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Christ in Chicago

Marie Dombai

The Gift of Motherhood

When I was younger, I grew up knowing not only my mom but also her mother and her mother’s mother—my grandma and great grandma. I saw through the generations the meaning of motherhood. I saw these very strong, independent, spiritual, and loving women as my teachers.

They taught me many things over the years. They taught me about caring, understanding, loving, forgiving, patience, and life. (Just to name a few). They taught the importance and the value of family.

My mom was my superhero—you know, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound to prevent that glass of milk from spilling. My mother gave life to and raised six children. Being a mother of six isn’t easy, (I now know first hand), but hats off to my mom. She is a tough act to follow.

One day, something happened—I became a mom. It took awhile, but I came to understand that motherhood was more that just diapers and mounds of laundry. I realized that our six children were blessings from God and that I was truly blessed.

After I became a mother of six I often asked, “How did Mom do it?” but mom shared her many gifts and life lessons that soon became mine to teach. As a mother, I then began my discipleship and carried on the role of teacher. In raising our children, we have taught the importance of family, good moral values, life lessons, and faith all while teaching love—love for self, each other, family, friends, and God.

Now as a grandmother, I see that what I learned, I have successfully taught to my children as they live their lives and are raising their children in a Catholic environment.

I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you my admiration for the blessed Mary. She, too, is my mother and has taught me what motherhood is all about through the stories of her raising the Son of God. Mary has become my heavenly superhero, someone who I look to and pray to for support and guidance.

I am extremely thankful for the gift of motherhood and I am truly blessed to have mothers who have given me and continue to give me so much to be grateful for.

Marie Dombai, a retired nursing field supervisor, is a lifelong St. Juliana parishioner and an SJS alumna. She has been married to Tom, a diaconal candidate for 33 years. They have six children and (soon to be) two grandchildren.

Dan Snow

You might have missed a recent Chicago Tribune article on Father Augustus Tolton, who took a big step forward towards canonization this year. Father Tolton remains a powerful figure for many black American Catholics, but his name is not widely known, a regretful fact here in Chicago, where he left a lasting legacy. His story is worth knowing because it demonstrates that while some of the individuals who form the Church can fail, there are many others who make it a force for good and help to redeem it.

Born a slave in 1854 to a Catholic family in Missouri, Tolton’s family escaped to Quincy, Illinois. Growing up in Quincy, he dealt with discrimination, even when he decided to join the priesthood. Denied entry to American seminaries due to his skin color, Tolton pushed on, traveling to Rome for his studies. Ordained and sent back to Illinois (where racist persecution continued), he’d make his way to Chicago in 1889 and would establish the city’s first parish for the then marginalized black community. In July 1887, a few short years after the parish opened, Fr. Tolton passed out from a heatstroke and died at the age of 43.

Tolton’s legacy has not been overlooked in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, where his work continues in Catholic Charities’ Father Augustus Tolton Peace Center. There, aid workers, counselors, and volunteers heal wounds, help the needy, and assist those struggling through violence, poverty, and other ailments. Their work shows the power for social justice and equality in Catholicism, work that has been ongoing in some form for centuries and that we sometimes lose sight of. Tolton would have been proud that his work of serving the marginalized continues in Chicago and we should be proud to claim his legacy.

Augustus Tolton was born as someone’s property and had his faith chosen by those who claimed ownership of him. There were Catholic lay people and priests who showed him nothing but contempt and hate, contradicting their own morals and values. Yet, Tolton kept his faith and chose to dedicate himself to the Church, going on to improve the lives of many throughout his lifetime, with the support of others in his community and beyond. Tolton shows that while the Church can inflict harm when corrupted by those who ignore its teachings, it can be used for immense good by those who honor its true principles.

Dan Snow works in corporate communications and has been a parishioner at St. Juliana for 13 years.




Barb Ernat

Throughout one's spiritual journey there are often significant life-events that test our relationship with God. Often times when we are faced with a devastating setback we think that God has abandoned us and often get angry with God.

