Claire Blau is part of the younger generation, entrusted with carrying on our Catholic Faith. At 21, she is following her parents’ examples and living her life centered on God.
A senior at University of Wisconsin—La Crosse, Claire is on track to graduate in May 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Her journey to this point in her life and her lofty future goals are possible because of the influence her family and her faith have had on her.
Born the third oldest of nine children, Claire proudly admits, “I love coming from a large family.” She was raised in Merrimac, where her parents, Kevin and Julia Blau, are a strong presence in guiding their children in faith and life decisions. “They taught it in a way that we all found our place in what we love doing.” The Blaus recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary.
“Being homeschooled by my mother was a great experience. I got to do a lot of things,” Claire says. Growing up, Claire participated in volleyball, basketball, faith retreats and many other experiences. “I truly enjoyed it and received a great upbringing from that.”
Knowing she wanted to study psychology, Claire attended her first year of college at UW Baraboo to save on tuition. While there, she became an active member at St. Paul’s Newman Center at UW Madison: “They have a great faith group there.” The Newman Center allowed Claire to follow her discipleship. Among many experiences, it included a mission trip to New Orleans to help clean up the area and assist the poor.
“I knew I would be transferring schools my second year. I really wanted to go to a private, Catholic college. My faith is a very important part of my life and I wanted to make sure I could keep it alive while attending college. I didn’t think I’d be able to practice my faith at a liberal college,” she says.
Claire applied at several private, Catholic colleges, including St. Norbert, Ave Maria, Benedictine and Franciscan — and was accepted at all of them. “In my heart, I knew God was pushing me to attend UW La Crosse, but I didn’t want to listen,” Claire says. She submitted her application to UW La Crosse the day before the enrollment deadline, not wanting to acknowledge God wanted her to attend there.
“My grandparents took me to tour St. Norbert’s. I had it narrowed down between there and La Crosse — the college I initially thought was going to be my last option.” With the admission process, “Everything was going right with La Crosse. St. Norbert was going terribly. At Mass one day, I prayed, ‘God, you need to make a decision for me.’ In my heart, knew God wanted me to go to La Crosse.”Fearful of stories Claire heard of good, strong Catholics going off to college and losing their faith, she made a point to become involved with the UW La Crosse Newman Center and any other groups that would help her grow her faith.The discipleship fostered by the Newman Center is exactly what Claire was searching for. She is a driving force at the college and her involvement in ministry events vaulted her to president of the student organization. “I see a lot of people struggling. They don’t know where they fit in or where to turn. We all struggle. The world gets to us sometimes. Many struggle from being away from family. College is a new experience for most — either good or bad. But, it only takes one person to reach out to someone and help,” shes says. Living off campus near the Newman Center provides her many opportunities to minister to others.
College is a new experience for most — either good or bad. But, it only takes one person to reach out to someone and help.
Claire has a history of helping others in faith-based and family-focused organizations. She worked as an assistant manager at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe her first two years in La Crosse. With this being her final semester, she was unable to continue that commitment due to her class schedule. She now works at the campus child care center and baby-sits on the side.
What does the future hold for Claire? Upon graduation, Claire plans on pursuing her master’s degree at Edgewood College in Madison. A license in marriage and family counseling is her objective. “My goal is to help children and families in general. I’d love to help out with marriage prep and youth groups. I can make a plan, but God can change that. His plan is always better than mine,” she explains.
With an aspiration to help others, “I’ve always been one of those people that put others first in the best way. I learned that from my mom. She was so giving. And my faith gave me a serving heart.”
Claire Blau is a young disciple who promotes the teachings of our faith. Her example speaks volumes to the future generations of the Catholic Church.
By Sharon Sliwka
Photography by Michael Lieurance