Paula Wellnitz: A look back at 80 years
Paula Wellnitz was born and raised in Elgin, Ill., and lived there until she was 19. Her parents then moved to California, but that didn't last long and three months later the family was back in Illinois. Paula had three older brothers and she was the only daughter.
In 1948, Paula entered the Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters located in Huntington, Ind. at a place called Victory Noll. She stayed there for three years for training and education. Her first assignment was in Redlands, Calif. where she would teach religious education. Along with her teaching duties, she would make home visits for the Catholic Churches in the area. Part of her duties was to take a census of the number of Catholics there. She was in Redlands for two years.
From Redlands, she went to Coachella, Calif. where she performed the same duties as in Redlands. She worked with and taught religious education to all ages. She stayed in Coachella for two years also.
Next, she went to Brawley, Calif., a small town just 25 miles from the Mexico border. She was in Brawley for four years and was then transferred to San Pedro, Calif. During her years in San Pedro, someone mentioned to her that she should become a counselor and she began to research that possibility.
Her next duty station was in Rocky Ford, Colo. for two years. In each of the places she lived, she worked for the priests by teaching and doing home visits. She then moved back to San Pedro for six more years.
"Up until this time, you went where you were needed. Then changes began to happen in the church and we were given the opportunity to choose where we would like to go. I went to Boulder, Colo. where I worked only with adults and taught religious education," said Paula. The pastors in the area had put together a program and she was helping with the implementation.
After a year in Boulder, the pastors decided the program wasn't working the way they thought it should, and so for the next year she moved to Denver. She began a fellowship program with two psychologists where she learned to use the psychological techniques for her own benefit and the benefit of others. For this year, she was also working with a parish doing part time religious education work.
Even with all her travelling around, she managed to find the time to continue her education and received her bachelors degree in sociology from Immaculate Heart in Los Angeles. During her time in Denver in a special program, she had the opportunity to earn her masters degree, but did not and regretted that decision.
When her work in Denver was done, she went to Nashville, Tenn. to work at the Glenmary Home Missioners, which were a group of priests and brothers, in the religious education office. She worked in the family programs where she helped write the programs and visited other missions to teach them how to use the programs. Her territory ranged from mid-Pennsylvania to mid-Georgia to Eastern Texas.
While in San Pedro, she became aware of the Seattle University Masters Of Religious Education. They had a summer school program and she attended this program for three summers and earned her masters degree in religious education.
Her older brother had moved her mother to Seattle due to failing health. Paula moved there to take care of her mother after she left Nashville. She began to look for a job and ended up working at a security agency at an information desk. She did that for a couple of months and then as a secretary for Catholic charities.
When her mother passed away, she took a position as a pastoral associate in Everett, Wash. She was there for one year and she organized their religious education program, started a program for senior citizens, and did some counseling.
"The longer I stayed in the area, the more I realized there was not mental health services for those people in the rural areas of the county. She moved to Granite Falls and began to travel around to the rural towns to offer those services," said Paula. She took a part time job in a group home for developmentally disabled adults. She was there for four years.
Paula learned during those four years of a place where she could earn her masters degree in counseling psychology. She contacted a tutor in Salem, Ore. and earned her second masters degree. When that was accomplished, she realized that she did not want to live in Washington any more.
She began to look for a job East of the Cascade Mountains and ended up in South Dakota working for the Sacred Heart Fathers. She began their counseling center in the town of Eagle Butte. "When I hear people complain about the cold, I have to laugh. One Christmas Eve during my time in South Dakota, the temperature with the wind chill was -125 degrees," Paula said.
From South Dakota, Paula went back to Colorado, a little town called Hot Sulphur Springs and worked in a counseling center. In 1991, she moved to Orangeville and she went to work for Four Corners Behavioral Health. She worked there for six years before retiring.
Prior to her retirement, she opened her home for a retreat. Her retreat, "Home Place" was started because there was nothing available in Southern Utah for that purpose. She has day retreats, with some private retreats upon arrangement. The retreat offers a quiet place to contemplate and study from her library of theology, self-help, nature and non-fiction books.
Paula has advertised the Home Place retreat in national magazines and as a result has had visitors from Virginia, Nebraska, Arizona and California. She also had one priest from England who was traveling and heard about it while visiting Salt Lake. She offers spiritual consultation at the retreat if the visitors want, but welcomes any group to come to Home Place.
"I have recently learned Reiki. It is a process that originally began in Japan, with deep roots from India. It helps people use medical processes for physical problems. It deals with energy points in the body," said Paula.
Paula's retirement is very busy. She is active in outreach programs for the church, she attends and contributes to many community meetings, and she belongs to and is active in the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She also drives for the health department's Care-A-Van program taking people to doctors appointments.
For more information about Home Place where everyone is welcome, call 748-2230.