6 years ago I lost my mother to Alzheimer’s disease, and as so many caregivers experience, the journey was very challenging for our family.  As I cared for my mother I was dealing with some challenges of my own.  I often found myself asking: Why me? Why us? Why, God, are you giving me more than I can bear?

I found comfort from Robin Roberts, of Good Morning America, in her book “Everybody’s Got Something”.  She reminds readers that everyone carries burdens and hardships.   For her it was a harrowing medical diagnosis and the subsequent difficult journey through it.  Her journey was hard but there were so many that gave her hope.  In her words, everyone’s got something, but everyone’s got something to give as well.  

What I realized as I looked back at my own challenges is that all the times that I thought God wasn’t there he was actually revealing himself through so many people in my life.  It was my circle of friends, family and even strangers who gave so much; they made me realize that God was indeed everywhere around me.

As Christians we are called to carry out God’s work so that in someone’s darkest days they are able to see God through us and have hope that there are better days ahead.

A faith community brings a sense of kinship, a comfort of knowing that we are all in this together.  Maybe this Sunday you came to church with something to give or maybe you came to find hope.   Each Sunday we get an invitation to receive a smile, a kind word, an uplifting scripture, a heartfelt homily.  Sometimes we don’t even realize we need these unintentional gifts.  But they are here for the taking. 

Barb Ernat, a mom to St. Juliana preschoolers Tom and Jack, works in corporate marketing and together with her husband Ray have been members of St. Juliana for the last two years.  

Marty Koegler, 8th Grade


My name is Marty Koegler and I am an eighth grade student here at St. Juliana. There are many things that St. Juliana has given me throughout the nine years that I have been here. This place has taught me many important skills that I incorporate in my daily life and will need in order to lead a successful life. I am very grateful that I have had the opportunity to be a part of the St. Juliana community.

One of the many, many opportunities that this school has given me is an amazing education. At St. Juliana I have learned many awesome things in every class such as math, reading, English, social studies (history), science, vocabulary, and religion. Another great aspect of this school is the amount of service opportunities and projects that you can participate in. In seventh grade a bunch of my friends and I went to St. Ben’s Nursing Home every Monday for my Confirmation service project. Seeing the smiles on the peoples’ faces when we hung out and talked with them was truly heartwarming. The amount of outstanding stories that they have from their lives and their experiences are uncountable. For example, some of them are war veterans that have great stories from the war that they served in, protecting our country and our freedom. 

Also, this school has many after school extra curricular activities that are available to all ages of students. I played football for four years, basketball for four years, I’m playing my second year of volleyball later this year, and I have been altar serving since the summer before seventh grade. At St. Juliana I have made amazing friendships that I will look forward to keeping throughout the next phase of my life, high school at Notre Dame College Prep. My friends have taught me how to do many things such as being loyal and having other peoples’ backs during times of need. I am very happy and grateful that I have them by my side.

Lastly, I would like to thank the parishioners for their financial support because without them our tuition would be much higher. I would also like to thank all of my teachers and coaches for helping me every step of the way, whether it be with sports or education. They always have my back and if we need extra help they are always there. My coaches take precious time out of their days to practice with us. Lastly, I would like to thank my parents for EVERYTHING they’ve done for me. They have made countless sacrifices for me to be able to attend a Catholic School. My mom works almost every day and my dad works two jobs to be able to support a family, all with Catholic grammar school educations. I don’t know where I’d be in life if it wasn’t for them and I am very grateful for every little thing that they have done for me. This school is my second home and I love it and am going to miss it very, very much. 

Seminarian Ankit Jose Mathews (Joseph)

Dear St. Juliana family

I’m writing this note to inform the St. Juliana family that I will be moving to another parish starting this January. I’ll be transitioning to St. Mary’s Syro-Malabar Knanaya Catholic Parish, Morton Grove to continue my pastoral formation, starting with my internship.

It has been a pleasure to be part of this great family. I’ll be making this transition so that I can take part in the Syro-Malabar Liturgy and be formed in that tradition. The Syro-Malabar Church is one of the 22 Eastern Catholic Church groups that is in full communion with the Pope.

