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I Help Those Who Help Others
by Dorothy Humanitzki

28 Jun 2002 – Checking out a bulletin board in the rear of St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Milwaukee one day some 30 years ago, Dennis Manders saw a notice that would have a profound effect on his life. It was a brief announcement about Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) and it summarized the work of this agency of the Vatican based in New York. He was impressed with the scope of CNEWA’s outreach to the churches in the Holy Land, Ethiopia and India. He took down the address and promised himself that he would write for more information.

The fact that he followed through on his promise would leave an indelible mark on at least 40 men and women whose lives would be changed by this unassuming man.

Looking over the packet of material he received from CNEWA, Mr. Manders saw that the greatest need of the church in these countries was to train its own young men and women to become priests and religious. By relying on nationals rather than “importing” missionaries, the roots of the faith would grow deeper. Mr. Manders readily responded by sending his first contribution toward the education of seminarians.

Mr. Manders credits his parents, who are both deceased, with giving him and his sister a firm foundation in the Catholic faith. The children attended parochial grade school in Milwaukee, and his sister joined the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1948.

While he himself did not don the habit, Mr. Manders has in other ways given his life to serving the church. For the past 38 years, he has worked at the main post office in Milwaukee. He began working there in the 1960’s, when much of the processing of mail was done by hand. Today, “the system is fully automated,” he says, and he has been a part of this evolution.

During the busy season, such as at Christmas and around holidays, it is not unusual for him to work a 12-hour day seven days a week. When there is a hiring freeze, he is often called in to work extra hours. He has never had a sick day, and he is grateful for his good health.

His usual shift begins at 4 a.m. and, because the transit system in Milwaukee shuts down at night, he walks to work, though he does admit to living about a mile from the post office. He does not own a car.

And what does he do with all the overtime pay? Years ago he decided to donate this money to serving others. CNEWA has been the main recipient of his generosity. He has not kept a record of the number of men and women who are now priests and religious because of his monetary gifts, but he estimates the number “at about 40.”

Mr. Manders is unmarried and “lives modestly,” he says. He considers the cathedral his parish, and while the church has been undergoing renovation, he has been attending Mass in the gymnasium of the old school. He sees his friends spending money on late-model cars, SUVs, expensive boats and trips to Las Vegas. “That’s O.K. for them,” he says, “if that’s what they want.” He, on the other hand, is happy supporting the church abroad. “I like to help those who are helping others,” he says.

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