Category Archives: Meet a Reader

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}

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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.

Meet a Reader: Paul McNamara {@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: As a homeschooling father of four beautiful daughters and a particularly lovely wife, Deanna, I tend to blend in to the background. However, I am a member of Epiphany Parish in Normal and meander to ISU’s Newman Center and Historic St. Patrick’s for an occasional daily Mass. I am employed as a graphic designer by Illinois Wesleyan University.

Why I love reading: A seeker and lover of truth, my mind is invigorated by succinct Catholic theology and testimonials. Alas, it often seems easier to aspire to greatness via learning what it looks like abstractly rather than through personal experience, but I am hedging that it is helping me grow in sanctity, at least theoretically. I apply the same principles to healthy living, and enjoy reading about cooking, nutrition, the environment, etc., to help me make appropriate choices.

What I’m reading now: After struggling through Pope Saint John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” a few years ago, a refresher was in order so I picked up Love and Responsibility, written before Karol Wojtyla became Pope. Our secular society has many illusions about gender, intimacy and personal freedom, but JPII has given us a framework in which to better explain God’s plans for our identity, relationships and ultimately finding true happiness.

In my car I am listening to an audiobook entitled First Bite: How We Learn to Eat by Bee Wilson. The premise of the book is to help our children develop good eating habits and tastes, as well as unlearn our own biases that are keeping us from the pleasures of simple, whole foods.

My favorite book: The title speaks for itself: Theology and Sanity by Frank Sheed. After spending the first 23 years of my life semi-catechized, a series of events pricked my latent Catholic curiosity.  This book was instrumental in me discovering and then developing a love of our Catholic faith. Sheed mixes theology with apologetics and real-world examples in a way that brings doctrine alive.

Meet a Reader: Jenny Witt {@TheCatholicPost}

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


FullSizeRenderHow you know me:  The seeds of my faith were watered here in our Peoria Diocese at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Peoria Notre Dame High School, and OSF College of Nursing. While serving children and families in the Pediatric Intensive Care unit at OSF God called me to care for the spiritually poor in our country on college campuses as a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, FOCUS. During my time as a missionary with FOCUS God rooted me and launched me into our life long mission as Christians to make disciples of all nations. After my time in FOCUS, I returned to medicine serving as a Creighton Model FertilityCare Practitioner and nurse for Dr. Jillian Stalling, OB/GYN. I currently serve as the Director of Evangelization at St. Philomena Parish. There is so much adventure and joy in following Christ as his disciple.

Why I love reading:  I love reading because it opens doors and allows for an encounter with Christ. My love for reading developed in nursing school as I began to study and discover the many layers of God’s design to the human body. The turning of each page was like walking into a new room and the opening of a present that filled me with awe and wonder. As I began to use this knowledge to care for the sick and vulnerable I saw my time of reading and study bearing fruit. Reading lead me to knowledge, knowledge to gaining skills, skills to providing care, care to bring forth healing, healing to an encounter with God, who is love. Reading is such a gift as there is always more to discover!

What I’m reading now:  I am always reading a few books in a sprinkling of different disciplines that range from scripture, science, the saints, and documents of the Church. The current book marks are resting in 2 Timothy in the Bible, “Essays on Woman” by Edith Stein, and “The Way of Trust and Love” by Jacques Philippe.

I just finished the book, “Chiara Corbella Pertillo: A Witness to Joy.” Her picture on the cover struck me from afar. Her face was radiating with the light of Christ. I could not put Chiara’s story down and completed in a day and her testimony has remained with me. Chiara proclaimed the joy that can found in the cross, the anchor we have in God’s love for us, the gift of our vocation, children, the Church, and our Blessed Mother. As with all good books and stories it is one you want to share with others.

My favorite book:

The Holy Bible is my favorite book. We were required to read the entire New Testament before arriving to our training as FOCUS missionaries. It seemed like a big task and is the best assignment I have ever been given. While reading the scriptures the words struck me to the heart. It was as if I was walking side by side Jesus and the early Christians in the Land of Israel. I was encountering the living God and discovering the way to live and love. For the first time I felt I was loving God not just with my whole heart and whole soul, but also my whole mind. The scriptures are my daily read and continue to be an encounter with God where He gives me His love, direction, rest, peace, and hope.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near…For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways-oracle of the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Yet just as from the heaven the rain and snow come down and don not return here till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me empty, but shall do what pleases me, achieving the end for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:6, 8-11