I wrote an article recently for our parish bulletin and I wanted to share it here on my blog. Enjoy!
A Holy Week of Healing:
How becoming a sponsor helped close wounds the pandemic left behind.
My husband and I joined our local RCIA program for the first time in the Fall of 2018. We both had the desire to bring our family into the Catholic faith, but in the winter of that same year we battled something we’d never expected: my husband’s slide into alcoholism powered by PTSD from serving in the military. We both dropped out of the program as he dealt with his disease, entering a treatment program with the VA in another state. It was through our mutual love of Catholicism that we came back together and healed the hurts left from those hard years. Catholicism truly saved our marriage. In the Fall of 2019, it wasn’t even a question that we wanted to reenter RCIA and finish the process.
Then the pandemic happened. Our progress into the faith hit a wall. In-person meetings turned to zoom. The Easter vigil was canceled. Our group began entering the church sporadically through the summer months. I looked at my spouse before our turn arrived in September 2020, and said, “Do you think we are meant to be Saints or something? Because it’s feeling like the devil is working hard to keep us from becoming Catholic.” I felt guilty for feeling disappointed that we weren’t doing things ‘the right way’, but I felt fulfilled and ecstatic to see my children get baptized and for our family to partake in the Eucharist together. Still, I felt ashamed when I thought of Holy Week with a tinge of jealousy.
In the Fall of 2021 our priest, Father Carl McCarthy, called me and asked me if I’d be interested in being a sponsor to a woman entering the RCIA program. It was serendipitous, because I’d been wanting to get more involved in our parish and with the people in it. Being an “introverted extrovert”, I have a hard time stepping out of my comfort zone and seeking social opportunities. When he called, I thought perhaps it was God himself willing me to get out and around others, so I quickly said yes.
I met the Deras family at an RCIA meeting and instantly connected to Heather, the woman I would be sponsoring. I looked forward each week to attending the classes with her and her family (her husband Wilmer, and daughters Iliana, Beyli, and Sofia), and I loved having the chance to share the faith with them and answer questions they had. It was exactly what I’d been looking for. When they asked me to be the Godmother to the girls, I cried tears of happiness because I felt so honored.
Holy week came, and I was open with them that I knew little about it or the events that it directly involved. It was something I hadn’t experienced, given last year when the time arrived my kids were sick and we had only attended Mass on Easter Sunday. I was as new to it as they were. And to be frank, that small space of sadness for what my family had missed still poked at my soul occasionally. I was afraid I’d feel jealous seeing the Easter vigil unfold, and that made me feel ashamed.
Thankfully, the opposite happened.
As we entered our darkened church, lit only by the fire outside and our candles in our hands, any negative thoughts on the experience evaporated. I felt called to be there this way… this was the way I was meant to experience it, leading others into our faith and our church. Whatever obstacles that had blocked our path before were for a reason, because at that moment, I knew this was the right time and it was the right night for it all.
We listened as Deacon Gayle sang the longest song I’ve ever heard. We circled the Baptismal font as a group of children all became one with our church. We stood together in the front as our large group of candidates were confirmed.
When it was over and I was driving home, I felt a sense of completion. Gone was the curiosity that plagued me, gone were the bits of jealousy or envy, all thanks to saying yes, at the right time, and for going out of my comfort zone and doing something new.
As I sat with Heather at dinner, prior to the service, she said to me, “It feels like it’s taken twelve years for me to get here.” and I responded, “But look at how far you’ve come in just the past nine months!” and it made me think of my own journey. How hard it had been at points, hard arduous the task was of just getting to church sometimes, and most of all, how the journey is never finished. It goes far beyond getting baptized and confirmed, sometimes leading us to paths that look different from what we’d hoped for. My Easter Vigil came differently, and it was a Holy Week I’ll never forget.