Dorothy Belohlavek of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Knowlton is a lifelong resident of the rural Mosinee community. Dorothy’s initial response to being featured in an article was, “I don’t feel like I’m really worthy of this, but I’m honored.” That humility seems to permeate Dorothy’s life. From being raised on a farm to getting married and having children, Dorothy has devoted much of her life to her family and parish. Dorothy lives an unentitled, humble Faith.
“I actually feel blessed in some ways because my severe rheumatoid arthritis made me slow down and made me do more reading and learn more about my Faith.”
Dorothy’s early family life formed the roots of her Catholic Faith: “I was born and raised on a farm and we always went to church every Sunday and catechism every Saturday. Then for a couple of weeks during the summer, we would have the sisters come in on Saturdays.”
Beyond frequent church attendance, Dorothy’s parents played a profound role on Dorothy and her four siblings in daily life. Dorothy explains, “Being on a farm, we didn’t get out too much. It was a good time growing up; we didn’t have everything, but it was a good life.” Dorothy continues, “We always lived simply and honestly. My mom and dad really set a good example. My parents were on the strict side and they certainly made us toe the line, but not harshly. I think they really just set a good example. Dad was always helping out everybody. Back then, the neighbors helped neighbors.”
Entering her teen years, Dorothy was fortunate enough to have Catholic resources to keep her engaged in her Faith. “When I was in high school, there was a Catholic magazine for the students and I really enjoyed that. We also had catechism at that time and a priest that was very good with the high schoolers.” Dorothy explains further, “I had a great aunt who was a nun. She would visit us every summer and that always kept me engaged and interested in the Catholic Faith.”
Dorothy was blessed to continue her Faith journey in her vocation of marriage. “My husband Carl and I met in high school. He went to Catholic school and was taught by the sisters. As a married couple, we’ve always been devoted to our Faith. From early on in our marriage, we always went to church and always prayed together.”
Dorothy, as her parents were to her, was a positive example of living out the Catholic Faith to her children: “We didn’t have much when we got married so we were home a lot. We read a lot together and always said our prayers before we went to bed and we’d go to church Sunday and CCD every Wednesday.” She continues, “We always went to church together and we always ate supper together. We allowed our kids to do only one activity because we wanted to make sure we had family time.” Dorothy is grateful for the time she spent early on with her children, “My daughter has a very strong Faith; sometimes I wish I had her Faith. She is always helping everybody and is involved a lot with the Church.”
Dorothy does share her daughter’s commitment to helping others and her church. Throughout the years, Dorothy has been a positive and constant presence around her parish. In the past, she led Bible studies, taught CCD, worked in the local nursing home and managed the parish garden for more than 20 years.
As with most marriages, trials have come and gone throughout Dorothy and Carl’s marriage. “Carl had four back surgeries through the years and the first one was at 26 years old. We had three little kids and the company he worked for didn’t want to pay anything, so we were just living on the sick days that we had banked. When you can’t count on any money coming in, you had to work together.” Thankfully, the roots of their Faith were always there to help them endure the difficult times. Dorothy continues, “Things couldn’t get worse, so you really just trust that things will work out alright. We certainly prayed a lot.”
Dorothy also struggles gracefully with her own ailments. “It was very difficult for me when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 50,” says Dorothy. “It was very severe and I had a difficult time, but I never asked, ‘Why me, Lord?’ I don’t blame God at all; it is just something that happens. That was 26 years ago and I’ve tried to never complain. I actually feel blessed in some ways because it made me slow down and made me do more reading and learn more about my Faith.”
Although Dorothy has slowed down a bit, she continues to live and grow in her Catholic Faith. St. Francis Xavier’s priest is a large part of that. “Father James Trempe has a great Bible study,” says Dorothy. “We had one a few years ago, but it wasn’t quite as in depth as with Father Trempe. I really find it amazing, and I was longing for something more. I’m getting a full understanding and appreciation of how and why things were written a certain way. The Bible has a lot more meaning to me.
“Being able to learn something that I didn’t know before, just gives me peace,” adds Dorothy. “I found some good passages in the Bible for when I’m in a lot of pain. I sometimes have a hard time, but a lot of times I feel like I can talk to God and He is listening. When I get done, I do feel better. God listens. One time I was really crying and I just asked Him to help me. When I finished crying, I felt like I was being uplifted. I felt lighter.”
Story and photography by Ben Williams
Published December 2019