Kathy Laird has something in common with a Catholic cardinal.
Laird, who recently retired as the director of the archdiocesan Office of Marriage, Family and Life, was honored earlier this week by Relevant Radio with its Christ Brings Hope Award.
The Catholic broadcasting company created the award last year and gave it to Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago. This year, the company decided to give an award in this archdiocese and chose Laird.
“She’s just done a marvelous job over the years on family and marriage, and that’s core to what we talk about on the radio on a daily basis,” said Father Francis Hoffman (“Father Rocky”), executive director of Relevant Radio, which has its headquarters in Green Bay. “We really wanted to emphasize and promote this important work going on right now, which she has done.”
Laird, who will turn 74 in June and celebrated 50 years of marriage to her husband, Stewart, last fall, will continue to serve as a consultant to the office and to her replacement, Jean Stolpestad, and will help out with other archdiocesan projects.
Family work a privilege
“I have been privileged over the years that I have worked for the archdiocese to have done something that I loved, with a special emphasis on the family,” she said. “I have met some wonderful people, people who are struggling with incredible things, everything from children with special needs to people who come from a great deal of brokenness. But, I have met Christ in each one, and it has only strengthened my faith.”
For one year, Laird served in the office part time. Then, in 1997, she came on board full time, and went to work developing programs to help catechize people in their faith. She expressed satisfaction with office initiatives like marriage prep, a mentoring program for couples, family frums, natural family planning, and youth ministry. She was especially pleased to be able to offer a program for youth regarding sexuality called “All in God’s Plan.”
“Through the years, I ran into many people who knew that they should be talking to their children about this great gift, but didn’t know where to begin,” she said.
Always, she noted, the emphasis in any program in her office was on helping people learn and understand church teaching in a way that would improve their lives.
“Ultimately, the church puts down the guidelines she does and the rules that she does because she wants us to thrive,” Laird said. “It’s not about changing other people, it’s about changing yourself. Love is always the answer, but love doesn’t give us free license.”
Laird jokes that people might look at someone her age and say “she should have been out of there a long time ago.” But, people like Father Rocky see many useful gifts at work that are not at all diminished by the fact that she worked past the normal retirement age.
“The first thing that strikes me about Kathy is she is a very upbeat person, very joyful,” he said. “Secondly, she’s very energetic. Third, she has great ideas.”
Yet, Laird is hesitant to take the credit. She points to the support she has received both from Archbishop John Nienstedt and Archbishop Harry Flynn, who hired her in 1996.
“There are a large number of people who are more worthy [of the award],” she said. “But, if this, in some way, can be used to make a difference, I’m all for it.
“It’s not about the award, it’s about the chance to reach out and do more for others…. The Lord knows my heart, and I think the people I’ve worked with do, too.”