Category Archives: Meet a Reader

Meet a Reader: Teresa Gwardys {@TheCatholicPost}

Following is the “Meet a Reader” feature that appears on the book page of the current print issue of The Catholic Post.

Teresa Gwardys

How you know me:

I’m currently serving as the team director for the FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) team at the University of Illinois. I’m finishing up my third year as a missionary and will be returning for a fourth year when school starts again. I’m originally from the Diocese of Rockford and graduated from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.

Why I love reading:

I love reading because it allows me the opportunity to step outside of myself and encounter new worlds as well as gaining new knowledge. I think being a constant learner is important in life because we can always grow in our understanding of everything around us.

What I’m reading now:

I’m currently reading the Bible and Catechism of the Catholic Church because it’s part of the reading plan FOCUS encourages all missionaries to read. It’s fascinating to realize how much I both know and don’t know about the Bible. I’ve been Catholic my whole life so some stories are engrained in my head but reading the Old Testament gives me a better understanding of how Jesus in the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. The Catechism enlightens me in the richness and depth of the Catholic Church. If you’ve never read the Catechism, I really recommend starting a few paragraphs a day!

For fun, I’m hoping to start rereading the Lord of the Rings trilogy this summer.

 My favorite book:

I have a favorite author more so than a favorite book because in college I did a lot of work with Flannery O’Connor. I read her works in literature classes from a literary perspective as well as in theologically based classes from a religious and Catholic perspective. Her short stories are thought-provoking on anagogical and moral levels.

Meet a Reader: Father Timothy Hepner

How you know me:

I’m one of the Directors of the Office of Priestly Vocations for the Diocese of Peoria. I traverse the Diocese speaking about vocations, spending time with young people, and helping young men who feel a call to the priesthood. You may have seen me around – I am kind of a hobo priest.

Why I love reading:

When I was younger I would often flip through the encyclopedia searching for random articles just for the joy of learning something new. I thought this was weird until Wikipedia was invented. Now lots of people do it! Besides my love for learning new things, reading helps me grow closer to the great minds of the world and of the Church, it helps me become more contemplative, and it helps me always have something new to talk about.

What I’m reading now:

The Angels and Their Mission: According to the Fathers of the Church by Jean Daniélou explains the role of the Angels through salvation history and in our own lives. It’s fascinating to read about how the Church Fathers believe the choirs of angels reacted to the incarnation and rejoiced at the ascension.

I’m also reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, the founder of behavioral economics, explains the different biases that creep into the way we make everyday judgments.

I’ve also been listening to Moby Dick on audio book as I drive across the diocese. It’s a long book, but I’d like to see what happens at the end.

My favorite book:

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I could read that book a hundred times and have a different approach. As literature, t’s incredibly compelling, and Dostoevsky shows how only the forgiveness and solidarity found in Christ can save society. If you read it, get the translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky.

Meet a Reader: Kim Padan {@TheCatholicPost}

Following is the “Meet a Reader” feature that appears on the book page of the current print issue of The Catholic Post.

How we know you:

I currently serve as President of the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women. You may also know me from the evangelization column “Called to Witness” found periodically in The Catholic Post. My husband Bruce and I are members of St. Paul parish in Danville.

Why I love reading:

I grew up in a home where reading was encouraged and valued. Our family was working class with very few extras. However, every month in grade school my siblings and I could order books off the Scholastic order form. There was nothing like taking home 4 or 5 brand new books…each! We all enjoyed reading then, and still do, but because I was physically unable to participate in many activities with my peers, I would just soak up a good book whenever I had the chance.

As I grew older, I remember hiding out in my room to read a Nancy Drew novel on a single Saturday, always trying to solve the mystery before the last chapter. For most of our lives my parents would give each of us a new hard cover book for Christmas, signed with the year on the inside front page. To this day, I look forward to my mom calling in October or November, asking for a book wish list.

What I’m reading now:


Currently, I am reading multiple books. This wasn’t my style before (except when required for school) but it is what I enjoy doing now. I am reading The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech by Kirsten Powers. She is a liberal journalist who articulates her views respectfully and with much-needed balance. When she called out the mainstream media for ignoring the Kermit Gosnell scandal, I became a fan of hers.

