By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
BURLINGTON — With the Mississippi River as a backdrop, Catholics from the Burlington area shared their stories at the fourth-annual Faith Festival, held at Crapo Park Aug. 4-5.
The big story was that of parishes coming together. It was the first Faith Festival since the merger of the West Burlington and Burlington parishes into Divine Mercy Parish earlier this summer. St. Mary’s in Dodgeville also helps organize Faith Festival.
Guests celebrated the merger with a balloon release in the park Aug. 4. As they prepared to send hundreds of red orbs into the sky, the pastor of the parishes, Father Marty Goetz, offered a blessing. “Rooted in your spirit, may we face the future with the same hope and faith and love that has come before us, and help us to commit ourselves anew to be the church you call us to be in Des Moines County.” After the balloons were released, Fr. Goetz said, “Why do you keep looking up? Jesus is right down here with us!”
At the event, parishioners shared stories of their faith journeys.
Couple converts after 20-plus years of marriage
Ray and Lida Derry, parents of two adult daughters, first met in Russia where Ray was doing missionary work. Lida, a Russian, had never been exposed to Christianity. She fell in love with the faith — and with Ray. Several years later she followed him back to the United States. Ray now works as a semi-truck driver.
Lida was first introduced to the Catholic faith through her work with Birthright and began to see signs of the Catholic faith’s truth in her Bible. She sought out Fr. Goetz, who answered the questions she had about Catholic doctrine. His explanation of the Eucharist was particularly meaningful to Lida. “Before, it just seemed like a meaningless ritual.”
She enrolled in Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes in Burlington. Ray wasn’t so convinced he wanted to follow suit. For the first time in their relationship, there was “spiritual tension,” Ray said. To help them figure out what to do, “she went on the road with me.” The semi-truck kept breaking down, giving them more time to talk.
A year after Lida started RCIA classes, Ray decided to give them a try, too. He fell in love with the church. “It was only my fault for not knowing what you (as Catholics) believe,” he said. Lida was confirmed in 2015, and Ray was confirmed this spring at Divine Mercy Parish. Ray and Lida often pray the rosary together, a new devotion for them. “We enjoy it because we understand where it’s coming from,” Lida said.
Life offers opportunities to grow in faith
Chris Kipp of Divine Mercy Parish offered anecdotes from his experiences as a lifelong Catholic. The father of three young children, he tearfully explained how their childlike faith inspires him. He also explained how he sees God and his lessons at work in his daily life.”My story isn’t about the moment when I found my faith. It is about finding it, losing it and finding it again.” Through work, leisure time and being a husband and father, he is learning to submit to God’s will and set new priorities. He also sees a limit to the satisfaction of reaching earthly goals, because there’s always the “what now?” question. Faith in God is a better anchor for one’s joy, he concluded.
Newlywed moves from resistance to conversion
Newlywed Alyssa Orth attended Holy Trinity Catholic School in Fort Madison, and respected the faith of her Catholic friends, but wasn’t interested in leaving her Protestant faith. She later entered into a relationship with Jacob Orth, a devoted Catholic. Although they set out with the goal of respecting each others’ faiths, it became difficult during their engagement as they made choices such as where to marry and where they’d go to church after they were married. “We were on the same page about everything else, but not the big thing,” she said.
She decided to go to “one” RCIA meeting after spending time in prayer about the situation. “I was dragging my feet … but to my surprise I survived. It was fine.” She kept going, with Jacob at her side, and by the third or fourth class, “something changed. I started looking forward to going. I started making friends. I found myself having deep conversations (about faith) with Jake.”
She was confirmed in the Catholic faith in 2016. She and Jake are members of St. Mary’s in Dodgeville. “It’s hard to put into words, but it’s really just a miracle how stubborn I was and how in love with the church I am.”
Youth ministries can help teens make faith their own
Colton Ketchum of Divine Mercy Parish is a high school student and cradle Catholic. He concluded the first night of Faith Fest by talking about his faith journey “so far. Me being only 17, I haven’t had a lot of time. But I’ve had a little bit!” He talked about experiences that helped him embrace the faith and make it his own. Catholics in Action showed him that “you can do so much more with your faith than just go to church.” Other transformative experiences included attending the National Catholic Youth Conference, earning the Ad Altare Dei emblem as a Boy Scout and seeing God working to console his community after the death of a classmate. “There is a quote that one person can’t help everybody, but everyone can help somebody. The exception to that is God. He can help everybody.”
Your will be done
On the second night of the festival, Bishop Thomas Zinkula celebrated Mass in the Crapo Park band shell. He made note of the festival and the scenery, and tied it into his homily about seeking and being open to God’s will. Prayer — both private and communal — and the serenity of nature can be useful tools for discernment. “We usually ask, ‘What do I wish to do? My will be done.’ We should ask, ‘What does God want us to do?’ Consult with God and listen for his instructions,” he told the crowd..