Claire Couillard and her daughter Annika Sophia-Denyse. Courtesy photo/ Claire Couillard
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LOWELL -- Claire Couillard has always lived her life in response to God’s call.
“In every step of my life, I have always asked myself, ‘What does God want me to do now?” she told The Pilot.
And as pastoral associate at Immaculate Conception Parish in Lowell, she does quite a lot.
“I do a lot of little things, or a little of a lot of things,” she joked.
In actuality, Couillard is responsible for baptismal preparation, marriage preparation, and adult religious education, including the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults [RCIA].
“Basically I help out however I am needed,” she said.
A native of Lowell, Couillard has always been drawn to her faith. She attended Catholic schools her whole life, and even spent 10 years as a sister of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“I felt God was calling me to do something different,” she recalled. So, Couillard decided to leave the religious life and pursue her master’s degree from Rivier College, a New Hampshire Catholic college.
After graduating, she worked for several years at St. Joseph Lithuanian Parish in Lowell, which was closed in 1999. Since then, Couillard has worked at Immaculate Conception Parish.
Couillard praised Father Nicholas Sannella, pastor at Immaculate Conception.
“He’s just wonderful to work with,” she said. “He listens to everything that you have to say and will give his input on things, but he’s basically just a great person all around.”
“He’s also very wise,” she added.
Couillard believes part of Father Sannella’s wisdom is derived from his life experience. A graduate of Blessed John XXIII National Seminary, the seminary for late-life vocations, Father Sannella was both a surgeon in the Lowell area and a lawyer before heeding the call to the priesthood.
“He’s marvelous,” she said. “I just can’t say enough about him.”
The most recent call of God that Couillard has felt in her life has been the call to motherhood. This past February, Couillard traveled to Guatemala to adopt a baby girl, Annika Sophia-Denyse Couillard.
“Adoption is truly not for the faint of heart,” she said. “It is a long, tedious, and very costly process but I certainly would encourage anyone to give life to another through adoption.”
“Motherhood is a marvelous experience,” she continued. “I cannot be happier with my life at this point since adopting my most precious daughter Annika,” she said. “It has drawn out all the natural gifts of motherhood that were deep within my heart. God has truly matched us for life.”