For fun, I am reading Nameless which is the second part of The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan by Erin McCole Cupp. It is a futuristic re-telling of the classic Jane Eyre. For my Lay Dominican group, I just started another von Balthasar, Heart of the World. Finally for Lent, I am reading Eucharistic Adoration: Holy Hour Meditations on the Seven Last Words of Christ by Charles M. Murphy. I generally have a mix of fiction and non-fiction beside my comfy chair.

My favorite book: It is impossible to pick one favorite book, so I will mention a few. The first book that I can remember deeply impacting me was Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther. I read it in eighth or ninth grade so the details escape me, but it is the story of a teen’s battle with cancer. I just recall being moved by the courage of this young man. Reflecting on it now, I believe it is worth rereading.

For a quick Saturday read, I enjoyed Don’t You Forget About Me by Erin McCole Cupp. This book is a contemporary mystery-romance with Catholic themes woven in beautifully. I am Facebook friends with the author, a fellow Lay Dominican, and I encouraged her to get going on the sequel! For spiritual reading, I would have to list The Confessions of St. Augustine and Prayer by Hans urs von Balthasar. Both are beautiful in their entirety, but also can be appreciated in small portions for reflection.

Meet a Reader: Hannah Schinkel {@TheCatholicPost}

Following is the “Meet a Reader” feature that appears on the book page of the current print issue of The Catholic Post.

How you know me:

I hail from the great state of Nebraska, but I have lived in Illinois for nearly two years. I have the great privilege of serving the students at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois as a FOCUS missionary. FOCUS is a Catholic campus ministry that invites students into a lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church through group bible studies and one-on-one discipleship. I have loved my time in Champaign and wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

Why I love reading:

I’ve loved reading since I was a little girl. My dad always had a book by his bedside growing up and would always get me books for Christmas presents—it’s always been “our thing.” My grandma (my dad’s mom) passed away when I was about four years old, but every memory I have with her is sitting on her lap little corner chair in the library, and listening to her read me a story. For me, it’s a way to honor her and always keep my mind engaged!

What I’m reading now:


Thankfully I had a lot of time last semester to do my own personal reading.  Right now I’m reading: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and The Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis. 

Big Magic is all about how to live a creative life and how to practically use that creativity in everyday life. This books speaks to my artist heart and has been such a great read about a subject that plays a huge role in my life! 

I’m also reading is Pope Francis’ encyclical The Joy of  the Gospel. I have picked this book up about three or four times, but I’ve finally finished it. Being a missionary, it is always good to have a renewed zeal in the missionary effort of evangelization for the whole Church, and this encyclical provides that.

My favorite book:

One of my all time favorite books is one called The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It is a timeless book that can be read over and over again. I’ve been reading it almost every year since I was a sophomore in college and it always strikes a chord in my heart. It is a book in the form of a parable about a young shepherd boy who has a prophetic dream about finding treasure in Egypt. Along the way, he meets multiple people who impact his journey and his life. There are so many amazing themes in this book. Everyone who reads it will get a little nugget of knowledge and inspiration from it! 

Meet a Reader: Sister M. Benedicta Bourke, FSGM {@TheCatholicPost}

Following is the “Meet a Reader” feature that appears on the book page of the current print issue of The Catholic Post.

How you know me:

I am a Sister of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, I teach science at Alleman High School in Rock Island, and I help with Youth Ministry at St. Pius X Parish in Rock Island.  I am Canadian—raised in the prairies near the Rocky Mountains of Alberta— and I love the outdoors.

Why I love reading:

To be honest, I am a “convert” to reading.  I did not find a good book until I was 25, did not like reading until I was 37, and did not start really reading until recently.  I have struggled with reading, going over the same paragraph several times before I get it. Now, the books I read the past few years have had a great influence on me and my spiritual life.  A book can speak a prayer, or capture what I want to say but cannot find the words, or they can teach me exactly what I need to do to overcome a challenge.

What I’m reading now:

I am finishing The Way of Humility by Pope Francis, which is very convicting. 
I have two books that I continue to read. The first is one of my passions: Praying for Priests by Kathleen Beckman – this has wonderful meditations to pray the rosary for priests and explains spiritual motherhood. 

