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Fostering a Culture of Vocations in 5 Easy Steps

clerical_collarWe often associate the term “vocation” with our priests or those discerning a call to the priesthood. What we often overlook is that we all have a vocation. Two actually!

Yes, I said two. Primarily, we are all called to a life of holiness. That is we should all be striving to be saints one day. In addition, we all have a particular vocation. It is through our particular vocation that we discern the state of life God is calling us to. This particular vocation does not refer only to men who discern to serve God through the priesthood, but instead impacts all of us. So what are the vocations in which God is calling all of us to serve Him in this life?

The most obvious vocation is that of the priesthood. Without our priests we would not have the sacraments, and we need the sacraments to help us live out our primary vocations. Our priests serve God by serving God’s people. Priests are ordained clergy. And they aren’t the only ones. Our deacons are also ordained clergy. Deacons are also called to serve God by serving God’s people. They too bring the sacraments to the laity (you and I) and profess vows to the Bishop. They also serve the priests and Bishop when called upon.

There are also many people who are called to live religious lives. Both men and women may be called to religious life. Men can join an order as a Brother and live in community with other men serving God in some particular charism (teaching, prayer, etc.). Some religious men will also take Holy Orders and become religious priests for their order. Women can be called to live in community as either a nun or a sister (yes, there is actually a difference). Read more about religious life at www.ichoseyou.com/religious-life/.

Finally, the laity are also called to live out a vocation for God. Men and women of the lay faithful are called to either live a generous single life for Christ or live for Christ through the vocation of marriage. We often forget that as laity we too are called to a vocation, whether we are single or married. For more on marriage as a vocation click over to my article Five Characteristics of a Matrimonial Vocation.

massIt is important to understand what a vocation is and what it entails in order to understand how to foster a culture of vocations within your parish. The future of our Catholic faith depends on building a culture of vocations in your parish family and in our individual families. What are some things you can do to help in this effort?

1. Pray. Prayer is always the first step. Pray for more young men to listen for God’s call to the priesthood for them. Pray for the strength of marriages in our community. Pray for strength and courage for our priests, deacons, and religious as they live their lives in service to God. Pray for all young people to listen to God’s call for them and then to follow through. Pray for your own children, that they will be open to God’s will for their lives and they will say yes to whatever He is calling them to.

As a bonus, take your prayer to Adoration if it is available to you. Parishes with perpetual adoration often see a boost in young men discerning the priesthood. Remember that without our priests we don’t have the sacraments and without the sacraments we don’t have a Catholic Church. We need more priests. Spend one hour in adoration, pray for an increase in priestly vocations, and one day we will see God’s amazing work.

2. Put a name with a face. Check out your diocesan website and look for a vocations office or vocations page. Browse through the site and see if you can find the names (and hopefully pictures) of the young people in your diocese who are currently in formation for the priesthood or religious life. If not, contact the office and get a list of their names and contact information if possible. Then pray for them by name.

3. Let those in formation know that you praying for them. Going through the formation process can be a joyful time as well as a very difficult time for young people. Almost every priest or religious I have spoken with has questioned their vocational call at some point during their discernment process. Knowing that people are praying for them offers them support and encouragement. If you are able to get their contact information, send them a note or letter of encouragement, send them a care package, or a gas card (for those long weekends or other breaks when they want to come home to visit their families).

Sisters of Life Novices 20084. Talk to your children, Godchildren, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and any other young people you know. Encourage them to pray, stay close to the sacraments, and to always seek God’s will for their lives. And be an example of this for your children. Incorporate prayers for vocations during family prayer time and share your own stories of how you discerned your call from God. Invite priests, deacons, and religious into your homes so your children get to know them and see them as real people too.

5. Join or create a vocations committee in your parish. A vocations committee can do a lot to help create a culture of vocations in your parish. A vocations committee can get support through a diocesan Office for Vocations which can provide materials and information on diocesan events. Within your parish, a vocations committee can plan events for young people to get to know priests and religious in the local area, ask questions, and pray together. A vocations committee can create programs for the whole parish to participate in (like a vocations cross that rotates between families each week), publish interesting facts or Vocations Q&As in your parish bulletin, and help promote diocesan vocations events.