It was truly a blessing to work with our pastor, Fr. James Wallace, who is a great mentor for all seminarians who come to St. Juliana Parish. I am also thankful to Fr. Laurent who guided me when I was assisting the RCIA program last year, and it was an immense joy to co-teach CCD at St. Juliana with Fr. Emmanuel. I am also thankful to Fr. Roger for his words of wisdom and encouragement.

I would also like to show my gratitude to all my fellow seminarians who are also part of St. Juliana Parish, and who were a great support for me personally. I am also remembering the Teaching Parish Program Committee members who were always encouraging toward me. I would like to thank everyone at the St. Juliana family for their care and concern. Please continue to pray for me as I’m making this transition. I will also continue to pray for all of you.

Ankit Jose Mathews (Joseph)

Second Theology

Linda Moylan

As far as I can remember, God was always a part of my life.

Growing up on the southwest side of Chicago, my siblings and I were raised with a Catholic education. Here, as well as at home, I was taught about God and the importance of having Him in my life.

I must admit though, by the influence of some of the nuns who taught me during my younger years, I first feared Him. I believed, in order for God to love and accept me into heaven when I died, I must be perfect. By ‘being perfect’ I mean obeying the Ten Commandments at all times. However, as I started to get a little older, I realized we are all human and weak. And because of this we are not perfect and will fail at times throughout our lives. But no matter what, God will always love us.

God has always been the center of my life. So much so, that He is a part of everything I do. I talk to Him daily about everything that’s going on in my life.

When my Mother became seriously ill, and was enduring a lot of suffering through the final years of her life, I turned to God, as well as the Blessed Mother, always praying to them both; asking them to help me through this difficult time in my life.

When it was inevitable that my Mother was dying, and we needed to put her in a nursing home, I was overwhelmed with such grief. It consumed my every thought, I worried constantly on how she would adapt to being in a nursing home.

One night, after coming home from work, I laid across my bed, and asked God to carry this burden for me, trusting Him that all will be well. I immediately felt a sense of peace.

Two and a half days later my mother died in the hospital, never making it to the nursing home. I believe now, more than ever, God will never give me more than I can handle….He walks beside me always.

Linda Moylan works for Lurie Children’s Hospital. She and her husband Chet have been Parishioners for 26 years.

Joanna Wozniak

When I was eight years old my dad passed away. I had several conversations with the nuns at St. Ladislaus School about Jesus needing my dad, how he will look out for me and be my guardian angel. I was sad, confused, angry, and felt abandoned by God. I gave God the silent treatment. I continued to attend Catholic School, prayed my bedtime prayers, and attended Mass regularly under direct motherly supervision. In my heart I was silent with God. I even recall slyly sticking my tongue out towards the crucifix while attending Mass.

            I stayed angry and silent with the Lord for many years.  In 5th grade, as we were learning about the rosary something changed. Our teacher shared a story of a person who feverishly prayed the rosary, and upon her death, each rosary bead she prayed became a flowered step leading her to heaven. That story resonated with me. I decided to take out the rosary I received on my First Communion and pray it at bedtime. I did so every night for a year.

In 6th grade, we received our first Bible. I was told that this was the word of God speaking to me directly. I would allow the pages to fall randomly to an open page and read what I believed was meant for me. It is then that I started listening, reflecting, talking to the Lord.  I added favorite hymns and verses to my devotional artillery as I completed my Confirmation. The Spirit came alive within me!

During my teen years I was blessed with meeting several adults who continued to help me adore the Father, communicate with the Son, and work for the faith through the Holy Spirit. Father Steve Kanonik was one of those people! I ministered throughout my high school, college years, up until I had my first child.

When Father Steve left St. Ladislaus, my family & I followed him to St. Juliana. My husband and I have been blessed with 3 miracles ages 11, 8, and 8. I share with them my faith journey & how it develops daily. I share with them that the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin, and the Saints are our heavenly family to be reached out to and communicated with. God is our Father, our exceptional parent. Just as I protect my children, nurture them, and provide for them, so does the Father above. He does not coddle nor spoil.  The goal is for us to become capable, collaborative, and strong. God bestows blessings and graces as HE sees fit. I teach my children, “If God closes one door, pray in the hallway until He opens the next, and the blessings will fall upon you as a cleansing rain nourishes the earth.”