The second is O Jesus, Prayers from the Diaries of Catherine De Hueck Doherty – she writes with openness and power that is like my heart song, a book that you can read one paragraph and be inspired.  “Bible Roulette” (to pray to the Holy Spirit, open a book randomly and read a quote) is how I share Scripture and spiritual books with my students and co-sisters.  Often the result is quite timely and speaks to the soul.

My favorite book:

I would choose the two above, but I am also particularly drawn to the writings of Father Jacques Philippe and Father Michael Gaitley.  These were introduced to me through a “book share”.  One Lent, a friend and I chose to read a book in 40 days.  We would meet each week, discussing the treasures we found; this inspired me to grow in holiness and kept me accountable.  We read several books by this method, resulting in my desire to read more.  Reading has definitely impacted my relationship with Christ.

Meet a Reader: Eileen Wikoff

meetHow you know me:

I have lived in Peoria since 1981. I belonged to St. Vincent de Paul Parish before my marriage to John in 1994. We belong to St. Jude Parish where we are active in the life of the parish. I am a lector and have led adult faith classes with John. I am a retired special education teacher.

Why I love reading:

I love to read because it is a vehicle of learning and a way to go to different times and places. I like autobiographies, biographies, historical fiction, young adult literature, non-fiction history, books of faith and some mysteries. If I don’t like a book, I can walk away from it. As I am visually impaired, font size is important to me. Therefore, I read many books on Kindle. Technology is wonderful!

What I am reading now:

I am currently reading This Was a Man, Jeffrey Archer’s final volume in the Clifton Chronicle series.

For my book club, I am reading Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris.

And for spiritual growth, John and I are reading and praying 33 Days to Merciful Love by Fr. Michael Gaitley.

My favorite book:

This has changed over my lifetime, as it would for most people. I would say that Jeffrey Archer is my favorite author, so most anything by him is tops for me. My Mom was a voracious reader and introduced me to him many years ago. I have read his short stories, novels and diaries. I introduced John to this great storyteller and neither of us can put his books down until the last punctuation mark! My favorite spiritual growth author at this point is Fr. Michael Gaitley. I have read The Second Greatest Story Ever Told twice during the past year. He writes in a way that the average Catholic can understand, even on challenging concepts like the Trinity in his book The One Thing is Three.

Meet a Reader: Fr. Alexander Millar {@TheCatholicPost}

Following is the “Meet a Reader” feature that appears on the book page of the current print issue of The Catholic Post.

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Fr. Alexander Millar

How you know me:

I am one of the Parochial Vicars at the Heart of Peoria Catholic Community, which consists of Sacred Heart, St. Joseph, St Bernard Churches and the Cathedral. We have a lot of variation in this community so it keeps us running, but it is a great gift to not only serve as a priest to these parishes but also help with the big Diocesan and Episcopal events at the Cathedral.

Why I love reading:

As Aristotle says, men desire by nature to know and books are a great way to get “to know.” They allow us to enter into and consider many ideas, view points and truths as well as be entertained. Reading shows the power of both human reason and imagination, and these really are things that show our humanity.

What I’m reading now:

I have a somewhat fractured attention span, so I am currently reading several books in parallel:

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, The Nicomachean Ethics and Politics by Aristotle, God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith by Robert Cardinal Sarah.  I’m also rereading The Divine Comedy by Dante. I tend to read a small section of each one every day, but rarely binge on any one at any given time.

My favorite book:

Because of the many genres, it’s hard to narrow down to just one, so really I think I have two.

The first is Dune by Frank Herbert, which is a true masterpiece of science fiction and shows the depths of the genre. The second is the Mystagogia by St Maximus the Confessor, which is a mystical commentary on the liturgy of the Mass from the 5th Century. I reread the Mystagogia every Lent in preparation for Easter.

Meet a Writer: Marie Taraska {@TheCatholicPost}

DSC_0150 My headshot
This month, the book page of The Catholic Post features a local Catholic writer, her new book, More Than Heaven Allowsand her love of writing and reading.

How you know me: Most people know me as the Spanish teacher who taught at Peoria Notre Dame High. I also set up Spanish programs at St Mark’s School, St. Thomas School, St. Patrick School in Washington and St. Mary School in Metamora. I have also tutored the sisters from Mexico in English at the Spalding Center for many years.
Why I love writing: I have always loved writing. I write in a diary every day. I’ve also published two children’s books:Villie the Germ and The Crust Fairy. I’ve written many other children stories, had them professionally illustrated, and gave them to my grandchildren, who always have a lot to say about them. Since I was a teacher for nearly 30 years, my children’s books always teach a lesson. The Toe Ring and The No-No Boy were about some of my grandchildren.