For more information about vocations, check out the Vocations page at the USCCB site.

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On That Day: From Agnostic Theist to Seminarian to Deacon

::Friends, we are excited to share with you the next installment in the ongoing story of Catholic Sistas friend Craig DeYoung, a former agnostic who began his journey to Catholicism, then to seminary. We invite you to get caught up by reading his first four installments, part I, part II, part III, and part IV. And now that you are up to speed, please dive in and see what has happened with Craig most recently.::

On the morning of May 18th, 2013 at St. Mary’s Student Center in
 College Station, Texas I was ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacon.
 For the last six years I have prepared for that moment and still
 prepare for a moment yet to come next year when I am to be ordained as
 a priest. But, on that day as I was surrounded by friends and family, I 
was called to Holy Orders and then promised to live celibacy as a
 total dedication to the Lord and in service to His Church. I committed 
myself to praying the Liturgy of the Hours faithfully for the Church
 and the whole world, I resolved to carry out the office of deacon and
 conform my life to Christ’s own, and I promised respect and obedience 
to my Bishop Joe Vásquez and his successors. Moments after this, as I 
lay prostrate on the ground I gave my life and all I had to God just
 before Bishop Vásquez laid hands upon my head invoking the Holy Spirit
, ordaining me as a deacon in the Catholic Church. All in all, it was a
 big day. I’d like to offer this article as a reflection about the 
ordination and its significance.

It is my belief that an Ordination to Holy Orders is less about the
 man being ordained and more about the work that God has done and will
 do in him. For this reason, any ordination is an occasion for joyous
celebration and much thanksgiving for the local Church. That said, there is usually a larger 
turnout by the people of a diocese for a priestly ordination than for 
a deaconate ordination. There is more excitement for a priestly 
ordination because it is the ultimate goal of seminary formation, in addition to 
various other reasons. I mention this because for the seminarian 
eventually preparing for priesthood, their deaconate ordination is in
some ways the more important of the two. I say “in some ways” because
, while the seminarian longs for the day he becomes a priest, it is at t
his deaconate ordination that he first lays down his life before God
 and gives himself in service to the Church and her members. It is at t
his deaconate ordination where he makes his promises of celibacy,
 obedience to his bishop, and commitment to praying the Liturgy of the
 Hours. For a new transitional deacon, his ordination is a fulfillment,
 a beginning, and a transition. It is a fulfillment by his commitment
 to live out a vocation faithfully and for life. It is the beginning
 of a new identity as a servant lived out in mission. And as a deacon
 preparing for priesthood it is a transition which becomes the 
foundation for a future participation in the priesthood of Jesus
Christ. As for myself, being ordained as a deacon was all of this, and
 more.

As I reflect on God’s work in my life and how I ended up where I am,
 I think perhaps the most beautiful thing about discovering my
 vocation and making a total self gift of myself to the Lord through
 ordination, is the realization that I am becoming who I am meant to be.
 I am being fulfilled day by day and am becoming more myself, more me.
 However, finding my vocation and now living it out has been a
 challenging and sometimes frightening process, as it is for many.
Whether a vocation is to holy orders, religious life, consecrated 
life, or the married life doesn’t make this less true. Certainly, this is
 because vocations have to do with giving your life away, all of it,
 holding nothing back. It is frightening because answering a vocation 
means committing yourself irrevocably and for life. There are no take
backs so to speak. A vocation is a specific call from the Lord to
respond in a particular way to His total gift of Himself to us in
 Christ by the total gift of ourselves to Him. This is true for every
 vocation. What I have sometimes forgotten during my journey is that
God’s will is for my good and ultimately my eternal happiness by being
with him forever in heaven. This is true for every vocation. A
vocation is God’s plan for a person’s ultimate happiness and joy
through eternal life in Him. Vocation is the road God sets a person
 upon in order to lead them to Himself.

