Category Archives: Meet a Reader

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.

Meet a Reader: Teresa Oltman {@TheCatholicPost}


How you know me: I am a homeschooling mother of five children, ages 15 years to 10 months old. My husband Joel and I live the country life just outside of Geneseo. We are members of St. John the Baptist parish in Rapids City, where Joel and I teach 2nd-year confirmation class. I am a hairstylist by trade and worked in the salon for eight years before having our fourth child. I come from a family of Carmelites on my mother’s side. I’m the oldest child of Kyle and Paula Hernstrom, and I have lived in the Quad Cities Area my whole life.

Why I love reading: In all honesty, it is a chore for me to read. Unlike my 11-year-old son, who doesn’t know what to do with himself if he doesn’t have a book in hand, I never read outside of what was necessary until I was about 20 years old. Oddly enough, it was reading that brought me back to the Faith. We did not have the Internet for the first few years of our married life, so books became my way to learn more about the Catholic Faith. I started with Sacred Scriptures, chiefly the Gospels. From then on, I have always had a desire to read about the history of our faith and any reading that might aid in spiritual growth. I now enjoy reading now but only if it is spiritually edifying.

What I’m reading now: Outside of the kids’ school history lessons and stories, I do not have much time for reading outside of the Daily Mass Readings, devotionals, articles, and emails.

But now that it is October (the month of my namesake, Teresa of Avila), I have pulled out my copy of Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila, along with Mornings with Saint Thérèse by Patricia Treece, and Therese’s Story of a Soul.

My favorite book: St. Augustine’s Confessions was one of the first spiritual books that I dove into, and it remains one of my favorites.

I love anything written by C.S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, Dietrich (or Alice) Von Hildebrand, our dear St. John Paul II, or the Early Church Fathers. But I’d have to say that the book I’ve read most often and therefore my favorite would have to be The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis.

Meet a Reader: Fr. Adam Stimpson {@TheCatholicPost}

Fr. Stimpson Reading

How you know me:  I grew up in Rock Island, IL, attending St. Mary’s Parish, and I am a ’98 Alleman High School graduate.  As a seminarian for the diocese from 2004-2009, I spent summers serving at the Cathedral, St. Philomena’s Parish in Peoria and Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington. 

After ordination, I served for three years at the La Salle Catholic Parishes, and presently, I reside at St. Philomena’s Parish in Peoria while I am the chaplain of Peoria Notre Dame High School.  Those of you who are avid Catholic readers may also be familiar with my cousin, Emily Stimpson, who is an author, blogger, and speaker.

Why I love reading: I love the power of the written word.  The greatest authors are teachers, and when I settle in with a good book, I become a student.  There are so many times in my life just sitting in a room, a coffee house, or a chapel with a good book, that I have been impacted permanently by the thoughts or imagery conveyed by an author.

What I’m reading now: I am currently a candidate for a Sacred Theological Licentiate degree in the New Evangelization, a high school teacher, and a daily homilist.  The books that I read then are usually within three categories: for study, preaching, or prayer. 

Most recently, I have finished All for Her: The Autobiography of Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C
 Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for the New Evangelization by Scott Hahn; and In Memory of Me: A Meditation on the Roman Canon by Milton Walsh.  All of which I highly recommend.

My favorite book:  My favorite book is the one that saved my soul.  During a year of immersion in modern philosophy, somewhere between Descartes and Hegel, I began to seriously doubt whether God existed.  A dark, intellectual angst came over me as I struggled to reconcile how it is that I, a finite creature, could certainly know an infinite God. 

I then picked up Introduction to Christianity, 2nd Edition (Communio Books) by Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) and on one miraculous page of that text he dispelled my doubt.  He discussed that it is normal for believers to doubt God’s existence at times and for disbelievers to doubt God’s non-existence at times.

He led me by the hand to realize that I was trying to comprehend God in the same way that I would empirically comprehend a physical chair I was sitting in.  Oh fool!  I then began to think about the beauty of faith. Which life is the life worth living: Friedrich Nietzsche or St. Francis of Assisi?  I then stopped trying to analyze God via interior monologue and started once again to commune with God via interior dialogue. May the Incarnate Word bless you all in the good words you read.

Meet a Reader: Dr. Kyle Johnson {@TheCatholicPost}

How you know me: I am the Director of Music at St. Mark’s Parish in Peoria as well as the owner of Johnson Family Chiropractic in Peoria. My undergraduate degree was a B.A. in Humanities and Catholic Culture from Franciscan University of Steubenville, where I also met my wife, Wendy. She and I have since launched a fantastic career of raising six (so far) girls.

