About 11 years ago, Michelle and Jamie Litke were newly married and decided to join the “Why Catholic?” study group at their parish, St. Joseph in Pierz. Originally, they had hoped to meet other young couples and families, but they found themselves in a group of seasoned married couples and longtime members of the parish, including Judy and Wally Meierhofer.
“They were such a sweet young couple with all of us older people,” Judy Meierhofer said.
The Meierhofers nominated the Litkes for the Youth and Young Adult Award, and the Litkes were selected as the March winners.
“If anyone deserves this status, it is Michelle and Jamie,” Judy said. “They are so faithful, so committed to their family, their faith and their community. They’ve become like our own kids.”
“That’s an example of how God puts us where we need to be,” Michelle said. “It was an awesome experience for us and really jump-started a lot of things for us. Those groups saw us through our first miscarriage and then having a baby, through a job transition and then Judy ended up nannying for us. Those are not coincidences. God had that planned out from the start.”
Since the small group meetings, the Litkes have seen their faith increase as well as their family. They now have four children — Morgan, 10, Danny, 8, Brooke, 7, and Lance, 4 — and are very involved in their parish.
Michelle has served as the chair for the parish festival, an officer for the Christian Mothers/Women group, an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and a small group leader for a parish mission. She also prepares students for their first Communion. Together, the Litkes work with the Couples to Couples Marriage Encounter program.
“The opportunity was there, we prayed about it and discussed it, and felt Jesus lead us to say yes,” Michelle said. “Even though it was me that took on some of these projects, I needed [Jamie’s] support and willingness to pick up the slack and caregiving of the children when I was gone. I think that is a very unselfish and important job. I may be on the forefront of many of these things, but there is no way I would have been able to do these things if it weren’t for his help and support at home.”
Jamie works full time as a veterinarian and owns his own mixed practice in Pierz. He also serves as a volunteer fireman. Michelle taught in the Onamia and Pierz public school systems until, after a bout with breast cancer, she decided to teach second grade at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Pierz, where their older children attend.
Michelle felt two big shifts in her faith life. The first was when she attended a Steubenville retreat during college.
“It was a real game-changer in helping me grow closer in my relationship with God,” Michelle said.
The second shift came about four years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“That journey was another game-changer. My treatment times and driving times became my time with God. It turned a crummy event in my life into something really beautiful,” she said.
Both Michelle and Jamie felt the support of their parish and community during that difficult time.
“You always think you should call or stop by or do something for someone going through a tough time,” Michelle said. “But when you’re going through it yourself, you realize how much those phone calls, cards and acts of kindness really mean.
“It changes your perspective,” Michelle said.
“The community of Pierz is unbelievable when it comes to things like this,” Jamie added. “Even though it is a small town, it is pretty amazing when it comes to giving and being supportive.”
The Litkes enjoy giving back to their community for all the support they received during that time in their lives.
Like many Catholics, Mass is the cornerstone of the Litkes’ faith, especially when their lives get busy or stressful.
“There may be tension and frustration, but then we go to Mass on Sunday, and God fills our hearts with joy and love and we are made new again, so to speak,” Michelle said. “I don’t know how anyone can fully function without Mass at least once a week. We tell couples that we work with in marriage preparation that they will have struggles and moments of anger and frustration, but it is very difficult — and we would say impossible — to stay mad in front of Jesus.
“When our family holds hands while saying the Our Father at Mass, it just brings it all back together again,” she said. “Forgiveness is so powerful. It’s not about rules and obligations as much as it is about Jesus giving us a way to live so that we are happy and close to him and united as a family.”
Ever since she was a little girl, Michelle has looked up to St. Teresa of Calcutta. Both she and Jamie have embraced her words to “do small things with great love.”
“To me, that means you don’t have to go far away to make a difference,” Michelle said. “The biggest thing you can do is to start with your own family. There’s so much hurt within families. If we could mend those hurts first, it would have a waterfall effect.”
Jamie added: “Neither of us is perfect but it’s the little things — we make sure we go to church every Sunday, we pray before bed each night.
“We try to be role models for our kids as much as possible by teaching them love and respect,” he said. “It’s the little things we can do to keep our faith at the forefront.”
More about Michelle
Hometown: Gilbert, Minnesota
Occupation: Second-grade teacher at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Pierz
Book on your bedside: A set of Lent readings and reflections by Megan McKenna and “Beautiful Hope” by a collection of people
A saint who inspires you: St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
A prayer you love: Prayer of St. Francis
In your spare time, you can be found: I love being able to just sit and do a puzzle in the winter, and I love to garden in the summer.
Favorite Bible verse or story: Matthew 25:40 because it reminds me that we are serving Jesus in everyone that we meet.
Your favorite thing about being Catholic is: Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. I believe that if you truly believe that we are receiving Jesus’ body and blood like Jesus said, you would never want to miss out on an opportunity to do so, and Catholic churches would be full every weekend.
What is one accomplishment you are most proud of? Beating cancer, but that wasn’t accomplished by myself. God, my family, especially my husband, and my friends and community along with my doctors helped me to accomplish that.
More about Jamie
Occupation: Veterinarian and owner of Litke’s Veterinary Service in Pierz
Book on your bedside: Veterinary and hunting magazines
A saint who inspires you: St. Florian
A prayer you love: Our Father
In your spare time, you can be found: Playing or watching sports; hunting
Your favorite thing about being Catholic is: Being a part of the true church of Christ — the one, apostolic church
What is one accomplishment you are most proud of? Starting a successful vet clinic
Together, they agree:
Q: What is one gift you think you bring to the church?
A: Love of Jesus and willingness to share that love with others in whatever way God needs us to do that.
Q: What is one gift the church could give you?
A: A closer relationship with God through education and continuous learning.
Q: If you had the opportunity to talk with Pope Francis, what would you tell him?
A: This was a really thought provoking question! I think we would say thank you and ask him to pray for us and to give us a blessing. To have Pope Francis pray over us, would be absolutely beautiful.