The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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April 20, 2001 Issue
Local News

Helping those in need leads to honor

Roberta Prunty of New London to receive top award

By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor

Honoring them

What: Green Bay Diocese's 13th annual Gaudium et Spes dinner.

Why: To honor this year's recipients of an award given to persons who try to live their faith in the world in the spirit of the Vatican II document, The Church in the Modern World.

Who: This year's honorees are Roberta Prunty of New London, Greg Lemke-Rochon of Appleton and Robert and Althea Valentyn of Kimberly.

When: Social at 5:30 p.m.; dinner at 6:30 p.m. May 4.

Where: Liberty Hall, Kimberly.

Reservations: (920)437-7531 or toll-free 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8234.

"Love God, love family, respect others and help those in need."

That's how Roberta Prunty, a member of Most Precious Blood Parish, New London, lives her life.

Prunty is one of four recipients of this year's Gaudium et Spes Awards, given annually by the Green Bay Diocese to individuals for their efforts in social concerns. The recipients will be honored at a banquet on May 4 at Liberty Hall in Kimberly.

Prunty is being honored for the numerous ways she addresses the needs of the poor and vulnerable through volunteer service. She serves as head of the Most Precious Blood Outreach, president of the St. Joseph Home Auxiliary, president of the Vicariate IV Council of Catholic Women, member of the Catholic Study Club, Communion distributor to shut-ins, supporter of social justice for laborers, Renew leader, life advocate and environmental activist.

"Wherever the need exists for a responsible, dedicated leader, Roberta is there ready to serve and give her all," said Dorothy Wright, one of 11 people who nominated Prunty for the Gaudium et Spes honor.

"I don't know why social concerns are so important to me and my family," said Prunty. "Maybe it's something inborn in you. I may have gotten it from my Grandpa O'Brien. He was a single parent with nine kids, yet he always cared about his neighbors and reached out to others."

The Most Precious Blood Outreach collects and sells clothing and household items for low prices. Each Wednesday, Prunty and a group of women volunteers work at the Outreach Center, a large rummage sale. Those in need receive items for free. Items are collected for the pregnancy crisis center in Waupaca and proceeds are donated to charitable groups and missions.

"We have so much fun together," said Prunty, a former teacher. "The friendships are great. We spend the whole day hauling, pushing, shoving, cutting, sewing, meeting and greeting to help people who need clothing, fire victims and mothers with new babies who have no place to go."

The St. Joseph Home Auxiliary raises funds to support the nursing residence. Prunty, a mother of seven and grandmother of 18, including adopted grandchildren from Korea and Haiti, devotes several hours each year to the "Love Lights" Christmas project, one of the organization's fund-raisers. She also distributes Communion and regularly visits residents, which she encourages others to do as well.

"You don't have to have a sing-along or be a reader at the nursing home, just visit," said Prunty. "There is a risk involved in opening yourself up and coming forward, but it is important to say 'yes.' Seeing the older people in the nursing homes is such a faith-filled experience. It's very rewarding."

She especially would like to see more older volunteers get involved.

"The churches are not using people over 60 as much as they should," she said. "Many people can't volunteer until they are older because of other responsibilities. The life span of people is now longer, so they have 20 good years to contribute. Older people have so many talents and are there to help if asked."

Prunty's passion for helping others has been passed on to her children. Her son, Brian, who lives in Antigo, is working to start a mission in Africa called Living Waters International, and all her children support social concerns efforts.

"Guests at our home for the first time think that we are arguing," said Prunty. "When we talk about social justice issues and politics, the discussions get pretty lively. We really do like each other."

"Roberta respects the lives and worlds of all her children," said her sister, Dr. Margaret Hutchinson. "Each has his or her own life to live and is expected to contribute to the common good of the community."

Prunty, who has been a member of Most Precious Blood Parish for eight years after 24 years as a member of St. Paul Parish in Wrightstown, credits her late husband, Jim, who died in October of 1999, and the many priests and colleagues she has worked with over the years as influences in her life. She is humbled by the Gaudium et Spes honor.

"I was very excited when I found out," she said. "It is a very big honor, and it would not have been possible without all my friends and helpers. I pull people into these jobs."

"I've been fortunate enough to be able to do an awful lot of things," she continued. "It's tough some days getting up and doing it again and again, but you're glad you do it."

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