Paula Johnson was lying awake one night thinking about some of the struggles people in her community were facing. One thing that came to mind was that, for some people, the simple task of doing laundry puts an extra strain on their budget.
As a young mom of 10 children ranging in age from a 5-month-old daughter to 13-year-old twin boys, Johnson knows how much laundry a family can have. She wanted to do something to help others. So, with the support of her husband, Paul, she collaborated with the local laundromat to provide funds to offset some of the laundry costs for those in need.
Despite her busy family life, Johnson also finds time to work part-time as the director of religious education for grades 1-6 at her parish, Sacred Heart in Glenwood, which is twinned with St. Bartholomew in Villard.
And that’s what stirred Barb Kramber, a fellow parishioner at Sacred Heart, to nominate Johnson for The Visitor’s YAYA awards. Each month, The Visitor selects a winner, who is featured in print and online. Johnson is this month’s winner.
Kramber and Johnson work together as co-presidents of the Christian Mothers group.
“When I grew up in my parish in Brooten, the Christian Mothers was more of an activity-based group and here it is more prayer-based,” Johnson said. “We meet eight times a year to pray the rosary and for Benediction.”
One thing she wishes is that she were more confident in inviting other people to participate.
“I think more women would enjoy the prayer and camaraderie,” she said.
A few years ago, Johnson was inspired to start what she calls “Second Sunday Potluck,” a fun event held each month to encourage families to get to know one another better.
“She arrives early to set up, she stays after until all is cleaned and she shops for the additional needs like milk or rolls. She does this with the kids in tow, but they’re all pitching in and helping,” Kramber said.
Johnson, along with her youngest children, deliver meals weekly to the elderly and homebound people through the local Meals on Wheels program.
“We are always in need of volunteers to help,” said Sharon Blomgren, dietary manager for Meals on Wheels. “Some of the people we serve don’t make themselves full meals, and if they do, they aren’t balanced meals. We try to make sure that they get one balanced meal a day. By Paula doing this, she is ensuring that can happen. Seniors really appreciate the people who come, they appreciate the company even if it’s just for a few minutes.”
Blomgren said Johnson often brings special cards on holidays that the religious education students make to include along with the meals.
“She’s really dedicated,” Blomgren added. “She often delivers the meals with a baby on her hip.”
Johnson said she feels she witnesses her faith more by action than by word.
“I do pray for the courage to be more vocal,” she said. “But I try to be a witness by being open to life, having children and being able to hopefully raise them in accordance with God’s will. Also by trying to be involved and share God’s love with others by my actions.”
Where you live now: Glenwood/Starbuck
Current parish: Sacred Heart, Glenwood
Occupation: Mom and part-time DRE at Sacred Heart and St. Bartholomew in Villard
Book on your bedside: “The Way, Furrow, The Forge“ by Josemaria Escriva
A saint who inspires you: St. Teresa of Calcutta
Favorite app: Mass Times and Spirit 92.9
A prayer you love: Hail Mary
In your spare time, you can be found: playing a game of solitaire on my phone
A pizza isn’t perfect unless it has: lots of cheese and red sauce
If you could be a superhero or cartoon character, you would be: Is there one who has super powers to keep the house clean?
Favorite Bible verse or story: The Prodigal Son
You couldn’t drive by which restaurant without stopping: The Padua Pub (my parents own it)
Your favorite thing about being Catholic is: Its universality and that it proclaims the truth in all things
Let your voice be heard
Q. What is one accomplishment you are most proud of?
Johnson: Being a wife and mother, although I think I’m better at being a mom.
Q. What is one gift you think you bring to the church?
Johnson: A willingness to learn and be obedient to God; our kids, they are a gift to us but also to the church.
Q. What is one gift the church could give you?
Johnson: It gives me so much. Maybe continued courage in presenting truth.
Q. If you had the opportunity to talk with Pope Francis, what would you tell him?
Johnson: Thank you for challenging us, encouraging us and giving us Christian witness.
To nominate a youth or young adult — ages 15-39 — for the YAYA awards, visit
www.stcloudvisitor.org and click on the “YAYA Awards” button to fill out the nomination form. Or call 320-251-3022 to have a form mailed to you.
YAYA nominees should be enthusiastic about their Catholic faith, set a good example for their peers, and be active in their parish.
Each month, a panel from The Visitor will select a winner, who will be featured in the print edition and online.