By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Although he was raised Lutheran and attended services when he was younger, Jason Gruenhagen fell away from his church and religion. “It was not a part of my life anymore.”
When his wife Amanda entered the Catholic Church through Sacred Heart Cathedral in 2012, he didn’t have an interest in joining her. “Every Sunday Amanda would ask me to go and I would say no thanks, ‘I’m going to get some things done around the house or go to the store.’”
Following the birth of the couple’s twins, he attended Mass every so often when his wife asked him to help with the twins at church. “Amanda wanted to get them used to going to church at an early stage in their life. I went a few times and was just not getting anything out of Mass. Due to having small kids in church, it was just some place I didn’t want to be,” Jason said.
As the twins got older, they started asking Jason why he was not going to church. “This ultimately started my journey back into the faith.” Last Easter Sunday was a pivotal moment. “Amanda and the kids were so excited that I was going,” he said. “During Mass we sang ‘Jesus Christ Has Risen Today,’ and something came over me. I was fighting back tears. I almost broke down crying like a baby. It was at that moment I realized this is where I need to be, not only for myself but for my family as well.”
Since that time, he has attended Mass at the cathedral and enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). “What used to be a burden to me on Sunday morning is now a very enjoyable time that I look forward to every Sunday.”
During the Easter Vigil at the cathedral March 31, Bishop Thomas Zinkula welcomed Jason to the church through confirmation.
“It touches my heart each time I see Amanda and Jason at Mass,” said Father Rich Adam, the cathedral’s pastor. “I know their story very well and marvel at how they both have come to embrace their faith and be such a witness to all of the rest of us at Sacred Heart. They, along with their children, truly are a special family.”
Amanda’s journey to the church began when she was young. Although not raised in a faith community, she occasionally attended Mass at the cathedral with her aunt and uncle when she lived with them.
She said she thought about getting baptized, but didn’t follow through because she didn’t want to stand up in front of people. During Midnight Mass one Christmas Eve, she filled out the backside of the collection envelope, indicating she was interested in information about getting baptized.
She received an email response from the parish and a phone number. Amanda caught up with some friends and told them about it. Her friend Jamie asked if she could be Amanda’s sponsor. On April 7, 2012, Amanda entered the Catholic Church and received all three sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.
Later that month, Amanda found out she was pregnant with twins (Landen and Fina) who were born Dec. 26, 2012. They were baptized at the cathedral.
Amanda wanted to expose her twins to the Catholic faith from the start. Family members helped so she could take the infants to church. Sometimes, she would leave one of the twins at home with Jason and take the other to church. Cathedral parishioners offered to help her during Mass with the twins.
“There are so many kind people at Sacred Heart. That is how I became friends with Jennifer Huette. She was new there and by herself and loved kids and offered to help me. We are still friends and the kids love her and her husband Tony.
“So many people would tell me how awesome it was that I would bring them to church with me and sit up front with them. I don’t think the kids have ever sat farther then the fourth row from the front unless there was something going on that day at Mass and we couldn’t sit up front,” Amanda said.
Sacred Heart is an inviting church, with caring people, she said. Sacred Heart is definitely home, a home now for the entire Gruenhagen family.
“I am so excited, happy and overjoyed that Jason said he wanted to finally go to church with us so we can go as a family,” Amanda said. “And now we are.”