Read: Meet the 19 new Catholics of Jackson

Meet the 19 people were received into the Catholic Church at Saint John the Evangelist in Jackson on Sunday through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, and even one civilly married couple who received the Sacrament of Marriage. Deo gratias!

“These sacraments of initiation by which they will become part of the Body of Christ, the Church, sets them on the path of not being not part of the goats on the left, but the sheep on the right, who will join the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, King of the Universe,” said the pastor of Saint John, Father Chas Canoy, in his homily, November 26, the Solemnity of Christ the King.

So, who are these 19 new Catholics, 13 of whom were baptized? And what drew them to Jesus Christ and His Holy Church? Father Canoy explained during his homily. He said:

Among those receiving these sacraments is a whole family, the Jaakolas, who decided to come into the Church all together. And you know who got the ball rolling for the family? It was 17-year-old Zachary, 16 at the time, whose interest in becoming Catholic prompted the whole family to look into it. So, Zachary in his own words shared:

“I had moved to Lumen Christi for academics and hockey last year and realized that it was more than just school and sports, but that going to a Catholic school you become a family. There is a bond between everyone. I enjoyed attending school Mass and being able to spend an hour a week with God in prayer with my friends bringing us closer together. I was interested in the Church, but didn’t know where to start, so I decided to go to my parents and express that I wanted to become catholic and be baptized to be a true Catholic, and that is where I am today following the plan that God has in store for me.”

So, the mother of the family, Melissa, also shared her perspective:

“Last fall, our oldest started school at Lumen Christi. He looked forward to Mass, talked openly about his faith and asked Tom and I to go to Mass with him.”

So how awesome is that! Oftentimes, it’s the other way around where parents are trying to get their kids to Mass. But more and more, as my generation who generally wasn’t very well catechized with the faith when we were children and teenagers, and we fell away from the practice of the faith once we hit college, as my generation are becoming parents, we’re starting to find that it’s the faith of the children that are helping bringing parents back into the faith. So back to the story of the Jaakolas, Melissa continued with what happened after the she and her husband began going to Mass:

“Our younger two sons expressed interest in learning more and attending Mass. Tom and I discussed potentially joining the church. For me, that meant the commitment to become Catholic, a commitment I was willing to consider if Tom was willing to commit to being more involved.”

So, Tom, the father of the family, was already baptized Catholic, but he had fallen out of the practice of the faith. But now, with everyone talking about becoming invested in the faith, Melissa continued her testimony by sharing about the illness and death of her mother:

“Late November, my mom fell ill and was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. Her health deteriorated quickly, and I spent significant time with her. I found myself praying a lot on the hour drive between our homes…. After losing my mom it was a priority to have my family in church together, practicing our faith together. I am enjoying the journey and the discussions with the boys after Mass and class. There are so many things I misunderstood about the traditions of the Catholic Church. Participating in OCIA has been eye opening to the beauty of the mass and the richness of the traditions. I am fascinated by the well-documented history.”

Melissa and Tom are not alone, as even many of us who grew up Catholic have many misunderstandings about the faith. Especially if we haven’t invested in growing our faith as a regular part of our adult life, we remain with our 8th grade adolescent understanding of our faith, which if you were like me, was very simplistic, and lacked a lot of depth.

And so that’s why I’m so thankful that now many in our parish are rediscovering their Catholic faith in diverse ways, such as the Rescue Project and our Catholicism 101 and also through the huge gift of Fr. Mike Schmitz’s “Catechism in a Year.” With the new liturgical year beginning, perhaps that’s something you can take advantage of come next Sunday.

Anyway, back to the stories of our candidates. One of them shared her story and allowed me to share it, but just not her name because she didn’t want to be singled out during the homily. She is another teenager who was the catalyst to bringing four other family members with her. She’s a 16-year old who had a very moving experience of God and his love for her. She was at this festival of praise, and the praise leader said, “For those who want to draw closer to God, raise your hand. And she was among those who did just that, but she said it felt surreal because all of a sudden she realized that she had subconsciously raised her hand.

And so, during that time of prayer, she just felt the love of God flow through her in a powerful way. She began crying, weeping out of joy. She then shared this experience with her family, and that got the ball rolling for her four siblings, one who was older and three younger, who also became interested in being baptized into the Catholic faith with her.

We also have the Zielinski brothers getting confirmed today. Damian becoming a father this past year awakened his desire to practice his faith. He wanted his brother to be his child’s godfather, but he reminded him that he needed to be a practicing Catholic. And that invitation got his brother Marcin back in the faith.

I just want to share one final family affair involves one of our parishioners who works at St. John School, Melissa Jenkins. We’re delighted that she and her three daughters will be baptized into the faith! So all of these wonderful things happening among our parish families makes this year’s Solemnity of Christ the King extra special!

* Photographs by Kathryn Mietelka