Jonnie Vickery drew strength from St. John the Baptist Church when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 13 years ago and when her husband died three years ago.
As a parishioner at the Johnsburg church for 38 years this June, Vickery is looked at as a leader for other parishioners to turn to in times of need.
Throughout the years, Vickery has been involved in a variety of community charities and ministries supporting the elderly, grieving families and friends, and children’s education.
She serves as co-chairwoman of the church’s Ministry of Care for the Homebound and runs the Bereavement Ministry.
St. John parishioner Patti Hoeh nominated Vickery, 69, as an Everyday Hero for her “genuineness and ability to help others freely and willingly.”
“God doesn’t ask us to do big things,” Hoeh said, quoting Mother Teresa.
“He asks us to do small things with great love. And that’s what I see in [Vickery]. She’s not about doing something for something in return. It’s very selfless and very genuine.”
Vickery, of Spring Grove, began as a preschool teacher at St. John the Baptist Catholic School before moving over to the parish office, working to help cover private school tuition costs for her daughter and two sons.
Vickery found support from the church throughout the most difficult years.
While she stayed at a treatment center for ovarian cancer, Vickery still remembers the encouragement she received from the Catholic schoolchildren.
“I got a manila envelope with ‘get well’ cards from the schoolkids,” she said.
“That was the best part I got while I was sick. So we try to do that too with the Homebound ministry.”
When her husband, David, died 3½ years ago, the church provided grief counseling.
“[The ministry] becomes part of your family,” she said. “They really are. You take care of each others’ needs.”
Vickery offered crucial support for Hoeh and her husband a year ago when a close friend died.
“It was very devastating, and we were sort of stuck in the grieving process,” Hoeh said. “This was a friend we’ve known since kindergarten. And [Vickery] came and helped us through the grieving process, which we truly appreciated. She helped ease the pain.
“She’s easy to talk to and meet. She offers herself very freely. If she thinks somebody’s having a problem or needs some support, she’ll fix them a meal and take it to their house.”
Vickery, as a cancer survivor, looks at her role as a spiritual calling and considers herself fortunate to help those in need.
“I get more out of it than I give. It’s just the fact that I can be God’s ear, Jesus’ presence on Earth in helping people,” she said.
“I can do His work. I enjoy that. It’s the satisfaction of helping people, kind of like helping your child and seeing them grow.”
The Vickery lowdown
Who is she? Volunteer at St. John the Baptist Church in Johnsburg
Hobbies: yard work in the summertime, crafts, baking
Favorite plants: geraniums, spring flowers including daffodils
Favorite movie: “The Wizard of Oz”
Favorite book: Anything by James Patterson
Favorite hymn: “On Eagle’s Wings”