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John and Mary Mickus receive the 2017 Kucera Catholic Leadership Award

Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on December 15, 2017 at 11:50 AM

On December 13, 2017, John and Mary Mickus received the 4th annual Kucera Catholic Leadership Award. The Kucera Catholic Leadership Award is given to individuals in our region who have demonstrated leadership in the Catholic Church by extraordinarily serving others as people in whom Christ is received. John and Mary Mickus both worked some decades at Benedictine University, Mary as the education coordinator of the Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum, and John as Professor of Biology and eventually Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.


Abbot Austin's introduction remarks in the presentation of the award to John and Mary Mickus:


The Archbishop Daniel W. Kucera Catholic Leadership Award was begun four years ago. Archbishop Daniel died this past May and, so, this is the first year we are giving the award not only in his honor, but also in his memory.

Archbishop Daniel was a monk of St. Procopius Abbey who used his talents to serve the Church generously in many ways. As our community’s fifth abbot, he led our community through an important time of transition.

Archbishop Daniel also served as president of our college, Benedictine University, then called Illinois Benedictine College. After this, he served as an auxiliary bishop of the Joliet Diocese from 1977 to 1980. In 1980, Archbishop Daniel was asked to serve as the bishop of Salinas, KS, and then, in 1984, he was installed as the archbishop of Dubuque, IA. He finished his term as archbishop in Dubuque in 1996.

The Kucera Catholic Leadership Award is for a Catholic in our region who has demonstrated leadership in the Church by extraordinarily serving others as people in whom Christ is received.


Now, to begin introducing this year's recipients, let me note that one of the blessings that has been enjoyed by the Diocese of Joliet has been its Catholic schools. And a large factor in the success of these schools has been its educators -- some priests, some men and women religious, and some lay persons. Tonight's recipients of the Archbishop Daniel Kucera Catholic leadership award are a married couple who have done much for Catholic education in our area, particularly through their work at Benedictine University.

Mary Mickus served for two decades as education coordinator at the Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum at Benedictine University. If you do not know it, the Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum is a little gem in DuPage County, offering in a small space an amazing collection of specimens -- animals, insects, and all things biological or concerning natural history. Over the decades, many thousands of school children have visited the museum and learned from it. This was thanks to Mary's work. As education coordinator, she coordinated this educational outreach of the museum with focus, hardwork, determination, and good organization. Also, after she finished serving as education coordinator, Mary served for many years on the advisory board of the Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum.

In his apostolic exhortation, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, St. John Paul II speaks of the mission of a Catholic university. When people think of this mission, they often think of what is taught and how it is taught in the classroom. Sure enough, this is at the heart of a Catholic university's mission. But St. John Paul II also says that the mission of a Catholic university includes serving the local community from its intellectual and other resources. Mary Mickus contributed especially to this part of the mission of Benedictine University, working so that the wonderful collection at the Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum would be an educational resource to the wider community.

Mary's husband, John, contributed to the mission of a Catholic university especially in the classroom. John Mickus served as a biology professor at Benedictine University from 1978 to 2011. There he earned the respect of his colleagues. In his 33 years at Benedictine University, he would serve as departmental chair twice and also as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. To the expertise he had in his field, John brought a genuine concern for his students. He was known to work patiently with students, helping them in and outside the classroom.

I have often heard it said by experienced educators that students remember how you taught them more than what you taught them. There is no doubt that what John taught his students was of high quality and substance. Their success in their chosen fields bears witness to the quality of his instruction. But John is also remembered for how he taught -- namely, with a gentle, caring soul that truly sought the well-being of his students.

John and Mary first met in Carbondale, IL, and have been married since 1971. They are members of St. Joseph Parish in Downers Grove. It is my pleasure to give this year's Kucera Catholic Leadership award to John and Mary Mickus.

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