By Celine Klosterman
ALBIA — In his new faith, Chad Otdoerfer found something he hadn’t realized was missing.
By joining the Catholic Church this Easter, the member of St. Mary Parish said he discovered the peace of mind that comes from building a relationship with God. He noticed the sense of spiritual nourishment he received from taking part in Mass each Sunday. And he’s found the benefit that sharing his faith with his fiancée — fellow parishioner Olivia Crall — has on their relationship.
Otdoerfer didn’t expect nearly as much when he began attending Mass in summer 2010 to support her. “I didn’t think it would impact me or that I’d be that interested in being there,” said the teacher and coach for Albia Community Schools. Baptized Lutheran but raised by parents who weren’t active in their faith, he’d justified not going to church by saying attendance didn’t determine a person’s goodness.
“But as time went on, I’d ask Olivia, ‘Which Mass are we going to?’” He began to enjoy having time to reflect on his week from a Christian perspective. He took lessons for his daily life from the Scripture readings and, especially, from the homilies of Father Mike Volkmer, CPPS, St. Mary’s pastor.
Growing curious, Otdoerfer started reading about the Catholic faith. After a few months, his fiancée suggested he consider the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
“I could tell there was some interest developing in him,” said Crall, who’d long prayed to marry a Catholic. “He wanted to read more, wanted to learn more, and conversations would naturally arise about the religion.”
But she tried not to push him into joining the faith. “It has to be such a personal choice.”
Otdoerfer eventually decided to attend the first RCIA class at St. Mary’s this past fall, after RCIA Director Sharon Crall assured him he didn’t have to immediately commit to the process. As he continued taking classes, “I realized I was missing that personal relationship with God that gives you peace of mind.”
He also received explanations for liturgical practices such as kneeling and genuflecting that had long perplexed him. “As I went through the process, things made more and more sense.” And he was glad to see that his fiancée and his future father-in-law, Donny Crall, his RCIA sponsor, were learning things, too.
Witnessing Otdoerfer’s spiritual growth “was very rewarding to me as a sponsor. It has strengthened my own faith,” Donny Crall said.
“Chad’s curiosity and commitment were amazing,” said Sharon Crall, an extended relative of Donny and Olivia Crall. “He takes in every opportunity he can to experience and learn the faith.”
Otdoerfer said he was impressed by the support, words of congratulations and cards he received from St. Mary parishioners as he entered the Church. He said he might like to volunteer as a lector or eucharistic minister; receiving Communion for the first time at Easter Vigil “was so rewarding.”
He continues to foster his faith by spending time each evening in spiritual reading with Olivia Crall, who feels secure knowing her future family will have a Catholic foundation. “Now Chad and I pray together nightly,” she said. “It just came naturally to him once he had the background. I think he always had this potential in him; he just needed something to spark it at the right time.”