Pacelli honors alumni, Friends of Pacelli, names Teacher of the Year

Published 6:02 am Sunday, November 24, 2019

By Jean McDermott

Pacelli Principal

Congratulations to the newest inductees to Pacelli’s Hall of Honor and Pacelli Teacher of the Year. These individuals were honored at Pacelli’s Annual Gala on Saturday, Nov. 16, at the Hormel Historic Home.

Bill (1949) (posthumously) and Mary Christopherson (1949)

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Bill (1949) (posthumously) and Mary Christopherson (1949)

Bill and Mary Christopherson are part of a three generation Pacelli family and lifelong members of St. Augustine Catholic Church. They first met in second grade while attending Columbus Elementary School. They married in 1954 and were blessed with 12 children: Patrick (1974), Mark (1975), Teresa (1976), Thomas (1977), Jane (1979), Katherine (1980, presently teaching at Pacelli), Joseph (1981), Anne (1982, former Pacelli teacher), Daniel (1984), Peter (1988), and Matthew (1989). All of their children were graduates of Pacelli, except their son John, who died at birth in 1968.

Mary Christopherson

Bill, who passed away in 2012, graduated from St. John’s University with a degree in business administration in 1953. He had a minor in education and did his practice teaching at Pacelli. He also served for two years in the U.S. Army before beginning his 42-year career at Hormel.

Mary graduated from the College of St. Teresa, Winona, Minnesota, in 1953, with a degree in nursing. Following graduation, she worked at St. Olaf Hospital in Austin, Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., and later with the pathology department at St. Olaf Hospital.

Bill and Mary were lifelong advocates for Catholic schools. Bill actively served on school boards, led two Capital Campaigns and several other fundraising efforts and coached basketball after retirement. Mary said, “We have so many fond memories of Pacelli, but we are especially grateful to our former teachers, the parish priests and the Sisters of St. Francis (the God Squad at Basketball games), who were always present inside and outside the classroom.”

Carol and Gary Erlandson

Gary and Carol Erlandson

Gary and Carol have been an integral part of Pacelli for over 50 years. They both grew up in South Dakota, where they attended elementary and high school. They met in college, married and had three children who attended St. Augustine, Queen of Angels, and graduated from Pacelli: Tara Lee in 1985, Brett in 1990 and Angie in 1992.

Carol graduated from Southern State College with a BA in education. She taught in Lyle, was a childcare provider, a sales associate at Seifert’s, Grandma’s House Gift and Home Accessories and Stuttgart Tan and Travel. Carol has served and continues to serve as “historian” for Pacelli for many years, clipping news articles and providing Pacelli friends and family with all of the latest Pacelli news.

Gary attended grades K-12 in Highmore, South Dakota. He also graduated from Southern State College with a BA in English. After his first year of teaching in South Dakota, Gary came to Pacelli, where he stayed for the remaining 44 years of his teaching career. Even in retirement, Gary continues to keep scorebooks at every game for LP athletics and he is the “go to” substitute teacher for all subject areas. Gary’s love and passion for Pacelli continues to shine through in so many ways!

Both Carol and Gary enjoy attending Pacelli plays, concerts, sports and events. They love to share stories about Pacelli traditions and values. They are one of Pacelli’s greatest marketing tools! They share everything “Pacelli” with the community of Austin. They take the time to express gratitude and appreciation with frequent handwritten thank you notes to Pacelli staff to recognize the efforts and good work that they give to our students and families.

Gary said that he was always impressed by the students’ involvement beyond classes. One of his fondest memories was the 1992 Minnesota Class A Girls Basketball State Championship. He comments, “Not only were the players outstanding students and athletes, they all created great lives for their families and themselves.”

Tricia and Tom Wiechman

Tom (1984) and Tricia(1985) Wiechmann

Both Tom and Tricia were born and raised in Austin and are both the youngest of seven children. They were both very active and served as leaders while at Pacelli. After graduation, they moved to Cedar Rapids for two years and moved back to Austin, where they have remained since.

Tom is the chief financial officer for Reichel Foods, Inc. in Rochester and Tricia is the human resources director for the city of Austin. They both continue to give back to Pacelli and the community of Austin in many ways. They have been long-time supporters of the Austin Bruins Hockey organization with Reichel Foods sponsorship. The Austin Bruins Foundation, in turn, has been very generous in supporting Pacelli Catholic schools both financially and with player support with academic visits with students. Tom also facilitates a generous Reichel Foods donation of nutritious snacks for all of the students during their annual Track and Field event each spring.

The couple was very active in the community while raising their two children, Brad and Dan, whose families both live in Austin. They enjoy attending community events and stay involved in the Pacelli community through relationships with their friends and their friends’ children, former teachers and coaches. They are regular attendees to the annual Pacelli Benefit Auction. They have helped to keep the memory of Jim Grebin (fellow 1984 graduate) alive through a scholarship program in Jim’s name at Pacelli.

The Wiechmanns shared that they have many fond memories while attending Pacelli, including “meeting each other to create a lifetime of memories.”

Laura Sheedy — Pacelli Teacher of the Year

Laura Sheedy has given many years to her alma mater. She is very involved in many school areas. Not only does she teach, but she coordinates many activities outside of the classroom setting. She is responsible for the yearbook, homecoming week, flurry week, dances, finding chaperones, assisting at the prom and organizing graduation. She is a wonderful role model for students and staff. Her drive and perseverance are incredible examples of being able to follow through while also being open to adjusting to fit a new situation. She is on the go from before the school year starts to after the year ends.

Laura Sheedy, Pacelli Teacher of the Year.

Her rapport with students is remarkable. She is completely involved with seniors for homecoming and planning various activities for the week. She coordinates the Christmas Basket project with a total Catholic perspective. Eagle Bluff, along with its fundraisers, is her gift to middle school. Trips to Washington, D.C., and Italy two summers from now are examples of her love of educating our students outside the classroom. Organizing the PALS program and partnering elementary students with student athletes is her gift to our younger students. The excitement that she generates in the younger PALS as they prepare surprises and well-wishes to encourage their older student athlete PALS before a game is inspirational and heartwarming. The admiration seen in the young students’ eyes when their student athlete recognizes them at lunch or gives them a high five on the playground is testament to the success of this program.

And where would we be without that ever present camera? Marketing is her middle name; Facebook posts, media articles, files full of pictures that are drawn from to tell the Pacelli story.

Her love of teaching is shown in her patience helping students one on one. She is helpful. She is kind. She is caring. She values her students. These are traits noted by one of her students. She is an amazing teacher who challenges her students daily to love math. She is friendly and flexible. She is available to students and always has their best interest at heart. She is involved and displays her faith through her actions and love of Pacelli. She demonstrates her concern for students with a firm, but respectful, approach and, in turn, students respect her.

And her work ethic and faith doesn’t end at school. She brings it all home with her as a steward of the earth on the Sheedy farm. She is always caring for God’s creatures in one way or another. Pacelli is so fortunate to have Ms. Laura Sheedy. We are grateful for her love of Pacelli and all that she does to share this love with students, staff, and families. Ms. Sheedy is a huge part of what makes Pacelli run smoothly every day. Even though she isn’t full time, no one would ever know. She is constantly at Pacelli, making sure not only that her job is done effectively, but she is also willing steps up to to help others.

If you are interested in learning more about Pacelli Catholic Schools, please visit our website at or email or call 507-437-3278 anytime during regular school hours.