It is important to note that a vocation necessarily includes other 
people in some way, shape, or fashion. (Even for those called to be 
hermits.) This is because vocations are always the path of love and
 every true act of love is an act of sacrifice in which we die to
 ourselves a little so that another may have life through our
 sacrifice; this demands there be another to love. Through vocations, 
the Lord teaches us to live in communion by humbling ourselves in
 order to exalt others. This kind of Love demanded by vocation 
prepares us to be the kind of persons who will enjoy heaven. Heaven 
is nothing other than a participation in the inner life to the Trinity
 wherein the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit live in an eternal 
exchange of love, in communion.

Even knowing this truth doesn’t make it easy to respond to God’s love
 with our own love. There are very real obstacles such as sin and 
fear. This has also been true for me in my own vocation. A little
 over a year ago I was battling with the decision of whether to take
 time off from seminary or to continue formation toward ordination. I
 found myself paralyzed with fear and feelings of inadequacy. After 
much inner turmoil and debate I found myself undecided until the
 morning of my final evaluation at St. Mary’s Seminary. Just before
the evaluation I spoke with a friend about my dilemma and his own
 discernment. I remember in speaking with him how everything suddenly
 became clear. I realized that I wasn’t in doubt about what my
 vocation was but, rather, I was afraid to give my life away to Christ.
 I was holding back out of fear that somehow God wouldn’t be enough 
for me. Moreover, I had an acute case of what Bishop Fulton Sheen 
called staurophopia or fear of the cross. I was afraid of what God
 was asking of me, namely that He was asking everything of me. At that
 moment I realized my fear was keeping me from God. Knowing the truth, 
I was free to chose. Thanks be to God, He gave me the grace to 
respond in love by following Him. Increasing Him, decreasing me.

Committing to a vocation is not a once and done kind of thing. A 
vocation must be recommitted to daily both before and after making a
 final commitment. My formation last year was dedicated to having the
 freedom to make a complete gift of myself to God without holding back 
because of fear or personal sin. An essential moment in this work 
included making the 30 Exercises of St. Ignatius. Those 30 days helped 
me to grow in friendship with Jesus and to trust Him as my friend
 and Lord so that I might follow Him even to His cross. From then 
until today, each day has included its struggles to recommit myself to 
the Lord and place my heart and trust entirely in Him. My greatest 
help in this ongoing effort has been the Blessed Mother who knows my
need, intercedes for me before the Lord, and provides every virtue
 where I am lacking. As the Mother of Jesus, she becomes the Mother of
 every vocation leading each of us to her Son.

On that day I was ordained deacon, I became a little more of the person I am meant to be. I 
was surrounded by my family, my friends, the people of the local 
Church I am studying to serve, brother deacons, future brother
priests, the angels, the saints, and my bishop. I was held up to the
 Lord by their love and prayers but it was the Lord’s work in the Holy 
Spirit which made that day great. As He does for each of us, on that
 day He gave me myself so that I might give myself away and become 
one of his deacons. By his work, I have been blessed in becoming a 
little less so that He might become more in the hearts of men and
 women. Please keep me in your continued prayers so I may continue to
 commit my life to God day in and day out. God Bless!

In Christ,

Dcn. Craig DeYoung

 

 

 

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Diaconate Faith Formation Guest Posts Vocations

The Deacon’s Wife: Part 3: Navigating the Formation Process

[This is part 3 of The Deacon’s Wife. Don’t forget to check out part one and part two.]

He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. ~Matthew 18: 2-4

Deacon Cross
(c)Diocese of Lexington

Four years of formation sounds daunting as you approach it, but the time surprisingly flew by and I would not trade it for anything!

As we went into the program, I realized that I was one of the few in the room that did not have any formal education past high school (and with my attitude at that time it is surprising I even graduated!). My higher learning has been done in the School of Hard Knocks and as of yet, I haven’t graduated!  At first this made me feel like I was way behind and would have a hard time comprehending the courses, but I actually think it may have been just the opposite.

