Editor’s note: This is the last article in a series featuring finalists for the Superior Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s 2020 Pax Christi Award.
Michelle Rochel is inspired and motivated by St. Teresa of Calcutta’s efforts to “do small things with great love.”
“I try to instill that as part of my daily faith life,” Rochel said. “Whether it be saying good morning, sharing a compliment or doing a random act of kindness, it does not cost a penny, but can bring so much joy to others.”
A finalist for the SDCCW’s 2020 Pax Christi Award, Rochel is the principal of St. Anne School, Somerset, and an active member of her parish, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Farmington, as well as her local and diocesan Council of Catholic Women.
She and her husband, Steve, live in Osceola. Married almost 29 years, they have one grown son, Jason, and a rescue dog, Popeye.
Growing up, Rochel was the oldest of three children. Despite the challenges of divorce and financial strain, her mother remained strong in her faith, an example that deeply influenced her daughter.
It was also in childhood that Rochel discovered her talent for working with children and families.
“Throughout my life, God’s path has always drawn me to working with children,” she explained. “I started babysitting when I was in sixth grade. My 4-H projects included babysitting bags. People told me I was good with kids.”
Even as an accounting student, Rochel found herself helping a roommate with her education class projects.
“It is when I truly listened to God’s call that I understood where he needed me to best serve him and he put me in the place where I am most needed to do his work,” she added. “Working with children and families is my passion, and I couldn’t see myself in any other profession.”
In her 30 years at St. Anne, Rochel has taught first- and sixth-grade classes and middle school religion, science and social students. She was the dean of students for the middle school before she began pursuing her master’s of education degree, and she has been licensed as a principal since 2018.
“One of the most rewarding pieces of being a principal is the daily interaction I have with the entire student body,” she said. “Welcoming them each by name as they enter the building begins my day on the right foot. I also am blessed to start and end my day praying with the students and staff. I love listening to the many stories students share with me as well as showing me their wiggly, loose teeth or asking what song I am going to sing to them!”
Rochel’s many roles in her parish – she is a Eucharistic minister, lector, ministry coordinator, kitchen helper, auction clerk during the annual parish festival and involved in many church projects – include serving in CCW officer positions at the parish, deanery and diocesan levels.
“Being active in a parish CCW allows you to share your gifts and become closer to God through your faith in action,” she commented. “I have met many amazing women at the parish, deanery, province and national level because of my involvement in CCW. It is a beautiful thing to have this kind of faith connection with other women!”
Rochel, a self-described “lifelong learner,” loves to read. Another passion: travel.
“I am a summer girl and love being at the lake with family and friends,” she said. “I dream of vacationing to places that include white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. Someday, I would even like to visit Greece.”
She said she felt “humbled” and honored by both her nomination for the Pax Christi and being chosen as a finalist.
“Helping others is something I like doing, and I ask God to help me serve others as he has taught us to serve,” Rochel added. “All of us have gifts and talents to share with others.”