Pax Christi award finalist Tricia Pieper, a parishioner at St. Patrick’s in Hudson, stands with chaplain Fr. Jim Brinkman and Bishop James P. Powers during the Superior Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s 2022 convention. (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

For Tricia Pieper, a member of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and employee of the parish school, being nominated for the Council of Catholic Women’s Pax Christi award was an “eye-opener.”

She was particularly touched to learn that the suggestion for her nomination came from their pastor, Fr. John Gerritts, who is also her boss. Pieper teaches art and computers at the school and also helps out with communication and technology needs for the school and parish.
Pieper said it can be “a hard line to draw – where my job ends and volunteering begins,” and the nomination process gave her a chance to pause and reflect on the trajectory her life and service at St. Patrick’s has followed.

“We don’t even realize when we’re making an impact,” Pieper said, noting how often she simply is trying to use her gifts and talents to serve without realizing that the Holy Spirit is impacting others’ lives through her.

“For me personally, it’s been a really neat experience to reflect and see where God has led me – step by step,” she affirmed. She added that she has great peace and gratitude for having been allowed to use her gifts and talents in an environment that allows her to simultaneously serve God and build faith.

“I could never use them in the public venue like I have been able to at St. Pat’s,” she said. “God had a plan.”

Pieper is in her 23rd year teaching. Over the course of her time at the Hudson parish, she has used her art education major, combined with a gift for technology and communication, all while sharing her passion for the Catholic faith.

“I was put on this planet to be a teacher,” Pieper said, adding, “definitively, and I dabble in other things.”

She mentioned that her comfort level and relationship with her pastor, Fr. Gerritts, is “huge” and allows her to make herself available where needed.

Although Pieper was raised Catholic and in a family where living the faith was about more than going to church on Sunday – even while on vacation – she almost walked away from the faith at the age of 30. Thanks to her sister, who invited her to study and learn about the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith, Pieper’s passion for it grew, and she went “all in.”

She considers herself a re-vert, and while she never actually walked away from her faith, diving deeper into understanding it allowed her to develop greater convictions for the church’s teachings and more fully embrace a broader role as teacher and mentor, especially for young people.

She spent years dedicated to faith formation and youth ministry, including leading mission trips to Guatemala and being involved with local ecumenical Christian ministry with young people.

Some of those youths are now in college and are still grateful for Pieper’s influence. The dossier for her Pax Christi nomination included experiences relayed by youths:

“She taught us to never settle or compromise on our faith for anything in the world.” “My identity is solely and will only truly ever be a daughter of God.” “Her wisdom and support have helped me grow into the man I am today, one still strong in my faith even in a world in which young men are taught to focus on worldly pleasures.”

Having always loved the outdoors, Pieper has led youth trips into the Boundary Waters. When you get out in nature, she said, “It’s just about the beauty, no matter what struggles you’re facing at home.”

“Praying and paddling,” Pieper summarized these favorite weeks of summer. The trips are also times of solidifying relationships that support in the living of faith back in everyday life.

That coherence of life and balance are aspects Pieper lived growing up as one of three children in Bloomington, Minnesota. Her parents moved to Rice Lake after she graduated high school. She said both parents complemented each other very well in raising their children and the family is strong in their faith and close with each other.

Pieper has never married and has never felt called to religious life. She has always been open to God’s plan but has never let wondering if there’s a husband waiting for her somewhere to cause her to lose focus on following God’s will in the present moment.

“I wanted to show my students, girls especially, that you could live this happy, holy, chaste single life in the church,” she stated. “I get so frustrated with vocations programs that do not include the single life.”
Her experience has been that by focusing on “fully embracing the present moment, I can enjoy where God has me.”

She doesn’t live with a sense of waiting for the next thing to happen and knows that, if there is someone out there she is meant to meet and share life with, God will bring him to her through living the same life of dedication and service that he has created her to live while being true to herself and her relationship with him, her church and school community.

“I’m living the life God has made clear I am called to today,” Pieper said.

She recognizes that if she were married, or even part of a religious community, she would not have the time and attention to give to the young people she serves. Her advice for others is, “Enjoy where God has you in this moment. He has a mission for you today.”