Joanna Wozniak is a teacher, mother of three, and has been a parishioner of Saint Juliana for fifteen years. 


Janie Lidgus

My parents (Kennis and Mary Brannock) moved our family from Rogers Park to Edison Park in 1952. Dad was a Chicago police officer and Edison Park was becoming the “place to be” for many police officers to live as it still is today. My three older siblings were enrolled in St. Juliana School in the Fall of 1952. I followed them when I entered 1st grade in 1955. Part of our graduation ceremony in 1963 was the groundbreaking for our “new church”. After graduating from St. Scholastica Academy, I left for college in Winona, Minnesota at the College of Saint Teresa, which was run by the same Order of nuns that were here at St. Juliana.  I began my teaching career upon graduation from St. Teresa’s. I married my husband Andy, who was the music director for ten years here, in 1975 at St. Juliana and our daughter, Anne, was born in 1980. She, too, is an alumna of SJS.

I have been teaching here for many years and still love every minute of it. I am the religion teacher for our junior high students and am now teaching many of the next generation. Besides teaching our Catholic faith to my students, my passion is instilling in them a love of service to others. Students are required to do a service project in 7th grade for Confirmation but I offer them as many service opportunities as possible in all three grades. We might know all the “right” answers about our religion, but we must put our words into action.

God, family, and friends—in that order—are the most important things in our lives. I tell my students that if we remember that, everything else will fall into place.

When my mom died 8 years ago, I gave the eulogy at her funeral. One thing that I said was, “Thank you, Mom, for raising us in Edison Park and sending us to St. Juliana. How lucky we are.”  

Life has been good—a career I love, a fantastic family (which now includes two grandchildren), unbelievable friends, and a wonderful home here at St. Juliana.

Janie Lidgus is a teacher at Saint Juliana School, an alumna of SJS, a parent of an alumna, and has been a parishioner for 66 years.

Steve Baggio

In 2012, I noticed something in me that was missing, kind of a hole in my soul.  I concluded I wasn’t doing enough for charity.  Like a lot of folks, I made financial donations to certain charities, but I wasn’t actively involved. 

That Fall, I was at Mass where a member of the Knights of Columbus came and introduced himself to the parishioners.  He talked about the Knights’ activities, and I learned that this group was actively involved in various charitable endeavors.  I met with him after mass and decided to join!  When I attended my first meeting, I was surprised to see Fr. Steve Kanonik in attendance.  We talked and he told me he had been a member of the Knights for a long time. He was currently serving as Chaplain of our council (as Fr. James is now).  Fr. Steve was happy to see me and glad I joined.

Since joining, I have been involved with fundraising to benefit St. Juliana’s SPRED program.  I have also met with representatives at various organizations that assist those with developmental disabilities where I get to see firsthand how our contributions help those people in need.  A door was opened to a world I never had seen.  Knights also volunteer at Special Olympics events.  If you ever want to make a difference is someone’s life, this is a great place to start!

The Vocations Raffle raises funds to financially assist our seminarians.  It is rewarding to know the Knights are doing something to directly benefit these men as they enter the priesthood.  They have enough challenges ahead of them without worrying about tuition expenses!

Finally, what stands out for me are the men I have met since joining.  I never expected to make new, lifelong friendships by joining any organization!  We have golf and bowling leagues and enjoy fellowship activities like retreats! 

The Knights of Columbus will be at all the masses the weekend of October 28th.  Any man interested in learning more is welcome to meet with us.  Vocation raffle tickets will also be on sale to support our seminarians.  Go make a difference!

Steve Baggio is married to Lee and has been a Saint Juliana parishioner for 21 years.   

Seminarian Hank Lyon

In one of my classes that prepares us for the Deaconate, we had a lay minister from the Archdiocese come speak to us about evangelizing through the role as deacon at the Mass. She steered our conversation to the importance of pointing to Jesus, through our prayerful gestures and the words we will speak as deacons. She emphasized that the true aim of evangelization is not simply to know about Jesus, but to know Him personally.

