The Tennies: Called to Help, Share & Belong

Originally published by Decided Excellence Catholic Media in Green Bay Parish Neighbors

Article by Joan Koehne | Photo by Timothy Mayer Artworks

Sixteen months is a long time to be unemployed, especially if you have a baby on the way. That’s the scary predicament that John and Lynne Tennie faced 35 years ago. Lynne, a teacher, resigned to stay at home with the baby at the same time that John quit his job, thinking the next job was just around the corner. Little did they know that a recession was going to hit at the same time. The experience taught them an important life lesson.

“Pray, pray, pray and trust, trust, trust in God and his mercy and graces,” Lynne said. John finally found work managing Walgreens stores, a career that took the family to several different cities in Wisconsin. 

“This experience taught us that a house is not a home, money does not sustain you, and miracles are everywhere,” Lynne said.

In every city where they lived, John and Lynne Tennie sought out a Catholic church to worship in. 

“The parishes offered us community as well as ways to deepen our faith,” Lynne said. The Tennies have been parishioners at Catholic churches in Combined Locks, Fond du lac, Medford, and Waupaca. 

“Whether hosting a RENEW group, teaching a preschool religious education class, or exploring God’s word through scripture studies, we would feel a calling to help, share and belong,” Lynne said.

The last four years, the Tennies have been members of Nativity of Our Lord Parish where they team-teach a Confirmation class of 14 spirit-filled youth.

“Nativity Parish is a vibrant parish with many activities and outreach opportunities to be a part of.  John and I really like the openness of the parish and the way they emulate Jesus’ mission of loving others,” Lynne said.

Married for 42 years, the Tennies met at UW-Oshkosh. They were both in the same Speech class, and even though they commuted to college from different communities, they kept bumping into each other.

“We both loved to dance, which drew us to each other. We kept showing up at the same dance clubs,” Lynne said.  

Lynne, a Menasha native, graduated with bachelor degrees in Art Education and Spanish Education. John, who attended Greenville and Hortonville schools, earned a Business Administration degree with an emphasis in marketing.

Lynne taught high school Spanish and Art in Wild Rose, elementary and middle school Spanish at Holy Family School, and recently retired after 11 years teaching Spanish at Chappell Elementary School. John worked for K Mart, Hartford Insurance, and Walgreens, retiring after 35 years with the company.

The Tennies have four grown children and five grandchildren. They enjoy traveling, biking, and spending time with their family. Lynne loves to paint, draw and do crafts, while John loves professional sports (especially the Packers) fishing, camping and yard work.

John and Lynne volunteer at the Hope Center Pantry, NEW Community Shelter, and Chappell Elementary School, where they help first-grade and second-grade students with reading and math. They serve on the Cystic Fibrosis Walk committee in Green Bay and volunteer for events like the Feed My Starving Children Mobile Pack and Make a Difference Day.

The saint they try to emulate is Mother Teresa because they are inspired by her love for others and these simple words: “Holiness does not consist in doing extraordinary things. It consists in accepting, with a smile, what Jesus sends us. It consists in accepting and following the will of God.”

In the Tennie household, mealtime always begins with prayer.

“We pray a mealtime prayer together at every meal to remind ourselves of the wonderful gifts God has given us. It seems like a simple thing to do, but it helps us sit down together as a family and treasure this time together,” Lynne said.

Gratefulness flows through their lives, and they encourage others to recognize God’s many blessings.

“Life is a journey,” Lynne said. “Do not spend it with a monetary goal in mind or cultural riches. Accumulate graces that will build you up and help you be the person God wants you to be. We were made for heaven – not for this earth”

The Selinskys: Singing & Praising God

Originally published by Decided Excellence Catholic Media in Green Bay Parish Neighbors

Article by Joan Koehne | Photo by Timothy Mayer Artworks

Thirty-five years ago, Nancy and John Selinsky prayed for a miracle. Their son, Nick, was born prematurely at 30 weeks. His lungs hadn’t fully formed, so the doctors didn’t give the family much hope. So, Nancy sought help from the Lord by praying the St. Theresa Novena taught to her by her mother.

“St. Theresa is known for answering prayers with what I call ‘the sign of the rose.’ When St. Theresa intercedes for you, you will see a rose in an unusual place,” Nancy said. This is exactly what happened. As Nancy and John left the hospital and crossed the street, John noticed a small plastic rose with a little rosebud attached.

“There’s your rose,” he said to Nancy.

“I still have it and keep it with Nick’s baptismal gown,” Nancy said. “Within days his lungs improved, and he was out of the hospital in a month.”

