Risking on Friends

Thanks to a friendship with some mothers at her daughter's school, Julie is granted the gift to re-encounter the charism through fresh eyes.

This past fall my husband Roland and I decided we would send our eldest daughter to the parochial school connected to our parish. I work with our pastor as one of the coordinators who makes recommendations for activities at the parish, so on a very personal level we are looking for ways to establish a deeper relationship with the families at both the parish and the school. I was very aware that I had zero relationship with about 95 percent of those who belong to the community, but I did have the desire and a bit of excitement to get to know others and share life.

At the parent orientation and other moments of introduction at the beginning of the year, a few other moms really made an impression on me. One in particular, Erin, was happy to reach out and see what each of the other parents wanted to plan together for the kids during the school year. After some time, she shared she had led a rather rough childhood as her parents did not have a healthy relationship. As an adult she was victim to a toxic lifestyle until she sought betterment. Out of a desire to provide a good life for her kids, she worked a number of jobs to support herself and contribute to the family’s needs. With all of these storms in her life that seemed to be against her, Erin was aware her extended family wished to assist her and her family, and for this reason she never left the parish where she grew up while she was living and depending on extended family.

I spoke with her, a couple other moms, and the teacher to see what sorts of challenges we all were facing and what desires and needs we had. Over the course of a few months, I realized that after school some of us would bend over backwards to get a meal ready and serve it to the family. Some even had financial difficulties and did not know how to ease that tension. I suggested we prepare meals together in the parish center kitchen to be reheated later. We all could contribute an ingredient or split the cost, based on what each one could handle. A few took me up on the offer and we did it; we cooked a hearty beef and vegetable soup, more than all of our families could eat.

While just casually chatting that day, Erin and another mom asked what they’d need to do to be initiated into the Catholic Church. Erin had not been Confirmed, the other hadn’t been raised in the faith, but was curious because her husband used to be a practicing Catholic as a young person. I was taken off-guard! That’s not what I had in mind when I started talking to these women, but it was exactly the moment in which they realized what sort of work I do and what they were seeking for themselves.

So, the conversation started. They would begin RCIA and I would assist when children’s needs prevented them from attending the larger group sessions. A couple more parents from an older grade asked for the same. Over the course of six months, these parents prepared their hearts and stretched their minds. With the approval of our pastor, we read The Religious Sense. It was a risk, as Erin and the others at the outset were in no means equipped to receive, perhaps, the method and the life that is so foreign to them. I mean, how often do we complain about how complicated some of the passages seem?! But come to find out, they each found encouragement in speaking about the heart, about what it means to be reasonable, and what it means to attempt to keep all of the factors of ourselves and of reality in mind. The readings were not an undue burden to recognizing what was helpful to them.

Each one discovered how to enter into a life and be faithful to the ways God makes himself present to us throughout history. Erin told me at a certain point, “I have never heard any of these things before. What is this book? Everyone should read this book! I want to show my kids, the teachers in the school, my family.”

On March 2, 2019 Erin was Confirmed and her grandmother, full of gratitude, served as her sponsor.

Julie, Indiana, USA