July 2, 2021

‘We’re not meant to live our Catholic faith alone’

A sense of home helps woman overcome her fears, tragedy to find peace in Christ

Katie Wesolowski, 28, who strives to live her life as a daughter of Christ, stands in the chapel of the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Katie Wesolowski, 28, who strives to live her life as a daughter of Christ, stands in the chapel of the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Eighth in an occasional series

(Editor’s note: In this series, The Criterion is featuring young adults who have found a home in the Church and strive to live their faith in their everyday life.)

By John Shaughnessy

At 28, Katie Wesolowski still remembers it as a special moment from her childhood, a memorable time of bonding with her mom that still influences her life now.

“I deal a lot with anxiety and actually being afraid, so it’s always very comforting to be reminded to not be afraid,” Wesolowski says. “One of my favorite hymns growing up was the ‘Be Not Afraid’ hymn. My mom would always sit me down on her bed when I was having a really anxious moment. She would start singing, and it would instantly calm my soul and lift my spirits.”

That song about giving up one’s fears and placing one’s trust in Christ reflects the deep relationship that she has with him now.

“Jesus is my everything—my savior, my friend, my counselor, someone I can always lean on in times of trouble and in good times, too,” she says. “He’s also my rock and the person in whom I find my identity as a daughter of Christ.”

She came to rely upon that relationship heavily during two of the most challenging times of her young life: when she was considering giving up her Catholic faith in high school and, more intensely, when her father and her younger sister were killed in a car accident nearly eight years ago.

‘We’re not meant to live our Catholic faith alone’

“My mom always encouraged a strong relationship with Jesus, but I don’t know if I really had a strong relationship with him until my senior year in high school,” says the graduate of Columbus East High School. “In high school, I was considering going to a non-denominational church where the youth groups were more fun. I was longing for that community that my friends had there.”

Yet that thought of leaving her Catholic faith changed in her senior year when her youth group at St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus offered a Theology of the Body class.

“My whole Catholic faith made sense through that course. It was the way God designed the human body and just how much of our faith lines up with that and how he defines love, which is willing the good of another. To love somebody is to make a gift of oneself to someone. It was about finding your identity in Jesus and being a daughter of Christ.

“I also got to meet a really good, grounded set of friends who just really helped me in my faith journey. We’d have weekly meetings. We’d pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Then my sister really got involved in her faith, and so we were always sharing together. A lot of it has been the people the Lord has put into my life who have really guided me.”

That sense of community, that need to belong is so important to her and most young adults, she says.

“When I felt I belonged, that’s when I stayed,” says Wesolowski, now a member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Carmel, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese. “We’re not meant to live our Catholic faith alone. The Lord wants us to be in community and wants us to have support. There are a lot of times when you just need to lean on somebody or to relate to someone.

“Most everybody struggles with very similar things. And when you find that community and you can share and be authentically yourself and not feel afraid or ashamed of anything and just surround yourself with people who love you, that’s super, super important.”

She continues to find that support in her friends and family—“just very good Catholic witnesses I know that I can go to if I don’t understand something, if I need help, if I need to vent, people who are going to keep me accountable.”

She needed that support especially following the deaths of her dad and her sister.

‘The Lord was just keeping me under his wing’

“Another big event that really affected my life and my faith life was when I lost my dad and my sister in a car accident,” she says. “What carries with that is just the fact that there’s grief occasionally.”

At the same time, she believes that God has brought special people into her life to help her through that grief.

She found two of those people when she began working for the archdiocese at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis. A 2015 graduate of Ball State University in Muncie with a bachelor’s degree in interior design, she was offered a full-time job as projects coordinator at the Catholic Center after having an internship there.

The person who hired her was Eric Atkins, the archdiocese’s director of capital projects.

“To me, that was no small coincidence,” she says. “He had lost a daughter, and I had lost my dad and my sister. We both have an understanding of each other, in grief in that way. I also felt the Lord was just keeping me under his wing in bringing me here.”

Her job also put her in contact with the person who became her spiritual director, Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy Sister Loretto Emenogu, the archdiocese’s mission educator.

“I feel safe here,” Wesolowski says. “It keeps me close to that sense of community with people who support me, and I can support them. I feel so close to Jesus here. Being able to work for the Church just means I’m literally working for the Lord in a way I’m not sure most people always get to do.”

At the same time, she is pursuing a master’s degree in art therapy, hoping to help people heal through the arts. And, as always for her, she is focused on deepening her relationship with Christ.

“I love the psalms because they most often speak of peace, love, comfort, consolation, security, stability and hope,” she says. “The psalms are so relatable too because there is at least one psalm for just about every human emotion.

“Everyone has a deep desire to belong and to be able to relate to one another. I think the psalms connect us to Jesus in that way. In any situation, the psalms remind us that Jesus is walking right beside us, always.”

One of her favorites is Psalm 27, which begins: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?”

Wesolowski considers that psalm again and says, “It reminds me that no matter what trials I face, that my God is holding me, he is bigger and stronger, and he is in control.” †

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