s Book and Gift Shop.
But what hasn’t changed is its personal, mission-based service and the fact that, for decades, here you’re apt to find a good cup of coffee brewing along with some great conversation.
As part-time employee Christopher Gustafson explained, when he was a student at Premontre High School, he worked at St. Catherine’s Book and Gift Shop, doing yard work and helping in the store.
Between 3 and 4 p.m. every day, manager Mary Lou Ziga would have the coffee made and patrons and staff would talk about books. The store was then located at 342 S. Jefferson St.
Those days were impactful for Gustafson, influencing his decision to pursue a doctorate in theology which led to a career as a college professor. “There’s this idea of hospitality and being social that has always been a part of the store,” he reflected during the open house. “That’s really part of our charism here.”
On Thursday, Dec. 16 — the store’s original incorporation date — Cathedral Book & Gift hosted an open house filled with lots of smiles and good wishes and, for one day only, a diamond anniversary special of 7.5 percent off of everything.
Cathedral Book & Gift “is a store for all ages,” said Ann Kieltyka, who has been store manager since 2011.
Ziga retired after 54 years as manager in 2003 and, by 2005, the store moved to its current location in a building owned by St. Francis Xavier Cathedral at 131 S. Madison St. In 2013, the store name was changed to Cathedral Book & Gift by the nonprofit’s board of directors.
Its current mission statement is: “To catechize (teach) and evangelize (reach) all peoples, through books and gifts, in the rich intellectual and spiritual heritage of Catholicism; and to encourage a deeper life of prayer and devotion to God.”
You name it, Cathedral Book & Gift probably has it. Kieltyka estimates she has a 50-50 mix of books and gifts.The gift selection includes sacramental gifts, rosaries (some locally-made), crucifixes, jewelry, framed prints and statues, DVDs, music and more.
“We have a whole room of children’s books and gifts,” said Kieltyka. Of the many medals they carry, “The Miraculous Medal is our most popular seller, then I would say St. Benedict is next,” she said. St. Michael and St. Christopher “are right behind,” while St. Sebastian is popular with athletes, she added.
The website cathedralbookandgift.com was updated about a year ago to make online ordering easier. Kieltyka noted that individuals, parishes and the diocesan offices use their services for ordering.
The coffee brewing today is unique to Cathedral Book & Gift. Mystic Monk Coffee, produced by the Carmelite Monastery in Meeteetse, Wyo., was introduced to the store by Bishop David Ricken, who helped establish the monastery while he was bishop of the Diocese of Cheyenne.
Besides being available by the cup, it is available for purchase as whole beans and ground. “We get repeat orders,” siad Kieltyka. “I think people appreciate that it’s a good quality coffee, but they’re also supporting the Carmelite Monastery.”
Kieltyka holds a bachelor’s in business administration and first came to the store as a volunteer in early 2011. By year’s end, she was hired as manager by the board of directors.
“We recognized that Ann had a passion for this kind of work,” said board member Mary (Minnie) Bouche.
Other current board members are William Griesbach, president; Tim Feldhausen, vice president; Deacon Mark Mullins, treasurer; Ann Vorpahl, secretary; Carol Ricken; Nancy Jensen and Fr. Brian Belongia, cathedral rector.
It was Bouche’s father, Bill Calawerts, and the late Msgr. Roy Klister, then Cathedral rector, who recognized, after Ziga’s retirement, that the Green Bay Catholic community needed to keep the store going. They consulted with the Cathedral parish council about renting the building, which once housed diocesan offices, and “it’s just been a great relationship,” said Bouche.
The original St. Catherine Lending Library was started in 1946 to honor the late Catherine Stenger, an avid collector of books, on the second floor of the Monroe Avenue home of Mary Patricia Stenger.
The store is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria, considered patron of philosophers and scholars. “She was one of the voices that spoke to St. Joan of Arc,” noted Gustafson, who, as a theologian, is known for researching difficult-to-find materials for customers.
Hours at the store are Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Cathedral Book & Gift is a peaceful place, said Kieltyka, and “ultimately,” she continued, its purpose “is to bring souls closer to Christ.”