Pax Christi finalist Kathleen Carli stands with Bishop James P. Powers after lunch at the Diocese of Superior CCW’s joint convention in Duluth. (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles featuring finalists for the Superior Diocese Council of Catholic Women’s 2018 Pax Christi award. Finalists were recognized May 22 at the annual SDCCW convention, held jointly in Duluth with the Diocese of Duluth’s CCW. The Pax Christi recognizes devout and hardworking women in the diocese.

Kathleen Carli, a member of Sacred Heart parish in Radisson, accepted her nomination for the Council of Catholic Women’s highest honor without having had prior involvement with the council. Her selection as a finalist witnesses to part of the CCW’s mission statement: “The SDCCW is about being involved with a group of faith-filled women who live out their Catholic faith and values through action.”

When she was a young teen, Carli’s mother died. She and her brother’s father raised them in the upstairs of a Milwaukee duplex; her aunts and grandfather lived downstairs. The close-knit family connections were important to the young woman.

Carli met her future husband working at Allis-Chalmers after high school. Married and raising a family of four children, the Carlis moved various times. While living in New London and with a job change on the horizon, the couple prayed for God’s direction.

In what Carli calls “an overwhelming experience,” that many might not believe, “the reality of God just hit so strongly.” They felt deeply moved to give God everything – in the words of her husband, “we’ll go anywhere and do anything.”

They were led to the small town of Radisson, leaving everything behind for a place they’d never heard of and without employment. In time, the Carlis would open a woodworking business they ran for 25 years before retiring. Kathleen’s husband, Andy, a degreed engineer, currently serves as president of the village of about 200.

The finalist admitted the move was a “pretty shaky” experience for their four children, school age at the time.

“It was a learning experience,” she said. Acknowledging their children wondered what had gotten into their parents, she added, “God calls you to His timing … We were just young Christians and believed.”

Without prior experience with the Charismatic movement, the couple did not understand their experience with the Holy Spirit. They supported each other, having both received a clear sense of God’s love and providence.

In Carli’s words, “If you just let him; you can’t out-give God, you can’t. We just believed God, we just believed him. We had blind faith at the time.”
Their family members expressed concern about their decision at first. There were hard times and uncertainties, but Carli added, “We never were without food or a roof over our heads.”

There were times the family lived off bare essentials. Not mincing words, she said, “It was very scary – I think probably if I hadn’t had such an overwhelming experience (of God), we would have run.”

Even the lack of understanding and support the Carlis felt at sharing their experience with some priests did not sway their resolve to follow what they clearly felt had been God’s direction. They lived with “the Lord as our shepherd,” at the same time acknowledging that no two paths are alike and that God’s call is always personal and unique.

There were also many moments God’s providence stepped in. Carli was careful to say that God doesn’t “step in for our irresponsibility,” but that there were many times, trying to do their part humanly and trusting Him, that exactly what was needed was gifted in one way or another.

She admits there were many times she wondered how God was working through it all. Her children did wish they could have things other children had. In a recent family conversation, they laughed about stories from growing up and Carli sees that overall it was “a great blessing.” She sees the character her children developed and how appreciative they are of the things they have and what they provide for their own families.

Mentioning another of her personal greatest blessings, Carli shared that, at age 40 when her youngest child was 12, she discovered she was pregnant. Initially shocked, she said, “Along came our precious Katie, which has been a joy beyond belief.”

Recalling the Mother Teresa quote about faithfulness over success, Carli said, “God doesn’t call to an easy life, but to detach from our securities.”
Her surrender to God’s providence opened Carli to seeing the needs of others around her. She started the Shepherd’s Hand food pantry in Radisson and ran it for 12 years before it evolved into the Harvest of Friends pantry located in Winter.

With joy and lift in her voice, Carli affirmed that she and her husband still “pray about everything – where we should go, what we should do … God has been so good – all these years he guides still, every day.”