Bob and Mary Johnson normally sit in the back of the church during Mass at their parish, St. Paul in Ham Lake.
It’s not because they are like some Catholics who gravitate toward the rear. Rather, it’s a practical place to be for them and their weekly guests — people with disabilities whom they care for at their family foster care facility for adults in Lino Lakes.
But, on Pentecost Sunday, they proudly came down the center aisle and took their place in the front two pews. This was a special day for the group, with two of the Johnsons’ clients stepping forward to be received into the Catholic Church.
The pastor of St. Paul, Father Tim Norris, shone the spotlight on them as he gave Frances Fairchild, 67, and Pam Waltz, 47, the sacraments of confirmation and Communion during Mass. Before the start of Mass, both of the women were baptized.
This was a culmination of a process that lasted several years for Fairchild and Waltz. They had been coming to Mass weekly, and were receiving catechesis on the faith almost daily.
Thus, the act of joining the Church was less an official act as it was a natural progression for two women who beamed with joy throughout the Pentecost liturgy.
It was a day of both joy and tears for the women and those close to them — their sponsors, Kathy Gatto and Mary, and Bob, who is godfather for both women.
“It was beautiful,” Mary said. “It was holy. It was the culmination of a lot [of things] coming to a pinnacle.”
One of the most visual elements of the event was the radiant smile on Waltz’s face, which was noticed and enjoyed by those around her.
“That smile!” Bob said, when recalling the image of Waltz sitting in her wheelchair in the front of the church facing Father Norris during the Mass. “Oh my goodness.”
Waltz made clear in her comment a few days later that what was visible on the outside reflected what she felt on the inside.
“It was awesome,” she said. “It just made me feel like I was closer to our Lord.”
Fairchild offered similar sentiments of the culmination of her six-year journey into the Church.
“It was the Holy Spirit,” she said. “It was powerful.”
As the conversations between the two women and their two sponsors became more serious, they began to explore the possibility of joining the Church. Eventually, that brought them to the office of Father Norris, who interviewed them and eventually suggested having them make it official on Pentecost Sunday.
Everyone involved thought this was a fitting day to do it. And, Father Norris’ homily made the connection between their journey into the Church and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
It became tangible when he anointed each of the two women with chrism. A short while later, they received the Eucharist for the first time. On two different occasions during the Mass, the congregation erupted in boisterous applause.
To cap it all off, another resident of the Johnsons’ care center, June Greeley, recommitted herself to the Catholic faith at the end of Mass. She had grown up Catholic, but drifted away. Standing beside Norris moments before the recessional, she made her intentions public.
“I just wanted to come back in,” she said. “I saw Father Tim a couple times. I just wanted to come back in and start going [to Mass] again.”
Category: Local News