Category Archives: Meet a Reader

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.

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.


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.

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.


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

Meet a Reader: John Donnelly { @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 teach religion and Spanish at Peoria Notre Dame High School, and also bartend at Donnelly’s Irish Pub most Saturday nights.

Why I love reading: Reading is my absolute favorite thing to do. One of my favorite writers, David Foster Wallace, once said in an interview that reading makes him less alone intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. I love it as a form of communicating with others. You never know exactly what someone else is thinking, but sometimes reading brings us close to achieving that. The really great books let us know that others may have felt what we feel, thought what we’ve thought. The hundreds or thousands of years between author and reader can just fall away. My favorite books speak to Faulkner’s verities and truths of the heart. Another writer I came across recently talks about finding out what matters in the world and what it means to be human – I think the best books do that too.

What I’m reading now:

I’m currently reading (re-reading in fact, but it’s been over 10 years now) Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude along with some other teachers from school. I spent a couple of years in Latin America after college – it’s astonishing how much history he weaves in and out of the story. I’m also halfway through Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me after seeing it on so many “best of” lists last year. It’s amazing – he does a really fantastic job of interrogating himself and the world around him.

My favorite book: As much as I could talk about Flannery O’Connor, or David Foster Wallace, or Andre Dubus, or Raymond Carver (especially “A Small, Good Thing”), I’d still choose J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I’ve never gotten as lost in a book as I have that one. John Le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy would be a close second. They have a similar tone – I’d like to imagine the conversation those two might have had together. I think they were both at Oxford together at the same time – maybe they did.

Meet a Reader: Father Paul Langevin, OFM Conv. { @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 the (relatively new) Parochial  Vicar at Holy Family Parish and School (Go Crusaders!). Perhaps you may know of my award-winning cole slaw served at Holy Family’s famous Fish Frys (mark your calendars for first Fridays during the school year and every Friday throughout Lent).  They say it’s some of the very best cole slaw this side of the Illinois River….or maybe they said “this side of the Mississippi” (I told you I’m still new here and trying to get my bearings!!!).  Perhaps our paths crossed before I was ordained to the holy priesthood when I was a clinical social worker for 20 years working with children and families first in Ohio and then for the Department of Children and Family Services in Illinois.  But if we’ve never met and you see me out and about I sure hope you’ll introduce yourself as I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  Or, if you ever see me jogging down Sterling Avenue give me a honk and I’ll be sure to wave!

Why I love reading:

I must confess, as a child I wasn’t much of a bookworm because it was one of those “have-to-do” things.  But once I discovered that reading opens the mind and the heart to a world of possibilities, I was hooked.  

Whether it’s a novel with a plot that engrosses all my senses (even to the point of losing track of the time!!!) or reading for general knowledge/information, reading is fascinating.  I never read so much so fast as during graduate school at Michigan (M-GO-BLUE) for my Master of Social Work degree.  That is, until I went back to school after 20 years for my Master of Divinity degree at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology.  “So many books… little time” was the reality I faced both times in graduate school.  

Now it’s good to be reading once again what I want to read.  I’ve also heard that reading helps keep the mind sharp…..and I’m needing all the help with that I can get!

What I’m reading now:

I find myself reading several books at a time.  Right now, I’m reading and meditating on Christoph Cardinal Schonborn’s We Have Found Mercy.

 The message of Divine Mercy (as we understand it through Saint Faustina Kowalska) runs throughout Cardinal Schonborn’s writing and his message of God’s merciful love.  He takes the reader on a spiritual journey of God’s mercy through the Sacred Scriptures, the life of Christ, the sacrament of mercy-which is confession, and the rich catechetical tradition of the “works of mercy” as well as how Christianity throughout history has become an “engine” of mercy in the world.  No literary work on God’s mercy would be complete without considering Mary, the Mother of Mercy.  And Cardinal Schonborn shows us how we can be like Mary: touched by God’s mercy, we become visible signs of His mercy for all people.

I am also reading Daniel Pambianchi’s Techniques in Home Winemaking as I prepare to showcase Buona Ventura Cellars “Tarnished Halo Wines” — a St. Bonaventure Province Conventual Franciscan premier wine made right here in Peoria out of our friary basement.

