May 18-24, 2006
Two Shining Stars
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Two Central New York Women Make their Mark in the Community
“When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.”
Central New York and beyond has been illuminated by the contributions of Jane Pigott and Therese Schoeneck. Both women have dedicated their time and energy to bettering the community in which they live.
Jane Pigott, a long-time parishioner of Holy Cross Church in DeWitt, is extensively involved in her community. A woman of strong faith, Pigott said she wasn’t always so committed. It wasn’t until after she met her husband James that she began to grow in her faith. “I owe my religion to my husband,” commented Pigott. At the beginning of their marriage, Pigott’s husband, a devout Catholic, greatly influenced her. She relates how, after moving from Washington, D.C. to DeWitt 35 years ago, every morning she used to wake up to a bird singing the same song outside her window. Consequently, Pigott began to attend church daily. “I thought the Good Lord was telling me that that was what he wanted,” explained Pigott. “He works in strange ways.”
As a member of the Rosary Rally Committee of Greater Syracuse, Pigott has given talks at almost every church in Upstate New York concerning the importance of praying the rosary every day. “The rosary will bring peace to the world,” she said. “The Blessed Mother has asked that people pray the rosary every day in order to bring peace to the world. If she’s promised that, how can we afford not to?” From 1975-1985, Pigott served as coordinator for the International Rosary March, which takes place every year on the first Sunday in May and October. During the march, people from all over the world pray the rosary at the same time.
Pigott is the founder and director of the Right to Life organization in Syracuse, and without her hard work and determination, it would not be in existence today. The organization got its start in 1969, when Pigott was traveling to a Rosary Rally meeting in Utica. While listening to the radio, she heard that abortion was going to be legalized. “I was so upset I could hardly talk,” said Pigott. “I spoke with a mother and daughter at the meeting who said that they had heard about the Society for the Protection of the Unborn organization located in the southern part of the U.S.”
After attempting to start a Society for the Protection of the Unborn group in the Syracuse area, Pigott asked for help from the clergy at the chancery because she was unsuccessful in her attempt to reach the individuals she thought would be helpful in organizing a group. She had been praying on her own, but realized that her plan required additional people to pray for the support of the plan. As a result, Pigott secured the holy hour during the Feast of the Holy Innocents in order to pray the rosary. After praying the rosary, anesthesiologist Dr. Donald Bebak approached her. Pigott told him that she had tried to reach him numerous times because she had heard that he was a doctor who wouldn’t administer anesthesia for an abortion.
Pigott asked Bebak if he would come to her first meeting (even though she didn’t have one planned) on Jan. 21, which was her birthday. “I wanted to share my birthday with the babies who couldn’t have a life,” Pigott said. She quickly organized a meeting at Holy Cross Church by asking two nurse friends to attend, in addition to everyone she knew. “If you just let God use you, he does,” she remarked.
As director of the Right to Life organization today, her duties include calling the six officers of the organization to let them know of any upcoming meetings. “I’m the mother hen,” Pigott said. “We have excellent officers.”
Throughout the last 35 years, Pigott has given her time to many organizations. Every first Saturday of the month, she leads the Theresians in praying the rosary for vocations. She is also an officer for the Theresians group that meets the third Tuesday of each month at Christ the King Church in Liverpool. Pigott is also the former board member and chairman of volunteers for St. Joseph’s Hospital Auxiliary Guild, where she also serves as chairman of the Tuesday Tea.
Pigott presently serves as corresponding secretary for the Loretto Auxiliary Guild and has been a member of the Altar and Rosary Society at Holy Cross Church in DeWitt for the last 35 years. She has also served as vice president of the Syracuse University Alumni group and was a member of the Beta Phi Alpha, a national Catholic sorority at Syracuse University. Piggot has served as chairman for the Bellevue Golf Club Lady’s Nine-Hole group.
In 1998, the Alibrandi Center of Syracuse University honored Pigott with the St. Thomas Moore Award.
Another woman of great determination, Therese Schoeneck has made an indelible impression on the community. Through the process of grieving over the tragic death of her 21-year-old daughter, Mary in 1977, she founded the Hope for Bereaved support organization, of which she is director, in 1978. Schoeneck has been a parishioner of St. Patrick’s Church in Otisco for 35 years, has been married 52 years and has five children.
When her daughter died, Schoeneck felt she needed the support of other parents who had also suffered the loss of a child. She was then associate director of the diocesan Family Life Education Office. She approached director Father Joseph Phillips to ask him if a support group could be initiated. Father Phillips agreed it was a much-needed service and the first support group was organized.
Today, Hope for Bereaved helps almost 15,000 people and employs seven full-time and five part-time staff members. Over 400 volunteers enhance the organization. Out of Schoeneck’s personal pain, Hope for Bereaved, an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to helping grieving people cope with their grief and gain hope, was founded. Schoeneck said she couldn’t imagine a life without hope. Schoeneck said her faith is an integral part of everyday life as director at Hope for Bereaved. “I can’t imagine what my life would be like without faith,” she said. “Every day, I pray to my daughter. I pray, ‘Mary, help me to help them.’ Her life has made a difference for all of us. I appreciate life more. When you come out of the grieving process, your life is enriched.”
As director, Schoeneck serves as a support group facilitator, a consultant locally, nationally and internationally and a grief workshop presenter. “My favorite role is working as a co-facilitator of the parent support group,” said Schoeneck. “I am a parent myself and to see their pain soften and lessen is rewarding.”
Schoeneck’s has also edited the monthly Hope for Bereaved newsletter, co-sponsored the annual New York State Bereavement Conference, coordinated publicity and fundraising and managed the office. Schoeneck also attends bereavement conferences and workshops and writes the “Dear Friends” section in the monthly newsletter. She has created a program designed to help children six and under learn how to cope with grief.
Schoeneck has written the book Hope for Bereaved: Understanding, Coping and Growing Through Grief, which has been widely read in the U.S., Australia, Canada and Ireland. Other community involvement includes serving on the Le Moyne College Alumni Awards Committee and as a member of the board of directors for the Tribute Foundation (funeral directors). Among the awards Schoneck has received is the Catholic Charities Community Award, the U.S. Dept. of Justice Award for Public Service and the New York State Senate Women of Distinction Award. Additionally, Schoeneck and her husband serve as Eucharistic ministers at St. Patrick’s, their home parish. “We love being a part of St. Pat’s,” said Schoeneck.
Schoeneck has given of herself from the time she was a young woman. During World War II, she participated in the Girl War Helpers group. While attending Le Moyne College, she participated in a program that provided religious education to underprivileged children. “I’m always trying to give back,” she said.