My trade is as an electrician, although now I use that experience in sales of electrical distribution, control, and lighting. All of my training has been on-the-job, whether it be on the construction site or in the sales office, and I treasure that type of learning.

It’s hard for me not to second guess myself due to my level of education. I will never forget one women’s retreat I was on and it came time to choose a table leader, the first question asked was “what is your degree?” – my lack of a degree it seems, automatically excluded me from being capable of leading a table discussion and set the tone of the weekend for me. Can you tell that still bothers me?

Our formation weekends consisted of Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday until about two in the afternoon. For those of us with full-time jobs, it was a challenge to be alert and on game. Almost every Saturday night one generous couple in our class opened their home to the entire class to come unwind and get to know each other. This, I believe, was as important as any of the formation.

The course list we had to look forward to included Systematic Theology, Church History, Spirituality of the Deacon, Old Testament, Canon Law,  just to name a few. I wondered if anyone else was as overwhelmed as I was looking at the list. The thought kept going through my mind – “at least I won’t be graded….”

The Saint Meinrad formation program provided us with top notch instructors for the most part. The deacon who taught us Systematic Theology is a person I will never forget. One of the first things he said to us was “If your mind and heart are not in the mind and heart of the Church, you don’t belong here,” and he repeated this on a regular basis throughout the weekend.  Such truth in that one little statement!

What I observed throughout the weekends was that many of those in the class with the highest level of education actually had the hardest time understanding and accepting much of the Church’s teachings.  To listen to couples in a Catholic deacon formation class try to defend population control, artificial contraception, the ordination of women, and other issues that go against the mind and heart of the Church was pretty mind-boggling for me. I had to wonder, and did out loud a few times, why they were there. Of course, there were times that I was written off as a simpleton. But that’s okay, I do think it’s pretty simple – God is in control, no one else! And there is no amount of knowledge that can take the place of the faith of knowing that it is God that is in control!

Spending this formation time with my husband was one of the best decisions of my life. Each of us were growing, blossoming and discovering more and more about our faith, and since we were making these discoveries together, it was only natural that our faith life as a couple grew. We were able to discuss and point out to each other what we heard and how we interpreted those things. It is only natural, because of that Venus & Mars thing, that many times we each keyed in on things the other did not. Those discussions and exchanges just rounded out the formation for us both.

One thing I truly appreciate about not having formal advanced education is I do believe it allowed me to look at the teachings of the Church very simply. Once I turned my back on the pressures of society and their push for the Church to keep up with the times, it became easy to trust 2000 years of history and experience. I would love to share a few of those things.

In twelve years of Catholic education I would have a hard time coming up with how many times I heard “it’s a mystery” – but no one ever explained what “mystery” meant. Of course as a child, I heard the word mystery and thought of Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys; as I got older I heard mystery meaning “it’s none of your business.” Now I know a mystery in our faith is like peeling an onion – the more you peel, the more you learn, but you will never be able to grasp the mystery in its entirety.  (And it may cause some tears as you peel it away!)

Concerning the ordination of women: I told you that, by trade, I am an electrician, and this leads many to believe that I am a feminist in the sense of N.O.W. feminism. And nothing could be further from the truth. I do believe that women should be given equal opportunity in jobs that they are capable of performing, but there are jobs or vocations that women were not meant for. Much like there are jobs and vocations that men are not capable of. Women cannot be fathers. I can look at my experience as a single parent and how I tried to be (and was convinced I could be) the best mother and father my kids ever had. What a load of crap! I could be the best mother I was capable of but there is no way I could ever be a father to my kids; much in the same way a woman cannot be a father in the Church. She just doesn’t have what it takes!

Even more simply though, I believe if Jesus wanted women priests, the first person he would have ordained – and the one most eminently qualified – would have been his mother and she would have been our first pope. And then there’s that little thing called “in persona Christi” (in the person of Christ) – we know Christ was a man so shouldn’t it be a man that represents Him and repeats His words? Not to mention that He is the Bridegroom of the Church. What message would we be sending if the bridegroom was a woman and the Church is the bride?

