Family’s search for faith brings them to Catholic Church

| March 21, 2018 | 0 Comments

Archbishop Bernard Hebda greets Dusty, back left, Addison, Brooklyn and Julie Clements during the Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion at the Cathedral of St. Paul Feb. 18. At far right is Dalton Renteria, Julie’s son and Dusty’s stepson. All five are catechumens from Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

When Dalton Renteria visited the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul for the first time Feb. 18, he was struck by the large crucifix behind the altar.

“We went around the back; I just looked at the backside of it, and it was very, very cool to look at,” said the 18-year-old, who asked his family to go with him for a closer look.

“The light was hitting it perfectly because it wasn’t shining over the cross, but it was just perfectly behind,” he said. “So it looked like the cross was in the middle of the light, and it was very symbolic.”

Dalton didn’t grow up with a crucifix in his home; a catechumen in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul, he is joining the Church with his mother, stepfather and twin sisters during the Easter Vigil, March 31.

The Cathedral experience had a powerful impact on him, and it deepened his joy and excitement for the completion of his journey into the Church. His Feb. 18 visit was for the Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion, part of the RCIA process, during which the family was presented to Archbishop Bernard Hebda.

Dalton had to fly in for the rite; he lives with his father in Washington state. His mother and stepfather, Julie and Dusty Clements, moved with his twin sisters Addison and Brooklyn from Idaho to St. Paul last summer. Dalton, who had lived with them, decided to stay out west with his dad.

The family’s move to Minnesota played a providential role in the family’s decision to become Catholic. Dusty, 41, did not regularly attend church growing up, while Julie, 40, was raised Mormon, but quit practicing the faith by the time she was in college in the late 1990s. However, while living in Idaho, where Dusty was working at Boise State University, the couple had decided to try to find a church.

“We didn’t know what direction we were going; we just knew we wanted to have that [church] in our lives,” Julie said. “We both felt like it was good — good for the kids, good for our family.”

They were still looking when Dusty took a job in fundraising for the University of Minnesota.

Before the move, he told a Minnesota acquaintance he was looking for a school for his first-grade girls and a church community to join. That acquaintance recommended Nativity for both. That prompted Julie to call Nativity of Our Lord Catholic School Principal Kate Wollan just a few weeks before the start of the school year.

“She spent about an hour with me on the phone,” said Julie, who works in sales. “After I got off the phone with her, I called Dusty, and I’m like, ‘I want [the girls] to go to school at Nativity.’ She was so impressive. I could not wait.”

After the move, the school served as a natural conduit to bring the faith into their home.

“The kids have been like sponges with everything, like learning about the faith and Jesus,” Julie said. “Addison would start reciting the Lord’s Prayer. They don’t say that in the Mormon church. Growing up, we never said the Lord’s Prayer. That’s a pretty big prayer for a 6-year-old to come home and recite.”

Curious about what Mass would be like, Julie took her daughters to a Saturday evening liturgy at Nativity in early September. It was her first Mass.

“I loved it,” Julie said. “I walked into Nativity, and I was just in awe.”

Her daughters, likewise, were captivated by the experience, and Julie and Dusty decided their family would pursue RCIA. Shortly after that, they called Dalton and talked to him about joining the Church with them. He quickly agreed, as he had been attending Mass with his Catholic girlfriend before moving from Idaho to Washington.

Nativity RCIA Director Randy Mueller has shared in the anticipation of the family coming into the Church. He has had a few families join the Church together, but this one is the largest.

“It’s beautiful to see because they’re excited to find a church community that they can come to as a family,” he said. “They really feel like it’s making a difference in their life. It’s really bringing them together as a family.”

Dalton has flown to Minnesota twice to participate in RCIA milestones. On one visit, four days before Christmas, he and his mother went for the first time to Nativity’s eucharistic adoration chapel.

“We walked in, just sat down, [and] didn’t say a word,” Julie recalled. “We both walked out, and I think we both melted a little bit. … We just stopped and stared at each other like, ‘Oh my gosh, did you feel that?’”

Those experiences have heightened their anticipation for the Easter Vigil Mass at Nativity.

“I am excited,” Julie said, noting that the other family members are, too. “It’s a big step for all of us.”

The only thing missing will be first Communion for the girls. Dusty and Julie decided Addison and Brooklyn would wait until next year, second grade, when children typically receive first Communion, so that they can receive the sacrament with their classmates.

That hasn’t dulled the twins’ enthusiasm. “[I’m] really excited because we get to be in God’s family,” Brooklyn said.

Addison added: “I’m so excited I could blow up.”

As Dusty studies the faith and prepares for the Easter Vigil, he’s already noticing a difference in his life.

“It’s been a huge help to us,” he said. “For me, [in] moments at work or otherwise, you can reflect on things you’re learning through the faith. That helps carry you through. … I think it’s better prepared us for what’s ahead.”

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