This necessity was evident to me this summer as a chaplain at a hospital, ministering to patients of various faith traditions. I was nervous beginning this new ministry. I did not wear the Roman collar; I did not have Holy Communion to bring to them. I had only a listening ear and an invitation to pray at the end of the visit. As I became more comfortable praying, I remembered something else I could give to them, the Name of Jesus. When I would pray “in Jesus’s Name” with all the Christian patients I was met with a surprise. Invoking the Name of Jesus stirred their hearts more easily, particularly more easily than before when I did not invoke His Holy Name.

Remember St. Peter, who told the lame man that he had nothing to give him, except his faith by invoking the Name of Jesus Christ. Another “Peter”, Peter Kreeft, comments with some humor that the Name of Jesus spoken in conversation will silence any cocktail party. The Name of Jesus has power that can awaken the heart. Tragically though, Our Lord’s Name is slandered and used when invoking anger in most TV shows and movies. What can we do? Answer back in prayer. Recall how we pray in the Our Father, “hallowed (to bless) be Thy Name.” Point to the sacredness of Jesus’ Name when it is slandered, by saying, whispering, or silently praying, “Blessed be His Holy Name.”

Hank Lyon is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Chicago studying at Mundelein Seminary and assigned to Saint Juliana for his pastoral formation.

Janet Gonzalez

“Acorn from God”

Over 20 years ago, I was riding my bike in the forest and noticed an acorn lying in my path.  It was too beautiful to leave behind, so placed it in my bike purse.

One very hot summer day, I stopped to watch a soccer game.   I noticed a parent, her name is Boe.  I had met her once before. We talked about art.  But on this day, she was just shining with God’s light as she was lugging around a very large cooler for all of the children, despite her daughter not playing that day.   The Holy Spirit said to me, “Now that is who I want to be friends with.”  So I approach Boe, inviting her to join me in making an art entry for the ”Niles Art Bench Stop Project.”  Then, with much belief and feeling, I begin to explain that God wants to bless her by doing this project and that I am positive she would be selected.  Despite her doubts, she agreed to try. 

In the weeks that followed, the Holy Spirit was very persistent reminding me to call Boe to be sure she made her entry.  Overjoyed and blessed, we were both selected and we painted happily for hours in the garage. During this time, my husband replaced my old bike, and while emptying my bike purse I found that acorn. Unable to part with it, I placed it by our art supplies.

After our benches were completed, Boe and I had to work on a little bio of our lives, but instead I was filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to confess about the soccer game, God’s love for her, and then boldly expressed why she needs to go to church.  Boe sadly responded that she did not deserve God’s favor; that she is still married yet separated, thus unable to attend church. 

 I resumed working on the bio, asking Boe about her past with art.  Boe explained with much fondness her first art project as a little girl in Poland, making little people out of acorns.  In an instant, it was so clear: that acorn is for Boe from God!  After telling Boe about the acorn’s journey over 20 years to get to her, Boe began to weep. 

Today Boe has her acorn proudly labeled “Acorn from God” in her home.   Boe has returned to church with her children. Thank you God.  ( You can see her 2 bench entries at the Niles Village Hall and in front of the Costco Gas station on Touhy in Niles.) 

Janet Gonzalez is a wife and mother, and has been a Saint Juliana parishioner for 10 years.

Kathleen (Kathy) Grace

I was born in the south of Ireland in a little town called Tipperary. I was raised in a very strict
Catholic household. My mother was never without a prayer book or rosary in her hands. Every
Sunday for Mass we had to dress up in our best clothes out of respect for God’s house. I have
fond memories of having to wear a scarf or hat!

I came to this beautiful country in 1952. It seems long ago. I initially lived with my uncle
on the south side of Chicago. Thirty-eight years ago I moved into St. Juliana parish where I live
today. I’ve met so many wonderful people and clergy along the way. They have all enriched my
life and have made my time in the parish seem to fly by.