So many other takes I have I would love to share, such as why I think holding hands during the Our Father is detrimental to the priesthood and the liturgy, the prayer I say at the offertory,  why we should consider “ad orientem”, but alas, my word count has come to an end.

So I sign off in prayer for the conclave and our cardinals – Come Holy Spirit!

*Cindy, although a cradle Catholic, is a revert to the Catholic faith. She is the middle child from a family of 15 children, is the mother of three and a very proud grandma of three. She is active with the Diocese of Lexington RCIA Commission, writes a ongoing series for the Crossroads Catholic bi-monthly newspaper and has been in the construction field for over thirty years. She and her husband of almost 11 years, Deacon Skip, live in a historic house in downtown Lexington with their three dogs.*

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Diaconate Faith Formation Guest Posts Marriage Reversion Series Vocations

The Deacon’s Wife: Part 2: God Turns All Things Good

[This is part 2 of The Deacon’s Wife. Follow this link to check out part 1.]

“Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and swept along by every wind of teaching, looks like the only attitude acceptable to today’s standards.” —Pope Benedict XVI

Deacon Cross
(c)Diocese of Lexington

I truly believe God has a way of taking what we see as “bad” and making it not only redeemable, but good. That’s what He has done in my life, but I had to allow Him to take charge, and if you know anything about me, you know that is difficult for me because I love to be in control!

I will spend my life in contrition for the harm that my actions and beliefs have had in the degradation of our society and especially to my family. Looking back at what I bought into and then argued – many times passionately – for others to also buy into, I must take responsibility for where we are. Thank God, that He is a merciful Father that will grant forgiveness and grace to return!

My two youngest children, (my oldest had no interest – another story that we don’t have time for), and I were attending Saint Peter Claver on a regular, every Sunday, basis. My daughter has a wonderful voice and I encouraged her to join the choir, which she did until a youth choir was formed. Our every Sunday led to adding the Wednesday Mass, as well as involvement in various committees and outreach. This was filling some hole in me I did not even realize was there.

Saint Peter Claver is a small, predominantly African-American, Catholic congregation. Between the size and the friendliness of the parishioners, it was easy to get involved. It was the type of congregation that, like Cheers, everybody knows your name. There was a lot of comfort in that.

The religious sister who was the parish administrator at the time knew that I wanted to learn more about the Faith and was always looking for more ways to get me involved. She asked if I would sponsor a woman in the RCIA program. RCIA – that was a new term to me, but I agreed and what that opened to me still just blows my mind! I am still quite thankful for this first request from Sister that has opened so wide a door for me!

The first year I was a sponsor and got my feet wet. The next year, Sister asked if I would be willing to be a part of the team. The three downtown parishes were combining to one RCIA program to facilitate speakers, fellowship, resources, etc. Here we go! God definitely has a plan!

As my involvement in RCIA progressed, I took on the challenge of presenting various topics to the group which naturally led to hours of research in the Catechism, Bible and Church documents. What a treasure trove we have in our Faith!

There was this new guy that had recently started playing piano at Saint Peter Claver and soon was a sponsor for a gentleman coming into the church. Our paths kept crossing at church, RCIA and the youth choir he helped start, and we became friends. This was my future husband, Skip. We worked together on different projects and committees for a few years and my youngest son, Glenn, was enamored with him, and I do believe the feeling was mutual.

One Sunday after Mass, Glenn told Skip he thought it was time that his mom (ME) had a boyfriend. I imagine I turned plenty of shades of red, but outta the mouths of babes! It wasn’t right away, but we did start dating not too much longer after.

Skip and I had a lot in common. He too had left the church for several years and had a pretty colorful past – but that’s his story to tell. We were both on our journeys back and both had the same attitude that we needed to embrace the church fully if we were going to embrace it at all. We were, and still are, good for each other. My husband had also been discerning for the priesthood but he just didn’t think that was where God was calling him. He shared this discerning with me and I do believe he discerned all the way to the wedding aisle!

