‘Late bloomer’ makes up for lost time

By | October 26, 2011

Serving in ministry was not something she envisioned at the time.


Clara Svatek (Benjamin Wideman | For The Compass)

“When I was a teenager, if someone would have told me at the time, ‘Clara, when you’re 79 years old you’re going to be active in the church,’ I would’ve said, ‘Oh, not me, not this Clara,'” she said. “But that’s the way it is sometimes. You evolve into those things.”

It wasn’t until decades later that Svatek evolved into one of the most active parishioners at St. Francis of Assisi in Manitowoc.

“After my retirement (in 1985), I guess something happened to me and I began to look at my own mortality and started looking at things differently,” Svatek said. “And then God puts certain people in your life and they have an effect on you. One of those people was a friend of mine who said, ‘Clara, you should be a lector in the church.’ So I became a lector in 1990. But it still wasn’t a fierce feeling of wanting to do something more in the church.”

“That didn’t happen until about seven or eight years ago, when I had read a letter composed by Mike Dolezal, who was in training to be a deacon. He had written a letter that incorporated the real presence of the body and blood of Christ on the altar during Mass. And although I had grown up with that and knew it was here (pointing to her head), it wasn’t here (pointing to her heart). But after I read his letter it got from my mind to my heart, and that made all the difference. That was a big moment in my life.”

At about the same time, she received another “message” that it was time to become more active.

Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Clara Svatek

Parish: St. Francis of Assisi, Manitowoc

Age: 79

Favorite saint: Clare of Assisi

Words to live by: “Do what you can, for whom you can, with what you have, and where you are.”

“Ray Waak was the only sacristan before me at the Church of St. Andrew (the church she attended before the formation of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in 2005), and one day the priest who was there at the time said, ‘Ray is going to be gone next week and for morning Mass it would be nice if you could set up the bread and the wine for the Mass for five days,'” Svatek said. “I thought, ‘Oh, I can do that.’

“Well, things evolved from there. And then came the merger. At the time of the merger, Ray said, ‘I’m 80 years old and I think this is the time for me to leave because everything is going to change so drastically,’ so he left and then I became the sacristan. And I’ve been a sacristan ever since.”

Recently, Svatek received the parish’s 2011 Stewardship Award for Service for her role at liturgical services at the Grand, Marshall and Waldo worship sites.

“It’s not only that she does liturgical services, it’s that she does them at all three sites,” said Pat Brandl, parish coordinator of stewardship. “Clara is one of those people who goes above and beyond. She’s a joyful giver and a joyful sharer.”

For the past few years, church-related tasks have kept Svatek busy nearly every day of the week.

“On Sundays, I’m the sacristan for the 10:30 Mass,” she said. “Then I go to Life Teen and see if the sacristan on duty needs any assistance. Then on Mondays through Fridays I’m at the 6:30 Mass at Marshall and I usually have some ministry there — I might be the sacristan or a server or the Communion minister or I might be a lector. On Saturdays I go to the 4 p.m. Mass, because I don’t have any duties as a sacristan so I can just listen to the Mass.”

When she’s not serving as a sacristan, Svatek takes part in the St. Clare Society (St. Clare is her favorite saint) and Serra Club, and cares for homebound people. She also assisted in the establishment of the eucharistic adoration chapel at the faith formation center church and continues in supporting and maintaining it.

Looking back, Svatek said she wishes she had become more involved in church earlier in life.

“I think to myself, ‘Why wasn’t I into this a long time ago,'” she said. “But I also think God gives you the grace at a given time. Why he didn’t give it to me before — or did he give it to me and I didn’t accept it — I don’t know. But I’m not going to dwell on that. This is what I am now, and I love it and I’m going to keep going as long as I can.”

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