Julianne Stanz is the director of discipleship and parish life for the Diocese of Green Bay and for the past 10 years has also served as consultant to the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis. She has written four books and regularly speaks throughout the country on topics of faith, spirituality, parenting and theology. Her newest book is inspired by her Irish heritage and entitled Braving the Thin Places: Celtic Wisdom to Create a Space for Grace, published by Loyola Press. Her husband Wayne has worked in the areas of law enforcement and juvenile court and school administration. He currently teaches at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in the Public Safety Department, more specifically in the field of substance abuse. They have three children.
With both of you engaged in ministries of service, what advice do you have for couples who struggle to find balance in life?
Julianne: For the past 20 years, I have ministered in diocesan and parish settings in the areas of adult faith formation, catechesis, evangelization and discipleship. My schedule can be unpredictable at times, especially during the Lenten season when I offer parish missions, days of reflection and formation events. Early in our relationship, we spent time discussing our faith, how our values aligned and how we were going to prioritize faith and family. Wayne and I realized that our vocation to marriage was the foundation from which we would build our family and our lives. We decided that our family maxim would be Mother St. Teresa’s line — live simply so that others may simply live — to reflect the simplicity that we were striving for in all areas of our lives. Wayne’s schedule allows him to be home during the day, as he works evenings. This means that our children have always been with us, which has been a great blessing for our family. During busier times of the year, when we are on the go, it is incredibly important to make sure that we have quality time built into our week. It really is the little things sometimes — Wayne makes me a cup of tea every morning, and we always find time at the end of the day to pray and reflect together.
Wayne: My path has taken me from law enforcement to juvenile court and included school administration and male mentoring. These professions all may seem unrelated, but at the heart of each of these professions is a focus on relationships and the people we are serving. That’s where Julianne and I find common ground — we care deeply about making a difference in our world and see this as a natural outgrowth of our Catholic faith. I see what we do as very similar — Julianne and I minister to people who are searching for faith and or for their purpose in life.
While Julianne’s ministry prepares people to live their faith out in the world, my ministry helps those who are struggling in life to find meaning and purpose specifically with those struggling with substance abuse issues. A common theme with all those we meet is the brokenness at the heart of the world and within each of us.
Let’s talk about that brokenness, how do you help and accompany individuals and families who are experiencing brokenness?
Julianne: I often say that “hospitality, healing and hope” are the keys to walking with people who are experiencing any form of brokenness. All of us are broken in some way but those who reconcile their suffering and brokenness to the cross of Jesus Christ find great comfort and peace. Providing a welcoming space where people are treated as Christ would treat them, receiving them with love and care and practicing deep listening help people to open up and share what is weighing on their hearts.
Speaking healing words, offering prayer and encouraging them to find comfort in their Catholic faith (particularly the sacraments), are incredible avenues for healing our woundedness. Lastly, I don’t think we should be afraid to speak the sacred name of Jesus, which holds power. We often are afraid as Catholics to talk about our own personal faith, but while faith is personal, it is not meant to be private.
Wayne: Two keys for me in helping individuals and families with any form of brokenness are “acceptance and accountability.” I meet many people who struggle with finding purpose in life and avoiding responsibility. This often leads to situations where people are not held accountable for their actions, and, unfortunately, the brokenness increases throughout their life rather than decreases. Many times it is a sense of overwhelming fear and shame that paralyzes them from accepting what is happening in their lives. I have personally seen that those who have faith, even when they encounter tremendous struggles, can find a way to bring meaning to their suffering and find a way to overcome it. For those without faith, I have witnessed how difficult it is for them to find a meaningful path forward that leads to true happiness and positive change.
Given these realities, how do you find time to stay healthy and balanced?
Julianne: It is always a struggle to have everything “perfectly” balanced in life. We try our best to care for our family and each other with devotion and sensitivity. Wayne and I recognize when one of us is in need of rest and renewal. Wayne is very good about telling me when he thinks I need to rest and put my feet up since I have a lot of energy! I also love to take the time to spend the whole day in my kitchen cooking and baking Irish scones when I need a complete break from anything ministry-related. Our kitchen is the heart of our home. We have many visitors to our home and entertain all kinds of people — bishops, priests, monks, sisters and people from all walks of life. Hospitality is such an important part of my culture and Wayne and I love to share our home and be hospitable. But we also value quiet time and just being together. In terms of ministry, once the “doing” for God outweighs “being with God,” we are on thin ice. Quiet prayer, adoration and Lectio Divina always help me to reset that balance between doing and being.
Wayne: A strong faith secures a strong marriage and a strong home. We can sometimes work long hours, so quality time is a priority. We pray as a family every day and enjoy the simple pleasures of doing jigsaw puzzles, game nights and movie nights. Supporting each other’s need for self-care is also very important. A short drive or a short hike can be all we need to get back on track and count our blessings. Communication is a huge part of maintaining our balance. We check in with each other throughout the day and always find time to talk through areas where we feel like we need to devote extra time and attention. We recognize the value of healthy choices whether it comes to our diet, exercise, sleep or faith and are pretty disciplined in this regard.
For couples from very different cultures and backgrounds, how do you stay aligned on the big issues in life?
Julianne: When I moved to the United States, there were parts of life in Wisconsin that were a surprise — particularly the winters! We have very specific faith traditions in Ireland with respect to food, prayer, beliefs and practices that help me to stay connected to and nourished by my Irish heritage. Wayne and I decided upon the traditions that we wanted to share with our children and how they would shape our lives. For example, teaching our children about the witness of the early Christian saints of Ireland such as St. Brigid and St. Patrick has deepened our faith and family life. I also have learned new traditions here in the United States and how to integrate them into our home lives. I had never celebrated Thanksgiving until I came here, but now it is an important part of our family as Wayne has some unique traditions with respect to Thanksgiving (clue: Thanksgiving often falls in the middle of the deer hunt in Wisconsin).
Wayne: Julianne brings the perspective of the “wider world” than what I initially grew up with. This has allowed us to travel together to some beautiful places. We hope to take our children to Lourdes one day. Since I met Julianne, I have had a greater sense of my family heritage and have been doing quite a bit of genealogy research into my roots. I feel that our ability to give our children another worldly perspective and greater exposure to other cultures and traditions is a significant blessing, and that, in turn, has enriched our home and our faith lives.
How do you both still find the capacity to give to each other and children when much of your work is pouring yourselves out for others?
Julianne: My greatest joy in life is being a wife and mother. Wayne is my rock and our home is our sanctuary and place of security. It is where we find peace and regain our strength to get up and pour ourselves out for others each day. We come home and we are filled. We go to Mass and we are filled even more. There’s a lovely Irish expression that applies to our marriage, “He, She and Thee, all things in Three,” which emphasizes that in every relationship there are three people — husband, wife and God. The phrase “where there is love, there is life” is painted on our kitchen wall as a reminder that goodness begets goodness and for our family to continue to be open to the gift of life in God’s love.
Wayne: I often refer to our home as our “castle.” It’s a small house physically, but we have created a space of great peace and comfort. Thus, our “castle.” In addition, I often refer to how we live in a “bubble” in that we are intentional about weeding out distractions. We strive for a home free of many negative influences that are happening all around us: news, politics, world events and social media. When they are toxic, they can be obvious distractions that weaken individuals and families. For me, I am often rewarded with the classrooms of people that I meet endlessly. So many stories of pain and brokenness, all of which are constant reminders for me to be grateful for the wife and kids I have been blessed with. Mass is where we all go to reset and refocus on what is most important for us. We may be tired after a long week but sitting in Mass together reminds us how blessed we are, how much God loves us and how he is at the center of our lives.