Meet Nikki and Tricia Walz

‘Work hard, play hard’ is motto for two St. Cloud sisters

When you catch sisters Nikki and Tricia Walz together, it’s not hard to notice the family resemblance — their wide welcoming smiles, their long golden tresses and their happy laughs. But what people often notice is “more than just a pretty face.”

“Both girls just exude joy,” said Helen Bauer, who has watched the sisters grow up at St. Peter Parish in St. Cloud. “Those two have done so much for the youth of the parish, for the whole parish, really.”

Bauer, along with others, nominated Tricia and Nikki for The Visitor’s Youth and Young Adult Award. They are the July winners.
Nikki, 25, serves as the director of faith formation for the parishes of St. Mary’s Cathedral and St. Augustine in St. Cloud. She is active in her parish as well as with a young adult group she and Tricia, 27, helped form in the St. Cloud area.

“She just shines love,” said Diane Christen, who nominated Nikki for the award. “As I have come to know Nikki and have watched her grow in her Catholic faith, I have seen her love for Jesus and our faith in all she does. She walks in faith and draws other youth and young adults to participate in activities that help grow and strengthen their faith. She encourages them to get involved by setting a positive and inviting example to them.”

Tricia, who works at Medtronic in Fridley, is also active in her parish as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, usher, sacristan and gift bearer. She is also a member of the Knights of Columbus Auxiliary.

“Tricia is an outstanding example of Christ to our youth,” said Laura Koski, who nominated both sisters. “She is an active member in her parish [and] reaches out beyond those walls to all youth in our community as she seeks opportunities for them to strengthen and deepen their faith journey.

“As sisters, Nikki and Tricia are an added inspiration for so many youth who have siblings who might not be connected, to see them in their humanness. They pick on each other, they laugh with each other and they pray with each other,” Koski added. “They serve as wonderful role models of young people living out their faith.”

The list of ministries they have each been a part of include planning a youth concert last year with Catholic speaker and beatboxer Paul J. Kim, an adult “prom,” and a youth and young adult mission trip to Peru this summer.

But their faith didn’t always come easy. They admit that, up until high school, they were just kind of “going with the flow,” attending Mass on the weekends but not really experiencing a close relationship with God.

Nikki, right, and Tricia Walz pose for a picture at Whitney Park in St. Cloud June 20. (Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Visitor)

When they were in high school, their mother, Kim, attended a TEC weekend (Together Encountering Christ, a three-day retreat based on the Paschal Mystery) and encouraged her husband, Dean, also to make a TEC retreat.

Around the same time, the youngest Walz sister, Briana, was suffering with an illness and was subsequently homeschooled. As a family, they decided that Tricia and Nikki would be homeschooled as well.

“That was really a turning point for all of us. It really helped us to grow our faith together as a family,” Tricia said.

Nikki and Tricia attended a Steubenville conference, where they each said they found a deeper relationship with Christ.

“We weren’t always super involved and didn’t always have a deep relationship with God,” Nikki said. “It’s really humbling to look back and see how God prepared us for these things. I never would’ve thought we’d be doing any of these things.”

Now, together, they collaborate with six St. Cloud metro parishes for youth ministry and young adult activities.

“We work a lot together but we also have a lot of fun,” Nikki said. “I’m super grateful to do things together because we can each connect with different teens so we are able to minister to different people and that’s really helpful.”

“I really like the teamwork,” Tricia agreed. “I tend to connect with people who are maybe struggling a little more with their faith and Nikki is really good at working with people who already have a foundation and are looking to go deeper. It’s neat to be able to do things together.”

And they often include Briana, who helps with her older sisters’ activities whenever she can. She and her husband, Steven, are expecting their first child in July and Tricia and Nikki can’t wait to be aunts.

Nikki and Tricia say they are inspired by so many people who have been mentors to them and now they strive to be witnesses for others.

Their advice, “Don’t be afraid to be different,” Tricia said. “The people that we were drawn to when we started our own conversions, I’ve always wanted to be like them, that my faith would be evident. Be brave and be different.”

Nikki encourages people “not to be content to stay stagnate in their faith.”

“Always go deeper. Both in your relationship with Christ but also in learning more about the church. Especially if you have questions and doubts. Don’t be afraid to seek answers,” she said. “One of my pet peeves is when people say, ‘Just have faith.’ Yes, that is important, but the church provides real answers. Our faith is rational. If we tell teens to ‘just have faith,’ it basically tells them that their questions are worthless and aren’t worth listening to. So, always go deeper in your faith.”

