BLUE GRASS — When Janine Stevens’ grandfather was terminally ill and wished to see his granddaughter married, she and her fiancé Brian decided to get married. They were married in a civil ceremony, and not in the Catholic Church.
Brian was a baptized Catholic but had not received the other sacraments of initiation, Communion and confirmation. Janine was baptized at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in Davenport and received the sacraments of Communion and confirmation at Our Lady of the River Catholic Church in LeClaire.
The couple did not have enough time before their marriage for Brian to participate in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, they said. Now, 19 years after their marriage, Brian and the couple’s three children were initiated in the Catholic faith during the Easter Vigil at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Blue Grass.
Brian said that as a child and young adult he was not exposed to the Catholic faith because his parents were not active in the church. He said he has always been curious about the Catholic faith while attending Catholic funerals, weddings and other events and wanted to learn more.
About a year and a half ago, he had an informal chat with Deacon Terry Starns, the Parish Life Coordinator at St. Andrew. Brian said he felt very welcomed by Deacon Starns, who helped relieve some anxiety when Brian inquired about coming into the church.
Deacon Starns said Brian, a police officer, stopped in at the parish office after work one day, in full uniform. “He told me he and his wife had been talking about going to church and were looking for a place to attend.”
The two men talked for more than an hour and Deacon Starns gave Brian a tour of the church and parish facilities. Because RCIA classes were already underway in fall 2019, they decided to wait to begin the process.
Brian and Janine talked about the possibility of Brian and the kids entering the Catholic Church together. “We made a decision to do this as a family so we could all help each other learn and understand as we go through the journey,” Brian said. “We agreed it was a healthy decision.”
“Brian and his family started attending church right away. As soon as we began RCIA last fall, Brian, Janine and all three kids started attending classes faithfully every session possible,” Deacon Starns said.
Brian, Gus, Beau and Ruby attended most classes in person, Brian said. Janine chose to attend the classes with her family to support them and to help them in any way needed. Brian received the sacraments of Communion and confirmation. The three children received all three sacraments of initiation.
Coming into the church, Brian looked forward to learning more about the history of the church and strengthening his relationship with God. Gus, 14, looked forward to being baptized. Beau, 12, liked learning many prayers. And Ruby, 10, looked forward to being closer to God.
Prior to the Easter Vigil, Brian and Janine had their civil marriage validated in the Catholic Church on March 26. “We did it so our family could complete the journey,” Brian said.
They have been amazingly dedicated to the RCIA program, Deacon Starns said in an earlier interview. “They are an amazingly close family and such a welcome asset to St. Andrew Church. What a joy it will be at the Easter Vigil.”
March 19 will mark the beginning of Year “Amoris Laetitia Family.” This date marks the fifth anniversary of the signing of Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), a nine-chapter papal document reflecting on challenges to marriage and family life. March 19 also marks the Solemnity of St. Joseph, a patron saint of families, fathers and expectant mothers.
Pope Francis made the announcement Dec. 27, following his proclamation of a year dedicated to St. Joseph. “I invite everyone to take part in the initiatives that will be promoted during the Year and that will be coordinated by the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life. Let us entrust this journey, with families all over the world, to the Holy Family of Nazareth, in particular to St. Joseph, the devoted spouse and father.”
The Vatican identifies three main objectives for the Year “Amoris Laetitia Family:”
• Spread the message of Amoris Laetitia more widely.
• Emphasize the “precious value of the sacrament of marriage.”
• Broaden the vision and action of pastoral care for the family so that it can become more transversal and include all family members, including married couples, children and young people, the elderly, and people in difficult family situations.
During the Year “Amoris Laetitia Family,” The Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life will share resources on family spirituality, formation and pastoral activity for marriage preparation, effective education for young people, and on the holiness of married couples and families who live out the grace of the sacrament in their daily life. International academic symposia also will examine the contents and implications of the papal document (apostolic exhortation) in relation to topical issues that affect families around the world. For resources, go to www.amorislaetitia.va.
Diocese celebrates St. Joseph and the family
Marianne Agnoli, diocesan marriage and family life coordinator, said the diocese looks forward to helping Catholics to celebrate the “overlapping” Year of St. Joseph and the Year “Amoris Laetitia Family” and discovering ways to embrace these two celebrations.
The diocese created a webpage for the Year of St. Joseph (https://www.davenportdiocese.org/year-of-saint-joseph) where parishes, families and individuals can access links to resources to help them draw closer to St. Joseph. Many of the resources are also available in Spanish. Creation of a webpage for the Year “Amoris Laetitia Family” is underway. Agnoli encourages Catholics to access the Vatican’s resources in the meantime.
In addition, The Catholic Messenger will run monthly features, like this one, connecting an attribute of St. Joseph to a featured church or a national or worldwide awareness effort.
The Messenger also plans to feature short profiles on each of the 10 diocesan churches dedicated to St. Joseph. Parishes may also create a video highlighting their community’s story.
Local Fathers of St. Joseph celebrate special year
For several years, men in the Iowa City area have been celebrating St. Joseph in a special way.
This year, with the overlapping celebrations of St. Joseph and Amoris Laetitita, will be will be no exception.
The Fathers of St. Joseph, modeled after the original Rock Island, Illinois, group, formed in 2015. They meet twice monthly to pray the Little Office of St. Joseph, participate in talks and discussions and enjoy fellowship with other Catholic men.
