Art and Mary Ann Wigchers Receive 2013 Vatican II Award

From left, Bishop Emeritus Richard J. Sklba, Mary Ann and Art Wigchers, Bishop Donald Hying and Archbishop Jerome Listecki.

From left, Bishop Emeritus Richard J. Sklba, Mary Ann and Art Wigchers, Bishop Donald Hying and Archbishop Jerome Listecki. Photo Mike Gryniewicz, “Photos by Mike”

On Tuesday, October 22, 2013, 15 Catholics received the Archbishop’s Vatican II Award for distinguished service for outstanding contributions to the Church and society. A prayer service and awards ceremony took place at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, 812 N. Jackson St., Milwaukee.The awards were established in 1991 to honor men, women and youth who exemplify the Catholic Church’s vision set forth in the Second Vatican Council.

Art and Mary Ann Wigchers – St. Joseph Parish, Wauwatosa

Mary Ann and Art Wigchers have a long history of helping others to help themselves. Mary Ann began her volunteering career at St. Vincent de Paul, Habitat for Humanity, and the Adult Learning Center, where she tutored people working towards their GED. Art spent time helping others by working on various local boards, including chairing Catholic Social Services, known today as Catholic Charities.

As years passed, they broadened their horizons by contributing to the good works of Catholic Relief Services in Latin America, South Asia and Africa, which illustrated to them what people can accomplish when they have an opportunity to help themselves.

“When we traveled to East Africa, we saw how people lived in rural areas. Conditions were far worse than we had ever experienced in our own lives,” Art explained. “As a boy growing up in the 1940s and 1950s and living in a rural single parent household without indoor plumbing, looking back we can safely say that we were so very fortunate, as we had schools and choices on what we wanted to do with our lives.”

In East Africa, Art and Mary Ann focused on empowering young people – especially girls – to reach their full potential by supporting formal schools in Ethiopia, and now Uganda. It is both their belief and their experience that a strong girl leads to a strong family, and thus a stronger community regardless of race, religion or nationality.

In addition, they also began a volunteer program through a partnership with CRS in Ethiopia. With the priceless help of local university professors, twice a year Art and fellow travelers train teachers in basic skills and education, which they then use to educate youth and additional teachers in the skills needed to improve lives in their corner of the world.

Although huge advocates of life overseas, the two are also members of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s Campanile Society, a group committed to furthering the Church’s pastoral work and spiritual mission in southeastern Wisconsin. They have also contributed to the Faith in Our Future Steering Committee, Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, Catholic Charities, the twice-annual Combined Collections, World Missions appeals, Legatus, Cardinal Stritch University, and Alverno College.

Humble, inspiring, faith-filled people who have advanced the work of the Church for many years, Art and Mary have positively impacted the lives of the poor and underprivileged in our archdiocese and throughout the world. They are the proud parents of three married children, and are blessed to have nine wonderful grandchildren.

“We are so lucky to live in the United States and have the opportunity to create a better life,” said Art. “In the U.S., even our least fortunate brothers and sisters have so much more physical comfort and opportunity than nearly anyone living in the Ethiopian countryside. Our wish is that our grandchildren realize just how lucky they are to have so many opportunities.”

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