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April 9, 2009

Contact Pat Kerrigan at 608-796-3041 or


 LA CROSSE, Wis. – Herb Heili, a health care industry veteran, leadership mentor, and strong proponent on behalf of organ donation programs, and Most Reverend Robert Morneau of Green Bay, nationally known for his inspirational writings, poetry, and stewardship, are the recipients of the 2009 Pope John XXIII Award for Distinguished Service.

The award banquet and ceremony will be held Tuesday, May 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center.

Heili feels an enormous sense of gratitude to be present to receive his award. That’s because less than a decade ago, he was suffering from chronic heart disease and near death when he received a heart transplant on New Year’s Eve 2001. Having learned about the subject of transplants in this very personal way, these days he spends considerable time educating the public about organ donation programs. Recently, he won a gold medal and three other medals in the U.S. Transplant Games held in Pittsburgh which he indicates was a way he could thank donor families for the gift of life they bring to others at a difficult time when they are experiencing the death of their loved one. Heili is retired from Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center where he concluded a 42 year career in health care that included leadership positions at several pharmaceutical firms including Lederle Laboratories and Searle.

Throughout his career he has been recognized for his leadership, communication skills and ability to develop productive work teams.

He is currently at Viterbo working with the university on new initiatives and projects associated with the nursing program.

Heili also shares a common bond with the other recipient, Bishop Morneau. Both attended St. Norbert College in De Pere and knew each other as classmates.

In addition to his responsibilities as auxiliary bishop, Robert Morneau is also pastor of Resurrection Parish in Green Bay.

Ordained a priest in 1966, Father Morneau became an Auxiliary Bishop in 1979. He was one of the first American priests to be named a bishop by the late Pope John Paul II.

A talented homilist, author, and poet, he is in demand all over the country. His published works even expand into children’s literature and include The Gift and A Tale from Paleface Creek. In 2003, he published his collection of poetry in a book titled Poems Thrown Into the Wind.

Many of his essays appear in such periodicals as U.S. Catholic, St. Anthony Messenger, America, and Emmanuel. In addition to writing, he gives retreats and lectures throughout the United States to lay groups as well as bishops and cardinals. He is considered the U.S. Catholic Church’s premier resource on stewardship.

He describes his ministry as this: “Priesthood has been a gift and a responsibility for me. As a gift, what a grace to be a part of so many people’s faith life. As a responsibility, it has brought a bundle of joys and sorrows, that is, a participation in the life of Jesus.”

The Pope John XXIII Award is the highest non-academic award bestowed by Viterbo University and previous recipients have included holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, and death penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean. The Viterbo University Board of Advisors determines recipients. Last year’s recipients were community volunteers John and Donna Hansen and the late educator Earl Madary.

Please call Chris Sanger at 608-796-3070 for banquet and ceremony ticket information.

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