The discernment process for the permanent diaconate, if the man is married, is a discernment of both spouses. It must be since the two have become one in the sacrament of marriage. The direct call to the diaconate is to the husband, but there must be a complimentary call to the wife.  This is a mission that they embark on together.

This does not mean that the two will be involved in every ministry together and it does not mean that the wife is called to perform each and every task or ministry requested of her. This discernment process means that together, the spouses decide what roles each of them are called to, whether it be in a ministry together or individual ministries or in some cases, the wife is not called into a ministry role and instead is called to take care of the family and household. Every couple is different and each couple needs the freedom to discern their roles on their own. The main part of this discernment is: can you accept, share and support what the other is called to?

Our first year was called the aspirancy year. This is a year of introduction to the ministry of the deacon, to deacon couples, interviews with a board made up of clergy and lay persons, psychological assessments, personality assessments and a “getting to know you” phase. It is a process to let you know if you have the “right stuff” to continue on to the four years of formation.

Looking back on that first year and how the majority of the couples were strangers, to five years later when twenty-two of the men were ordained to the permanent diaconate, to see the bond that was formed in those weekends together, I would not trade that for the world! This doesn’t mean we all necessarily like each other, but we all do love each other!

There are so many things I can look back on now and laugh about but remember just how nervous I was that I may screw this all up for Skip. Like the interviews in front of the board. What if I answered wrong? What if they didn’t like me or didn’t think I was worthy? The questions that go through your mind are endless but actually unwarranted. I think what they are really looking for is if you, the wife, just absolutely hate the road your husband is going down and refuse to support him. The wife actually has the power to keep her husband from being ordained – she is the last to agree and assent to this before ordination. So you can see how important it is for her to be on board and support this journey they are both embarking on.

Yet that first year was a breeze in comparison to the next four years of formation, and I didn’t even have the homework to do!

*Cindy, although a cradle Catholic, is a revert to the Catholic faith. She is the middle child from a family of 15 children, is the mother of three and a very proud grandma of three. She is active with the Diocese of Lexington RCIA Commission, writes a ongoing series for the Crossroads Catholic bi-monthly newspaper and has been in the construction field for over thirty years. She and her husband of almost 11 years, Deacon Skip, live in a historic house in downtown Lexington with their three dogs.*

Categories
Diaconate Faith Formation Guest Posts Reversion Vocations

The Deacon’s Wife: Part 1: Finding My Way Home

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly, for we all fall short in many respects. James 3:1-2

Deacon Cross
(c)Diocese of Lexington

This was a Bible verse that was on my mind during the five years of discernment and formation before my husband, Skip, was ordained a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Lexington. Deacons are ordained to preach & teach and I believe James is warning us all, that if we want to take on the role of teaching the faith, we better be ready to pass it on faithfully or there might be hell to pay (literally) in the future!

I have been asked to write a few posts on the role of a deacon and his wife, along with perhaps, what the discernment and formation process was like. The wives were actually encouraged to attend the formation classes with their husbands and I eagerly did (most of the time). I think it’s only fair I give you some of my background before we go much further. And the first thing to realize is, as a deacon’s wife I am not a saint – and am very far from it!

I am a cradle Catholic and a revert to the faith. For years I made myself the god of my life.

I grew up in the era of Vatican II with the notions that singing “Kum-by-yha” or “Peace Train” and holding hands were what was important for “church”. This age also offered me the “if it feels go – do it”, “I am woman, hear me roar”, and “I don’t need a man in my life to be successful” mentalities, which I readily bought in to. But what I lacked was a love and respect for my body and bought into the idea that if you were attracted to a person then you should follow your animal instincts; after all, this wasn’t the dark ages of women being covered from head to toe, and following behind their man. Oh quite the opposite – we should take the lead!

I left the church when I left home at 17. I was now my own boss, and if I wasn’t going to listen to my parents, why would I ever listen to some ancient fairy tales and a bunch of old men in dresses?!

