November 22, 2013

Parishioners say Year of Faith has helped them grow in faith, hope and love

Norb Schott said his faith has grown as he has watched his wife, Marianne, deal with a deadly respiratory disease. (Submitted photo)

Norb Schott said his faith has grown as he has watched his wife, Marianne, deal with a deadly respiratory disease. (Submitted photo)

(Editor’s note: When Pope Benedict XVI announced a special Year of Faith from Oct. 11, 2012, to Nov. 24, 2013, he viewed it as an opportunity for Catholics to commit to a deeper relationship with Christ. As the Year of Faith nears its end, The Criterion is sharing stories of Catholics from the archdiocese whose faith has grown in the past year—and the people who have inspired them.)

By John Shaughnessy

The three words touched Becky Pinto’s heart and deepened her faith.

Pinto never expected to hear those words as she approached the mother and daughter after Sunday Mass on Sept. 22 at St. Bartholomew Church in Columbus.

It was the first time back in their parish church for Barbara and Katie Wesolowski following the tragic Aug. 11 auto accident that devastated their family.

On that August day, the Wesolowski family had traveled north toward Ball State University in Muncie where Katie was preparing to start the school year. On the return trip, Katie’s mother, Barbara, her father, Joseph, and her sister, Michelle, were in an accident that left Joseph and Michelle dead and Barbara seriously injured.

“It was such a shock wave that went through the community and the youth ministry community,” says Pinto, also a member of St. Bartholomew Parish.

That feeling of devastation is one that Pinto has known.

“I lost my mother in 2011,” she says. “She knew me better than anyone. When I lost her, it was such a huge hole in my life.”

So Pinto was among the many parishioners who reached out to Barbara and Katie following the Sept. 22 Mass.

“Barbara was wheelchair-bound, with Katie beside her,” Pinto recalls. “When I went up to greet and hug the two of them, Barbara looked up at me and said, ‘Isn’t God wonderful?’ ”

Pinto was stunned—and moved.

“Even after suffering this unthinkable family tragedy, which could have leveled the less faithful, Barbara was called to articulate for me the depth of her love of God. Her deep faith continues to inform me as I continue on my faith journey.”

‘Fired up for going deeper’

Their commitment to God and their faith has always been a constant for the Sisters of St. Benedict at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove. Still, during this Year of Faith, some sisters have noticed an even greater energy around the monastery—thanks to the inspiration of Pope Francis.

“I am so grateful to God for sending us Pope Francis at this time of need in our world,” notes Benedictine Sister Harriet Woehler. “I appreciate his ‘common folk’ way of relating to us. He seems so human, just like us. He seems so accessible, just like Jesus.”

Benedictine Sister Kathleen Yeadon adds, “He’s given us the momentum to live the life we’ve already committed to. People are living a spirituality that is more visible. It’s a huge transformation for us.”

That transformation was apparent in the two times that Pope Francis has asked Catholics to pray and take part in eucharistic adoration—on the feast of Corpus Christi in June and on the day of fasting and prayer in September regarding the threat of increased warfare in Syria.

“We were all together,” recalls Sister Kathleen. “The unity and power you feel being together in eucharistic adoration is so amazing. And it filters down into other things in the monastery. Everyone passes out his sermons, and then we talk about them at the dinner table. You want everyone to be excited about their faith, and we are. It’s just that rejuvenation. You’re fired up for going deeper.”

‘Love never fails’

As his wife’s primary caregiver, Norb Schott knows he’s supposed to be the strong one at this point in their marriage.

Yet Schott insists that his faith is strengthened as he watches his wife, Marian, deal with a deadly respiratory disease.

“My wife, 66 years young, has shown such beauty and strength during her suffering and discomfort,” Schott notes. “Each day is a struggle to breathe for her, and the doctors have given her months to live. I trust God to be more generous.

“She is patient with me, her primary caregiver, and the daily work just to breathe, eat and bathe is hard to watch. She often says, ‘Do not cry for me. I know now how difficult it must have been for Jesus to breathe from the cross.’

“My faith in Jesus has grown by watching my dear friend join her sufferings to Jesus on the cross.”

While Marian inspires her husband, she also encourages him to take time for the online religion courses that he takes through the Satellite Theological Education Program of the University of Notre Dame.

“She knows I love to study,” says Schott, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle. “She tells me, ‘It is good for you. Get your mind off me.’ So early in the morning, before the daily schedule begins, I read the Mass readings, pray and meditate, and go to the computer.”

His courses have led him to Bible verses that guide him as he cares for Marian. Several verses from Chapter 13 of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians have especially resonated with him.

“Love never fails,” he quotes. “Faith, hope and love remain, but the greatest of these is love.”

He pauses and adds, “We’ve been together since 1979. Here in the last year or two, I’ve had to face the fact I won’t have her. I’ve just come to accept that my faith tells me there’s life after death. It’s become very real for me. We’re taking each day as we can.”

The influence of different generations

For 22 years, Carolyn Doxsee served as an adviser for the youths who took part in a dramatic presentation of the “Living Way of the Cross” on Good Friday at St. Mary Parish in North Vernon.

It was her way of sharing her faith with young people, to have them experience the poignancy of the Passion of Christ.

In return, the 50 youths who participated in the production usually did such a powerful job that they often moved Doxsee to tears.

Now, one of those youths during Doxsee’s tenure is having an impact on her faith and the faith of others.

“Lance Treadway and his wife, Erin, had been doing a lot of Bible study with various groups,” Doxsee says. “Lance went to our pastor, Father [Jonathan] Meyer and said he wanted to do something deeper. He was turned on by his faith, and he wanted to turn on other people’s faith.”

In early 2013, Treadway started a “Bible Timeline” study program, a 32-week course that drew 31 people, including Doxsee.

“You could really see the fire he had to live his faith,” she says. “That inspired the rest of us. After the first of the year, some of us are going to facilitate more groups for people.”

For Doxsee, it shows the influence that different generations can have on each other—sharing the faith at some points and receiving that blessing at other times.

“I’m in my 60s. He’s a young man near 40,” she says. “He makes me want to study more, learn more and pray more. And then go out and help other people to be more open to our faith. His faith, love of God, vision and drive are making a difference. It’s inspiring.” †

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