SUAMICO — For years Chris Calawerts wanted to be a priest. But, following the footsteps of his favorite saint, he chose marriage and raising a family for his vocation. “St. Joseph was persistent, courageous. He was a gentleman and he really paid attention to what God was telling him.”
A graduate of Our Lady of Premontre High School in Green Bay, Calawerts went on to college at UW-Stout, earning a degree in manufacturing engineering. He married his life, Patti, the woman he had dated since high school, and they went on to have six children. They have five grandchildren with another one due in July.
Calawerts and his wife have been members of SS. Edward and Isidore Parish for 44 years. “All of our volunteer work started from there,” he noted. Calawerts learned the value of volunteering from his parents. “We grew up close to that church and to the faith. My parents were a great example of how to volunteer, how to give back and what you got out of it.”
He also developed a love for the Blessed Mother and a devotion to the rosary from his mom and dad. “It’s a gift that my parents gave me. We didn’t learn a lot about the rosary in grade school but they always did it.”
After Calawerts finished college, he moved back to the Green Bay area to work in his family’s business. “That’s when Gary Neville of Notre Dame (de la Baie) Academy came knocking on my door,” he said. “I respect those guys (the Norbertines of St. Norbert Abbey) so much. They gave me so much going to Premontre.”
At the time, his children were still in grade school at St. John the Baptist in Howard, but Notre Dame needed people to help build sets for their plays. “I did that for five years, then I was asked to be on the buildings and grounds committee.”
After about five years, Calawerts took on a bigger commitment as a member of the school board. “Over the years, it continued to grow and that led, around 2008, to the corporate board. Gary Neville was the principal and he became the abbot for the Norbertines. Now it’s Abbot Dane Radecki. He’s a great friend and he’s the one that continued to get me involved based on my experience.”
On the corporate board, Calawerts represents the Norbertines. “We’re basically trustees in the school and our job is to make sure that the mission and the vision and the values are followed. Over the last six months we hired a new president.” Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been a challenge for everyone involved with the school. The corporate board now meets virtually using technology such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
When Calawerts’ six children were at St. John the Baptist School, he was on the school board and he and his wife chaired their annual auction. Calawerts has also been on numerous committees at his parish and is currently serving on the stewardship committee. In addition, he’s on the Suamico Economic Development Committee.
With the pandemic and safer-at-home ordinance, life has certainly changed for Calawerts. “I’m a social person. It’s been really difficult for me. I’ve had to learn to change my social habits,” he said. As president of Oshkosh Door Company, he’s had to change how he interacts with his customers and employees. His faith is helping him through this situation.
“Whenever I have a difficult or complicated decision/situation, I use prayer and time at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion or at the Divine Mercy Adoration Chapel at Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Oshkosh to peacefully seek guidance and clarity. I do this for business a lot and it helps me tremendously,” said Calawerts.
Calawerts said his faith helps him do the best he can to deal with the current situation. “It’s going to get over and it’s going to change,” he said. “This is creating an opportunity for Oshkosh Door. Being (an essential business) is awesome, it means that we’re vital to the community, we’re vital to the country. We have 750 doors going directly into hospital ICU units. We’re making a difference for our country for the people around us. It’s brought us closer together as a team.”
Calawerts has recently come to realize that he’s fulfilling a mission, just like St. Joseph did. If God tells you something, you need to listen, he explained. “That’s what I admire about St. Joseph. He had his life, he had something different planned, he could have walked away but he didn’t. He protected his family.”