Boy, did my bubble get burst, and burst hard! My oldest son was born out of wedlock when I was just 18 years old – 33 years ago – and I decided that I could raise him on my own. I was so full of myself! In 1979, it was not commonplace for an unwed mother to raise her child so I thought I was cutting edge! Pshaw!

Before you start to wonder about my family, I had the most marvelous parents anyone could wish for and my dad was always, and is still, my hero. My parents would have celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary this past weekend if my dad was still alive, and they raised 15 children, (of which I am number 8), put us all through Catholic school, took us to Mass as a family every Sunday and holy day, and most days during the summer we walked to daily Mass.

My parents showed us what a loving, stable marriage was, tried to give us work ethic (I started working at 11 years old with a paper route), taught us you could fight with someone you loved and still love them, and you didn’t have to have it all to be happy. So why did I go so far from how I was raised? My guess is that I wanted to be “modern” and fit in with the age of society.

Long sordid story short, I married in 1982, had my daughter in 1983, and divorced in 1986. My first husband and I were on totally different pages about money, family, priorities, and faith (which we only talked about a little bit when my sister died in 1985), etc., but the stars in my eyes hid that from me at the time.

Now we did do a couple of things just to “make my parents happy” – at least that’s what I told myself. We had been married by a justice of the peace but then had a church wedding. As Dad was walking me down the aisle he told me I did not have to do this to make them happy. Plus we had our daughter baptized into the Catholic faith.

I went through years of taking care of my two children on my own, and was sure I could be both mother and father – isn’t that what we have been told? What a scam that is! But it took me years to figure out.

Then I met Merle. He had 3 kids, had been married 3 times and swept me off me feet. He and his son moved into my house after about 2 weeks of dating in 1989 and I found myself pregnant with my youngest son in 1990 – so what the heck, let’s get married! And we did.

Merle was a brilliant, handsome man. He was also an alcoholic – a mean and sometimes violent alcoholic. He started his day with a six pack and ended it with a case. After much turmoil, we separated and soon divorced. I did know though, he truly loved our son and I tried to let him have time with Glenn.

Glenn, at four years old, would tell me how sick his daddy was because he would scream if he touched his belly. I knew it was pretty bad and offered to take Merle to the doctor. Well, Merle died at age 45 from liver, kidney and heart failure all as a result of his drinking. My son was left without a father, and I was left with all the bills he had not paid off in the two years since the divorce.

During this tumultuous time, I started attending Al-Anon – my saving grace at that time! Well, if you are familiar with any 12 step programs – and Al-Anon is based on the same 12 steps – number one is to admit you are powerless, number two is come to believe that it will take a power greater than you to restore you to sanity, and number three, turn your will and your life over to God as you know Him.

I only had one place to go where I knew I could find God and that was back to the Catholic Church. And how glad I was to be back! We, my two youngest children and I, went to a few different parishes and then found a home at Saint Peter Claver in downtown Lexington.

As I pondered whether I was going to make this huge commitment to come back home to the Catholic faith, there was one thing I decided – if I was going to be Catholic, then I was going to be Catholic. This meant, instead of picking and choosing what I was going to believe, I had to step out on faith, believe it and find out why the Church taught it. It has worked for every single stumbling block I had – or thought I had – with the Church.

The deacon at St. Peter Claver at that time was working with me to prepare for Glenn’s baptism, and he asked me why I thought all these bad things happened to me. My response really surprised me: I told him I did not see them as “bad things” but as the stepping stones I needed to get me back to where God wanted me. But God was just getting started with me……………….

*Cindy, although a cradle Catholic, is a revert to the Catholic faith. She is the middle child from a family of 15 children, is the mother of three and a very proud grandma of three. She is active with the Diocese of Lexington RCIA Commission, writes an ongoing series for the Crossroads Catholic bi-monthly newspaper and has been in the construction field for over thirty years. She and her husband of almost 11 years, Deacon Skip, live in a historic house in downtown Lexington with their three dogs.*