My name is Nickie Thelen and my family has been fortunate to be a part of the MHT parish for the past 4 years since we moved back to the Fowler area.
Last year around this time, I was listening to Paul Fahey talk after mass about an opening for an elementary school catechist. I had never really thought about becoming one, but it didn’t take long before I started thinking that would be something I would really enjoy doing. I like teaching my own children and most of them were now at school so I had some more time available in my day. In the past, I had taught speech and language skills in a public elementary school and had always wanted to bring God into discussions with my students. I’m a fan of teaching and of God so I thought the two would be a great combination!
This past school year I taught some amazing, loving, inquisitive third grade students who helped me grow in my own faith because of their many thought-provoking insights and questions. When I didn’t know the answer to their question I would go home do some research and report back. I also had them do the same because I tried to stress to them that growing in faith is NEVER ending. It was exciting to see how the students grew throughout the year learning about how to make praying a personal experience, listening and telling bible stories from the Old Testament, reading and memorizing bible verses from the New Testament, acting out parables, reciting Catholic prayers, memorizing and applying the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy in and outside of our classroom.
There were a couple weeks during the school year that my children were sick and so I would need to cancel religion and stay home with them. After a couple missed religion classes I could tell the students didn’t appreciate missing religion. One student asked me where I had been and I explained the situation. Another student said when he’s sick his parent’s take turns staying home with him so that neither his Mom nor his Dad missed too much work. The same child suggested that “your husband should stay home with your sick kids because you have an important job teaching us.” This experience and many others throughout the year melted my heart and let me know that religion class was having a positive impact on the students and myself.
Many times, when I have felt God calling me to serve I realize that I am the one that grows closer to God in the process. Setting time aside to plan lessons, teach, and interact with the students helped me to better focus on God’s role in my own life. Being a Catechist, this past year was a great experience for me and I hope last year’s third-grade students would say the same.
Hello, my name is Stephanie Kirvan. My husband, Alden and I have been married for 11 years on July 8th of this year. We have been blessed three times over with some amazing mini’s- Ryen (11), Kaci (8) and AJ (2)- that we absolutely adore and are beyond thankful to God for.
Growing up, I had attended church at what felt like every protestant denomination imaginable- be it willingly, or because my Mom had all-but-dragged me there, in hopes of saving my misguided soul. It wasn’t until our seven year old daughter, Ryen had taken a strong interest in the Catholic Faith that I had finally glimpsed true hope in the possibility of salvation; and understood just what that could mean. We started RCIA classes that fall; and at the 2014 Easter Vigil, not only were my two girls and my pregnant-self baptized; but my husband, my mom and I were also confirmed and took our first communion.
Fast forward to a few months ago, where I had the privilege of attending the adult weekend retreat held this past April… I am as shy, introverted and socially awkward as they come. It is not an understatement when I say that, to this day, I’m not entirely sure what supernatural force lead me to sign up (especially knowing I wouldn’t have my outgoing husband there to hide behind, as he stayed home for daddy duty, which enabled me to go). I get extremely anxious in situations that I might have to go outside of my comfort zone and talk-to or in-front of people I don’t know. For whatever reason, this didn’t cross my mind once in the weeks, days, hours or even minutes leading up to the retreat; had it occurred to me, I can guarantee I wouldn’t have been there!
It wasn’t until Andrea was standing up front, giving the introduction speech and announcing we were going to go around the room to introduce ourselves that I felt that all-too-familiar and overwhelming sense of panic crawl up my spine. I don’t think I heard one word past the first few introductions, because I was so lost in my own thoughts, plotting a quick escape route for a convenient ‘bathroom break’ at just the right moment. Somehow, through that irrational fear, I managed to stay grounded in my seat and ineptly delivered a super-short and extremely ungraceful introduction. And, just when my nerves began to settle and I thought I had survived the worst of it - it was announced that we were going to break away into small groups. By this time, I am mentally kicking myself, wondering what in the heck I had gotten myself into. Luckily, I had been paired with a group of amazing women that seemed to unspokenly understand that public speaking wasn’t my forte’ and they didn’t pry or pressure, but instead allowed me to listen, absorb and just take everything in at my own pace. And honestly, everyone at the retreat was just amazing! They were all very welcoming and tried their best to make me feel at ease and comfortable. And, much to my surprise, somewhere between a few warmhearted conversations during meal times, a game night full of fun while bonding over some mafia madness, adoration paired with some absolutely beautiful music, personal testimonies and some private time to reflect, that all-consuming ball of anxiety slowly lifted, allowing me to relax and take in what was happening around me.
Of all the amazing things that were jam-packed into those few days, there was nothing more moving or uplifting than spending some much-needed one-on-one time with the Lord during adoration. Pair that with the beautiful vocals of Kayla and her crew- it was truly transcending and like nothing I had ever experienced before. What kept coming back to me during my time in adoration, were the personal testimonies given throughout the weekend by fellow retreaters. I saw pieces of myself mirrored in each of the stories told- ranging from doubts, self-worth/esteem issues, marriage/parenting problems, an immense fear of loss/rejection, the all-too-real/daily struggles with sin, worrying about things that are out of our control and even that dreaded vulnerability we feel when it comes to giving a true confession. It was a refreshing reminder that we’re not alone in this journey; we all have our doubts, fears and personal demons (so-to-speak) that we struggle with. We are all flawed and feel a little lost/broken sometimes because we see the worst versions of ourselves- but so does God. And through it all, He still loves us unconditionally. It was the fierce bravery of those individuals being so open on such a personal level, mixed with the euphoria of adoration that propelled me toward that confessional, enabling me to conquer one of my own greatest fears.
As the weekend came to a close and I sat on the floor in the back of the room on the last day, listening to the last testimony of the retreat- I remember looking around and being in complete awe by what had happened around me. The shift in the atmosphere was so palpable from that first introduction speech to this last testimony; that it’s hard to even put into words how incredible it was. We started that weekend as complete strangers/acquaintances/some even as friends- but I feel we all left with something more- a bond/connection that I think you can only truly experience by coming together in the name of the Lord, completely stripping away those fears of judgement and rejection and just being real with one another (even if all you have to offer is the comfort your presence). It was in that moment that I was completely consumed with the idea, that they are on to something with these retreats, because whatever it was that was happening that weekend, was exactly how the human experience was intended to be encountered. And truthfully, I wasn’t ready to leave when it was over!
We are truly blessed with the best! We are so fortunate to have such an incredible team that’s leading our Parish and strives to provide us with such amazing opportunities to learn and grow in our Faith. If you have read the weekly bulletin and ever felt any kind of pull when it comes to going on one of these retreats (even if it’s just to see what all the hype is about), I want to take a moment, to not only invite you to the next one in September- but I want to challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone and answer that call! You might be amazed at what you discover; I know I was! …And even if all else fails, it’s a weekend away from the stresses of everyday life, you’ll be in great company and get to enjoy some amazing food! ;)
If you would like to register for the adult retreat, click on the link: https://goo.gl/forms/mrZGyhy3iv8QLo5H3