By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
KEOKUK — St. Vincent School Principal Darren MacArthur received an education this year, just like his students. But instead of focusing on math, reading and science, he learned what it means to be part of a faith community.
He was so inspired by his Catholic coworkers that he decided to further his studies by enrolling in Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes at All Saints Parish. He received the sacraments of baptism, Communion and confirmation during the Easter Vigil Mass on April 15.
Previously unaffiliated, Darren grew up exposed to a variety of faiths. “My dad was Baptist; my mom was evangelical. We attended Lutheran churches. My grandparents were Greek Orthodox.” Darren was not baptized as a child because his father believed that was a choice best made in adulthood.
Darren became familiar with the Catholic Church through his wife, Jaime, and her family. They hoped Darren would enter the church at the time of the couple’s marriage 10 years ago, but he was hesitant. “I’m hard-headed. I thought, ‘I’ll do it when I’m ready to do it.’” He supported his wife’s faith by attending Easter and Christmas Masses with her. Their daughter Vivienne was baptized into the faith as an infant about two years ago.
Last year, Darren was offered the position of principal at St. Vincent School, which serves pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students. It was his first time teaching or administering at a Catholic school. Darren said the Catholic staff had an understanding attitude toward him as a non-Catholic. They offered to help him with the faith-based traditions at school, such as prayer and Stations of the Cross. Father Robert Lathrop, pastor of All Saints Parish, was available to offer guidance as well.
Darren said he never felt pressured by Fr. Lathrop or the St. Vincent staff to join the faith. But their example was nevertheless powerful. Not long after the school year began, Darren began contemplating a call to the faith. “When I came to St. Vincent’s and saw how the family of staff were here, it really provided me with an insight on what a Catholic community looks like as a whole. … It’s a family setting. Everyone’s here to support and boost you up.”
The timing seemed right for Darren. As he gets older, he feels more desire for a faith life. His daughter, who will turn 2 in May, also gives him motivation to be a positive role model.
In September, Darren began taking RCIA classes at All Saints where Fr. Lathrop led him though a self-paced course that fit well with Darren’s busy schedule. The pastor believes Darren was able to hear God’s call in his life, in part, because the staff gave the Holy Spirit room to work.
“The example he saw in the school — their dedication and incorporation of Catholic identity — just impressed him and allowed him to say ‘yes’ to God.” When someone decides to join the church out of desire as opposed to expectation, “It makes them more invigorated and invested.”
Darren believes his coworkers and Fr. Lathrop are a huge blessing in his life, and the feeling is mutual. “He’s been a blessing to our school,” Fr. Lathrop said.