More about Nikki

Name: Nicole (Nikki) Walz

Age: 25

Hometown: St. Cloud

Parish: St. Mary’s Cathedral, St. Cloud

Occupation: Director of faith formation at St. Mary’s Cathedral and St. Augustine Parish, St. Cloud

Book at your bedside: “Go Bravely: Becoming the Woman You Were Created to Be” by Emily Wilson Hussem. I highly recommend it!

Movie you could watch over and over: Definitely “Pride and Prejudice” or “A Walk to Remember”

Saint who inspires you: Blessed Chiara Luce Badano. She died of bone cancer at 18 years old, and the way she suffered with deep faith, courage and love inspired everyone who came to see her. I want to learn how to face suffering with that kind of love, joining it to the cross of Christ!

Favorite app: Pandora or YouTube

Prayer you love: Prayer to Radiate Christ. Mother Teresa and her sisters would pray this prayer every day after Communion, and it’s incredibly beautiful! I also love the Novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots.

In your spare time, you can be found: Singing, playing guitar, going for long walks, in the Adoration Chapel, or anywhere with dark chocolate

A pizza isn’t perfect unless it has: Some sort of vegetable and lots of cheese

If you could be a superhero or cartoon character, you would be: Larry the Cucumber

Favorite Bible verse or story: Psalm 73:23-26

You couldn’t drive by which restaurant without stopping: Boston Market

Your favorite thing about being Catholic is: The Eucharist and confession. There’s nothing that compares to being transformed and renewed by the sacraments, being personally seen, known and loved by the Father through these incredible gifts he gave us!

Q: What is one accomplishment you are most proud of?

A: I think I would have to say working for the church as a faith formation director. I never would have imagined that I would be doing what I do every day, especially walking with people as they prepare for the sacraments or as they seek to come to the church for the first time. There’s something incredibly humbling and powerful about being able to be there for those who are discovering the richness and beauty of the church as they never have before, or to overhear a second grader confidently tell her non-Catholic friend that the host really is Jesus’ body and not just a symbol. I love that my job is to help people encounter Christ and to be transformed by him.

Q: What is one gift you think you bring to the church?

A: I’ve definitely received the gift of joy, and my prayer is that God’s joy would radiate from me to touch other hearts.

Q: What is one gift the church could give you?

A: To be boldly, unapologetically Catholic, because that boldness and unwavering truth is a strong anchor in a stormy culture. Young people are drawn to authentic truth, beauty and goodness and are bored or turned away by anything less.

Q: If you had the opportunity to talk with Pope Francis, what would you tell him?

A: I would tell him that I’m praying for him and I would ask for his prayers, that we can be the authentic, joyful missionary disciples that he’s calling for us to be.

More about Tricia

Name: Tricia Walz

Age: 27

Hometown: St. Cloud

Parish: St. Peter, St. Cloud

Occupation: Medtronic

Book on your bedside: Bible. I’m not much of a reader!

Movie you could watch over and over: “Freedom Writers”

Saint who inspires you: Mother Teresa

Favorite app: Facebook

Prayer you love: Divine Mercy Chaplet and The Memorare

In your spare time, you can be found: At the lake, playing basketball or catching up with friends

A pizza isn’t perfect unless it has: Cheese

If you could be a superhero or cartoon character, you would be: I am not sure. But if I could have superpower it would be to be in two places at once. How cool would that be?

Favorite Bible verse or story: 1 Corinthians 13

You couldn’t drive by which restaurant without stopping: Buffalo Wild Wings

Your favorite thing about being Catholic is: the Eucharist, confession, saints, Our Lady

Q: What is one accomplishment you are most proud of?

A: I would say either the 10-mile run I did last October or the discovery my research group did in college about -lactamase and Gram-negative infections.

Q: What is one gift you think you bring to the church?

A: Youthfulness

Q: What is one gift the church could give you?

A: Believe in the young people, we hear the negative things way too often.

Q: If you had the opportunity to talk with Pope Francis, what would you tell him?

A: I would ask for a hug and then a picture to prove that I just met Papa Francesco!

About Kristi Anderson

Kristi Anderson is a multimedia reporter for The Visitor newspaper.

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