An Easter Message to Our Partners
Meeting Christ Outside Church
I recall Father Steve Pawelk's story about the Easter Vigil in Rutledge, Tenn., in 2016, when two parishioners, Yahel and Cristino, received their sacraments of initiation. My favorite part of the story, though, begins long before the night of the vigil. The story is special because Yahel and Cristino did not meet Father Steve at St. John Paul II Mission, but at the trailer park where they were living. Father Steve strongly believes that people need to meet Christ outside the walls of the church. When one needs to reach him, it's best to use his cell phone, because he's likely to be out and about. He believes that people are much more likely to come to God when the people of God come to them first!
Folks in Rutledge, Tenn., have grown accustomed to seeing Father Steve in town, or other places in Grainger County, and the generous support of donors enables priests like Father Steve, as well as missionary brothers and lay coworkers, to bring the presence of the Catholic Church to areas like Rutledge, which may never have had such a presence in their community.
Learning about the FaithMany people think of those in the Latino community as "cultural Catholics." That is, people who have been exposed to Catholic tradition, but are not members of a particular Catholic community. Cristino was an inactive Catholic when he and Yahel met, but she had been a member of another Christian community as a child. Her experience of "church" came from a different tradition and her experience of the Catholic Church was formed only by what she had heard through an inaccurate filter. Because she had been baptized Catholic as an infant in Mexico, her neighbors were interested in introducing her to the Church, and paid the fee for her to attend a Catholic retreat in 2014.
Today, Yahel says the retreat not only changed her life, but that of Cristino and their children, as well. Upon returning home, she told Cristino that God wanted them to be married in the Catholic Church and to raise their children Catholic.
They met with Father Steve and told him they wanted to prepare and receive the sacraments, including matrimony, to set a good example for Cecilia, Thalis and Ezequiel, their children, and so they could participate in helping with their formation and preparation for the sacraments.
Fanning the Flame
Yahel says she has always been person of faith. She likens that faith to a candle with a flame that was dying, but the retreat she attended fanned it back to burning bright. Father Steve, the family's attendance at Mass and participation in church ministries and activities, has helped their faith become stronger.
Yahel and Cristino credit their relationship with Father Steve for bringing them to a place where they feel their faith, and that of their children, is growing stronger. He has not only helped them to light a small candle of faith, but he has helped them to keep it burning brightly.
I was delighted when Father Steve told me that Yahel is expecting the couple's fourth child, quite a blessing for a family he describes as solidly grounded, as their faith grows.
This is the kind of story that motivates Glenmary priests, brothers and coworkers to continue reaching out to people. Father Steve points out that the time he spends away from the mission churches in Maynardville and Rutledge could well be the best, and most fruitful, time he spends all week!
I am grateful for Father Steve's ministry, and he is grateful for the resources he needs to help families like Yahel and Cristino's to grow in faith (and in numbers!).
I wish everyone a blessed Easter season and thank you for your continued support and prayers of the missions. I also invite you to make an Easter offering this season. It will continue the longevity and success of the missions and provide missioners like Father Steve the resources they need to spread the faith beyond the Church's walls. Click here to make a gift.