Pax Christi finalist Sara Hunt, of Immaculate Conception Parish in Grantsburg, receives a congratulatory gift during Mass at the Superior’s Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s Convention in June. Hunt shared that she “had a great time in Medford. Everybody was so kind and considerate at Holy Rosary. They did a great job, and everybody felt very welcome, and I was honored to be there.” (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

Editor’s note: This is one of a series of articles featuring finalists for the Superior Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s 2019 Pax Christi Award.

Sara Hunt, a parishioner at Immaculate Conception in Grantsburg, was nominated for the Pax Christi award by her parish’s Council of Catholic Women. In their nomination dossier, the women spoke of their long-time president with a quote attributed to Mother Teresa: “Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”

In their own words, “You never meet our candidate without her greeting you with a smile, kind words and/or a hug. She is interested in each person and takes times to listen to whatever they have to say. At the end of the encounter, you are left feeling worthwhile and appreciated.”

Since the second grade, Hunt never wanted to be anything but a teacher. She believes you can never do too much when it comes to helping children, and working with them should mirror how God works with us – as an individual.

Hunt, who grew up in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, graduated from the College of St. Theresa in Winona as an elementary education major. Early on in her teaching career, she became “hooked on” Montessori education. Most of her working years were spent between Montessori classrooms at Visitation Catholic School in Mendota Heights, and Forest Lake Montessori School, which she co-founded in 1973.

“The children are the important part of the room and their interaction with the materials,” she said.

She also implemented this interactive style in an after-school reading program at her local library, where volunteers read and worked one-on-one with students.

The finalist is currently involved with her local public school’s backpack food program. Volunteers pack food items children can easily prepare for themselves over the weekend; “stuff kids can make if parents aren’t available.”

The program is discreetly carried out, especially for high school students, but Hunt calls it a “worthy cause.

“It means a lot for those kids to know people care – more important than the food itself,” she said. “Each child needs to be affirmed individually.”

Hunt moved to the Grantsburg area with her husband in 2000. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2018.

“I’m lucky. He’s a wonderful person … very kind and with a good sense of humor,” Hunt shared but acknowledged their life has not always been easy. The couple’s youngest daughter was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 5.

“You just do what you have to do,” she said. That included a lot of praying, but also trust and putting the situation in God’s hands.

“There are hard times, but all in all we really love each other,” she said.

Confessing that she takes things more seriously and her husband’s take on things is usually that nothing is that awful or hard, Hunt said they balance each other. She wondered whether her being the oldest child and her husband the youngest has helped.

“I’m very, very lucky,” Hunt repeated, then clarified, “very blessed, and grateful.”

The Catholic faith was always important to her, but in recent years, devotions and Mass have taken a more prominent role.

“Lately I’m more aware of how important Mass is and (the need to be) prepared for that,” Hunt shared.

“Everyone needs some quiet time during the day – to focus on God, what to do better, what to say no to,” the nominee said. She starts each day with a dedicated time of prayer.

Having never been involved with the Council of Catholic Women prior to moving to the Northwoods, Hunt began attending the meetings as noted in the church bulletin. After only a few years, she was asked to take over as the parish’s CCW president in 2007.

Of her fellow members, Hunt said, “They are wonderful women, and I love every one of them. They are fantastic to work with. We do a lot together.”

Describing the group as a “rock in the community,” she continued, “The priests do come and go, but the CCW stays.”

Hunt acknowledged the similar role many other parishioners play in a parish’s stability, but also gave a nod to the challenge it is for younger adults, especially those with children, to be involved in church activities and ministries.

“It is an issue,” she said in regards to getting more women and younger women involved in the Council.

Watching her own two daughters, each with children of their own, Hunt said, “I know how busy they are as parents.”

It’s “run, run, run … go, go, go,” juggling sports schedules, practice times, school, work and home responsibilities.

Even retirees and grandparents are “very, very busy, too,” Hunt said.

She shared that people told her that once she retired from teaching, “you’ll be too busy to go to work.”

Hunt has found this to be “absolutely true” saying, this “should be the time we have to volunteer and do extra things.”

“The whole of life is learning,” Hunt said. In her own experience, “More in-depth learning as we get older.”