My favorite book: 

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen is by far my favorite spiritual book.  I have never heard God speak so clearly to me through it as I was coming back home to the Catholic Faith.  I still find it a treasured pearl of great price in my library as it continues to guide me back home to our loving Father’s merciful embrace and the transformation that always awaits me there. 


Meet a Reader: Jackie Scott

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 Regional Coordinator of Parish Evangelization for the Diocese of Peoria.  My region includes parishes in Champaign and Danville and the surrounding towns.  Prior to moving to Champaign I coordinated the Adult Faith Program at St. Jude Catholic Church in Peoria and co-coordinated Bible Studies for Women Who Believe in Peoria. 

My husband, William, was ordained a Deacon in 2012, and he serves at St. Matthew Church in Champaign.  We have two amazing daughters.  I am an immigrant of Indian descent.  I was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, where my father worked for the U.S. Embassy and my mother for the Library of Congress, and my ten siblings and I spent much of our time with our noses buried in books which my parents brought home from their respective places of work. Books were hard to come by in Kenya and we were fortunate to have the access that we did!

Why I love reading:  As a child my favorite genre was Westerns – Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey.  I loved the action and adventure of Westerns and I was inspired by the courage of the characters, especially the women of the “Wild West”!  Yes, I wanted to be a cowgirl when I grew up.  Reading gives you the ability to dream, to be inspired and to aspire to be greater than you are.  I have long grown out of that genre yet this is no less true today.  Whatever I am reading, it continues to challenge and inspire me.  I aspire to have the courage of Mother Teresa, Edith Stein, Saint John Paul II, Abby Johnson, and the simplicity of Saint Therese.  I want to be more loving, kind and merciful  like Popes Benedict XVI and Francis.  I want to be more spiritual and to know Jesus as I read in the Bible.

What I’m Reading Now:


The Love of God and the Cross of Jesus, Volume One  by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.

My favorite book: The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton and of course, The Bible.

Meet a Reader: Sister Aimee Dominique, Apostolic Sister of St. John {@TheCatholicPost}

IMG_0965How you know me:

I’m a member of the Apostolic Sisters of St. John and part of the larger St. John Community located on Legion Hall Road in Princeville. So you may have seen me if you participated in a Sapientia Saturday, Family Faith Festival, or the Saint John Summer Conference out at the Community. Or you may have seen me at one of the other events we host at our monastery, like the summer Girls Camp or Handmaidens Retreats.

Why I love reading:

Reading is something that has always attracted me.  Funny story: when I was in pre-school I tried to convince my mom that I already knew how to read, by imitating how people move their eyes from one side of the page to the other and flipping the pages of a book.  I had her convinced for about 10 seconds!

I think the attraction to reading is a part of my temperament because I love to learn and I love children’s stories. One of my favorites times during elementary school were the yearly “Read-aThons.” Each student would bring favorite books and a sleeping bag, and read for hours in the school gymnasium. It was awesome!  Above all else, there is the Word of God! I mean, we can READ what God is trying to say to us. That’s great!

What I’m reading now:

I just started 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat In Preparation for Marian Consecration by Fr. Michael Gaitley in order to renew my consecration to Mary and to live Advent with her.

I’ve also been reading Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul which is great for both the Year of Consecrated Life and the Year of Mercy. If anyone is unfamiliar with St. Faustina’s diary, I recommend for those starting to read the diary to read just the parts in bold, which are the words of Jesus to the saint.  Even though it is a private revelation to St. Faustina, I find it very valuable since the Church canonized her and instituted the Feast of Divine Mercy. With the Year of Mercy, I believe that God is really calling us to come to Him with great trust. This book certainly helps get that message across. And my favorite part is “the conversations of the Merciful God with the…” section, starting from #1485. Jesus has a message of mercy for the sinful soul, the despairing soul, the suffering soul, the soul striving after perfection, and the perfect soul. No one is left out!

My favorite book:

My favorite book, which I’ve re-read many times, is the Conversations of Marcel Van, a Redemptorist lay brother. He was a Vietnamese member of the congregation, and he had and wrote about a wonderful interior life close to Jesus, Mary, and St. Therese. I cannot write more… it’s too good. Brother Marcel Van is a servant of God who I hope one day will be canonized. This would be a great book to read for those who love St. Therese.