October 7, 2022

Novena and trust in God lead business owner along new path

Store owner Tina Sherman holds a pillow  with the word “Blessed” in The Ark Book and Gift Store in Columbus. (Photo by Jennifer Lindberg)

Store owner Tina Sherman holds a pillow with the word “Blessed” in The Ark Book and Gift Store in Columbus. (Photo by Jennifer Lindberg)

By Jennifer Lindberg

COLUMBUS—Perhaps it’s the stylish pillow with the word “Blessings” embroidered across it that best describes the answer Tina Sherman received after praying a novena to St. Thérèse of Lisieux earlier this year.

A French Carmelite saint of the 19th century, St. Thérèse is known to send showers of roses down upon her devotees when a novena is answered.

Sherman received her roses, and a little something else: The Ark Book and Gift Store in Columbus, which she became owner of in May.

The business wasn’t quite what Sherman was expecting when praying about whether to close her toy store, Little Frogs and Fairies, in Greensburg. Since the building she rented was to be sold and the retail economy was shaky, Sherman thought it might be time to end her business career.

“I wasn’t expecting to open another store!” said Sherman, a member of St. Mary Parish in North Vernon. “I’m only here because this is what God wants of me.”

A mother of six, Sherman earned a bachelor of science degree at Marian University in Indianapolis. She never intended to be an entrepreneur in the retail business. She felt the call to the business world as a way to support her family and still be with her kids. Her littlest ones grew up at the toy store, watching her tag merchandise and getting the first look at all the new Christmas toys on the market.

The Ark represents a shower of blessings for Sherman and a leap of faith into some unchartered territory of evangelization—the 40-year-old business has largely existed as a book and gift store catering to non-denominational Christians and selling Protestant Bibles.

“I do a lot of listening to people,” Sherman said. “I get to see where they are in their faith life and a lot of them are not Catholic.”

The Bible remains the store’s best seller, said Sherman. She’s learned there are hundreds of Protestant translations—which only contain 66 books—compared to the few approved Catholic versions, which include the entire canon of Scripture with 73 books.

As Sherman brings more Catholic elements into The Ark, she is having to sharpen her own knowledge about the Catholic faith.

“I have to explain Mary a lot,” she said. “Usually, [customers] say that they didn’t realize [a certain aspect] about Mary because they had been taught differently. I try to never correct them unless they say something that isn’t what the Catholic faith teaches. I want this store to be for everyone.”

Sherman’s motto is to simply follow St. Paul’s words “to be all things to all people” (1 Cor 9:22). The store provides quality religious items and gifts, and Sherman tries to quietly witness to her faith and proclaim it when necessary. 

Sherman’s answered novena has deepened her trust in God, she noted.

She wanted a clear response about closing the toy store, “so I asked for white roses” from St. Thérèse, Sherman said. She knew the stories of how St. Thérèse favored requests with roses, and Sherman wanted a specific color to know whether the saint heard her prayer or not.

At the end of the novena, Sherman received no white roses directly. But when she walked into an ALDI grocery store, all that was in front of her were white roses, she recalled.

“Now, I’ve been to ALDI a lot, and they usually have various colors of roses,” she said. “But all that was in the store that day were white roses.”

That could have been the end of the story. However, Sherman hit the pause button on this sign because it seemed so final. White roses meant closing the store.

So Sherman prayed another nine-day novena to St. Thérèse. This time she didn’t get any roses or even massive sightings of them. However, she did get a “feeling of deep peace,” and a phone call.

A friend told her Angela Burton, a member of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus, wanted to close The Ark. But Sherman wasn’t the first in line for the store. And if she became the new owner of The Ark, it meant closing the toy store and taking over The Ark’s retail business simultaneously.

“There was no rest,” said Sherman. “But it just felt right.

“I enjoy all the people I meet,” she added. “I even got to keep some of my toy store inventory,” she said. “People are really liking it, too.” 

Eventually, Sherman plans to put a large St. Thérèse statue in the store.

“I just keep thanking St. Thérèse,” she said with a smile as she stuffed the pillow with the word “Blessings” onto a shelf.

(Jennifer Lindberg is a freelance writer and a member of St. Mary Parish in North Vernon.) †

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