Nancy and John belong to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish where they both sing in the adult choir. Their son, Nick, also sings in the choir, and daughter, Chelsea, sang in the choir until conflicts arose with her nursing schedule.

“Music at Mass is very important to me,” Nancy said. “At St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, we’re blessed to have an awesome young lady, Maria Hinnendael, as our choir director, several wonderful pianists, cantors with amazing voices, and choirs that always do a marvelous job helping the congregation praise God.”

In fact, music is what brought the Selinskys into the parish. John’s brother, Ed, was leading the adult choir in 1994, and John and Nancy decided to attend Sunday Mass before a family get-together.

“The music was so awesome that we became members the following week. We’ve been members ever since,” Nancy said. “No matter what Mass you attend, the music is always amazing.”

In addition to participating in music ministry, Nancy volunteers at the Hope Center Food Pantry, collaboratively operated by several West Side parishes, including St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

“I’m glad we’re able to offer food to people in the area that don’t have the money to shop and buy things the way I wish everyone could,” Nancy said. “It’s eye opening to see the needy people in the Green Bay area.”

John grew up in Green Bay and graduated from Premontre High School, while Nancy grew up in Manitowoc, attended St. Andrew’s through eighth grade and graduated from Roncalli High School. John and Nancy met at a bar called Little Chicago Inn and were married in 1976 at St. Paul’s Church in Manitowoc. Both of their dads worked for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad.

“From the beginning, it felt like we were meant to be together. And it still feels that way,” Nancy said.

Nancy attended Bellin Hospital School for Laboratory Technique and worked in various medical clinics, most recently a cancer clinic. She retired six years ago. John worked as a service rep for Paper Converting Machine Company in Ashwaubenon. He traveled the world setting up new paper converting machines or repairing old ones.

John and Nancy spend their mornings working out. They like to run, use the elliptical machine, lift weights at the YMCA, or participate in Nancy’s sister’s Zoom exercise class. Nancy also enjoys golfing, reading, attending concerts, cooking, and playing with their grandson, Eli, 3.

“And don’t let me fool you. I also like sitting with my feet up reading the paper and watching TV,” she said.

Nancy is a self-proclaimed cat person, so the family always has a cat. The family’s first and second cats each lived 14 years. They were orange tiger cats, and both were named Herbie.

“Our current cat is also an orange tiger, but female, so no Herbie. Her name is Candy Girl, named after the Four Seasons song,” Nancy said.

The Selinsky family motto is simple – the golden rule. Treat others as you would like them to treat you.

Like all families, the Selinskys have faced their share of challenges in life.

“My faith helps me through all the trials of daily life, from which no one is immune. Whenever I feel like I need help, I say a prayer for direction, and my prayers have never been ignored,” Nancy said.

Like that day 35 years ago, John and Nancy continue to place their trust in the Lord.

“I wonder how we’d make it without our faith in God,” Nancy said.

The Clemens: Putting Faith into Action

Originally published by Decided Excellence Catholic Media in Green Bay Parish Neighbors

Article by Joan Koehne | Photo by Timothy Mayer Artworks

A North Dakota blizzard brought them together in 1977, and Janice and Chris Clemens have been weathering life’s storms together ever since. Janice and Chris were students at North Dakota State School of Science in Wahpeton, ND when classes were cancelled due to a snowstorm. Chris and a buddy were visiting a friend in Janice’s dorm, and Chris accidentaly ran into Janice in the hallway. The rest is history! They married in 1980 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Bismarck.

“Through the years we’ve had people tell us that we are so lucky or that we are perfect. We laugh and tell them this couldn’t be further from the truth. We’ve had our share of difficulties and challenges,” Janice said. “But in our marriage, communication is everything. We talk through the things that we’re facing and pray about it. This helps us turn it over to God and do our best to work towards a positive outcome.”

Janice and Chris, now in their 60s, grew up in North Dakota. Janice earned an associate degree in computer programming and made her career in Information Technology (IT). She retired from Humana three years ago. Chris earned an associate degree in mechanical drafting and worked for McMahon Associates of Neenah doing civil drafting and IT support. He semi-retired two years ago. The Clemens are spending their retirement years giving back to the community. As members of Nativity of our Lord Parish since 1988, the Clemens share their time and talents in a variety of ways.

“If there is something that we can do to help someone out, we don’t hesitate to act on it, no matter how big or small. We try to show by our actions what it means to be a Christian,” Janice said. “It’s easy for us to do this when we have faith that the Holy Spirit will guide us along the way.”

