Persons, places and things: Renewal Day is a joy for people with disabilities, volunteers

Barb Arland-Fye
A participant sings during a renewal day for persons with disabilities at Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport Feb. 25.

By Barb Arland-Fye

Mary Ann introduced herself at the renewal day for persons with disabilities by telling people, “I look just like Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island.” She does not look like Mary Ann from the popular


1960s sitcom but if wanting to look like her gives this Mary Ann joy, that’s OK at renewal day, known for spontaneity and joy.

Our Lady of Victory Parish has hosted the annual renewal day since 2005, except for a two-year break because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re back,” said coordinator Karen Kilburg, wearing a smile of satisfaction on her face Feb. 25.


Renewal day follows a well-tested format — introductions, naming of tables, music, short talks, crafts, lunch prepared with love by parishioner Jan Tappa and volunteers, more music, crafts and talks. This year, spontaneity kicked into high gear as participants explored how to “Be a Better Me in 2023.” Bishop Thomas Zinkula joined the fun, stopping at each table to chat.

Some participants got up to sing with the renewal day band, “The Voices of Victory,” including Mary Ann. She exhorted everyone to join her as she sang “Goodnight, Irene” in memory of her mother, adlibbing hilarious lyrics that extended her performance. “Anyone want to join me for round two?” she asked. Everyone in the room raised their hands.

Later, volunteer Lynn Olds of Our Lady of Victory, started a conga line that grew as participants got up from their tables to join in. The band played, “When the Saints Go Marching In,” yelling out, “one more time,” to keep the enthusiastic conga line going. Among the “marching saints” was Father Andrew Rauenbuehler, parochial vicar for Our Lady of Victory.

Father Rauenbuehler, one of the speakers, spoke with a sense of wonder about the gifts of God’s creation and helped participants explore how to grow to love Jesus more and to give thanks for all of God’s blessings, including themselves. “Thank you God for everything you have given me. It can be as simple as that.”

Parishioner Charlie Jones, the day’s first speaker, asked participants to consider how they can help their families and how to be better friends to others. He shared examples from his childhood and from observing his grandchildren helping around the house. Participants shared their own examples. “I help with the laundry,” Theresa said. Richard “put the clothes away.” Someone else takes out the garbage and recycling.

Robert and Jeanette Puetz of Port Byron, Illinois, gave a talk about making a difference for others, even people they might not know. Open a door for someone, say thank you when someone does something nice for you, praise other people for their good work, pray for others, they suggested. “We all need prayers,” the couple said.

Parishioner Josh Riesberg, 18, volunteers at renewal day because he appreciates the caring attitude of everyone. “It’s a super wholesome event. It’s a good feeling to see everyone is in a good mood.” His brothers Andrew, 15, and Isaac, 12, and their mom, Angela Riesberg, also volunteered. Volunteering is a family affair at renewal day, including Kilburg’s family, who help behind the scenes. “My goal has been for this to be a family event,” Kilburg said. “Volunteers participate together, go home and remember it as something they’ve enjoyed doing as a family.” The participants become like family, too.

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at

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