My current book: More Than Heaven Allows was my first memoir/novel, and it’s the story of my and my husband’s life.

My journey begins with having met my husband in college and continues with our lives in medical school and through his residency with little money. It talks about the birth of our five children. It encompasses our struggles when a horrible explosion endangers the lives of two of our children leaving scars both physically and emotionally. The story continues with my journey of forgiveness, love, and faith in Our Lord and the family’s ultimate triumph over adversity.
What I’m writing now: I am working on another book about my husband’s life having grown up during the Depression and his endeavor to become a pathologist.

What I’m reading now: At present I am reading Treasure in Clay the wonderful autobiography of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheens life. I find it fascinating.

Meet a Reader: Sister Catherine Thomas, O.P. {@TheCatholicPost}

Following is the “Meet a Reader” feature that appears on the book page of the current print issue of The Catholic Post.

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How you know me:

I am a Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. I have been teaching theology at Peoria Notre Dame the past three years and living with four other Sisters of my community at St. Jude Parish in Peoria. I am moving this summer to an assignment in Texas.

Why I love reading:

I have always, always loved reading. On the one hand, reading is an escape from everyday reality. As a child always loved exploring the worlds that authors created and accompanying the characters on their many adventures. On the other hand, great literature, far from being an escape from reality, takes you deeper into reality, into the depths and the greatness of the human condition. The classics of the spiritual tradition, especially the writings of the saints, take you deeper into THE Reality, the One in whom we live and move and have our being. Plus, Dominicans love searching for God in books and I am a Dominican to the marrow of my bones.

What I’m reading now:

I’m reading Bleak House by Charles Dickens for fun, Scripture for my current spiritual reading, and A History of Israel by John Bright for study.

My favorite book:

This is impossible without categories. When you read Scripture you are in conversation with the living God who speaks to you personally. You have before you the great love letter from the Father and you are drinking from the fountain of truth, goodness, and beauty Himself, and every other adventure, every other history, finds its center and fulfillment in His story. For novels or short stories, I love anything by Tolstoy. For the books that have changed my life, I point to St. Augustine’s little dialogue On Free Choice of the Will,” the Compendium of Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, and Bl. Raymond of Capua’s Life of St. Catherine of Siena. Among the books that I have read more times than I can count, there are Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, and The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena.

Meet a Reader: Deacon Bob Myers {@TheCatholicPost}

Following is the “Meet a Reader” feature that appears on the book page of the current print issue of The Catholic Post.
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How you know me:

I’ve been a Permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Peoria for 24 years. I’ve been assigned to St. Vincent de Paul Parish for the last 22 years, and I currently work as Executive Director of the Catholic Cemetery Association of Peoria, and the Diocesan Director of the Catholic Cemeteries. July 31, my wife Jeri and I will celebrate 45 years of marriage, and we have two boys, Rob and Andy, and two granddaughters McKenna and Haylee.

Why I love reading:

Reading is so important. It keeps us informed about current events, the past (history), and various interests. For instance, I enjoy reading The Catholic Post to keep up to date on what’s happening around the diocese and in our area.  I also subscribe to several woodworking magazines to keep current with trends in on one of my favorite pastimes.  [I’ve long enjoyed woodworking, and made the Ambry (a recess that holds Holy Oils that are blessed and consecrated) at St. Vincent de Paul.]

What I’m reading now:

Right now I’m reading Rediscover Jesus by Matthew Kelly.  It was given to me at our parish’s TMIY (That Man is You) program.  We’ve had TMIY at St. Vincent for about two years.  Rediscover Jesus is an easy read and very interesting.  It’s helped me get back in touch with my Lord and recall and reflect on the life of Jesus and his impact on my life.

My favorite book:

Friendship as Sacrament by Sister Carmen L. Caltagirone is my favorite book; I’ve read it at least five times over the years.  Sr. Carmen understands the power of friendship. She talks about how building your relationship with God is vital to friendship with Him and others. She also writes about how God works through your close friends and soul-mates to love you as best as possible.