By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Special to the Bulletin | Published February 8, 2018
DULUTH—Having heard one too many car complaints, Julie Pack resigned after seven years working in customer service for a major automaker. But in switching career gears she discovered a new service plan for life through sharing her love of Christ and uplifting the poor and lowly.
In serving as a middle school catechist at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Alpharetta, she discerned a calling to education and pursued a master’s degree in theological studies from Spring Hill College while her children attended preschool.
“I wanted to have similar hours as my children and loved religious education at my church and started working towards a master’s degree to become a teacher to lead others on their own faith journey and walk with Jesus,” Pack recalled.
And she had the quintessential mentor, while finishing her degree, in the middle school religion teacher at Holy Redeemer School—her mother, Cheryl FitzGerald.
Afterward, Pack worked for a decade at the nondenominational Christian Wesleyan School as the service coordinator and only Catholic Scripture teacher. While there she developed an appreciation for diverse Christian traditions. But longing to express her faith fully, the time was ripe five years ago to join Notre Dame Academy in Duluth, a Marist and International Baccalaureate School. Having attended Catholic schools, including Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, Notre Dame was a good fit for Pack. At the academy, she serves as religious education and service learning coordinator.
“My love for Christ and the church grows each day. I am blessed with the opportunity to teach others about our faith, to lead them in worship and to provide opportunities to live the faith through the service to others, so they too can grow in the love of and relationship with Christ,” Pack said. “I love every aspect of my job. Probably the thing I love the most is serving alongside with them and going with them on different service projects.”
At the Archbishop’s Banquet for Catholic Education Jan. 27, Pack was recognized as Notre Dame’s honoree. Leading her cadre of family supporters was her mother, who herself over a decade earlier was Holy Redeemer’s first award recipient.
“I’m following in my mother’s footsteps, and for both of us to have received this kind of honor is quite special,” said Pack. “She’s truly been an inspiration to me and a role model and her faith is definitely an example.”
Pack’s mother was “elated” and “so proud” of her passionate work.
“When she was contacted that she was an honoree, and I had been in 2007-08, I couldn’t believe it and it certainly is deserved by her. She is a very hard worker and very well liked and really cares about people and devotes herself to service within the community with the children at the school,” said FitzGerald, now retired. “She has something going on about every weekend for the kids.”
At Notre Dame, Pack plans all religious activities including the living rosary, May crowning, weekly Masses and morning prayer. And having partnered through the years with over 35 local nonprofits, she single–handedly plans Notre Dame’s regular service projects for each grade, from outings to Clyde’s Kitchen at Crossroads Community Ministries in Atlanta, to serve meals and games with children at Rainbow Village homeless shelter, to the Pope Francis Build for Habitat for Humanity and service at Annandale Village for adults with intellectual disabilities. The youngest students even collect supplies, including cat litter and puppy toys, for the Georgia SPCA animal shelter.
Third-grade students collect children’s vitamins for the Amigos for Christ organization that provides education and services to Nicaragua’s poorest. And while amassing their bottles of Flintstones vitamins, students study water contamination issues and Amigos’ health care initiatives. Likewise, all grades’ projects involve reflection on core issues.
“We emphasize service learning. It’s tied to their curriculum that they are studying in the classroom that culminates in a service project that they can actually take action on a particular issue or social injustice going on and to give them a way to make a difference and for them to be able to go out into the community and serve those most in need,” said Pack.
Pack moved continually growing up—even to Saudi Arabia, where her family worshipped underground. On the journey, she deepened her appreciation for the universality of the church as well as other world religions. Celebrating Notre Dame’s international curriculum, she highlighted a recent multicultural Mass where after an opening flag procession students prayed in several languages from French and Spanish to Persian and Arabic.
“It was a beautiful representation of our of our Marist Catholic International Baccalaureate World School community,” she said. “As one teacher remarked, ‘this is what heaven will be like when we get there. All of us united!’”