By Celine Klosterman
ALBIA — Heather Moeller is looking forward to being part of the family.
By entering the Catholic Church this Easter, she’ll join her Catholic husband and children, but will also become an official member of the parish family in which she already feels at home.
“It was time,” Heather said. After being married to Dayle Moeller, a Catholic, for 13 years and watching their second daughter prepare to receive first Communion at St. Mary Parish last May, the question struck Heather: “When’s the next RCIA class?”
Baptized Lutheran but raised “a little Baptist, a little Methodist,” she hadn’t been thinking about the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. But when she and Dayle walked through St. Mary Church with their daughter Mackenzie on the day the child received her first Eucharist, “I got very emotional. I thought, ‘I need to do this for my family.’ We need to be together in faith.”
Around the same time, parishioners invited Heather to help with a parish dinner. Doing so and volunteering in other parish activities made her realize St. Mary’s was like a family, she said. “The more I helped out, the more I became a part of it. Everything just fell together. I felt this was right; joining the Church was what I needed to do.”
Dayle agrees. He was glad that his wife attended Mass with him and their three children, now ages 4-11, even before she began RCIA in September 2010. “But now I don’t feel like she’s just a spectator; she’s part of the Church,” he said.
Heather said she looks forward to being able to guide her daughters and son in the religion. Dayle, a lifelong Catholic, joked that she’s learned so much, “I’ll probably be the one trying to keep up.”
“She really wants to know and understand the faith,” said Sharon Crall, RCIA director at St. Mary’s. Years ago, Heather considered only her children’s religious development, but now seeks spiritual growth for herself as well, Sharon said.
Sharon traced the candidate’s shift in perspective to when Heather’s position as a bank teller was downsized in February 2010. “She visited with me for an hour and said she was reassessing a lot of things.”
“I realized I needed God in my life more than I ever imagined,” said Heather, who’s now studying to be a beautician.
For her RCIA sponsor and aunt, Eleanor Hugen, RCIA eased the pain of a different loss. Eleanor’s husband, Frank, died of cancer Oct. 24, 2010, not long after she’d agreed to be her niece’s sponsor. Though the Catholic missed the first few RCIA meetings and questioned her ability to be an effective sponsor, she later realized she needed the parish involvement. “God put it there for me. It’s been a lot of help,” she said.
Heather, Sharon and others offered emotional support, and the process of RCIA strengthened the widow’s faith. “I’ve always been close to God, but this brought me even closer,” said Eleanor, a former Methodist.
She and Heather noted they’ve leaned on each other. “I’m learning to lean on God more as well,” Heather said. She feels she’s become more patient, too.
“I think she’s come closer to God all around,” Eleanor said. Her niece talks about her relationship with the Lord more often, and her actions — such as volunteering at St. Mary’s — also suggest growth in faith, Eleanor observed.
“We’re very proud of her,” Dayle said. “We look forward to developing as a family in the Church.”