By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Brandon Bowman entered the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil at Sacred Heart Cathedral with a deeper understanding of another commitment he is about to make: marriage to the woman he loves. Brandon, 32, will enter the sacrament of marriage with Jamie Griep, 31, on April 26 at the cathedral, which has become a second home to the couple.
Jamie, a cradle Catholic from Clinton County, marvels at how she and Brandon arrived at this point in their faith journey, which began when she had lunch at Hy-Vee with her friend Amanda.
While dining over Chinese, Amanda said she wanted to go back to church. She had attended Mass at Sacred Heart with her aunt and uncle, but had never been baptized. Now she wanted to enter into the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), a formation journey for individuals seeking to join the Catholic Church.
“She asked me if I would go to the meetings with her because she didn’t want to go by herself,” Jamie said. “She brought me to Sacred Heart (to RCIA) and I just loved it. I thought to myself, ‘Why have I been away from church for so long?’”
Jamie felt privileged to be Amanda’s sponsor and began attending Mass regularly at Sacred Heart. Amanda entered the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 2012.
Meanwhile, Brandon began accompanying Jamie to Mass. “She asked me if I wanted to go with her. We usually do a lot of things together,” said Brandon, who had never belonged to a church. “I liked it. I liked the community there. Everybody just seemed warm and welcoming and inviting. It has a real strong family feel to it.”
“Father Rich (Adam, pastor and rector of Sacred Heart Cathedral) did a nice job of making Brandon feel welcome,” said Deacon Dan Huber, who leads the cathedral’s RCIA program.
Last fall, Brandon, who works as a material handler for RA Jones (formerly Katridg Pak) in Davenport, began RCIA at Sacred Heart. Jamie, an account manager for Dealer Marketing Service, Davenport, has attended all of his classes. What she has discovered in attending RCIA classes first with Amanda and now with Brandon is that faith formation is a lifelong process.
“The thing that surprises me, from being a cradle Catholic (she grew up attending Mass at parishes in DeWitt, Petersville and Sugar Creek) is the importance of continuing education in your faith life,” Jamie said. She sees the bigger purpose of the Church, beyond the rules, and how the Church helps her to grow stronger in her vocation of service. “We’re greeters; I’m on the Altar & Rosary Society,” Jamie continued.
Through his participation in RCIA, Brandon learned much about the Church and discovered why his girlfriend of seven years felt so strongly about getting married. Together, they learned about the sacramental nature of marriage and how God will be an important part of their marriage. “It’s brought up concepts of the beliefs of a faithful Catholic marriage. We discussed once (in class) that it’s a marriage of ourselves plus God,” said Brandon, who previously thought marriage was nothing more than a social event. “It seemed like it had lost a lot of its luster … people get married and then the next thing you know, they’re getting divorced,” he added.
Now he sees RCIA as helping him and Jamie to solidify “that foundation of an actual faith marriage.”
As a full member of the Catholic Church, he looks most forward to being able to receive the Eucharist and continuing to learn more from the readings of the Mass. Fr. Adam, who served as Brandon’s sponsor, is energized by Brandon and Jamie’s faith journey.
“I just don’t think I have met anybody with a more joyful spirit than Jamie, and the two of them demonstrate that exuberant spirit in almost everything they do,” Fr. Adam said. “It’s impressive to me how they’ve embraced the faith and live it so fully. They are an awesome couple.”
In addition to serving in hospitality ministry at Sacred Heart, Brandon is also thinking about joining the parish’s Knights of Columbus Council. Jamie, the youngest member serving on the Altar and Rosary Society, enjoys that ministry. “The Altar and Rosary Ladies are so welcoming that if you are looking for a place to meet your fellow parishioners/ ladies of the church, this is a great group,” Jamie said.
“We like to go to church and volunteer,” Brandon added. “We like the people so much and we try to be like them. We try to take it home, too.” His and Jamie’s commitment to the Church helps them to not take anything for granted. “We learn to appreciate more,” Brandon said. We’re seeing things in more positive ways.”
“They’re just a neat couple, Deacon Huber said. “When you see young people get re-engaged, excited about their faith … that’s the beauty of RCIA. It isn’t just what happens to them; it gets the people around them excited. That is what we pray for at Pentecost. It’s happening every year in RCIA.”
Jamie adds, “It’s amazing how all of this was sparked with my friend Amanda. All it took was the invitation, ‘Do you want to go to church?’”