By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Emily Bitterman grew up not belonging to any faith group. “I went to church a few times with cousins and friends when I was a kid, but never really understood what was going on.”
About four years ago, her husband Michael introduced her to Relevant Radio. He was raised Catholic, but had fallen away from the church.
While listening to various programs on Relevant Radio, Emily became inspired to go to church. Sacred Heart Cathedral was the first church her family attended and they fell in love with the faith community. “We have felt so welcome at the cathedral by Father (Rich) Adam, Deacon Dan (Huber) and the parishioners.”
After attending Mass at the cathedral for about a year, she decided it was time to join the Catholic Church. Emily and six others entered the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil at the cathedral. Bishop Martin Amos presided. Altogether, nearly 200 men, women and children joined the Catholic Church during Easter vigils held throughout the Diocese of Davenport.
Emily’s formal faith formation began when she signed up last fall to participate in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at the cathedral. “The beauty of the sacraments really stood out for me during RCIA. Attending Mass has done great things for my family. I feel like my marriage is stronger and that my kids are happier.”
Deacon Huber, who leads RCIA at the cathedral, said: “Emily’s story is one of God’s persistence in pursuit of a soul. Emily’s dramatic life change illustrates what St. Augustine declared so many centuries ago — that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. Despite being raised by parents who didn’t practice a faith, Emily had grandparents who planted the seeds of faith in her. Their example of living and sharing the faith as a loving couple was just one way God tried to bring peace to her restless heart. Years later that restless heart was stirred by listening to Catholic radio which in turn motivated her to bring her fallen-away Catholic husband back home to the church. Since then their children have been baptized and they are on fire with their faith and she is truly at peace”
Deacon Huber added, “It has been a blessing journeying with people like Emily through the RCIA process. Every year we reap a harvest which we did not plant. Every year we get to see how God works in and through the most unlikely figures in order to renew God’s church and through her, the face of the earth.”
Emily and her husband have been married for seven years. He served as her sponsor. Both had been married previously and Emily’s annulment came through on Holy Thursday. They plan to have their marriage recognized in the Catholic Church.
Michael has two children from a previous marriage, Lesane, 13, and Alexandrea, 10. They are not Catholic. Emily has a daughter from her first marriage, Olivia, who is 8. Together, the couple has three children: Violet, 6; Calvin, 5; and Levi, 3. The three younger children were baptized in August; Olivia is preparing for her first Communion.
Emily thought it was amazing that the vigil was celebrated by Bishop Amos. She is excited to come into the church and “can’t wait to see what God has in store for me.”
At the vigil she received the sacraments of baptism, Communion and confirmation. “It was beautiful and definitely way more than I expected. Lighting everyone’s candles with our baptismal candles was awesome. Being in front of people usually makes me really nervous, but when I was getting baptized I felt like I was where I’m supposed to be. I’m so grateful and proud to be able to say that I am Catholic.”