At Nativity of Our Lord, the Clemens are a FOCCUS couple for engaged couples and directors of the Hope Center Pantry. Janice was a Eucharistic minister and choir member, and Chris is a Knights of Columbus member and Grass Buster, doing lawn and grounds maintenance. They deliver Homebound Meals weekly, and Janice teaches card-making classes and Healthy Living with Diabetes workshops. She also volunteers for the Ashwaubenon Parent & Preschool Learning program, Cormier School, St. John’s Homeless Shelter, and Junior Achievement. Previously, the couple was active in the religious education and confirmation programs. Janice sang in the Humana Christmas choir and served on Nativity’s Youth Board and Freedom House homeless shelter board.

“There are always new things that we can challenge ourselves to be involved in. And every time we do, the people are so welcoming and willing to show us the ropes. We seem to always end up getting way more out of it than we anticipated,” Chris said.

When hockey season starts, the Clemens house Green Bay Gamblers hockey players and serve as amateur photographers at the team’s home games.

The Clemens have two daughters, Jessie (Tim) Brovold and Kristen (Greg) Frie and five grandchildren, ages 9-14. Early on, they taught their daughters the importance of giving back.

“We taught them that the world does not revolve around them. Starting at age 8, they were required to pick something at church that they could volunteer at,” Janice said. “Even as adults today, they don’t hesitate to get involved wherever their talents are needed both at church and in their community. We are so proud to see these values now being passed down to our grandchildren.”

The Clemens enjoy biking, walking, and hiking. In addition to their shared hobbies, each has a favorite interest. Janice is in her glory when she’s in the kitchen.

“I love to share the deliciousness that I create with as many as possible,” she said. Chris is a jack-of-all-trades who likes to landscape.

“My passion is working out in my yard, especially splitting daylilies to share with others,” Chris said.

Faith is the compass that keeps them on the right path. Their favorite prayer is the Prayer of Surrender which expresses trust in the Lord’s incredible plan.

“We try to minimize the amount of worrying we do so that we don’t get overwhelmed,” Janice said. “We know that God will be there to walk beside us through whatever He sends our way.”

Joann Vaile: Volunteer Extraordinaire

Originally published by Decided Excellence Catholic Media in Green Bay Parish Neighbors

Article by Joan Koehne | Photo by Timothy Mayer Artworks

Joann Vaile spearheads two Green Bay charities that are making a difference near and far: Love Life Ministries and Annunciation Mission Society. Love Life Ministries provides childcare items to families that are struggling financially. The organization gives out diapers, formula, clothing, baby furniture, and related items.

“Whatever is donated to us, we give out to our clients,” Joann said. “It is an amazing ministry, and all of us volunteers love helping these families. The majority are single moms who really need help.”

The second organization, Annunciation Mission Society, makes rugs, afghans, quilts, aprons, hats, mittens, and other handmade items. The society sells its handiwork and donates the proceeds to missions in the U.S. and internationally. Joann’s close friend Genevieve Devroy, who passed away in August 2019, was the society’s longtime president. Genevieve invited Joann to get involved. Joann likes to sew, knit, and crochet, so she lends these talents to the society. In addition, Joann and her husband, Al, have helped sell the handmade items at craft shows.

“The Mission Society is a wonderful ministry to help others,” Joann said.

Joann and Al have been members of Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish since they moved to Green Bay in 1989. Prior to that, the couple belonged to Ss. Edward and Isidore Parish, Flintville, from 1976 to 1989. Joann sang in the choir and volunteered at the church picnic at both parishes. She taught CCD at Ss. Edward and Isidore and served on the Stewardship Committee at Annunciation. She joined the Bible Study at Annunciation Parish 15 years ago and has participated in every session.

“I just love it and learn new things all the time,” Joann said. “We have a wonderful group of people who also have stayed with the Bible Study since it began.”

Joann’s favorite scriptures are Psalm 23, beginning with the phrase “The Lord is my shepherd,” and Psalm 51, beginning with the phrase “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness.” In addition to scripture study, Joann maintains an active prayer life. She prays a daily devotion every morning, prays every night, and prays the rosary at least three times a week.

“I trust in God in all aspects of my life. God has brought many people into my life for a reason or a season, and that means the world to me,” she said.

Joann and Al have made many friends over the years as members of the Quad Parishes.

“There are a lot of things the members of the Quad Parishes do together, like Masses and Winterfest. We also participate in each other’s picnics,” Joann said. “I love our church and have become friends with lots of people over the years.”

Joann and Al were married in a civil ceremony in 1976 and a church ceremony in 2006. It was the second marriage for both. Al has three sons, and Joann has a son and a daughter. Together, they have 19 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. They also have a cat named Pippin and a dog named Molly. The couple prays a marriage prayer every day, a tradition they started on Valentine’s Day 2020.

