Meet Joannie Watson. Joanne graduated from Central Catholic, class of 2002. After high school, Joannie attended Christendom College and graduated in 2006, armed with a B.A. in History, the “Class of 2006 Student Achievement Award,” and a zeal to restore all things in Christ. After studying in Rome in 2005 and witnessing the funeral of John Paul II and the conclave to elect Benedict XVI, Joannie knew she wanted to work for the Church. So she began graduate studies in Theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville immediately after graduation. While working on her M.A., she also worked for Dr. Scott Hahn and the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. She also studied in Rome again in 2008, this time at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. After graduating from Franciscan, she headed to Music City to work with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, and she has called Nashville her home ever since.
Before working at the Nashville diocese, Joannie was the Assistant Director of the Office of Catechetics at Aquinas College, and was part of a program that educated catechists in three dioceses and two states. During those years, she taught over a thousand adults — parish catechists, school teachers, and interested adults – giving her a unique opportunity to experience the joys and sorrows of fellow Catholics from all backgrounds and walks of life. Those experiences shaped her approach to adult catechesis. Joannie also finds joy in volunteering to teach RCIA or speaking to various church groups. She has spoken to audiences as diverse as high school students, business women, and members of the Roman Curia. “I have an almost-crazy love for the Church and I hope I’m serving Christ with the gifts He’s given me.”
As part of Joannie’s current position as Director of Adult Formation for the Diocese of Nashville, she leads pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land. “It’s one of my favorite parts of my job, because Rome was so instrumental in my life. I’m working for the Church because after studying in Rome in 2005 and participating in the funeral of JPII, witnessing the conclave to elect Benedict XVI, I realized I was given a great gift – a love for the Church – and a gift I had to share.”
Joannie served on the National Advisory Council for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2011-2015. Joannie also travels around the country as a Catholic speaker, is a weekly blogger on the website Integrated Catholic Life, and has a weekly YouTube/Facebook series called Three Minute Theology.
How did your education at LCSS prepare you for college and your career?
Looking back, I realize that teachers who made the greatest impact in my life are the ones that had a passion for what they taught and helped us to develop that same passion. It was more than just a subject or a book or a test. It’s impossible to name them all – from Mrs. Shepherd at St. Boniface, Mr. Worley in Junior High, Mr. Hollowell for speech and senior comp, Mr. Adams and Mrs. Hatke for religion, Mr. Butz for etymology, Mr. Eddy for government — diverse people with diverse subjects and teaching styles, yet they all shared a love for what they were doing. You could tell they loved what they were teaching, and that was inspiring and made us want to love it too. As a teacher myself now, it’s humbling when people comment that they can feel my passion and love for what I’m talking about. I realize that is the first step to helping someone learn — make sure they know that it’s worth learning.
What did you like most about your experience at LCSS?
I love how small the community was. Sure, sometimes that had disadvantages – like when you didn’t want your parents to find something out! But I love that so many of us grew up together – from preschool to senior year at CC – and now have 13 years of LCSS memories together. I met Annie (Hatke) Schap in kindergarten at St. Mary’s, and now I’m the godmother to two of her children. I love that we have memories together from the time we were her children’s ages. So many of us had siblings whom had preceded us through the school system and were often friends with each other, too. Last year, I was training a group of leaders to give a bible study I had written. Who walked in the door but Andi Smith! She recognized me, hundreds of miles and almost 20 years away from our time together at CC (and we weren’t even in the same graduating class!). We shared a “small world!” moment thanks to our small LCSS world. I never felt like a number at LCSS, but always a name. I think that’s rare today, and it’s something I probably took for granted.
What is your favorite memory from your years at LCSS?
There are too many to count, but a lot of my favorite memories at CC revolved around choir. Gary Branson turned a small group of Hoosier high school kids into a pretty fantastic choir. We were kind of a motley crew at times — athletes and academics and everyone in between, from freshman to seniors — but we all came together and became a family under his guidance. Whether it was singing for the veterans throughout the year (I still know the words to every service song!) or at the Purdue Union at Christmas, he knew how to make us want to share our talent with others. I’ll also never forget my senior year, while working on our production of Oklahoma with Mr. Branson — It was Dave Worland’s last year as principal, and he asked to be an extra in the show. He had one line as a cowboy in the auction scene. The last practice before opening night, we worked late into the night – and Mr. Worland was there for every minute of it. It meant a lot to us to have our principal care that much about us.