“The Fathers of St. Joseph format is very encouraging for husbands, fathers and mentors. We are encouraged to take St. Joseph as our role model in our spiritual, work and family life,” said Dan Teets, director of Adult Spiritual Formation at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Iowa City. He also serves as director of RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) at the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City. Members may participate in person (with social distancing) or online because of the pandemic.
Fellow parishioner and group member Bill Doucette said St. Joseph “joined his faith with Mary’s in trusting God and being a parent of Jesus. Together they created a home in which Jesus grew from a baby to an adult ready to live out his mission of salvation. St. Joseph is an example for us to trust God in difficult times, choosing to follow his way rather than the ways promoted in this world. Also, we can join Mary and Jesus in trusting St. Joseph to be our spiritual father and intercessor.”
Deacon Joe Welter of St. Mary Parish said, “Through Fathers of St. Joseph, God speaks directly to me and challenges me to be a better husband and father. God challenges me through the carefully crafted and beautiful course materials and topics. God speaks through sharing with the group, in prayer, and the everyday struggles of being a husband and father.”
For David Drake, also of St. Mary’s, Fathers of St. Joseph “is a portal for community and faith sharing — and building. The secular world with all of its deadlines, responsibilities, etc., beats us all down over time.” Connecting with his brothers in the group “raises my spirit and faith each and every meeting. I am reminded that we all walk down the path together in the light and that we need each other to stay on that path.”
Another St. Mary parishioner, Tim Blake, said, “Being part of the brotherhood of the Fathers of St. Joseph has helped my faith journey grow immeasurably, as a man and a husband. We look to our patron St. Joseph as a timeless example of a man who took care of the Holy Family with great courage, strength, devotion and complete trust in God.” Blake said his participation in the group is helping him to “lead my family to God our Father.”
Deacon Chris Kabat of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Iowa City appreciates how the Fathers of St. Joseph “has been that opportunity to pull myself out from the day to day (routine) and really get into how his role in the church overlays my role as husband and father.”
Isaac Doucette, a seminarian for the Diocese of Davenport, has participated in the group alongside his father, Bill. “Fathers of St. Joseph helps us grow in love of God, love of family and love of neighbor by fostering a deeper relationship with all of them through the powerful intercession of St. Joseph.”
During the Year of St. Joseph, the men encourage all people to consider consecrating themselves to St. Joseph. They also encourage everyone to pray the Little Office of St. Joseph; the group has a recording on Youtube at https://bit.ly/2OBsenz. On March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Morning Prayer, including the Litany of St. Joseph, will take place at St. Mary Church at 9 a.m.
Teets says, “Why not take a few moments out of your busy life to honor St. Joseph during The Year of St. Joseph?”
My brother Brian Arland posted a TV news clip on Facebook with the caption: “Jacque Racine Arland(’s) sister Lisa Racine made the news for all the right reasons!!!” The video tells the uplifting story of Lisa’s love for her dad, Harold, which inspired her to find a creative route to visiting him in his nursing home.
KARE11 TV news, based in the Twin Cities, published the story on March 2 about Lisa taking a second, part-time job at the Good Samaritan nursing home in Stillwater where her dad lives. Lisa told the KARE11 reporter, “One day I just was thinking, ‘How can I see my dad more?’” She answered her own question, “Hey, why don’t I get a job there?”
The nursing home had an opening and soon Lisa, who works full-time as a project engineer, was working some nights and weekends mopping floors, stacking trays and doing dishes. Harold told KARE11 that he was “dumbfounded” to see Lisa, the sixth of eight children he and his late wife raised, appear in his room at Good Samaritan. He described seeing Lisa as one of the happiest days in his life.
“I really believe she is keeping my dad alive,” Jacque, Lisa’s younger sister, told me. “My dad is a hugger and a kisser; not to have that has been really hard for him. Lisa walking into that room changed everything. We are so thankful for Lisa. She is the best.”
“My dad, I feel like he’s my hero,” Lisa told a reporter in a TODAY show interview that aired March 5. When her dad sees her, “He’s got a little sparkle back in his eye that I think was missing.” She said she doesn’t feel like a hero, but “I do feel like I’m showing some gratitude to him.”
Last month Jacque, who lives in Arizona, had the privilege of visiting her dad daily while he was hospitalized with kidney stones. “It was really hard to see him in so much pain, but he made it through. He’s a tough guy.” At age 87, “My dad’s still here, but he’s slipping away from us.”
Jacque and her siblings keep in touch by text message; they alert one another about how their dad is doing. “He’s tired and doesn’t really talk much on the phone. If one of us gets through, we let everyone else know. Family is everything,” adds Jacque, whose older brother Bob died at age 21, when she was 14. “When Bob died, we realized life was short.”
After watching the video clip, I reflected on how our church celebrates family and how Lisa’s sacrificial love serves as a concrete example of what it means to be family, especially during this time of COVID-19.
Pope Francis will inaugurate the Year “Amoris Laetitia Family” on March 19, the fifth anniversary of his apostolic exhortation on the joy and beauty of familial love. The Holy Father intends to exhort each person to be a witness of family love, according to Vatican News.
A brochure for the special year says, “A family that discovers and experiences the joy of having a gift, and of being a gift for the Church and society, ‘can become a light in the darkness of the world’” (Amoris laetitia, 66).
Thank you, Brian, for sharing some of that light in a world that needs it now.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at email@example.com)