“I believe that it helps us in our struggles in a powerful way,” Joann said. “I encourage others to ask God for help when they are struggling with anything and to trust in Him.”

Al graduated from Green Bay West High School in 1956 and served in the Army, three years active duty and three years inactive. He worked at Fairmont Foods, then at James River Paper Mill/Georgia Pacific. He retired in 2000. Joann graduated from Clintondale High School in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, on June 18, 1964, and started working for General Finance in Mt. Clemens the following day. She worked as a secretary and bookkeeper at different companies in Michigan and Green Bay. She retired from full-time work at Stantec in June 2012, but continued to work there part-time until February 2016.

Nowadays, Joann is a full-time caregiver for Al but still makes time to volunteer, take walks, garden, and paint. She took a few Learning in Retirement classes at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, including watercolor painting.

“I’m not that gifted in painting, but I do love to do it as a hobby,” she said. Her favorite painting is Jesus’ Agony in the Garden – which isn’t a surprise when you consider her love for Jesus and her devotion to serving others.

The Thirys: An Ordinary Family

Originally published by Decided Excellence Catholic Media in Green Bay Parish Neighbors

Article by Joan Koehne | Photo by Timothy Mayer Artworks

The Mark and Kim Thiry family lives an ordinary life. Nothing unusual. Nothing fancy.

Mark does property management and is the owner of Handy Daddy, LLC. Kim works as a nurse practitioner at Prevea in Family Practice and Ideal Weigh. The couple has three children, Hannah, 18, Sam, 16, and Eli, 14. They have a 5-pound Yorkie named Jackson. 

“We do not have the perfect marriage, the perfect children, or the perfect family,” Kim said.

The Thirys, who belong to Nativity Parish, are so “ordinary” that they felt unworthy to be featured in Parish Neighbors. So why are you reading about this ordinary family? Because of their extraordinary faith.

“When we were asked to do so, we felt the Holy Spirit calling us to be an example to others,” Kim said.

What looks ordinary on the outside is beautiful and profound on the inside.

“We rely on God every moment of every day to help us grow in His virtues, love each other in the way that He loves us, forgive when we have been hurt, and learn how to be a servant to one another,” Kim said.’

The family thanks God for every blessing, even the little blessings that often go unnoticed.

“Our favorite prayer is about thanking God for everything ‘ordinary’ in our life, being content with the gifts that He has given us and allowing His light to shine through that ordinariness,” Kim said.  

Kim and Mark met in 2000 while participating in a young adult group at Nativity Parish. Kim was planning to join the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity in Manitowoc. Mark was attending Silver Lake College with dreams of being a hospital chaplain. Neither of these vocations panned out; God led them in a different direction. They were married in 2002 at Nativity Parish, where Mark has been a member since 1987.

But a happy marriage isn’t as easy as it looks, and the Thirys struggled.

“God helped us in our unhappy marriage by blessing us with friends who encouraged us to go to a Retrouvaille weekend,” Kim said.

Catholic in origin, Retrouvaille is a marriage program that helps couples restore their marriages. The program helps couples reconnect with each other and rebuild loving relationships by improving communication. Mark and Kim are CORE coordinators for the Green Bay area and Upper Michigan.

They are also actively involved in Nativity parish. Mark and Hannah teach religious education. Hannah, Sam, and Eli are altar servers and volunteer at Camp Tekakwitha. Hannah is involved with the youth group at church and attended CYE (Catholic Youth Expedition) and the Steubenville Youth Conference. Sam and Eli sell Christmas trees at Nativity and enjoy playing soccer. Eli also loves skating. 

The family enjoys camping, hiking, and connecting with friends over homemade pizzas and campfires. They also enjoy attending Lifest, an annual Christian music festival held in Oshkosh. They hosted an exchange student from Spain for a summer and love to

travel as a family to visit friends that live far away. They also remain close to the friends they have made at Nativity.

“We value the relationships that have grown from being a part of the faith community at Nativity, such as finding holy godparents for our children,” Kim said.

The Thirys gained inspiration from Kim’s Grandpa George, who lived to be 99½ and Mark’s Grandma Viola, who lived to age 91.

Both of George’s parents were deaf, and George lost a son at age 9 to leukemia and a daughter at age 18 in a car accident. Viola was 11 when her mother died during childbirth, and Viola was14 when she got married. Besides having seven of her own children, including a 3-year-old who died of pneumonia, Viola took in other children in the poor community where they lived.

“In spite of all their hardships in life, they remained faithful until they passed from this life,” Kim said. It’s just another example of ordinary people living lives of extraordinary faith.