Katie Waldal, 2018 Pax Christi award winner, stands with Bishop James P. Powers at the Superior Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s joint convention. Waldal expressed gratitude for the bishop’s yes to his own mission. She said, “We could not be doing this work if it weren’t for the Church; we couldn’t be doing it if it weren’t for Christ.” Her husband, Scott, and youngest daughter, Catherin, accompanied her to Duluth for the convention. (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

Katie Waldal, a member of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Hudson, was named winner of the Superior Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s 2018 Pax Christi award at the joint convention with the Diocese of Duluth on May 22 in Duluth.

Waldal admitted thinking throughout the morning, “I’m not worthy” to be part of the group of finalists, as she was learning about “these amazing women and all the amazing things that they had accomplished.”

She “couldn’t believe it” when her name was announced as the winner. Extremely surprised and moved to tears, Waldal said, “(It was) humbling to be chosen.

“I’m just happy to be able to serve and walk in Jesus’ footsteps,” she said. “That’s what we’re called to do.”
Following in Jesus’ footsteps is something the mother of seven has sought since her own childhood.

Waldal, who was raised Protestant, became curious about the Catholic Church during preparation for Confirmation. As the pastor taught about church history, she found herself wondering why there were so many splits off the Catholic Church and where she fit in.

The pastor had explained that catholic meant universal. She asked herself, if we’re all Christian, why are we not all Catholic?

This curiosity progressed to desire during college. As a member of the UW-River Falls choir and chamber group, Waldal traveled throughout the United States and Europe singing at various churches, many of which were Catholic.

The oneness and universality of the Catholic Mass resonated with her. She shared, “No matter where you go, it’s unified.”

Waldal started attending St. Patrick’s Church in Hudson at the invitation of a friend.

“I just really felt at home, and at peace,” she said.

After a time, she started volunteering and felt confirmed in her call to the Catholic faith. During this same period, Waldal had a chance meeting with her future husband, who also happened to be a St. Patrick’s parishioner and choir member.

“We’ve pretty much been inseparable” since, she said. Katie and Scott were married the fall after she went through the RCIA program.

Waldal clarified that she did not convert because she was marrying a Catholic. In and of itself, she experienced her conversion as a true and personal calling.

Waldal acknowledges she has done many, and varied, things in the Church. Candidly, she also acknowledged them all as calls, not obligations, “not an ‘I have to.’”

She gives her husband half of the credit for her involvement – his supportiveness and teamwork in meeting their family’s needs, so she can serve other needs as well.

The couple – who have children ranging from infant to teenager – are intentional about prayer and discernment for their marriage and family.

Balancing her vocation of motherhood and various calls to ministry, Waldal shared that she experiences motherhood, “Yes, with my own kids, but also with other children … it takes a village.”

She gave the example of being asked to chaperone a high school discipleship weekend for Extreme Faith Camp training last spring.

“Scott and I literally had to sit down to pray about it and discern on it – whether it was important for me to be pulled away from my family for the weekend to be with these other youth, or be home with my own kids,” she added.

That time she did go because of her relationship with the youth and because of her commitment to chaperone the camp itself two months later, at which two of her children would be participants.

Waldal is grateful and proud to see her own children embracing a spirit of service, at church and in their community; she was also clear that there are times she has to say no.

She said she discerns her involvement considering “what’s the example we’re setting forth for our own kids,” but that additionally, “We always look at what’s the sacrifice to our family.”

“One of the things I’ve also embraced is when it’s my time to hand something off,” Waldal commented. She has involved, encouraged and empowered others delegating individual leadership roles as well as developing ministry committees for stability and teamwork.

Being involved and supportive is something Waldal carries beyond her parish – to the community theatre group her oldest son is a part of, to the coaches of her children’s sports teams and to their teachers attending field trips.

Asked how she cares for herself and her marriage, Waldal affirmed that much of what she is involved with is energizing. She also gauges things by the measure of a joyful heart.

“If I’m not doing it in a joyful way, then it’s probably not for me and not where God wants me to be,” she said, adding, “If I’m not (joyful), then I need to go to prayer.”

She said this recognition is “huge, not only for me but for my family.”

Prayer and attending Mass as a family are very important to Waldal, “even though sometimes it’s a struggle” with multiple children. Time alone with her husband is also valued and sought out; they schedule dates once or twice a month.

A few years ago, Waldal felt the call to seek spiritual guidance in addition to the ways she was already re-energizing herself spiritually. After bringing this up with a few different priests, her pastor Fr. John Gerritts agreed to meet with her and see if it might be a good fit. They have met a couple of times and she appreciates the goals and encouragement Fr. Gerritts has offered her.

Waldal shared, “It’s really important for us, if we’re doing spiritual work with other people, that we’re also doing spiritual work for ourselves.”