Catholic Herald staff
Jane Walkey, 2017 Pax Christi finalist from St. John’s Parish in Birchwood, was nominated against her will.
“My husband was under strict instructions not to cooperate if the council ladies wanted to nominate me,” she said. “Even when he protested, they said, ‘Well, it’s not up to Jane.’”
She told the Catholic Herald she struggled even in wanting to return their call for an interview; Walkey doesn’t like the limelight.
But in the sincerity of her openness to the Holy Spirit, she followed with, “We don’t know how God uses us,” and added, if we don’t want to give of ourselves outside our comfort zones, then shame on us.
“We all have something to give,” she said.
Walkey reflected on how we never know who might see (or read about) our witness. Even through the ordinariness of life, she acknowledged those we can best relate to are often the most inspiring.
Walkey spoke about inspirations in her own life. Two persons quickly came to mind: “My own mother. As little kids, we were the only Catholics who showed up late for school on holy days because she took us to Mass.” Regular confession and rosaries in other families’ homes in the neighborhood were a normal part of life.
“Church was just really important to her. Without Catholic schools available in the area, she did a good job of bringing me up Catholic,” she said.
Another example was Walkey’s “dear, dear friend,” Jen Socha, also from St. John’s, who died last year. “She was so, so outgoing with her belief in God. Jen had so much to give.”
Walkey said her involvement in various groups and efforts were never hers alone. Often Socha was involved as well. Her friend should have been nominated for the Pax Christi award, Walkey felt. And in fact, she was, but was also adamant about not wanting the spotlight and refused.
St. John’s was open for weekly prayer time, and often Walkey and Socha were the only two present. That one-on-one time, in the presence of the Lord, praying for others and sharing about the faith, made a lasting impression.
“I miss my prayer partner,” she added. “When people share the most important thing in their lives, they usually sit up and listen.”
She called herself a slow mourner, referring to the loss of both her mother and friend. Focusing on the beautiful and generous lives they lived, she holds onto what she has received from them more than what she lost in their passing. Walkey also spoke of transferring love and friendship to Socha’s widower and reaching out to him in his needs.
Walkey has lived in various parts of the state, having moved around for her husband’s job.
The couple’s three children were born in three different cities, although most of their school years were spent in Onalaska. All three children now live in Wisconsin with their families; two are nearby, and one recently moved his family and business to a new city.
Walkey said, “You never stop being anxious for your children. I’ve always had my faith, and certainly had family backup with that.”
Her husband was not Catholic when they were married, and she admitted it was a different way of raising children. Her husband was supportive of the children receiving a Catholic education to help support their faith.
Beside the various volunteer roles and charitable initiatives in her church and community, Walkey spent years teaching in the Head Start program. Teaching was a source of joy and liveliness for her. But, she said, “As an overwhelmed mother, and always an extremely shy person – for a lot of my life, I was lonely. Not sad or depressed, but I always knew something was missing.”
What changed everything for her was the opening of the adoration chapel at Our Lady of Lourdes in Dobie (Rice Lake). She started out just dropping by, committing to a weekly hour about a year later.
Things really came together “when I started reading Scripture” and developing that one-on-one, personal relationship with God. “We don’t know how God is working in our lives. Often it’s our own needs that help us reach out to God and others.”