[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]APPLETON — What is the purpose of your life?
The short sentence in the Baltimore Catechism rocked 10-year-old Gwen Tatera years ago during CCD classes at St. Mary of the Lake Parish in Lakewood.
“That question has stuck with me all my life and really affected my life. My purpose in life is to love, serve and know God. I decided I wanted to teach,” Tatera said. “I felt I was incredibly blessed to be a teacher.”
Recently retired as an elementary school teacher with a career in several northeast Wisconsin public and Catholic schools, Tatera continues to educate children as an author inspired by Catholic teachings.
Most recently, Tatera authored a paperback book, “Piggy Pie’s Pickle Problem,” which tells the story of a pig addicted to pickles who is cured, in part, through interventions with a veterinarian and fellow barnyard animals.
“One of the things I’ve noticed in church lately is when we pray for intentions, one of those we pray for is people with addictions,” Tatera said. “This book is about a pig that has an addiction to dill pickles. A dill pickle can represent anything that a child, or an adult, can overindulge in.”
A member of St. Pius X Parish in Appleton and St. Willebrord Parish in Green Bay, Tatera said when dealing with students, “you should always have in your mind how God would want to have his hand in a situation.”
“In the end, what does God wants from us?” Tatera asked. “When you teach you are an instrument of God.”
Tatera noted social concerns are an important consideration of society within the larger church, including addictions to a variety of behaviors ranging from drugs and alcohol in adults to eating and playing video games among children.
“My faith is an inspiration to me,” Tatera said.
Tatera’s immediate inspiration for “Piggy Pie’s Pickle Problem” came during her stint as a teacher at the Oneida Nation’s Turtle Elementary School when one boy came to school with large callouses on his fingers.
“I asked him, ‘What happened to you?’ He said he had been playing video games until midnight,” Tatera said.
Tatera found children as young as 5 years old suffering from addictions.
“I asked one classroom of 5-year-olds what they do too much of. One boy said he watched too much TV. One little girl said she eats too many pickles — two large dill pickles a day,” Tatera said.
Tatera said she hopes her book serves as a springboard for discussion about addictions for parents with their children.
“It can give parents a chance to discuss things like do you play too many video games? Are you on the cell phone too much?” Tatera said.
The book also touches on child obesity and the need to eat a balanced diet, Tatera said.
While being a teacher allowed Tatera to reach students, “Writing books is the best way to reach the most students,” she said.
Tatera referenced Blessed Mother Teresa as saying it isn’t the big things everyone can do, but the little things that evoke the love of God.
“Hopefully children will see through Piggy Pie how dangerous an addiction can be in taking us away from God,” Tatera said. “Not only away from God, but away from our family and friends. We want to be close to God and do the things God wants.”
Tatera said her work as an author of children’s books makes her feel like a shepherd to flocks of children.
“We can all be God’s shepherds, just in different ways,” Tatera said.
Tatera has written another book, “Tales from the Teacher Patrol,” a collection of quotes from school children. She also authored a 2012 Diabetic Calendar.
Tatera, who is active with helping the homeless, plans additional books focused on youth and social issues.
“I feel strongly that I am doing something to help others with healthfulness and mindfulness so I am leading them back to the places they want to be,” Tatera said.
Her faith will continue to inspire and guide Tatera in her efforts to reach children and adults, but she hesitates to be labeled an evangelist.
“Maybe I am an evangelist. I know I am trying to serve God,” she said.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info” style=”rounded”]Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Gwen Tatera
Parish: St. Pius X, Appleton; St. Willebrord, Green Bay
Favorite saint: Blessed Mother Teresa
Words to live by: “Inch by inch is a cinch. Yard by yard is very hard.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]