Why I love reading: I love fiction and non-fiction, but for different reasons. In our YouTube world where just a few facts suffice for someone to make an iron-clad opinion about any topic, a non-fiction book is often a refreshing deep dive into a subject. Holding a non-fiction book isn’t like glancing at a bumper sticker, but rather absorbing the author’s own years of research and curation. Fiction, on the other hand, exercises the muscles of my imagination, which is an absolute necessity in order to remain properly childish as I age.

What I’m reading now:  As usual, I’m in the middle of several books at once.

First, G. K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man, a classic that’s more than worth the effort.

Robert Royal’s The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century: A Comprehensive World History, an eye-opening modern history text.

Marc Goodman’s Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It, on the unintended consequences of our overly tech-connected world.

Finally, Randall Munroe’s What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, a hilarious look at hypothetical physics conundrums.

My favorite book: My three favorite authors are O. Henry, P. G. Wodehouse, and G. K. Chesterton. If I had to pick one, only one book, then it’d be Chesterton’s collected Father Brownstories, an omnibus of detective stories that are at the same time a tour de force of human insight and moral teaching.

Meet a Reader: Christine Mattern {@The Catholic Post}

Following is the July “Meet a Reader” feature that appears on this month’s book page of the print edition of The Catholic Post.

FullSizeRenderHow you know me: I grew up as the oldest of four children in Magnolia, IL, on a family hog farm. My home parish is St. John XXIII, formerly known as St. Mary’s, in Henry, IL. I have been studying biology, psychology, and theology at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, IA, for the past four years. My time at Ambrose has not only allowed me to develop intellectually, but has also challenged me to grow spiritually in a deeper relationship with God. Upon graduation from St. Ambrose, I am excited to begin nursing school in January at St. Francis Medical Center College of Nursing in Peoria. I look forward to developing the gifts that God has given me, as I learn how to apply them in my nursing profession.

Why I love reading: There’s nothing better than curling up on a rainy day with a warm blanket and devouring into a good book. I love reading for the escape that it provides. A good book will allow you to travel to a new place, meet different people, and experience the world in unique ways. Not all books have this capability, and that is what makes the occurrence so magical.

What I’m reading now: This summer, I have decided to work my way through the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares for the third time. I first read these books in junior high and high school. I thoroughly enjoyed each book and have grown very fond of the characters and the special friendships they share.

My favorite book: I would classify the Sisterhood series as one of my top favorite reads. I am also a big fan of Nicholas Sparks’ books. It’s difficult for me to pick just one favorite book, but overall, I enjoy reading realistic fiction, especially involving relationships and interactions among characters. I enjoy when networks begin to intertwine. It reminds me of God’s overarching knowledge and guidance over us. His grand design is always so much more intricate and extraordinary than we could ever imagine. 

Meet a Reader: Amy Lee

Following is the monthly feature that appears in the print edition of The Catholic Post, featuring a Peoria diocesan reader.


How you know me:

I’m a parishioner at St. Marys’ Cathedral in Peoria, IL. I was blessed to start attending and serving Mass there when I was a sophomore at Bradley University. It is through the Newman Center at Bradley and the Cathedral that I met my husband, Phillip Lee. We were married in 2013, and last year welcomed our daughter, Elizabeth. In addition to being a wife and mother, I also work as a full-time nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital in Galesburg, IL.

Why I love reading:

I love reading fiction mostly, and good books have become friends. When I read, I can instantly visit a new place, meet new people, experience different cultures, and even travel through time. My favorite books have the ability to inspire and challenge me to learn and grow into a better person. They have introduced me to characters that I admire and desire to emulate. When I read, my imagination can take over, and I can dream.

What I’m reading now:

I’m currently reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, aloud to my husband and daughter whenever I get the chance.

Other frequent contenders in the “board and baby book” category include: Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle, I Love You Through And Through by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, and Five Little Monkeys Storybook Treasury by Eileen Christelow.

I am also (slowly) reading Fatima for Today: The Urgent Marian Message of Hope by Fr. Andrew Apostoli.

My Favorite Book:
This is a tough one to answer. If I have to choose one, I would have to say Little Women. I can’t even begin to remember how many times I’ve read it. I also love just about anything by Jane Austen, and Pride and Prejudice  in particular, is at the top of the list. I’m also a big Tolkien fan, and have been known to be addicted to the Star Wars universe.