I retired from my last job at Resurrection Hospital (Food Services Department) in 1997. I
made up my mind that I was going to stay active in some way and not just waste away sitting
around the house. I feel it’s critical to living a long, healthy life.

I enjoy getting up every morning to attend Mass and receive the Blessed Sacrament. I
took on duties to care for the main altar in the church and chapel. This has been a personally
rewarding experience for me. I felt a much closer connection to Jesus and the Blessed Virgin
Mary. I’ve hopefully contributed in some small way to the success of our vibrant parish!

I also started visiting with dear friends and family that were living in nursing homes in
the area. I did what I could to help them by assisting with meals or to just sit and talk and let
them know someone cared. My husband Pat spent five years in a home once he lost his ability to
walk. I tried to be there for him every day. I brought him some home-cooked meals and helped
the staff to care for his needs. Pat was a very religious man and went to Mass everyday as long as
he was able. He went to be with the good Lord in 2007. I miss him still.

The United States of America has been everything I could ask for and more. It is truly the
greatest nation on earth. My hope is that everyone can mutually respect each other.

I hope you enjoyed my story. I’ll leave you with a little poem I wrote:

The Prayer I dreamed
If at times life seems unfair
It dishes out more than you can bear
Just stop awhile and say a prayer
And God will keep you in his care

Long live St. Juliana Parish! God bless you all.

Kathleen (Kathy) Grace is a retired employee of Resurrection Hospital and has been a
parishioner of Saint Juliana for 38 years.

Steve Silich

After I attended daily Mass recently, I jumped on the Kennedy and headed downtown to work. Sure, I
could take the train, but I enjoy using the time to think, reflect and pray.

As I was sitting in traffic (which you all can relate to), I started to think about those who have lost their
way from God and the church. What happened that they no longer participate in the Mass?

I started to look around at the buildings off of the expressway and I saw signs of God everywhere! There
were crosses on church steeples in every direction, pictures, messages and statues of Mary. A little
further down I saw rosaries hanging from rearview mirrors.

God is all around us, all of the time. We sometimes just need to stop, slow down and look around. I was
amazed by all of the signs of God that I saw once I opened my eyes and started to look.

I think it our duty as Catholics to help people find their way back to the church. If you know someone
that has lost their way from the church I would encourage you to tell them to slow down, stop and look
around. They might just find God somewhere they have never looked. Even sitting in rush-hour traffic!

Steve Silich is a father of two SJS students in kindergarten and 4 th grade, a Chick-fil-A
restaurant owner along with his wife Lauren, and has been a lifelong parishioner of Saint

Mary McNamara

I’ve been thinking about what to write for this column for a few weeks and just as I thought I had it figured out, I would scratch the topic and decide on another. I have spent time reflecting on the importance of empathy, forgiveness, diversity and unconditional love. I also, like many of you, have been struggling to understand the current instances of oppression and abuse within the Catholic church. Feelings of anger and disgust have led to me to doubt my faith. I have asked myself if I am doing the right thing by sending my children to Catholic school and carving out the time in our busy schedule to go to Mass every week. And I wonder how I might explain to my children that church leaders took advantage of those they should have protected most. Through prayer, I have come to realize that it is not God that I am angry with, because God’s Will encompasses all that is good including the important values I initially thought to write about. I will continue to strive to maintain closeness with God and to be confident in my Catholic faith.

I am hopeful that we, as a faith community, stay the course and embrace the universal truths of Catholicism. It is comforting to know there are people all over the world who identify as Catholic and practice the teachings of Christ. My family and I were fortunate to recently experience universality at Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon, Vietnam. As we entered the basilica for Sunday mass, cultural differences and language barriers were not relevant as we were embraced by our extended Catholic community. We were united with the familiar customs of the Mass and felt the presence of God as closely as we do at St. Juliana Church.

This is a trying time and I am grateful and to be a part of our parish and school community. I pray that God’s presence is felt and will serve as a reminder for us to remain steadfast in our dedication to Him and each other.

Mary McNamara is a teacher, a mother of four, all of whom attend St. Juliana School, and, with her husband John, has been a parishioner of Saint Juliana for 14 years.