By Celine Klosterman
DAVENPORT – Carolyn Kusek and Vito Spadafino wouldn’t have wanted their engagement to begin without God at the center, they said.
So as Spadafino planned how to propose to his girlfriend of 10 months, he chose what he considered the perfect location: the adoration chapel at Sacred Heart Cathedral, where the couple had often prayed together.
During a date on Feb. 11, the two-year anniversary of the Catholics’ friendship, he invited Kusek to the chapel that his friends had decorated with tea lights and rose petals. After playing on the guitar a song he’d written, he dropped to one knee and shared why he wanted to marry her.
“I know that together, we’ll draw nearer to the Lord,” said Spadafino, 27.
Kusek’s positive response reflected a future the 24-year-old had discerned through prayer. A native of Spring Valley, Ill., she met Spadafino after both Catholics were invited to speak to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in February 2010 at Assumption High School in Davenport. There, she recognized him as the handsome man she’d earlier seen praying after a weekday Mass at her parish of St. Paul the Apostle in Davenport.
She was attracted to the New Jersey native, but wasn’t looking for a relationship at the time. Spadafino saw her as a joyful, faith-filled and attractive woman. Fellow students at Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, they began studying and taking part in Catholic activities together. For about 14 months, Kusek and Spadafino were at peace with their friendship, they said.
But both Catholics eventually felt called to a deeper relationship with each other. Carolyn said, “My peace turned into a desire to know him on a deeper level, but I trusted that if it was the Lord’s will, Vito would pursue me.” So she put her future with him in God’s hands.
Meanwhile, Spadafino had decided, after praying and talking to friends and family, to ask Kusek on a date. That date – at Antonella’s Pizzeria in Davenport – turned into a relationship.
As the couple discerned their vocation of marriage, Spadafino received permission from his parish’s pastor, Father Rich Adam, to propose in the adoration chapel. Kusek reflected later on the significance of getting engaged where Jesus was present in the Blessed Sacrament: “I had my two loves right there.”
Kneeling before Christ in the Eucharist brings greater intimacy and focus to her prayers, she said.
“In humility, God took on flesh so we can experience him,” Spadafino said. “It’s a reminder of how far he’ll go to show us his love.”
He and Kusek hope to get married in spring 2013 at the cathedral. She graduated from Palmer last month, and Spadafino, who spent three years with National Evangelization Teams Ministries, expects to graduate next year.
They’d love to have at least one child who would enter religious life, said Spadafino, who once discerned whether he was called to the priesthood.
Devin and Kim Schadt, married members of St. Paul the Apostle who have mentored the couple, believe the young adults offer a model for young people looking for their soul mate.
First, both Catholics’ first love is Jesus, Devin Schadt said.
A second notable quality became clear as the couples discussed their relationships. “It was amazing to see how honest and trusting they were with one another’s feelings and how their love grew deeper for the other by means of their honesty,” Schadt added.
Finally, “Vito and Carolyn understand the true meaning of sexual love, the human body and how the body and sexual love have been created by God to glorify God.”
Kusek and Spadafino would like to speak to youth groups about chastity: contact him at (607) 227-9597.
“By beginning with true friendship in Christ, remaining vulnerable in desiring to love rightly, and living purely, Carolyn and Vito are witnesses of how God can be glorified in romantic love,” Schadt said.